Downfall of Vice-Admiral Timothy Giardina is latest embarrassment for America’s missile men, amid low morale and a string of public scandals
By day, Vice-Admiral Timothy Giardina was one of the US Navy’s most senior figures – as deputy head of US Strategic Command, he was number two in command of America’s nuclear arsenal.
But by night, at the Horseshoe casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa, he was known as Navy Tim, a heavy gambler who was accused of making his own $500 poker chips and eventually banned.
Documents unveiled under a Freedom of Information Act request depict him as an habitual poker player, spending more than 1,000 hours – or 15 hours per week – at the Horseshoe’s tables in the 18 months before being caught playing three phoney chips in June 2013.
It’s a little difficult to say which is more alarming: The chronic degredation in general of the U.S. strategic nuclear forces or the fact that the ‘latest’ missles at Minot were built and designed in the 1960’s.
A bitter wind relentlessly whips across acres of frozen prairie at this remote base, where hundreds of airmen and women stay on alert around the clock to do the unthinkable: launch a nuclear attack.
This is the only installation in the nation that hosts both intercontinental ballistic missiles and B-52 bombers, two legs of the so-called nuclear triad with submarines. Yet it has been besieged by scandals and mishaps that have marred its historic role.
In August 2007, crews at Minot mistakenly loaded six cruise missiles carrying nuclear warheads onto a B-52 heavy bomber that flew to another base in Louisiana. The warheads were not properly guarded for 36 hours before anyone realized they were missing. Partly as a result, the secretary of the Air Force was forced to resign.
In the last two years, two commanders have been dismissed at Minot and one reprimanded after Pentagon brass lost confidence in their ability to lead. In addition, 19 officers were stripped of their authority to control and launch the nuclear-tipped missiles that sit in silos, and did not get it back until they completed additional training.
Now the vast base, close to the Canadian border, is struggling to recover. Continue reading
The United States currently has 4,804 nuclear warheads, 450 of which are located on Air Force bases in Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota. These 450 Minuteman 3 Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (icbms) are supposedly in constant battle-ready mode.Worryingly, the equipment used to secure these missiles was built in the 1960s. The bases are still using computers that require eight-inch floppy disks. As one missileer stated, she had not seen such “technology” until she started working in the command center. One would think the world’s superpower would use the latest state-of-the-art technology to safeguard its deadliest weapons.
However, it is not the shrinking army and its lack of up-to-date technology that should worry the American public the most, but the sketchy personnel in charge.
In 2013, the Air Force relieved the two-star general in command of the 450 icbms. The general was suspended for “exceeding the limits of accepted standards of good conduct and proper behavior” while on an official trip to Moscow. He reportedly drunk during the four-day trip. Earlier in the week, a vice admiral who oversaw the military’s nuclear forces, missile defense and cyber warfare operations was also relieved of his duties because of a probe into his possible use of counterfeit chips at an Iowa casino. Continue reading
The fallout from an Air Force cheating scandal continues to spread, and now a significant portion of the leadership at a Montana nuclear base is getting sacked.
Nine officers in leadership positions were recommended for removal and are being reassigned, with Air Force Col. Robert Stanley, who oversees the missile crew, resigning, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said Thursday. Continue reading