The Air Force officer with responsibility for the nation's arsenal of land-based intercontinental-ballistic missiles on Friday was discharged from his post due to questionable behavior, the Associated Press reported.
Maj. Gen. Michael Carey was dismissed from his command of the 20th Air Force, which oversees roughly 449 Minuteman 3 ICBMs. His next assignment will depend on the conclusions of a probe into his private behavior, the Air Force said without revealing exactly what his actions were. Two high-ranking informed Pentagon officials told the AP that the behavior problems were in part tied to alcohol consumption.
Carey's dismissal marks the second time in less than a month a senior U.S. military officer with major nuclear weapon responsibilities was fired for questionable behavior. The U.S. Strategic Command's deputy commander, Navy Vice Adm. Tim Giardina, was demoted and reassigned to another post while the Navy investigates whether he gambled with fake chips at a casino.
The Air Force said Carey's conduct did not affect the mission readiness of the ICBM units or his ability to lead the 20th Air Force.
"There was misbehavior such that [Air Force Global Strike Command head Lt. Gen. James Kowalski] decided that it didn't exemplify the trust and responsibilities required of a commander who is responsible for the nuclear force," service spokesman Brig. Gen. Les Kodlick said at a press conference.
The Air Force's ICBM units in recent months have experienced multiple performance issues, notably the suspension of nearly 20 Minot Air Force Base ICBM launch control officers in North Dakota following questions about their ability to adequately perform their jobs.
STRATCOM commander Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler characterized the dismissal of Giardina and Carey as "unfortunate behavioral incidents" that did not impact the overall combat readiness of the nation's nuclear arsenal.
"I still have 100 percent confidence that the nation's nuclear deterrent force is safe, secure and effective," the four-star general said in a telephone interview.
Kehler said he spoke with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Army Gen. Martin Dempsey about the two dismissals.
"You are going to have to make your own judgment when all the facts come out on these two particular cases, but I can say this: In these cases, this ultimately had to do with a loss of confidence as a result of certain behavior."
The Air Force Global Strike Command, was formally established in 2009 to oversee the service's ICBMs and nuclear-armed bombers following a number of security and safety incidents involving nuclear weapons. The command is part of STRATCOM.
The Air Force says its probe into Carey's questionable conduct is expected to be wrapped up in three to six weeks.