June 2008 Editorial Winner

Top brass pays price
Air Force leaders forced out after nuclear mistakes

By Jeff Mullin, Enid News & Eagle

Washington, D.C., attorney and author Stephen W. Comiskey once said, "You can delegate authority, but not responsibility."

Harry Truman, the plain-spoken Missouri haberdasher who went on to be president, put it more succinctly. "The buck stops here."

The buck landed squarely Thursday on the heads of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley and Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne, both of whom were forced to resign by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Wynne and Moseley got the ax because of two colossal blunders that occurred under their watch, both involving America's nuclear arsenal.

In 2006, four Air Force ballistic missile fuses inadvertently were shipped to Taiwan. The classified fuses remained in the control of Taiwan's military for nearly a year and a half.

Then, last August, six live nuclear weapons mistakenly were carried aboard a B-52 from Minot Air Force Base, S.D., to Barksdale Air Force Base, La. The Air Force reportedly lost track of the nukes for some 36 hours.

We applaud Gates for his decisive action in this matter. Breaches in the integrity and security of America's nuclear arsenal cannot, and, as Gates demonstrated with his actions, will not be tolerated.

The ouster of Wynne and Moseley sends a clear message throughout the ranks of the Air Force - you will be held accountable for your actions, no matter how lofty your position.

If the men in the top two positions in the Air Force were fired for the failures of their subordinates, that should make every other airman, from the top generals to the newest recruits, take a hard look at themselves.

America demands nothing but the best from its military, from the lowest ranks to the highest.

And the services demand nothing but the best from themselves. That commitment clearly is reflected in the Air Force's own Core Values, "Integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do."

In the case of these two incidents, the Air Force fell far short of excellence, and two long-time public servants paid the price for it.

The price was high, but not nearly as high as the stakes where America's nuclear arsenal is concerned.