December 1, 2010  

Officer accountability

TO AIR FORCE SECRETARY MICHAEL DONLEY AND CHIEF OF STAFF GEN. NORTON SCHWARTZ for putting action behind their word when they pledged early in their tenures to hold accountable those who fail in their duties.

Fourteen Air Force generals have been written up in two years — five in December alone for mishandling $87 million in funds for permanent-change-of-station moves. All but one received letters of admonishment from Donley and Schwartz. The other received a more serious letter of reprimand. Their screw-ups? Everything from shipping nuclear components to Taiwan to having an extramarital affair. Donley even made Air Force history by disciplining a former chief of staff, issuing a letter of admonishment to retired Gen. T. Michael Moseley for accepting gifts from a friend whose company later won a $50 million contract from the Thunderbirds.

The Air Force has never before disciplined its top leadership like this. No one likes to see senior officers punished. But the fact that they do face serious — and public — repercussions is essential in an organization that routinely (and still more harshly than is perhaps fair) metes out discipline to enlisted airmen and junior officers. Making generals publicly accountable when they break rules is important for the credibility of the entire institution.