Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Friday made his first public comments on a recent military scandal as he condemned the behavior of a senior officer fired last month over gambling problems.
Hagel criticized the bizarre episode surrounding Vice Adm. Tim Giardina, whom President Barack Obama removed last month from his post as deputy commander of the U.S. Strategic Command.
Giardina was fired while being probed by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service for his alleged use of counterfeit poker chips at Horseshoe Council Bluffs Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Hagel made the comments during a change-of-command ceremony at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, in which Adm. Cecil D. Haney replaced Air Force Gen. C. Robert Kehler as head of the command that runs U.S. air, sea and land-based nuclear weapons.
Without mentioning Giardina by name, Hagel made it clear that he had violated the extremely high ethical standards required of the military and civilian men and women who help operate the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
"Perfection must be the standard for our nuclear forces," Hagel said. "And Gen. Kehler has vigorously enforced that standard throughout his tenure -- reflecting his own background as an (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) officer. As you all know, this close scrutiny, and the most rigorous evaluations we have within the Department of Defense, have recently exposed some troubling lapses in maintaining this professionalism."
Haney was head of the U.S. Pacific Command before taking on his new assignment, which makes him the first African-American director of Strategic Command.
Hagel also put the 2,700 people who work at U.S. Strategic Command on notice that breaches in professional or personal conduct will not be tolerated.
"To our STRATCOM professionals, I would say, you have chosen a profession where there is no room for error," Hagel said. "That's what the American people expect from you, and you must deliver. Americans trust you with their security. They count on you."