Politics & Government

Gates suggests 2 new leaders for Air Force

WASHINGTON — Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on Monday recommended two new leaders for the Air Force in the wake of last week's shakeup over the way the military stores and transports nuclear weapons and components.

Gates recommended that the White House name Michael Donley, the Defense Department's director of administration and management, as secretary of the Air Force and that Gen. Norton Schwartz, a 35-year military veteran, be the Air Force's next chief of staff.

Schwartz has spent much of his career in Air Force special operations and Donley served as acting secretary of the Air Force and its top financial officer.

In his announcement, the secretary asked that Donley become the acting secretary on June 21 "to minimize any disruption caused by this leadership transition."

The nominations came on the heels of a major shake up Thursday when Gates forced Secretary Michael Wynne and Air Force Chief Gen. T. Michael Moseley to resign.

Gates said he took the action after a Pentagon report found that the Air Force had systemic problems in the way it guards and transports U.S. nuclear weapons and their components. That report investigated two incidents: the mistaken cross-country transport of six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles aboard at B-52 bomber and the accidental shipment to Taiwan of fuses for nuclear missiles instead of the helicopter batteries the Taiwanese had requested. Gates also asked former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger to lead a task force on how the Air Force can better guard U.S. nuclear weapons.

Gates currently is on a two-day tour of Air Force bases, where he is planning to reassure airmen that despite last week's sacking, he still has confidence in the Air Force lower ranking airmen. On Monday, he visited Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. On Tuesday, he's scheduled to speak at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado and Scott Air Force Base in Illinois.

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