Hour Two: Defense Secretary Fires Top Officials Defense Secretary Robert Gates ousted both the Air Force's top military officer and top civilian official yesterday in an unprecedented double firing.
NPR logo

Hour Two: Defense Secretary Fires Top Officials

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/91233121/91232150" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Hour Two: Defense Secretary Fires Top Officials

Hour Two: Defense Secretary Fires Top Officials

Hour Two: Defense Secretary Fires Top Officials

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/91233121/91232150" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Defense Secretary Robert Gates ousted both the Air Force's top military officer and top civilian official yesterday in an unprecedented double firing.

BILL WOLFF: From NPR News in New York, this is the Bryant Park Project.

(Soundbite of music)

MIKE PESCA, host:

Overlooking historic Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan, live from NPR Studios, this is the Bryant Park Project from NPR News. News, information and an invitation to try, if you will, to beat the heat. I'm Mike Pesca. It's Friday, June 6th, 2008. We're in one of those days, right before the heat is coming - it's supposed to be 94 and humid in New York tomorrow - as I and 100,000 of my closest friends head out to Belmont Park to watch a bunch of horses run around the longest track in North America.

And when the heat's coming, I dread a couple of things. Of course, there's the rivulets of sweat. I look to my closet to see if I screwed up and wore my most comfortable linen shirt earlier in the week. But the thing I hate most about the oncoming heat wave is that you just know you're going to get several hundred local newscasts about ways to, indeed, beat the heat. What they do is they get their pain-at-the-pump reporter and they assign him or her to be the beat-the-heat reporter. It's known as the obvious beat. They tell you things, to drink plenty of liquids, and dress in layers.

Thank you, guys. Thank you for going to that school of journalism that told us all the obvious. So we're going to not inundate you with things that you already knew. We're going to try and delight you, and perhaps amaze you, with things you hadn't heard of yet. It's sort of our definition of news.

And on this hour on the show we will begin with a chat about the following topic. The police chief of Washington, D.C., says she will be cordoning off neighborhoods to try to stop violence. We will talk to a D.C. reporter about the new plan. Also, it is the Belmont Stakes this weekend. Three super fans are in the studio. Marty Mien is attending his 37th Belmont Stakes.

We'll talk with him and his son about being Belmont fanatics and their friend who became a professional horse riding writer. We'll also get some handicapping. I know you usually turn to NPR to find out who to bet on. Perfect. We'll talk about that. We'll also get caught up in The Week in Iraq, plus a look at this weekend's new movie releases. "Kung Fu Panda" anyone? I've got my ticket! And we'll get today's headlines in just a minute. But first...

(Soundbite of music)

(Soundbite of press conference)

Secretary ROBERT GATES (U.S. Department of Defense): I have accepted the resignation of the secretary of the Air Force and the resignation of the chief of staff of the Air Force.

PESCA: That was Defense Secretary Robert Gates. He ousted both the Air Force's top military officer and top civilian official yesterday in an unprecedented shake-up. Gates asked for and accepted the resignations of Air Force Chief of Staff General Michael Moseley, and Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne, after a damning internal report about the Air Force's mishandling of nuclear materials. In that incident that Gates called the trigger for the move, the Air Force shipped fuses for nuclear warheads to Taiwan when they were supposed to send helicopter batteries. Here's Secretary Gates yesterday.

Secretary GATES: This incident represents a significant failure to ensure the security of sensitive military components. And more troubling, it depicts a pattern of poor performance.

PESCA: Another high-profile screw-up happened last August, when a B-52 bomber flying across the U.S. was mistakenly armed with six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles. And Secretary Gates says he grew more concerned when these issues weren't taken seriously by the Air Force.

Secretary GATES: Even then, action to ensure a thorough investigation of what went wrong was not initiated by the Air Force leadership but required my intervention.

PESCA: The investigation was carried out by a Navy admiral. NPR Pentagon correspondent, Tom Bowman, summarizes the report's contents.

TOM BOWMAN: One source I talked with called it pretty damning. It complained that no one senior person in the Air Force is in charge of the nuclear arsenal. They've pushed it down to a lower level. And also since the end of the Cold War, the report says, the Air Force really has lost focus on maintaining its nuclear weapons.

PESCA: And Bowman says the move is more evidence that while a lot of folks in Washington talk about accountability, Secretary Gates really means it.

BOWMAN: Last year he fired the Army secretary, Francis Harvey, for not taking seriously enough the problems uncovered at Walter Reed Army Hospital. And he basically told him to resign, and Harvey was gone within days.

PESCA: White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said President Bush knew about the resignations but was not involved in the shake-up. Michigan Democratic Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, responded favorably to the move. Meanwhile, one official tells the Associated Press that Secretary Gates has settled on new candidates for both jobs, but hasn't yet formally recommended them. You can go to NPR News throughout the day for updates on this story. Now let's get some more of today's headlines with the BPP's Mark Garrison.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.