The Pentagon was rocked this spring by revelations that the Air Force had mistakenly shipped fuses used for ballistic missiles to Taiwan, one of the biggest flashpoints in the geopolitical landscape. Worse still, no one knew about it until almost two years later. The blunder could have seriously jeopardized relations with China, who still claims Taiwan as a province and is feared by some experts to be willing to use force to discourage any move toward independence.
But the more unbelievable screw-up was that a B-52 bomber was allowed to fly over United States soil in August - mistakenly armed with six nuclear missiles.
But in a show of leadership all too rare in Washington these days, Defense Secretary Robert Gates accepted the resignations of both the Air Force secretary and the Air Force chief of staff in an unprecedented double-firing after an exhaustive investigation revealed the Air Force has serious flaws in control and accountability.
President Bush's press secretary Dana Perino remarked that the White House had "not played any role" in the matter.
Frankly, that's not surprising.
This administration has gone out of its way to obfuscate and avoid responsibility for some of the worst governmental failures in history. The total lack of planning and the dismissal of contrary viewpoints in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq has resulted in a military operation whose costs in blood and treasure seems to have no end.
Never mind the extraordinarily lackluster response to Hurricane Katrina almost three years ago that exposed the enormous shortcomings in government preparedness and the President's penchant for patronage in his appointment of horse racing judge Michael Brown to FEMA who later resigned as a scapegoat. Unfortunately, we may never know the full extent of such bungling.
At last, Secretary Gates is showing Americans that there is still some in government who believe in accountability and responsibility for mistakes. Unfortunately for this White House, they have no part in it.