An internal investigation into allegations of alcohol consumption in the workplace has been launched by Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command.
VanHerck confirmed the probe's existence to CBS News, adding it was initiated after receiving a recent media inquiry. VanHerck said he then directed a walk-through of office spaces, and "a relatively small number" of beer and liquor containers were recovered in "a classified workspace behind a cipher lock, [which is] a secure lock."
VanHerck said alcohol is not totally prohibited in workspaces, but there are approval processes for when and where it can be consumed. He added that the investigation will also consider whether alcohol was consumed during work hours or missions.
The commands were under intense scrutiny earlier this year when a Chinese balloon passed through North American air space, exposing gaps in the U.S. military's capabilities.
NORAD is a bi-national command of the U.S. and Canada which defends North American airspace, and U.S. Northern Command provides homeland defense, civil support, and security cooperation to defend the United States.
Asked if concerns about alcohol consumption in the workplace had been raised to leadership as early as the fall of 2022, VanHerck replied, "I've been here since August of 2020, and all I can tell you is that nobody has come to me and expressed concern about the consumption of alcohol in the workspace. We have conducted multiple climate surveys, and I don't recall any direct, specific allegation and concern of alcohol in the workspace."
VanHerck told CBS News Wednesday that his preliminary assessment is that there is not a culture problem or effect on readiness related to alcohol.
"I don't assess any mission impact, here on our readiness to defend North America to defend the Homeland. I don't assess there was any impact on any of our recent operations to include the high altitude balloon. As a matter of fact, I'm really confident and comfortable from a readiness perspective of where we are, but I do look forward to the investigation to see what actions may need to be taken."
VanHerck said the investigation could take several weeks.
"We're being very transparent here," Gen VanHerck emphasized. "This is an issue for me that was brought forward, that I immediately acted upon to ensure that we're adhering to the policy and we'll act upon anything that we find."
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