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Senators Spin The Ouster Of Air Force Brass

Even before Defense Secretary Robert Gates had officially announced the sacking of Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley, members of Congress had already begun spinning the news of the shakeup.

During a Pentagon press briefing this afternoon, Gates stressed that their ousters were related to systemic problems with the security of nuclear materials in the Air Force’s care.

But the Air Force has had other problems – a controversial decision on its award of a $40 billion contract for aerial refueling tankers and an unfavorable ruling by the inspector general regarding a much smaller contract.

Some lawmakers cheered Gates’ decision, but for reasons unrelated to nuclear security.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), a backer of Boeing – the company that lost the tanker competition, said the announcement raised questions about the service’s procurement process.

“For months the Air Force has stonewalled Congress and the American people in answering basic questions about the tanker decision,” she said in a statement. 

And Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), a former state auditor and stickler for following government procurement rules, said the inspector general’s report regarding a public relations contract involving the Air Force Thunderbirds indicated something was amiss.

“What is so encouraging is that Secretary Gates is walking the walk on accountability,” she said in a statement. “This is the second time he has demanded removal of top command after a failure of leadership.”

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