Metro-East News

Roger That: Defense secretary fires top aide for unspecified misconduct

Mike Fitzgerald
Mike Fitzgerald

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Thursday fired his top military assistant, Army Lt. Gen. Ronald Lewis, for allegations of misconduct that were referred to the Pentagon’s Inspector General, according to Military.com.

In a brief statement, Carter did not specify the type of misconduct alleged against Lewis, but said, “I expect the highest possible standards of conduct from the men and women in this department, particularly from those serving in the most senior positions. There is no exception.”

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President Barack Obama is set to sign a defense bill ordering the Pentagon to probe every major weapon system for hacker entryways. Among many passages dedicated to cybersecurity in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act is a section on evaluating cyber vulnerabilities in weaponry, according to DefenseOne.

The Defense Department must update lawmakers on progress during quarterly cyber operations briefings, according to the bill, which cleared the Senate on Tuesday. A full assessment of the military’s artillery systems is due by the end of 2019.

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Immediately following a deadly U.S. airstrike on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan’s national security advisor told a European diplomat, “We are without doubt, 100 percent convinced the place was occupied by Taliban,” the Associated Press reports. There is still no evidence to support this claim.

According to notes of the meeting reviewed by the AP, Hanif Atmar told the (unnamed) European diplomat that he had been authorized by President Ashraf Ghani to declare that the government of Afghanistan would take responsibility for the assault. Notes from the meeting quote Atmar: “There was no doubt whatsoever that the Taliban were inside the hospital, that they took it over, thus violating its sanctity.” Other Afghan officials have maintained Atmar’s account, according to the website Gawker.

However, the AP reports, it increasingly seems to be the case that the strike was not only carried out by the U.S. military at the behest of its Afghan allies — who have long resented Doctors Without Borders’ policy of treating Afghan security forces and Taliban indiscriminately —but also without any direct knowledge of what was happening at the hospital at the time.

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The Air Force has struggled with a drone pilot shortage since at least 2007, records show. In fiscal year 2014, the most recent data available, the Air Force trained 180 new pilots while 240 veterans left the field, according to Military.com.

“It's extremely stressful and extremely difficult,” said Peter “Pepe” LeHew, who retired in 2012 and joined private industry. He called the work, which sometimes involved flying surveillance in one country in the morning and bombing another in the afternoon, “mentally fatiguing.”

Mike Fitzgerald: 618-239-2533, @MikeFitz3000

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