Vice Adm. Tim Giardina (Navy / via AP)
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WASHINGTON — The Navy admiral fired last fall as the No. 2 commander of U.S. nuclear forces was given a letter of reprimand Monday and ordered to forfeit $4,000 in pay but will be allowed to remain on duty as a Navy staff officer, the Navy said.
In a brief statement, the Navy said a superior officer determined that Rear Adm. Timothy Giardina’s involvement in a casino gambling case violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice on two counts of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.
The first count involved Giardina lying to an investigator and the second related to his failure to surrender — and his subsequent use of — counterfeit poker chips that he claimed he had found at the casino, the Navy said.
Giardina accepted the so-called non-judicial punishment from Adm. Bill Gortney rather than exercising his option to challenge it by requesting a court-martial.
The casino matter was investigated by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which was unable to determine with certainty how Giardina came into possession of the phony chips. He acknowledged using three $500 chips which were subsequently discovered by casino officials to have been counterfeit.
At the time of the incident at the Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Giardina was deputy commander of U.S. Strategic Command in Omaha, Neb., which is responsible for the full arsenal of U.S. nuclear weapons.
He is the second senior officer with responsibility for nuclear weapons to be fired in recent months; the other was Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael Carey, who was commander of the land-based nuclear missile corps when he was relieved of duty last October after an alcohol-fueled episode in Russia last July.
In April, the Air Force announced that Carey would retire June 1 at the rank of brigadier general.
Together the Giardina and Carey firings stirred questions about the quality of the military’s nuclear leadership, particularly in the case of the Air Force, which also has suffered a series of missteps in training, security and inspections. In November, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel expressed concern about nuclear leadership lapses, and in January he ordered a broad review of nuclear forces.
A Navy spokeswoman, Capt. Dawn Cutler, said the Navy is satisfied that Giardina has been held accountable.
“The Navy remains committed to holding all personnel, regardless of rank, to the highest standards,” she said after Giardina’s punishment was announced.
The Giardina matter originated as a local law enforcement probe in Iowa in June 2013. He was suspended from his duties on Sept. 3, although that action was not made public until weeks later. On Oct. 9 he was relieved of duty — a move that is exceedingly rare in the history of U.S. nuclear weapons command.
When he was removed from his three-star position at Strategic Command, Giardina was given a staff officer’s job in Washington and reverted to two-star rank. When he requests retirement, the Navy will conduct a formal review of his career record to determine whether he should be allowed to retire at his current rank or as a one-star admiral.
Giardina did not immediately respond to an email request for comment Monday. He is a career submarine officer and a 1979 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy.