The number two officer at the military command in charge of all U.S. nuclear war-fighting forces is suspected in a case involving counterfeit gambling chips at a Council Bluffs casino and has been suspended from his duties, officials said Saturday.
Navy Vice Adm. Tim Giardina has not been arrested or charged. Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation special agent David Dales says the state investigation is ongoing. Dales says law enforcement agents stationed at the Horseshoe Casino discovered the counterfeit chips.
The highly unusual action against a high-ranking officer at U.S. Strategic Command was made more than three weeks ago, but not publicly announced. Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler, who heads Strategic Command, suspended Giardina from his duties on September 3rd according to the command's top spokeswoman, Navy Capt. Pamela Kunze. Giardina is still assigned to the command, but is prohibited from performing duties related to nuclear weapons and other issues requiring a security clearance.
Kehler has recommended to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that Giardina be reassigned, Kunze said. Giardina has been the deputy commander of Strategic Command since December 2011. He is a career submarine officer and prior to starting his assignment there was the deputy commander and chief of staff at U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Strategic Command, located at Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, oversees the military's nuclear fighter units, including the Navy's nuclear-armed submarines and the Air Force's nuclear bombers and nuclear land-based missiles.
Kunze said Strategic Command did not announce the suspension because Giardina remains under investigation and action on Kehler's recommendation that Giardina be reassigned is pending.
The spokeswoman said law enforcement began investigating Giardina on June 16th. Kehler became aware of this on July 16th and the following day he asked the Naval Criminal Investigative Service to begin a probe.