The No. 2 officer at U.S. Strategic Command has been relieved of command by President Obama because of a “loss of confidence” in his abilities to carry out his post.
Vice Adm. Tim Giardina has been the focus of a criminal investigation looking into his suspected use of counterfeit gambling chips in a poker game at a western Iowa casino.
StratCom commander Gen. Robert Kehler suspended Giardina from his duties as deputy commander on Sept. 3 and recommended to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that he be relieved from his post. Kehler’s moves were guided by preliminary information he had received from investigations of Giardina’s alleged activities.
A defense official said Wednesday that “based upon a recommendation from the Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, the president determined Oct. 3 that Vice Adm. Timothy M. Giardina, former Deputy Commander, U.S. Strategic Command (O-9), should be relieved.”
President Obama became involved in the case because only the president can relieve a three- and four-star officer from his post.
Giardina has been reassigned to an undetermined position within the Navy.
The vice admiral remains under investigation by the Navy Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) which launched its own probe of Giardina after being contacted by Iowa authorities in mid-July.
David Dales, a special agent in charge with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI), told ABC News in late September that his agency began an investigation this past June centered on the introduction of counterfeit poker chips in a poker game at the Horseshoe Council Bluffs Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa. That city is located across the Missouri River from Omaha, Neb., which is near StratCom’s headquarters.
Dales said the use of counterfeit chips is “pretty rare” and constituted “a Class D felony in the state of Iowa.” Dale would not characterize the amount of chips used in the game, but described it as “a significant monetary amount.”
He said his agency contacted StratCom “when we discovered the subject of the investigation that we had developed, and who that person was.”
A source familiar with the case said Giardina was the subject of DCI’s investigation.
Dale said the investigation is still open and no charges have been brought in the case, though DCI’s investigation is pretty much complete. The county attorney has decided to hold off on charges for the moment and DCI is fully cooperating with the investigation being conducted by NCIS, he said.
Council Bluffs is home to three casinos that do the most gambling business in the state of Iowa. Horseshoe Council Bluffs Casino, run by Harrah’s, is home to a greyhound race track and has table games and slot games inside a casino area.
A defense official said there is nothing to indicate there’s been any compromise of StratCom’s mission or classified material in the matter involving Giardina.
StratCom, based at Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Neb., oversees the military’s nuclear units and weapons.
Giardina was scheduled to leave StratCom later this year and his successor, Lt. Gen. James Kowalski, had already been nominated by the White House.