A high-ranking US military commander responsible for the country’s nuclear arsenal was fired on Wednesday for illegal gambling activities, according to US officials.
Navy Vice Admiral Tim Giardina, the deputy commander of US Strategic Command, was already suspended from his post on September 3 and notified on Wednesday that he was formally relieved.
The suspension is highly unusual and unprecedented in the history of the US Strategic Command, according the Associated Press.
Giardina is accused of using at least $1,500 in fake gambling chips while playing poker at a casino in Iowa, the Omaha World-Herald newspaper has reported.
A US 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, US Strategic Command, should be relieved."
President Barack Obama became involved in the case because only the president can remove a three- and four-star officer from his post.
The Strategic Command, located near Omaha, Nebraska, was created in 1992 at the end of the Cold War and oversees everything from America's land-based nuclear missiles to space operations and military intelligence.
According to studies by the Department of Defense, between 5 percent and 9 percent of US military personnel have experienced a gambling-related problem in their lifetime, and about 2 percent fit the classification for pathological gambling problems.
That is higher than the national average of just under 1 percent, according to John Kindt, a University of Illinois business professor who has studied gambling in the military.