AFRL Boss Cooley Fired Amid Misconduct Investigation

Air Force Research Laboratory Commander Maj. Gen. William Cooley was fired from his post Jan. 15 as USAF investigators look into allegations of misconduct.

Air Force Materiel Command boss Gen. Arnold Bunch removed Cooley from his job “due to a loss of confidence in his ability to lead,” according to the Air Force. Cooley took over at AFRL in May 2017 but is now reassigned as Bunch’s special assistant.

Cooley is the fourth high-profile general officer to be relieved in less than a year. Maj. Gen. Dawn Dunlop, director of DOD special access programs and the highest-ranking female fighter pilot, was relieved from her position in June 2019; Maj. Gen. Peter Gersten, head of the Air Warfare Center at Nellis AFB, Nev., also was relieved of command in June 2019; and Brig. Gen. Kristin Goodwin, commandant of cadets at the US Air Force Academy, was fired in April 2019.

“The Air Force takes any misconduct allegation seriously,” Bunch said in a Jan. 16 release. “I expect our leadership to uphold the highest standards and live up to the Air Force’s core values.”

The Air Force Office of Special Investigations is handling the inquiry, AFMC spokesman Derek Kaufman said. He declined to provide further details on the allegations. An OSI spokeswoman could not immediately be reached.

In the meantime, Brig. Gen. Evan Dertien will take over as AFRL commander. Dertien served as AFMC director of air, space, and cyberspace operations, and was AFRL’s No. 2 officer from July 2016 to May 2017. He will oversee the lab until the Air Force appoints a replacement, Kaufman said.

AFRL is based at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, and handles a $2.5 billion science and technology portfolio, plus $2.3 billion in externally funded research and development, according to the Air Force. Cooley managed a workforce of approximately 6,000 employees.

He led AFRL through development of its “Science and Technology 2030” roadmap released last April. Cooley has overseen efforts to boost partnerships with academia and commercial industry as the service tackles ambitious research and development goals spanning lasers, autonomous aircraft, and more.

“I have great confidence in Brig. Gen. Dertien and in the professionalism of the entire AFRL workforce,” Bunch said. “Together, they will remain focused on implementing the US Air Force Science and Technology 2030 Strategy and ensuring AFRL is best postured to support the National Defense Strategy.”