Top AFRL leader removed from command: What we know now

The commander of Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC), Gen. Arnold Bunch, Wednesday removed Maj. Gen. William Cooley from command of the Air Force Research Lab.

Cooley’s removal from command is due to allegations against him of “misconduct.” Air Force officials aren’t saying what those allegations entail. But the action represents the removal of a significant officer by the highest ranking commander at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Here’s some of what we know right now.

The Air Force Office of Special Investigations, the Air Force’s investigative arm since the late 1940s, is investigating the allegations against Cooley.


The office conducts investigations for commanders across the Air Force. Its primary responsibilities cover criminal investigations and counterintelligence, according to an Air Force description.

Based at Quantico, Va., the office has more than 2,000 military and civilian federally credentialed special agents.

A spokeswoman for the office declined to comment on its investigation into Cooley Thursday.

2. Cooley led AFRL, a huge organization.

AFRL is the oldest laboratory within the Department of Defense. With several locations spanning the U.S., the lab employs about 10,000 military and civilian personnel, and it managed a $4.4 billion budget in fiscal 2014.

Headquartered at Wright-Patterson, the lab encompasses eight technology directorates, the 711th Human Performance Wing, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and a core administrative staff.

3. Cooley had an engineering background

No surprise for a two-star general who was overseeing AFRL, but Cooley had a distinct scientific and engineering background.

“I think the coolest part of this job is getting to engage and understand all of the interesting technologies that are out there,” Cooley said last year on AFRL’s “Lab Life” podcast. “Every time I get the opportunity to go out and interact with our smart scientists and researchers, I learn something new about a technological area that is emerging with new opportunities.”

Cooley was said to have a background in solid state physics and materials systems. He entered the Air Force in 1988 through the ROTC program after graduating from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a degree in mechanical engineering.

He earned a master’s of science degree two years later and went on to earn a degree from the Air Force Institute of Technology (at Wright-Patterson) and spent time at the Air Command and Staff College, the National War College, among other schools.

4. AFRL’s new commander is an academy graduate with test pilot experience.

Bunch named Brig. Gen. Evan Dertien to replace Cooley as AFRL commander.

Dertien graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1993. He served as an operational F-15 pilot and completed three combat deployments. He was also selected to attend U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School.

After graduating there, he worked as an F-15, F-16 and F-22 test pilot in various assignments, according to a service biography.

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