Gen. Arnold W. Bunch of the Air Force Materiel Command removed Cooley from command on Wednesday. Cooley was responsible for leading a government workforce of approximately 6,000 people in the laboratory’s nine component technology directorates and the 711th Human Performance Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. Two of the directorates — the Space Vehicles Directorate and the Directed Energy Directorate — are based at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque.
Cooley — a graduate of Albuquerque’s Highland High School — served twice at Kirtland Air Force Base, most recently as a commander of Phillips Research Site and Material Wing Director, Space Vehicles Directorate, between 2010 and 2013.
Bunch said Cooley was relieved because of a loss of confidence in his ability to lead. The alleged misconduct is currently under investigation.
“The Air Force takes any misconduct allegation seriously,” Bunch said in a news release issued Thursday. “I expect our leadership to uphold the highest standards and live up to the Air Force’s core values.”
Cooley will be assigned as a special assistant to Bunch for the time being. Brig. Gen. Evan Dertien has been appointed as the AFRL commander. He most recently served as the Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command Director, Air, Space and Cyberspace Operations. Dertien was previously AFRL’s vice commander from July 2016 to May 2017.
“I have great confidence in Brigadier General Dertien and in the professionalism of the entire AFRL workforce,” Bunch said. “Together, they will remain focused on implementing the U.S. Air Force Science and Technology 2030 Strategy and ensuring AFRL is best postured to support the National Defense Strategy.”
Cooley had been in charge of AFRL since May 2017. He was responsible for managing a $2.5 billion Air Force science and technology program and an additional $2.3 billion in externally funded research and development.
He entered active duty in January 1990 after completing a master’s degree from the University of New Mexico.