The key findings on nuclear force troubles
The Associated Press has uncovered a series of security lapses and other troubles in U.S. nuclear forces. The issue came to a head this week when Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel summoned top military leaders and ordered a review of the problems. Here are the key missteps suffered by the personnel who handle the world’s most deadly weapons:
—Seventeen missile crew members in the 91st Missile Wing at Minot, North Dakota, are deemed temporarily unfit for duty and given weeks of remedial training. The wing’s deputy commander of operations complains of “rot” in the force and relieves of duty the officer in charge of crew training and proficiency.
—The 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, fails a safety and security inspection. Nine days later the officer in charge of security forces there was relieved of duty. The unit passes a do-over.
—Twice the Air Force punished officers involved in separate incidents of opening the blast door of their launch control center while one of the two launch officers was asleep, in violation of Air Force rules.
—Key members of the Air Force’s nuclear missile force are feeling “burnout” from what they see as exhausting, unrewarding and stressful work. The finding, in an unpublished draft of a RAND Corp. study provided to The Associated Press, also cited heightened levels of misconduct such as spousal abuse and said court-martial rates in the nuclear missile force in 2011 and 2012 were more than twice as high as in the overall Air Force. The courts martial rate in 2013 declined but was still higher than the overall Air Force.
—The Air Force fires Maj. Gen. Michael Carey, commander of the 20th Air Force, which is responsible for the entire Minuteman 3 missile force, for embarrassing, drunken behavior at meetings in Russia and spending time with “suspect” women. This happened two days after a Navy admiral, who was second-in-command at the military’s main nuclear war-fighting command, was relieved of duty amid a gambling-related investigation.
—At least 34 nuclear missile launch officers are implicated in a cheating scandal and are stripped of their certification in what the Air Force believes is the largest such breach of integrity in the nuclear force. The cheating involves the monthly test on their knowledge of how to operate the missiles. That scandal was revealed as part of a drug-use investigation that involved three ICBM launch officers.
—Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel orders an independent review of the nuclear force and summoned the most senior Pentagon leaders to discuss its serious missteps, leadership lapses and personnel problems.