After the U.S. Air Force removed 17 nuclear weapons launch officers from duty this week for marginal job performance skills, it should be a wake-up call. Lt. Col. Jay Folds, deputy commander of the 91st Operations Group, which is responsible for all Minuteman 3 missile launch crews at the Minot, N.D. Air Force Base, indicated there is “rot” in the force.
According to the Associated Press, “underlying the Minot situation is a sense among some that the Air Force’s nuclear mission is a dying field, as the government considers further reducing the size of the U.S. arsenal.”
Air Force Secretary Michael Donley was quoted, “it is the duty of commanders to ride herd on those young officers with this awesome responsibility of controlling missiles capable of destroying entire countries.” No sh*t Sherlock.
With all the public posturing about nuclear deterrence and missile defense in Washington, D.C., a simple truth is that the care-takers of our nuclear weapons program are not always the best. Situations like the one at Minot creates a risk of a nuclear mishap, which could have devastating consequences.
There has been a long history of nuclear weapons mishaps, and while some credit is due to the Air Force for inspecting and taking action regarding the program, as a taxpayer, one has to ask how did the men and women holding the nuclear umbrella get to be in such sorry shape?
Along with a changing climate, a nuclear weapons exchange is on the short list of things that could end life as we know it on the planet. Incidents like this week’s sidelining of nuclear weapons launch officers provide evidence that there is more risk than reward in the deployment and maintenance of a nuclear weapons program.
It is more reason to support the administration’s slow, but steady progress in moving toward a world without nuclear weapons.