AP findings on troubles in nation's nuclear force


FILE - In this Nov. 7, 2013 file photo, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. A string of nuclear missteps, many uncovered by The Associated Press, have beset the nation's nuclear force in the last year. In November 2013, Welsh, disclosed that as a result of the firing of Maj. Gen. Michael Carey, commander of the 20th Air Force, which is responsible for the entire Minuteman 3 missile force, the Air Force would take a closer look at the background of candidates for general officer-level nuclear command jobs. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File) | Zoom

(AP) - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered an independent review of the nuclear force and summoned the most senior Pentagon leaders to discuss its serious missteps, leadership lapses and personnel problems. A string of nuclear missteps, many uncovered by The Associated Press, have beset the nation's nuclear force in the past year:

_ On Jan. 16, the Air Force said at least 34 nuclear missile launch officers have been implicated in a cheating scandal and have been 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.

_ As part of the Jan. 16 announcement of the alleged cheating, the Air Force said three ICBM launch officers _ two at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana and one at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming _ were among 11 officers at six bases implicated in an illegal-narcotics investigation.

_In April, 17 missile crew members in the 91st Missile Wing at Minot, N.D., were deemed temporarily unfit for duty and given weeks of remedial training. The wing's deputy commander of operations complained of "rot" in the force. Later, the officer in charge of the 91st's missile crew training and proficiency was relieved of duty.

_In August, the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom failed a safety and security inspection. Nine days later the officer in charge of security forces there was relieved of duty. In October the unit passed a do-over test.

_On Oct. 11, the Air Force fired Maj. Gen. Michael Carey, commander of the 20th Air Force, which is responsible for the entire Minuteman 3 missile force, amid an investigation of an alcohol-related complaint. This happened two days after a Navy admiral who was second-in-command at U.S. Strategic Command, the military's main nuclear war-fighting command, was relieved of duty amid a gambling-related investigation.

_The AP reported that twice last year 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.

_In November, the Air Force chief of staff, Gen. Mark Welsh, disclosed that as a result of the Carey firing, the Air Force would take a closer look at the background of candidates for general officer-level nuclear command jobs.

_Also in November, the AP reported that 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 RAND Corp. study provided to the AP in draft form, 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.


(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Top Stories

  • Record Celebration
    It's a day to celebrate the continued survival and even success of record stores in Seattle

  • Spy Gadgets
    A big collection of equipment that would make James Bond envious is on display in Seattle

  • Grab Brunch
    Find a good spot for your Sunday brunch
ATTENTION COMMENTERS: We've changed our comments, but want to keep you in the conversation.
Please login below with your Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Disqus account. Existing MyNorthwest account holders will need to create a new Disqus account or use one of the social logins provided below. Thank you.
comments powered by Disqus
Sign up for breaking news e-mail alerts from MyNorthwest.com
In the community
Do you know a student who stands out in the classroom, school and community?
Help make their dreams come true by nominating them for a $1,000 scholarship and a chance to earn a $10,000 Grand Prize. Brought to you by KIRO Radio and Comprehensive Wealth Management.

Do you know an exceptional citizen who has impacted and inspired others?
KIRO Radio and WSECU would like to recognize six oustanding citizens this year. Nominate them to be recognized and to receive a $2,000 charitable grant.