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PENTAGON: In the wake of drug abuse and cheating on proficiency tests at nuclear missile silos, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a two-pronged review of the nuclear weapons program today. Hagel issued his memo after speaking with Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, who had toured the service’s ICBM sites in the wake of the scandals.

James had already ordered all missileers be tested for proficiency after the cheating scandal erupted. Pentagon Spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters here that 481 missile combat crew members have been tested; 18 are still to be tested. Some 22 airmen have failed their tests for a 95 precent pass rate.

The Hagel memo orders a meeting in the next two weeks by senior officials, including himself and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey,  to discuss any needed personnel changes, Kirby said. This group will draw up an action plan while looking at the leadership, management, training, and culture of the men and women who handled and would fire our nuclear weapons. The group will identify problems and best management practices and recommend solutions in 60 days.

In parallel, Hagel ordered up an independent review of the strategic deterrence enterprise. They will tear apart the Pentagon’s action plan and make their own recommendations 90 days from the time they start. 

Kirby told reporters the nation’s nuclear weapons are in safe hands and are well protected. How he squares the behavior of these crews with a safe nuclear force is unclear. The current outrage erupted when an investigation into drug abuse by two missile officers stumbled into the sharing of proficiency test answers by at least 34 others. The previous scandal came last October, when two nuclear commanders were fired in the same week: an Air Force general for drunkenness during a drip to Russia and a Navy admiral for, of all things, trying to use counterfeit chips at a casino. That same month we also learned the blast doors at some silos hadn’t been opening properly, although the Air Force fixed that.

Then there’s the infamous scandal in 2007 when Air Force ground crews mistakenly loaded a B-52 bomber with real nuclear warheads instead of training dummies and lost track of the weapons for 36 hours, leading then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to sack the Air Force Secretary and Chief of Staff. And the nuclear weapons enterprise has a long history of unnerving incidents.

The 2007 scandal ultimately led the Pentagon to create the Air Force Global Strike Command to restore discipline and security. The question is, what are they going to do to fix the problem this time?

Comments

  • PolicyWonk

    The previous scandal came last October, when two nuclear commanders were fired in the same week: an Air Force general for drunkenness during a drip to Russia.
    ====================================
    Wow – he must’ve been planning on getting *really* hammered if he was taking a “drip” to Russia!

    • Gary Church

      Getting drunk is one thing but a gambling problem is a sure avenue to turn someone. Gambling should be forbidden to military officers IMO- at least the ones involved with the most god-like and powerful devices ever created by humankind.

  • Gary Church

    Humans are not perfect even if the weapons are. All that can be done is to constantly and forever improve the processes involved and procure the very best human material available. What about the submarine force: have they had problems or are they just better at hiding their mistakes?

  • tony

    HOLY CRAP BATMAN < here is the other shoe hitting the floor. a new and improved scandle is here. what is obama-mama going to do next?

    • Gary Church

      Yo momma knew obama; go away.

  • SS BdM Fuhress ‘Savannah

    Be nice to know a couple of guys are sitting in those Nuke bunkers now high on drugs and ready to send a ICBM to Moscow to see a nice fireworks show. Do they need anything more than to turn a key and push a button to do it?

  • Thoth

    It apperas that the current Administration is cleaning up a longstanding sloppiness in nuclear personnel and procedures. This is good. The United States should always be fully prepared to launch a Pre-emptive Nuclear First Strike. When we consider that the U.S. may actually need to fully destroy ALL of China’s and/or Russia’s nuclear weapons before they even get a chance to launch one warhead … that is a tall order which requires ALL U.S. nuclear personnel to be fully prepared at ALL times. President Obama and Secretary Hagel understand the importance and seriousness of U.S. Nuclear Capability and Readiness … as a vital part of our National Defense. Many suggest that a nuclear exchange is not winnable … and that is certainly the case if we are not prepared. If an enemy or rogue dictator (as has threatened) successfully launches a nuclear missile against the U.S. or if such an attack is deemed emminent … it is very important that we are able to defend against such attack as best as possible … and immediately destroy the complete nuclear capability of that nation … as well as the complete nuclear arsenal of possible allied nations. Nobody wants nuclear war. But the U.S. and NATO must be fully prepared to control and WIN any possible nuclear warhead exchange. There should be no allowance for sloppiness.

    • Gary Church

      “-the U.S. may actually need to fully destroy ALL of China’s and/or
      Russia’s nuclear weapons before they even get a chance to launch one
      warhead …”

      Thoth, a first strike is exactly the opposite of what our nuclear forces are there for. You are insane.