'W e're discovering such rot in the crew force that your behavior while on alert is accepting of missteps in launch security protocols, all in the name of not inconveniencing yourselves," said Lt. Col. Jay Folds, deputy commander of the 91st Operations Group, based at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota.
Lt. Col. Folds went on, "We need to hit the reset button and restructure the crew force to take you out of your comfort zones (which are rotten comfort zones), and rebuild from the ground up."
Seventeen nuclear missileers were de-certified by Folds at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., according to an Associated Press report last week. One faces criminal charges of compromising launch codes.
These de-certified missileers account for 10 percent of the men and women who work 24/7, 60 feet underground, ready to launch the nuclear weapons in their jurisdiction if ordered to by the president. Five hundred nuclear Minute Man III Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles are located in Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, North Dakota and Montana, according to "Nuclear Heartland." Colorado has 49.
There are thousands of U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear warheads that are on hair-trigger alert, ready for launch. The RAND Corporation, a research and development think tank, has concluded that these weapons would destroy both countries in one hour.
So -- and let this sink in -- these missileers bear the unfathomable responsibilities of weapons that could certainly bring life as we know it to a halt, filling it with nuclear fallout and a deep shadow over the earth, blotting out the sun from burning debris, creating "nuclear winter," according to Joseph Cirincione, in an abstract from the Global Catastrophic Risks Conference.
Being a missileer must be a thankless, boring, dead-end job. It's no wonder there is "rot" and incompetence.
For starters, let's take these weapons off hair-trigger alert status, universally, and at least have them on a 24-hour status, for example, greatly reducing the danger of accidental launch. This must be universal and verifiable. De-alerting can occur relatively rapidly if there is sufficient political will. That will is up to us, the people, to push our governments.
Then, the world must systematically go through the steps created over years of conferences by the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, to finally rid the world of this scourge.
Maybe the "rot" is really the profit-fueled, perpetual need for a lucrative military industrial complex. We must evolve beyond this.