June 05, 2008
LOSE A NUKE, LOSE YOUR JOB: "Defense Secretary Robert Gates ousted the Air Force's top military and civilian leaders Thursday, holding them to account in a historic Pentagon shake-up after embarrassing nuclear mix-ups. Gates announced at a news conference that he had accepted the resignations of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley and Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne - a highly unusual double firing." Seems fair. But we also need to clean things up down the line: "The report drew the stunning conclusion that the Air Force's nuclear standards have been in a long decline, 'a problem that has been identified but not effectively addressed for over a decade.'"
UPDATE: Background here.
ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader emails:
I get the impression, from my military acquaintances, that the nuclear forces have been regarded by the rest of the armed services as the weird aunt in the attic nobody talks about. That kind of attitude tends to be hard on the morale of the "weird aunt", and bad morale leads to carelessness and other manifestations of bad performance.
For whatever it's worth.
We need to continue taking the nuclear deterrent seriously. I work at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and we've become a political football over the last few years. Bad morale, reduced performance .... yeah.
MORE: Further background, going beyond the nuke issue to many other Air Force turf battles, from Noah Shachtman.
STILL MORE: A reader emails:
I was an OIC (1st Lieutenant at Minot when I left) in charge of several branches of the 5 MMS (Munitions Maintenance Squadron) WSA (Weapons Storage Area) at Minot in the mid-eighties. That was back when SAC (Strategic Air Command) existed and controlled all of the nations ICBM and Heavy Bomber Nuke forces. Back then, SAC set the standard, DOD-wide, for excellence in Nuclear Accountability and Control...I personally went through many SAC IG, NSA, DNSA and other Nuclear Surety inspections when I was there, and they were absolutely gut-wrenching in their thoroughness...they were terrifying actually...and I am glad they were. Even minor clerical paper-work or simple procedural errors could cause a failed inspection for the entire base...resulting in the Wing Commander and many, if not most, officers in his direct chain of command being fired and removed from the base within 24 hrs of the inspection results being published...my point is that sometime after Clinton's reorganization of the USAF and the retirement of SAC...these exacting standards seem to have disappeared. Not blaming him, since much of this was on the recommendation of Bush the first's defense re-organization efforts, but when you remove the elite and professional status that an organization such as SAC had...well, this happens.
And here's a blog post from Former Spook that goes into some detail, too.