U.S. Missileers Left Blast Doors Open in Security Breach

Global Security Newswire Staff
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Global Security Newswire Staff
Oct. 23, 2013, 8:02 a.m.

U.S. Air Force per­son­nel with re­spons­ib­il­ity for launch­ing ground-based nuc­le­ar-tipped mis­siles twice in 2013 kept a blast door open in vi­ol­a­tion of se­cur­ity policy, the As­so­ci­ated Press re­por­ted on Tues­day.

The blast doors at the sub­ter­ranean in­stall­a­tions — where in­ter­con­tin­ent­al bal­list­ic-mis­siles are kept primed for fir­ing — are not sup­posed to be kept ajar if any mis­sileers in­side are nap­ping, in or­der to en­sure an in­vader can­not seize the launch keys held by the Air Force of­ficers.

U.S. mis­sileers are drilled to ad­here to all nuc­le­ar-se­cur­ity and safety reg­u­la­tions 100 per­cent of the time, be­cause even small mis­steps have the po­ten­tial to lead to cata­strophe. The As­so­ci­ated Press was in­formed by of­fi­cials with per­son­al know­ledge about the 2013 blast door vi­ol­a­tions that oth­er sim­il­ar trans­gres­sions have taken place and not been dis­covered.

“The only way that you can have a crew mem­ber be in ‘rest status’ is if that blast door is shut and there is no pos­sib­il­ity of any­one ac­cess­ing the launch con­trol cen­ter,” Air Force Glob­al Strike Com­mand chief Lt. Gen. James Kow­al­ski said in an in­ter­view. His com­mand has charge of the Air Force’s ap­prox­im­ately 450 ICBMs as well as its fleet of stra­tegic bombers. The Minute­man 3 mis­siles are dis­trib­uted evenly across three bases in Montana, North Dakota and Wyom­ing.

There are lay­ers of phys­ic­al de­fenses an in­vader would have to over­come be­fore even ap­proach­ing the blast doors.

The Air Force said in a state­ment that se­cur­ity of the ICBMs was not at risk fol­low­ing the April in­cid­ent at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., and May in­cid­ent at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., “due to the mul­tiple safe­guards and the pro­tec­tions in place.”

Two launch crew com­mand­ers and two deputy com­mand­ers re­ceived ad­min­is­trat­ive pun­ish­ments for their roles in the in­cid­ents. One of the of­ficers ac­know­ledged leav­ing the blast doors open un­detec­ted on oth­er oc­ca­sions.

The As­so­ci­ated Press was aler­ted to the blast-door vi­ol­a­tions at Malmstrom by an of­fi­cial who wanted the in­cid­ents pub­li­cized out of a be­lief they showed just how prob­lem­at­ic dis­cip­line among ICBM crews has be­come. As the Cold War fears of a nuc­le­ar holo­caust have re­ceded from the minds of Amer­ic­ans, so too ap­par­ently has the im­pulse among cer­tain mil­it­ary mem­bers to ri­gidly ad­here to all nuc­le­ar safety and se­cur­ity rules.

“This is not a train­ing prob­lem,” said Kow­al­ski, who earli­er this month was con­firmed by the Sen­ate to be­come head of U.S. Stra­tegic Com­mand. “This is some people out there are hav­ing a prob­lem with dis­cip­line.”

The blast-door vi­ol­a­tions are part of a string of re­cent em­bar­rass­ing in­cid­ents for Glob­al Strike Com­mand and its uni­fied com­batant com­mand, Stra­tegic Com­mand. Earli­er this month, the Air Force of­ficer with re­spons­ib­il­ity for all ICBMs was re­moved from his post fol­low­ing con­cerns about prob­lems with al­co­hol, and Stra­tegic Com­mand’s deputy com­mand­er was de­moted and trans­ferred to an­oth­er po­s­i­tion amid an of­fi­cial in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to wheth­er he gambled with fake chips at a casino. In Au­gust, an ICBM wing at Malmstrom that over­sees one-third of the coun­try’s silo-based mis­siles failed a safety and se­cur­ity in­spec­tion. In April, 19 ICBM launch-con­trol of­ficers were tem­por­ar­ily pulled from their as­sign­ments after they dis­played low re­gard for se­cur­ity pro­ced­ures dur­ing an ex­am­in­a­tion.

What We're Following See More »
TO VISIT US TROOPS
John McCain Paid Secret Visit To Syria
40 minutes ago
THE DETAILS

Senator John McCain paid a secret visit to Northern Syria over the weekend during his trip abroad. McCain reportedly went "to speak with American officials and Kurdish fighters leading the charge to push ISIS militants out of Raqqa, the jihadist group’s stronghold." The trip was organized with the help of U.S. military.

Source:
‘MORE WITH LESS’
Trump Budget to Call for Major Cuts
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The Trump administration will deliver its first budget to Congress in mid-March, and the president confirmed Wednesday it will contain major cuts for federal agencies." The blueprint, expected to be released in mid-March, will not include the kinds of specifics usually seen in White House budgets, but rather will instruct the heads of agencies to "do more with less."

Source:
DEFERENCE TO PRESIDENT
More Republicans Trust Trump than GOP Members
2 hours ago
WHY WE CARE
PAC WILL TARGET INCUMBENTS
Sanders Acolytes Taking the Movement Local
5 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

"While Democrats nationwide have put the focus on President Trump, the Sanders wing of the party has engaged in an intramural fight to remake the party in a more populist, liberal mold." From Washington state to California to Florida, Sanders loyalists are making good on their promise to remake the party from the ground up. And just last week, a "group of former Sanders campaign aides launched a super PAC with the explicit goal of mounting primary challenges to Democratic incumbents."

Source:
THANKS TO MILITARY ROLE
McMaster Requires Congressional Approval
5 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Congress will need to vote on Donald Trump's pick of Lt. General H.R. McMaster to be his next national security adviser, but not for the reason you think. The position of NSA doesn't require Senate approval, but since McMaster currently holds a three-star military position, Congress will need to vote to allow him to keep his position instead of forcing him to drop one star and become a Major General, which could potentially affect his pension.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login