Nuke Guards Caught Napping With Door Open
4 officers in charge of nuclear missile launch keys twice breached security protocols
By Ruth Brown, Newser Staff
Posted Oct 23, 2013 7:57 AM CDT
Minuteman missile engines.   (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)

(Newser) – It's reassuring to know the people entrusted with the launch keys to our nuclear missiles are at least well rested—if not well secured. US Air Force officers in charge of these keys have been caught twice this year napping while leaving the blast door to their underground launch center open, the AP reports. The door is far from the only line of defense between a terrorist and the 10 Minuteman 3 missiles housed within—the bunkers are underground and guarded by many layers of security. And one of the two officers on duty is actually allowed to catch some Zs while on a 24-hour shift. But doing so with the blast door open is still a big no-no.

"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," says Lt. Gen. James Kowalski, who is in charge of all 450 of our Minuteman 3 missiles. The four officers caught have all been reprimanded—two had to forfeit pay, and all received letters of reprimand. One is facing the discharge board. The letters may sound like a slap on the wrist, but Air Force officials tell NBC News that they are considered "career-ending." "This is not a training problem," says Kowalski, per the AP. "This is some people out there are having a problem with discipline." The transgressions occurred at two bases: Montana's Malmstrom Air Force Base and the problem-ridden Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota.

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Showing 3 of 14 comments
Ezekiel 25:17
Oct 23, 2013 7:30 PM CDT
Don't worry about US missile silos, worry about stored 30 to 50 MT warheads in Russia that we pay to guard. We developed a system with Sandia Labs, IBM, and other contractors to demil aging warheads in Russia. We pay for the system and train Russians how to do the work because US citizens are still forbidden access to the actual sites. But if we didn't pay for the demil process, Russia said they would be forced to sell the warheads to the highest bidders on the open market. In other words, Russia extorts blood money for us to pay for demilling their 20 to 50 megaton warheads. So what does Russia do with the plutonium based weapons we pay to demil? They extrude the plutonium and convert it to nuclear reactor fuel rods. So far, we have bank rolled the demil of thousands of warheads and we have thousands yet to go. But did you know Russia has yet to account for all of them ever made and put into service? A good reason to always have your affairs in order.
NorCalHal
Oct 23, 2013 3:08 PM CDT
While the article and authorities agree that one of the two person launch team is permitted to sleep the problem was they did so with the center's blast doors open. I guess the question is; why were the doors open? Poor ventilation, no air conditioning, claustrophobic?
BCS
Oct 23, 2013 11:14 AM CDT
They would be useless to anyone who entered the bunker. I'm fairly certain that they can't be launched without third party, offsite approval, and they're far to heavy to carry away. Perhaps they should have 3 or 4 individuals guarding them at a time. It has to be the most mundane job on the planet.