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

(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.

Minuteman missile engines.
Minuteman missile engines.   (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)
The launch of the Global Strike Command Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
The launch of the Global Strike Command Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.   (AP Photo/U.S. Air Force, Michael Peterson)
Lt. Gen. James M. Kowalski, the commander of Air Force Global Strike Command.
Lt. Gen. James M. Kowalski, the commander of Air Force Global Strike Command.   (AP Photo/US Air Force)
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