Nuclear Launch Officers Tied to Narcotics Probe
In the latest in a string of embarrassments for Air Force unit
By Kevin Spak,  Newser User
Posted Jan 10, 2014 11:14 AM CST
In this image released by the U.S. Air Force, a Malmstrom Air Force Base missile maintenance team removes the upper section of an ICBM at a Montana missile site.   (AP Photo/U.S. Air Force, John Parie)

(Newser) – America got yet another reason to worry about the men who have their fingers on the nuclear button yesterday, when two Air Force ICBM launch officers were suspended and named as targets of an illegal narcotics investigation. The two men, part of the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force base in Montana, have had their security clearances suspended pending an investigation, NBC News and Reuters report.

The timing of the news was hilariously bad—it came just moments before Chuck Hagel was set to deliver a speech to another Air Force ICBM unit intended to boost morale in the face of the rampant problems that have plagued America's nuclear force. Hagel's aides told him about the news, the AP reports, but Hagel left it out of his speech. "You are doing something of great importance," he said. "There is no room for error—none." But there have been a lot of errors recently; the AP used the drug case as an opportunity to run down some of the recent snafus:

  • In April, 19 members of one crew were deemed unfit for duty and given weeks of remedial training.
  • In August the 341st Wing—the same one now involved in the drug scandal—failed a safety inspection.
  • Nuclear guards have twice been caught sleeping with the blast door to their control center open.
  • The general in charge of the entire missile operation was fired for acting like a "drunken boor" on an official trip.