Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Commander cites 'rot' in nuke force

Gen. Mark A. Welsh says crew members under-performing will not be tolerated.

Gen. Mark A. Welsh says crew members under-performing will not be tolerated.

WASHINGTON — It was an attitude problem, Air Force commanders insisted, not a matter of competence. And besides, they contended, security was never at risk in spite of what one commander called "rot" in the crew force.

Assurances aside, the crew's failings appear unusually worrisome given its assignment: manning a nuclear missile base and being prepared at a moment's notice to launch a Minuteman 3 if ordered by the president.

An investigation had revealed a force in disarray and resulted in the unprecedented removal of 17 launch officers from their duty at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., the Associated Press found.

Weapons safety rules were being violated and codes for the Air Force's most powerful nuclear missiles may have been compromised, among other failings cited in a report. Even the orders of superiors were being questioned, and they were not being shown the proper respect.

"We are, in fact, in a crisis right now," Lt. Col. Jay Folds, deputy commander of the 91st Operations Group, told subordinates in an email obtained by the AP. The group is responsible for all Minuteman 3 missile launch crews at Minot.

In his email, Folds lamented the remarkably poor reviews the launch officers received in a March inspection. Their missile launch skills were rated "marginal," which the Air Force told the AP was the equivalent of a "D" grade.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel responded to the AP report on Wednesday by demanding more information from the Air Force. The service's top general, Gen. Mark Welsh, said the problem does not suggest a lack of proper control over the nuclear missiles but rather was a symptom of turmoil in the ranks.

"The idea that we have people not performing to the standard we expect will never be good and we won't tolerate it," Welsh said when questioned about the problem at a congressional hearing on budget issues.

Hagel's spokesman, George Little, said the defense secretary was briefed on the Minot situation as reported by the AP on Wednesday and demanded that he be provided more details.

Welsh's civilian boss, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley, suggested a silver lining to the trouble at Minot. The fact that Minot commanders identified 17 underperformers was evidence that the Air Force has strengthened its monitoring of the nuclear force, he said. And he stressed that launch crew members typically are relatively junior officers — lieutenants and captains — with limited service experience.

It is the duty of commanders, Donley said, to "ride herd" on those young officers with "this awesome responsibility" of controlling missiles capable of destroying entire countries.

Commander cites 'rot' in nuke force 05/08/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 11:19pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Nearly 1 in 4 Tampa Bay homeowners considered equity rich

    Real Estate

    If your home is worth at least 50 percent more than you owe, you're rich — equity rich that is.

    About one in four Tampa Bay homeowners are considered "equity rich." [Associated Press file photo]
  2. Trump strategist Steve Bannon: No military solution in North Korea

    National

    BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Donald Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon says there's no military solution to the threat posed by North Korea and its nuclear ambitions, despite the president's recent pledge to answer further aggression with "fire and fury."

    Steve Bannon, chief White House strategist to President Donald Trump, has drawn fire from some of Trump's closest advisers. [Associated Press]
  3. Rays have their chances, but end up with another loss (w/video)

    The Heater

    TORONTO — The litany of games the Rays have given away this season is long enough, arguably too lengthy. So the only way to get to the postseason is make up for some of those losses by grabbing some wins when the opportunity is presented, especially at this time of year when the margin is diminished and the stakes …

    Associated Press
  4. Dunedin man accused of possessing child pornography

    Crime

    DUNEDIN — A 57-year-old man was arrested Wednesday, accused of intentionally downloading child pornography, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said.

    Richard Beal Anger, 57, of Dunedin faces 11 counts of possession of child pornography. [Courtesy of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  5. Pence cuts short Latin America trip and pressures Chile to sever all ties to North Korea

    Politics

    SANTIAGO, Chile — Vice President Mike Pence is cutting short his Latin America trip by one day to return to Washington for a strategy meeting Friday at Camp David with President Donald Trump and the national security team.

    Vice President Mike Pence urged Chilean President Michelle Bachelet to take a tougher stand against North Korea on Wednesday in Santiago, Chile.