The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

January 18, 2014

When do nuclear missteps put security in jeopardy?


Tony Carr, a recently retired Air Force officer, is calling for bold action in response to the cheating scandal.

"This is deeply concerning. Not only for what it says about the readiness of the officers involved and perhaps the broader community to which they belong, but for the noticeable fraying of integrity it demonstrates," he wrote Thursday in a public blog.

He called integrity the Air Force's most cherished value. "Such a brazen and broad violation of it — not among trainees or cadets still earning their way through the door, but by commissioned officers responsible for nuclear readiness — is a gravely startling thing, indeed."

James said she was confident that the Minuteman 3 arsenal is being safely and reliably operated and controlled, but said she was "profoundly disappointed" in those involved in the drug and cheating investigations.

"This was a failure of some of our airmen," she said. "It was not a failure of the nuclear mission."

James said she is reassured by "checks and balances" in the system, including periodic inspections at the ICBM bases. She said she would travel to each of the three ICBM bases this coming week to see for herself.

"In any given organization there are issues," she said when asked at a Pentagon news conference about the implications of the latest investigations.

They follow a series of AP reports on nuclear missteps, including an internal Air Force complaint that the Minot ICBM group was infested with "rot," and the firing in October of the two-star general overseeing the entire ICBM force. Maj. Gen. Michael Carey was relieved of duty after investigators found he had engaged in alcohol-fueled misbehavior during an official visit to Russia last summer.

"Just because there are issues with individuals it does not mean that the entirety of the mission is compromised," James said.

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