The Associated press
Wed, 08 May 2013 16:26 CDT
© Associated Press
This file photo provided by the National Park Service shows the inside of the deactivated Delta Nine Launch Facility near Wall, S.D., that is now open to the public. The Air Force stripped an unprecedented 17 officers of their authority to control — and if necessary launch — nuclear missiles after a string of unpublicized and unacceptable failings, including a potential compromise of missile launch codes.
Washington - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel demanded more information Wednesday after the Air Force disciplined 17 launch officers at a nuclear missile base in North Dakota over what a commander called "rot" in the force. The Air Force struggled to explain, acknowledging concern about an "attitude problem" but telling Congress the weapons were secure.
Hagel reacted strongly after The Associated Press reported the unprecedented sidelining of the officers at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., where one of their commanders complained of "such rot" that even the willful violation of safety rules - including a possible compromise of launch codes - was tolerated.
The AP quoted from an internal email written by Lt. Col. Jay Folds, deputy commander of the 91st Operations Group, which is responsible for all Minuteman 3 missile launch crews at Minot. He lamented the remarkably poor reviews they 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.
"We are, in fact, in a crisis right now," Folds wrote in the email to his subordinates.