Nukewatch Quarterly Fall 2013
GREAT FALLS, Montana — The Air Force gets some “Fs” when it comes to protecting us from our own nuclear weapons. Crews at the Air Force’s Malmstrom, Montana base failed a security inspection by not adhering to protocols and rules ensuring the safety, security and control of its Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles. A crew engaged in “snap exercises” reportedly made mistakes, the severity of which was not divulged by the Air Force. Crews failed exercises in 2010 and 2008 as well. The Malmstrom “surety” inspection covers safety, security, emergency exercises, worker dependability and other areas of nuclear weapons “reliability.” The tests are also said to insure that no weapon is accidentally or deliberately armed or launched without the president’s authorization. Commanders downplayed the failures by reminding the public that the crew passed 10 of 13 areas of study, but Col. David Lynch was removed from command of Malstrom’s 341st missile wing August 25.
Air Force missileers have been failing a lot lately:
* The missile wing at Minot AFB in North Dakota received the equivalent of a “D” grade last April after conducting launch tests, and 17 officers were subsequently removed from duty at their underground launch control centers.
* In 2007, six nuclear weapons were illegally flown from Minot across the country to Barksdale AFB in Louisiana. Three Air Force colonels and a Lt. Col. were fired.
* In October 2010, personnel at Warren AFB in Wyoming lost electronic contact with 50 ICBMs for an hour.
— NPR & 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs Office, Aug. 13; Associated Press & Great Falls Tribune, Aug. 14, 2013; Global Security News, Oct. 27, 2010