Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Issues continue at Malmstrom

SPEARHEAD has declared it has grave concerns regarding new revelations last week that the number of US airmen embroiled in a nuclear cheating scandal has now practically tripled to almost a hundred.

During investigations into alleged drug use by personnel at other bases, 34 US Air Force officers in charge of launching nuclear missiles were suspended in January due to accusations of cheating in monthly proficiency tests. It was not immediately clear whether the additional 58 or so airmen implicated were alleged to have participated in the cheating or were involved in an indirect way.

The Air Force said that the entire team at Malmstrom AFB in Montana in charge of overseeing missile launches would be re-tested after the Air Force OSI discovered that one missile officer had shared test questions with 16 other officers. It said another 17 admitted to knowing about this cheating but did not report it. The tests in question are designed to ensure proficiency by launch officers in processing classified “emergency war orders,” received through their chain of command to launch a missile.

The scandal has led to security clearance suspension and temporary removal from duty of a substantial near 20% of the 500 strong Air Force cadre of nuclear missile launch control officers. Malmstrom is home to the 341st Missile Wing, responcible for 150 nuclear Minuteman 3 ICBMs, a third of the entire ICBM force. The Air Force has not clarified how that affects the mission, beyond requiring the remaining nuclear crew to bear a bigger share of the work. This has naturally lead to fear that the U.S. nuclear response capability is at least been temporarily diminished.

Recently appointed Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said she was “profoundly disappointed” at the alleged cheating and drug possession. The Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh, said there is “absolutely no excuse” for cheating. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a review of the problems inside the ICBM force saying he was "deeply concerned" about morale and discipline among nuclear officers - but insisted that US nuclear arms were safe. Hagel met with senior officers involved in the nuclear force last Wednesday at the Pentagon to discuss how to attack the problems.

Questions were also raised by the UNSC about the United States ability to support SPEARHEAD’s Skyshield initiative, by where ICBMs from the U.S., Russia and China are interlinked to use their combined launches to destroy belligerent extra-terrestrial craft. SPEARHEAD’s Missile Defence Commander Brigadier General "Rockets" Thompson said should SPEARHEAD conclude that the U.S. is no longer capable of sustaining it’s third of Skyshield; they could retask and station Russian and Chineese nuclear submarines inside U.S. territorial waters to make up for the deficiency – even if there’s no imminent threat. “Something I doubt the Pentagon would be overly happy about.” he added.

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