Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Is the bomb boring you?

James MacPherson of the AP reported yesterday that:

"The Air Force discharged three North Dakota ballistic missile crew members who fell asleep while holding classified launch code devices, the military announced Tuesday. Officials said the codes were outdated and remained secure at all times."
This story reminded me of an observation made by Bruce Blair in his chapter “Alerting in Crisis and Nuclear War” in Ashton Carter, John Steinbruner, and Charles Zraket’s iconic 1987 tome Managing Nuclear Operations (p. 85):

“The normal peacetime level of alert permits crew members to sleep while on duty. Depending on the time of day, a DEFCON 3 message literally might awaken the Minuteman launch crews, an obvious precondition for the rapid firing of forces."
The editors of Managing Nuclear Operations remind us that (p. 3):

"In its forty years of existence the command system has had direct experience of only one operational state -- peacetime."
We should all be grateful that since that writing, this period has been extended more than half again. We should also be respectfully critical and vigilant about the challenges of the next sixty years of nuclear operations.

Nukes on a Blog would like to thank Joseph Grieboski for passing on the AP story.

1 comment:

  1. Constant vigilance is difficult to maintain under any circumstances. With the threat of total nuclear destruction made less immediate in the last twenty years, it must be increasingly difficult for that vigilance.

    I had never heard that officers would be allowed to sleep while on duty; that made me smile. It would be a rude awakening indeed to suddenly realize you had slipped off to sleep because the alarm had gone off.