• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

ONE WEEK TO DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!

A generous CounterPuncher has offered a $25,000 matching grant. So for this week only, whatever you can donate will be doubled up to $25,000! If you have the means, please donate! If you already have done so, thank you for your support. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Missile Fields Scandalized from Top to Bottom

Over the last several years, a surprising number of high-ranking military officers have been investigated, punished or fired over conduct unbecoming, sexual harassment, sexual violence, retaliation against subordinates, recruiting fraud and financial improprieties. In 2014, a Pentagon study found that reports of rapes and sexual assaults in the military increased eight percent, and this came on the heels of a 50 percent increase in reported rapes and sexual assaults in 2013.

Simultaneously, nuclear weapons-related scandals have rocked the Air Force and the Navy, resulting in hundreds of demotions, firings, courts-martial and forced retirements.

Just to note a few:  Feb. 5, 2014, “Navy Opens Inquiry into Cheating in Reactor Training”; April 18, 2014, “Another Charge in Navy Bribe Case”; Nov. 14, 2014, “Pentagon Studies Reveal Major Nuclear Problems”; and Jan. 7, 2015, “California: Navy Commander Admits Taking Bribes.”

Officers among the 9,600 personnel in the Minuteman III missile system have been accused of and penalized for distributing illegal narcotics, violating safety and security rules, failing proficiency exercises, sleeping at the controls, cheating on exams, “burnout,” sexual assaults, spousal abuse, and even illegally flying nuclear-armed Cruise missiles across the country. Two Pentagon reports in 2014 urged then Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to allocate between $1-10 billion to quickly fix management and infrastructure in the nuclear weapons system.

An Air Force study obtained by the Associated Press in 2013 found that court-martial rates in the Minuteman missile fields in 2011 and 2012 were more than twice as high as in the overall Air Force. A lengthy article by Nina Burleigh in the June 18 Rolling Stone reports there are currently four courts-martial – for drug use, rape, assault, sexual assault on an unconscious person, and larceny – underway at the Minot Air Force Base alone. Minot is the only AFB in the country to host both B-52 Stratofortress bombers and Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Missile field duty, whether in Minot, Wyoming or Montana, is understood by the personnel assigned to it as a career cul-de-sac, plagued with long hours of isolation and boredom, and haunted by high-level discussions of eliminating the missiles. The missileers’ jobs, and those of their colleagues and superior officers could be cancelled at any time, and even former Secretary Hagel signed a 2012 report recommending exactly that.

In 2014, the AP referred to, “a flagging sense of purpose,” a “stunning breakdowns in discipline, training, morale, security, leadership,” and “a decrepit Minuteman III missile force that few airmen want to join and even fewer view as a career-enhancing mission.” Even the Air Force Secretary in 2013, Michael Donley, said during congressional testimony that he was worried that talk of reducing the nuclear arsenal was having a “corrosive effect” on his troops.

One independent investigation of the string of public scandals declared that the crimes and misdemeanors were symptomatic of a deep-seated problem: “an unambiguous, dramatic and unacceptable decline in the Air Force’s commitment to perform the nuclear mission.”

Air Force chief of staff Gen. Mark Welsh said in 2013 that low morale among missileers is caused by the shrinking of the number of ICBMs. “You say, ‘My goodness, there’s only three [missile fields]. There’s no opportunity there’.” But former missile launch officer Bruce Blair, now a research scholar at Princeton University, told the press, “This dead-end career is not the result of shrinking nuclear arsenals, but rather because the Cold War ended decades ago …”

In an attempt to raise spirits, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, who directs 700,000 active-duty and reserve personnel, was reported Feb. 13, 2014 to be considering salary increases for the missileers, who make between $35,000 and $62,000 in base pay.

In the missile fields though, the numbing tedium of having had no mission for the 25 years since the end of the Cold War will not be relieved by a pay raise. Lacking an enemy to target—Minuteman missile warheads are reportedly aimed only at the open sea now, but can be quickly re-directed in a crisis—missile crews can’t be blamed for feeling useless. Overshadowed for promotion and commendations by the Air Force bombing campaigns and drone attacks in the terror wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, and unable to deter attacks against US military or civilian targets around the world, the missile crews’ “morale is abysmal,” according to Blair, and they are “suffering a deep malaise.”

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists put it this way: “Given the significant number of ‘expert’ studies that have appeared over the past five years suggesting that the ICBM leg of the nuclear triad should be deactivated, it is no wonder that morale has been a persistent challenge in the missile force …” You might say the missileers’ job is dead-ended in more ways than one.

More articles by:

John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
October 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Stephen Cooper
Scientist vs. Cooper: The Interview, Round 3 
Susan Block
How “Hustlers” Hustles Us
Charles R. Larson
Review: Elif Shafak’s “10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World”
October 17, 2019
Steve Early
The Irishman Cometh: Teamster History Hits the Big Screen (Again)
Jonathan Cook
Israel Prepares to Turn Bedouin Citizens into Refugees in Their Own Country
Stan Cox
Healing the Rift Between Political Reality and Ecological Reality
Jeff Klein
Syria, the Kurds, Turkey and the U.S.: Why Progressives Should Not Support a New Imperial Partition in the Middle East
George Ochenski
The Governor, the Mining Company and the Future of a Montana Wilderness
Charles Pierson
Bret Stephens’ American Fantasy
Ted Rall
The First Thing We Do, Let’s Fire All the Cops
Jon Rynn
Saving the Green New Deal
Ajamu Baraka
Syria: Exposing Western Radical Collaboration with Imperialism
Binoy Kampmark
A Coalition of Support: Parliamentarians for Julian Assange
Thomas Knapp
The Down Side of Impeachment
Harvey Wasserman
What Really Happened to American Socialism?
Tom Engelhardt
American Brexit
October 16, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
How Turkey’s Invasion of Syria Backfired on Erdogan
Chitrangada Choudhury – Aniket Aga
How Cotton Became a Headache in the Age of Climate Chaos
Jack Rasmus
US-China Mini-Trade Deal: Trump Takes the Money and Runs
Michael Welton
Communist Dictatorship in Our Midst
Robert Hunziker
Extinction Rebellion Sweeps the World
Peter A. Coclanis
Donald Trump as Artist
Chris Floyd
Byzantium Now: Time-Warping From Justinian to Trump
Steve Klinger
In For a Dime, in For a Dollar
Gary Leupp
The Maria Ramirez Story
Kim C. Domenico
It Serves Us Right To Suffer: Breaking Down Neoliberal Complacency
Kiley Blackman
Wildlife Killing Contests are Unethical
Colin Todhunter
Bayer Shareholders: Put Health and Nature First and Stop Funding This Company!
Andrés Castro
Looking Normal in Kew Gardens
October 15, 2019
Victor Grossman
The Berlin Wall, Thirty Years Later
Raouf Halaby
Kurdish Massacres: One of Britain’s Many Original Sins
Robert Fisk
Trump and Erdogan have Much in Common – and the Kurds will be the Tragic Victims of Their Idiocy
Ron Jacobs
Betrayal in the Levant
Wilma Salgado
Ecuador: Lenin Moreno’s Government Sacrifices the Poor to Satisfy the IMF
Ralph Nader
The Congress Has to Draw the Line
William A. Cohn
The Don Fought the Law…
John W. Whitehead
One Man Against the Monster: John Lennon vs. the Deep State
Lara Merling – Leo Baunach
Sovereign Debt Restructuring: Not Falling Prey to Vultures
Norman Solomon
The More Joe Biden Stumbles, the More Corporate Democrats Freak Out
Jim Britell
The Problem With Partnerships and Roundtables
Howard Lisnoff
More Incitement to Violence by Trump’s Fellow Travelers
Binoy Kampmark
University Woes: the Managerial Class Gets Uppity
Joe Emersberger
Media Smears, Political Persecution Set the Stage for Austerity and the Backlash Against It in Ecuador
Thomas Mountain
Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed Wins Nobel Peace Prize, But It Takes Two to Make Peace
Wim Laven
Citizens Must Remove Trump From Office
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail