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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Nuclear Missile System Fails Another Safety Test

Just out from AP.  And you wonder why I keep writing about the legacy of Hiroshima.  UPDATE:  Ron Rosenbaum has sent along his recent important piece for Slate calling for abolishing the missiles and the silos.

WASHINGTON (AP) — An Air Force unit that operates one-third of the nation's land-based nuclear missiles has failed a safety and security inspection, marking the second major setback this year for a force charged with the military's most sensitive mission, the general in charge of the nuclear air force told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Lt. Gen. James M. Kowalski, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, said a team of "relatively low-ranking" airmen failed one exercise as part of a broader inspection, which began last week and ended Tuesday. He said that for security reasons he could not be specific about the team or the exercise.

ICBM wings undergo multiple types of inspections. The one at Malmstrom was a "surety" inspection, which the Pentagon defines as "nuclear weapon system safety, security and control." The point is to ensure that no nuclear weapon is accidentally, inadvertently or deliberately armed or launched without presidential authority.

"This unit fumbled on this exercise," Kowalski said by telephone from his headquarters at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., adding that this did not call into question the safety or control of nuclear weapons at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.

"The team did not demonstrate the right procedures," he said, and as a result was rated a failure. To elaborate "could reveal a potential vulnerability" in the force, Kowalski said.

In a written statement on its website, Kowalski's command said there had been "tactical-level errors" in the snap exercise, revealing "discrepancies."

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