Well, if you buy the nonsense reported in the Washington Post, I have a bridge to sell you. According to Joby Warrick and Walter Pincus, the snafu involving missing nukes was just a bad mistake. They write:
A simple error in a missile storage room led to missteps at every turn, as ground crews failed to notice the warheads, and as security teams and flight crew members failed to provide adequate oversight and check the cargo thoroughly. An elaborate nuclear safeguard system, nurtured during the Cold War and infused with rigorous accounting and command procedures, was utterly debased, the investigation’s early results show.
Sorry boys and girls, but that is nonsense. You do not walk into an ammo/weapons bunker and sort thru a bunch a cruise missiles like a college freshman searching their laundry basket in the dark for a pair of matching socks.
Despite the appearance of a meticulous report, Warrick and Pincus leave some enormous holes unfilled. Consider this, for example:
A munitions custodian officer is supposed to keep track of the nuclear warheads. In the case of cruise missiles, a stamp-size window on the missile’s frame allows workers to peer inside to check whether the warheads within are silver. In many cases, a red ribbon or marker attached to the missile serves as an additional warning. Finally, before the missiles are moved, two-man teams are supposed to look at check sheets, bar codes and serial numbers denoting whether the missiles are armed.
Why the warheads were not noticed in this case is not publicly known. But once the missiles were certified as unarmed, a requirement for unique security precautions when nuclear warheads are moved — such as the presence of specially armed security police, the approval of a senior base commander and a special tracking system — evaporated.
So let’s see: not only did the munitions custodian officer lose track of the warheads, but an additional two-man team failed to record the pertinent data, and the pilots did not inspect the weapons. And now we learn that nukes and conventional weapons are stored together willy-nilly?
One main question remains unanswered? Why are such weapons being taken to Barksdale, Louisiana, which is the jump off base for Middle East ops? Just asking.
Going thru my mailbox came across the following from a friend and former B-52 pilot. The pilot’s views inform my observations.
Recently the news media reported a USAF B-52 taking off from Minot AFB, ND and landing at Barksdale AFB, LA with six nuclear weapons aboard. The big question is how or why this could happen?
First of all I have to say we are not privileged to all of the information and may never know the underlying circumstances of this occurrence. The Department of Defense declared this entire event was a mistake and would investigate what actually happened.
Obviously there are two possibilities: 1. this was an error and the events that occurred were a tragic mistake of far reaching proportions; and 2. the nuclear weapons were moved on purpose.
The United States has had nuclear weapons for over sixty years. Through out this time the tracking, storage and movement of these weapons has been performed without any type of security problem. The chain of custody procedures has been refined to the nith degree to insure that there will never be a mistake. The access to, movement of, and custody of these weapons is so tightly controlled, each serial numbered weapon has to be signed for when possession of it changes (from one person to another), then only after receiving a lawful order to do so. In order to load a nuclear weapon onto an aircraft the Weapon’s Depot Commander must receive a lawful order from above. The order is sent down (in writing) to one of the bomb shelter custodians and the weapon is signed out to a Loader. The Loader, loads the weapon onto an aircraft and will keep the weapon/aircraft under surveillance with the aircraft under armed guard by the Security Police in an isolated protected area until the Aircraft Commander performs his pre-flight inspection on the aircraft and signs a receipt for each of the weapons by serial number. Once delivered at their destination the Aircraft Commander would receive a receipt for the weapons by serial number from the receiving facility.
With all of the necessary orders and paperwork required just to move a nuclear weapon from one room in a storage facility to another, it can be stated with some sort of certainty that this was not a casual mistake as the Department of Defense has eluted to.
Then if the movement wasn’t a mistake, it obviously was done with some sort of purpose in mind.
The destination of the aircraft was Barksdale AFB, LA from which a number of the strikes on the Middle East have initiated. Speculation would lead us to believe the weapons were being stockpiled at this facility for a possible strike somewhere in the world. Additional speculation would also lead us to believe the strike was to occur in the very near future. Why else the need to forego the normal overland transportation procedures for nuclear weapons and risk flying them to their destination in violation of a treaty with the Russians. Also how is it the press was aware of this movement? After all who would be suspicious of a B-52 taking off from a B-52 base and a B-52 landing at a B-52 base. This event goes on many times each day for practice missions and training. Some one had to have leaked the information to the press that the U.S. was moving nuclear weapons by air in a treaty violation.
This leads us to two possible scenarios.
1. Whoever leaked the information would have been someone in a position of authority knowing what was going on and concerned the U.S. was actually attempting to use nuclear weapons somewhere in the world and wanting to stop it by exposing it. This someone would have had to have a security clearance of some kind and violated the trust under which it was issued thus being exposed to severe penalties and jail time for potential treason etc. Facing such severe penalties someone would have to be totally committed to his/her own conscience/moral beliefs. This preemptive exposure would put the U.S. on a difficult footing and loss of the surprise factor, thus potentially curtailing the mission.
2. The other possibility would be the information on the flight was leaked on purpose in an attempt to influence a foreign government, group or situation to move in a particular direction. That the U.S. was “Saber rattling” and the stakes were high enough to risk antagonizing the Russians to accomplish it. (With the possibility the Russians were supporting the action and willing to overlook the violation as exemplified by their lack of response in the entire situation.)
In either case we have only seen some minor actions taking by the Department of Defense in an attempt to say; well, by accident we left a few nuc’s laying around on some missiles we were going to destroy and they accidentally got loaded onto a plane that by some coincidence happened to be going to a base other than the one it was assigned to (we rarely fly B-52’s assigned at one station to another station). B-52’s usually take off from their home base, fly their mission anywhere in the world by aerial refueling and then return to the base from which they departed. Often these flights take over 20 to 30 hours. If this was a mistake what is happening to the general officers in the chain of command who would have had to issue lawful orders for the movement of those weapons and all those in the custodial chain who would have had to sign for each weapon as they gained possession of them? It just doesn’t add up. Especially when there is a line item in the budget before Congress to upgrade the missiles the Air Force says they were about to destroy. There appears to be too many loose ends still dangling. In addition to all of this did anyone notice how quickly this entire situation quieted down. Usually the press would play on such a world shaking event for months. They do for other things like the first birthday of Anna Nicole’s daughter. We’ve heard about that for weeks on end. But, for a world event with treaty violation implications, no protests from the other treaty signers or other major world players, we get about three days of news attention and it goes away. It seems the exposure has played its roles and has gone away with hopes all is forgotten.
In closing, again we are not privileged in knowing all of the facts and undercover goings on in this matter to be fully aware of what the real intent of this action, but it appears to be more than what the surface information appears.
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