Wednesday, December 17, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Air Force to launch fixes to nuclear program

By
From page A11 | June 11, 2014 |

WASHINGTON — The Air Force is launching an ambitious campaign to repair flaws in its nuclear missile corps, after recent training failures, security missteps, leadership lapses, morale problems and stunning breakdowns in discipline prompted Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to demand action to restore public confidence in the nuclear force.

Air Force leaders are planning to offer bonus pay to missile force members, fill gaps in their ranks, offer a nuclear service medal and put more money into modernizing what in some respects has become a decrepit Minuteman 3 missile force that few airmen want to join and even fewer view as a career-enhancing mission.

The potential impact of these and other planned changes is unclear. They do not appear to address comprehensively what some see as the core issue: a flagging sense of purpose in a force that atrophied after the Cold War ended two decades ago as the military’s focus turned to countering terrorism and other threats.

Even so, some analysts are encouraged by these initial Air Force moves.

“I think this is a step in the right direction,” said Dana Struckman, a retired Air Force officer who commanded a Minuteman 3 missile squadron at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota in 2003-05. “I think it will make a difference.”

Driving this effort is Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, who took over as the service’s top civilian official in December amid a series of embarrassing lapses by the men and women who operate, support and lead the fleet of 450 intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, based in North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming.

The missiles are armed with nuclear warheads, ready for launch on short notice any day, any hour.

In January, after visiting a Minuteman 3 base, Hagel declared, “We know that something is wrong.” He ordered a pair of comprehensive reviews to identify what was amiss and to recommend solutions. Both reviews missed their initial deadlines for completion, and Hagel has said little publicly about it in recent months.

The cascade of bad news began in May 2013 when The Associated Press revealed that a group of ICBM launch officers at Minot Air Force Base had been stripped of their authority following a poor inspection result and other problems. The AP also disclosed that the deputy operations commander at Minot had complained in an internal email of “rot” in his ranks — an assessment that aired a range of morale and other behavioral, training, leadership and security problems that later emerged at the ICBM bases in Wyoming and Montana.

In October the two-star general in charge of ICBMs was fired for drunken behavior while on official business in Russia, and in November the AP revealed an unpublished study that found evidence of “burnout” among missile launch officers and cited elevated rates of personal misconduct within the ICBM force.

For months Air Force officials insisted that the morale issues and other problems amounted to nothing more than commonplace gripes and isolated, correctable goofs. James, however, took a different approach.

In January, just weeks after taking office and days after the discovery of an exam-cheating scandal among nearly 100 launch crew members in the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, James declared herself “profoundly disappointed,” and announced that the ICBM force was in need of closer scrutiny. She visited all three ICBM bases and said afterward the problems are “systemic,” not isolated.

“I tip my hat to her for really taking this on,” Struckman said. “She didn’t shy away.”

Also in January, the Air Force disclosed that three ICBM launch officers were among those implicated in a criminal investigation of drug use or possession — a probe that remains active. And in March it announced it was firing nine officers in leadership positions at Malmstrom and one, Col. Donald Holloway, at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, which is headquarters for the organization in charge of the entire ICBM force.

Since then the Air Force has developed and begun publicizing internal changes aimed at fixing what ails the ICBM force, although the two reviews that Hagel ordered in February are not yet complete. It’s unclear how the Air Force’s proposed changes will be squared with whatever recommendations emerge from Hagel’s reviews.

Among the more dramatic and potentially important moves, James has recommended to Hagel that he put a four-star general in charge of the nuclear Air Force, including the ICBM and bomber fleets, thereby elevating its status and clout inside an Air Force more focused on air, space and cyberspace missions. A three-star general is currently running the force. Raising the rank to four stars will require approval by Congress.

Such a move would put the Air Force more in line with the Navy, whose nuclear force is overseen by a four-star officer, Adm. Terry J. Benedict, who has an eight-year tenure and reports directly to the top Navy admiral.

The Air Force also plans to offer extra pay to attract and keep people in the missile fields. It’s an idea that has been kicked around for years but never implemented, to the consternation of many airmen. Newly trained missile launch officers, known as missileers, will get a yearly bonus throughout their tour, according to Lt. Col. John Sheets, an Air Force spokesman. He said the dollar amount is yet to be decided. Current missileers, as well as security force members and others in the missile fields, will get monthly bonuses, he said.

Flaws in the Air Force’s nuclear management have been apparent for years, according to Michelle Spencer, who led a year-long study of the nuclear Air Force and concluded in a report published in January 2012 that numerous attempts since 2008 amounted to “movement without direction.” At its core, she wrote, are questions about the Air Force’s ability to develop, sustain and value nuclear expertise.

“Without answers to these fundamental questions,” she wrote, “the Air Force nuclear enterprise remains on the same trajectory as it has been for the last two decades — in ever-increasing decline.”

Spencer’s study, which was requested and funded by the Air Force, also found that senior Air Force leaders were getting “false or distorted information about the reality on the ground” in the nuclear force. That distortion permitted small problems to grow into big ones and reflected cynicism about the nuclear mission, she wrote.

Spencer said James appears to have made inroads against that problem, “but I’m sure they haven’t solved it.”

 

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

 
Menorah on Main begins celebration of Hanukkah

By Glen Faison | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

Haynes, Travis district part company

By Glen Faison | From Page: A1, 8 Comments

 
Optimist Club welcomes student essays

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Police arrest 5 on DUI allegations

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3, 4 Comments

Free new home heater warms Solano family

By Glen Faison | From Page: A3, 3 Comments | Gallery

 
 
Crash blocks part of Air Base Parkway

By Glen Faison | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
Police arrest 4 for suspected marijuana sales

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5, 3 Comments

 
‘Hobbit’ story ends on big screen

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A7

 
Council delays decision on anti-smoking ordinance

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A8

Police arrest man caught driving stolen car

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A8

 
 
Faifield police log: Dec. 12, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: Dec. 14, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: Dec. 12, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A12, 1 Comment

 
Fairfield police log: Dec. 14, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A12

 
.

US / World

Taliban assault on Pakistan school leaves 141 dead

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 2 Comments

 
Quotes from around the world on Pakistan attack

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

A look at the Pakistani Taliban militant group

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
State retiree health care gap reaches $72 billion

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9, 4 Comments

Robin Williams tops 2014 list of Google searches

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
Ex-Marine wanted in 6 killings commits suicide

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13, 2 Comments

 
Gay vets can march in Boston St. Patrick’s parade

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13, 1 Comment

Cosby won’t be charged over molestation claim

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

 
End game: No immigration deal, just divisions

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

Jeb Bush to ‘actively explore’ run for president

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13, 3 Comments

 
Eight-day Jewish festival of Hanukkah begins

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Filipino mayor expresses support for Guam statue

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Employees arrested for baby theft in Guatemala

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Israel arrests members of Jewish extremist group

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Ireland plans May vote on legalizing gay marriage

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Sydney siege victims lauded for courage, kindness

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Horror over deadly Sydney siege turns to anger

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Aussie leader: System failed to track siege gunman

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Islamic State recruits broadly, not just fighters

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

.

Opinion

What is Hanukkah’s significance?

By The Rev. Dan Molyneux | From Page: A11, 9 Comments

 
 
LA looks to election shift to boost turnout

By Dan Walters | From Page: A11

.

Living

Today in History: Dec. 17, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Dec. 17, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A2

Horoscopes: Dec. 17, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B6

 
My teenage daughter seems to be cutting me out of her life

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B6

A chocolatey rich coconut cream pie for Christmas

By Elizabeth Karmel | From Page: B7

 
Go Italian this Christmas with lobster manicotti

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

Dressing up a simple hash for Christmas brunch

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
.

Entertainment

Letterman pulls curtain on holiday tradition

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A5

Fixes planned for clinic that treated Joan Rivers

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Green Day, Reed, Starr into rock hall

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

.

Sports

Chris Borland’s rookie 49ers season likely over

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Some Raiders players want Sparano in 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Fairfield grad Bishop signs with 49ers

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Memphis stops Golden State’s 16-game win streak

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Rodriguez girls finally get win over Monte Vista

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Panthers outlast Capitals in longest NHL shootout, 20 rounds

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

AP sources: NFL employees turn over phone, email records

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Bills deliver Lions pizza, wings for hospitality

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

1998 World Cup winner Thierry Henry retires

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
USOC decides to bid for 2024; city still undecided

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

College football playoff participants stack AP All-America team

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Yankees GM Cashman: A-Rod now a full-time DH

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Sprint to end NASCAR sponsorship after 2016 season

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Raiders place LB Sio Moore on IR

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Patriots regain top spot in AP Pro32 rankings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

.

Business

California home prices cool in November on sluggish sales

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
T-Mobile to let customers carry over unused data

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Apple wins class-action lawsuit over iPod prices

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Apple stops sales in Russia, citing unstable ruble

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

Obama backs bill imposing new sanctions on Russia

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9, 5 Comments

 
Sony hackers reference 9/11 in new threats against theaters

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

Russian ruble sinks sharply despite bank rate hike

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

 
.

Obituaries

Jennie Ponce Reyes

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Patricia “Pat” Anne Stringfield-Pierre

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

James Nelson

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
Collie Joseph Blossom

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 2 Comments

Calvin B. Shin

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 3 Comments

 
.

Comics

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6