The Washington Post has their headline story today on the matter of the 6 nuclear warheads that made an unscheduled trip from North Dakota to Louisiana last week. No one should be taking this issue in anything but a serious manner and whatever deficiencies lead to this weapons being treated as unarmed cruise missiles should be corrected, and I mean yesterday. The entire process, from initiation to weapon load should be audited and every single airman involved re-educated on proper procedure as though they’d never been through the course. It shouldn’t have happened and we should make damn certain it doesn’t happen again.
All of that said, I have to say that I’m coming away from the story with the impression that the reporter is 1) outraged 2) of the opinion that such events can (or are) happening every single day and 3) clearly wants to get the impression across that our military is so broken down and untrustworthy with these weapons that we ought to just decommission them all.
The weapons, the planes, and the people, to be frank.
Before anyone starts really getting carried away, let’s just recall that this was 1 incident over the course of literally decades of getting it right. No, I’m not saying that it’s nothing to worry about at all – re-read my 1st paragraph immediately if that’s what crossed your mind – but I’m also not going to sit still while this 1 incident is used to suggest that the entire Air Force consists of lazy idiots. Or broken down gear on the verge of catastrophic failure. Why would I say that? Let’s go to the story:
The daily routine for many of Minot’s crews is a cycle of scheduled maintenance for the base’s 35 aging B-52H Stratofortress bombers — mammoth, eight-engine workhorses, the newest of which left the assembly line more than 45 years ago.
Emphasis mine. What possible significance to this story is a comment like this one? If it’s relevant, then the implication is that this situation would be better or worse is only the aircraft the weapons had been loaded upon had been a newer design or had rolled off the assembly line last year. I can’t imagine an argument that would justify such a thought; this incident’s seriousness is changed not one iota by the aircraft type involved.
Taken alone, this is a nitpick – one tiny detail of the story. But it’s just an example of piling-on by the author and the editors. The overall “feel” of the story is one of alarmed, fearful worry and an unstated implication that the Air Force is bumbling. I think this incident may have been serious enough to report but it’s not an indictment of an entire branch of the military.
Know what I’d like to see as a follow-up story? How about an investigation into how leaks pertaining to the movements of this nation’s most powerful weapons are happening and going unpunished?