Sources tell POGO that the Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota has been on security lockdown after discovering that a nuclear weapon launch code was lost or misplaced within the last couple of weeks. Apparently, it was later determined that an airman improperly took the code home.
This fourth breach comes on the heels of three other recent Air Force nuclear security debacles: Minot's 5th Bomb Wing failed a security test in May showing that terrorists could easily have stolen cruise missile nuclear warheads from the base; a B-52 bomber was flown from Minot to Barksdale AFB in Louisiana armed with nuclear cruise missiles last fall; and in August 2006 the Air Force accidentally shipped nuclear weapons parts to Taiwan. Gates took action in June by firing Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne and Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael "Buzz" Mosley.
POGO hears that Minot is having an all-hands meeting on this latest fiasco. We are eager to hear who will be held accountable for this unacceptable track record.
The Air Force decided against having a press conference on the temporarily missing code, in the hopes that the whole matter would just disappear.
-- Ingrid Drake
UPDATE: Here's the Air Force's official response:
Minot Air Force Base Reports Missile Code Procedure Violation
Washington - The 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota recently conducted an investigation into a reported violation of procedures for handling classified material at a missile alert facility (MAF) July 12, 2008. The MAF is a secure facility that houses security forces, facility maintainers and chefs sitting above the Launch Control Center (LCC). The investigation concluded that no compromise of the classified material occurred.
A crew reported they fell asleep while watching the components topside at the MAF inside a crew rest area behind closed doors. An investigation revealed the codes had remained secured in containers using locks which combos were known only to the crew during the entirety of the incident. Additionally, access to the MAF was continually controlled by Air Force Security Forces and the codes had been superseded and were unusable. Therefore, the investigation concluded there was no compromise of the codes.
Commanders at Minot are reviewing the case and will make any recommendations on discipline.
There are many levels of safeguards to protect our strategic assets, and we rely heavily upon these processes as well as a heightened culture of scrutiny with regard to unwavering standards, procedures and safeguards.
For more information on the procedural violation contact Air Force Space Command at (719) 554-3842.