Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Military United States

Nuclear Officers Napped With Blast Door Left Open 238

Posted by Soulskill
from the what's-the-worst-that-could-happen dept.
Lasrick writes "AP's Robert Burns reports that 'Air Force officers entrusted with the launch keys to long-range nuclear missiles have been caught twice this year leaving open a blast door that is intended to help prevent a terrorist or other intruder from entering their underground command post.' Why is that signifcant? At least one of the officers was napping at the time. Airforce officials said other violations like this have undoubtedly occurred and gone undetected. Yeesh. 'The blast door violations are another sign of trouble in the handling of the nation's nuclear arsenal. The AP has discovered a series of problems within the ICBM force, including a failed safety inspection, the temporary sidelining of launch officers deemed unfit for duty and the abrupt firing last week of the two-star general in charge. The problems, including low morale, underscore the challenges of keeping safe such a deadly force that is constantly on alert but is unlikely ever to be used.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Nuclear Officers Napped With Blast Door Left Open

Comments Filter:
  • by TWiTfan (2887093) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @01:58PM (#45215505)

    It gets hot in there, and Johnson is always farting.

    • by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @02:07PM (#45215673) Homepage Journal

      "Close the blast doors! Close the blast doors!"

      Boring conversation, anyways...

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @02:01PM (#45215541) Journal
    Hey there troops, listen up! It's your job to sit in this drab, overbuilt concrete coffin, sitting on your lazy asses like the cold war relics you are, until such a time as you are instructed to commit the greatest mass slaughter in human history. Any questions?
    • Yeah, seems like a shitty job. Maybe we should have an AI in charge of the nukes? Here is a first draft:

      if(false){
      for(Missile missile : missiles){
      missile.launch()
      }
      }
    • until such a time as you are instructed to commit the greatest mass slaughter in human history

      To worry, worry, super-scurry
      Call the troops out in a hurry
      This is what we've waited for
      This is it boys, this is war

      Any questions?

      "So you pay for college?"

    • by 0racle (667029)

      Any questions?

      Uh ya, since alarms and shit are going to sound when I need to bring an end to humanity, why do I have to stay awake until then?

    • by mysidia (191772) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @07:59PM (#45219471)

      Hey there troops, listen up! It's your job to sit in this drab, overbuilt concrete coffin, sitting on your lazy asses like the cold war relics you are, until such a time as you are instructed to commit the greatest mass slaughter in human history. Any questions?

      I do have a suggested alternative.... Have at least 5 or 6 command post stations; with at least 10 different pairs of watchpeople holding the launch keys.

      In the event, that a launch condition is signalled -- a random command post, or a plurality of command posts; is selected to be the command post whose launch keys will activate the launch.

      That way..... when the command posts are ordered to turn their keys Nobody at the command posts actually know which key turns will be the final approval for the launch to commence; hence, they will all have plausible deniability.

      (2) If terrorists compromise one of the command posts; it will be unlikely that just happens to be the right post that was chosen to signal final approval.

      (3) if only one or two command posts turns their keys, then the launch is aborted

      (4) the command posts have security cameras monitoring each other; not in such a way as the other command posts can determine if another one has actually turned the keys, BUT in a manner, that a command post can see if another is under duress.

      (5) An alternate key, and an alternate keyhole is provided for operators to use, in case under duress; a key that "prohibits" launch and neutralizes that post's abilty to approve ----- instead of approving launch.

  • ...if nuclear silo duty is the best job in the Air Force or the worst.

    As best as I can tell, you haven't had to do anything since...uh....longer than anyone's been on active duty.

    • by TheCarp (96830)

      Except perhaps, closing the blast doors while napping.

      • by nospam007 (722110) * on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @02:20PM (#45215879)

        "Except perhaps, closing the blast doors while napping."

        That's what's this all about.

        1. If you sleep, the door must be closed.
        2. If the door is closed, nobody can catch you sleeping, even if you sleep at times when you shouldn't.
        3. Ergo, always close the fucking door.

        • by TheCarp (96830)

          Please if they were smart they would do one better....

          1. spill paper clips on floor several feet from door
          2. Sleep on floor with feet touching door.
          3. If door opens, yell "sorry one second" and explain that you were on the floor picking up the paper clips.

          Apparently this is an old trick. Wouldn't work for me as my office door has a full height window next to it (perhaps for exactly this reason); and of course, I snore like a buzz saw.

        • Such thinking requires you to think logically and predict the outcome of your actions. These are probably not traits you want in the person with their finger on the button because they are also likely to reason:

          1) If I press this button millions of people will die.
          2) This will probably include myself and my family.
          3) Ergo, never push the button.
    • Re:I can't decide... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Charliemopps (1157495) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @02:40PM (#45216137)

      It's a horrible, awful job. My father was in the airforce and maintained a lot of that equipment. Think of it this way, you are locked underground with 2 other guys. Everyone has a gun and have been psychologically tested to be sure that they could kill YOU immediately if ordered to, or if you hesitate in following an order. Spend 6 months with those guys and try and have meaningful interactions with them... oh right, you might have to shoot them to... so don't get too attached.

      It's basically a recipe for the worst reality show ever. My father said the second he'd show up to work on stuff the guys would begin yapping their traps non-stop. Being the first human they'd seen in months that had no designs on shooting them in the head, he was their new best friend.

      Lastly, the blast doors aren't the only doors. It's an entire facility. It just takes the blast doors a loooong time to open. So they dont close them unless they absolutely have to. Granted, his experiences were in the 60s and 70s so I'm not sure how much of it still applies. But I bet it's still pretty much the same.

      • Re:I can't decide... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by NouberNou (1105915) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @03:09PM (#45216553)
        Your dad has some facts wrong there bucko (especially if he is talking about Minuteman, the facts are a bit different for Titan II). They don't sit underground for months at a time. They go on 24, and sometimes up to 72 hour alerts. So the longest they go with out seeing another person is 24 hours, which I am sure most people on Slashdot do on a weekly basis.

        It does sound like your dad is talking about Titan II, but even then its not nearly as bad as you make it out to be (still pretty shitty though) and better than MM LCCs (the Titan II facilities were much larger... but also built right next to the silo).

        Far worse were SAC B-52 crew alerts. You'd go on on ground alert for days at a time, where you had to eat/sleep/live within running/short drive distance of your bomber and couldn't really leave.
      • by capedgirardeau (531367) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @03:20PM (#45216729)

        He also has the kill your colleague if they don't follow an order thing wrong.

        All those missiles can be controlled from another launch facility, so if one of the missileers doesn't want to turn their key, control of their silos is just assumed by another launch facility and their missiles are launched anyway.

        The sidearms were for defense of the facility, not to use on fellow officers is my understanding.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        By your father, you mean 'Wargames'?

        Because I worked in the field at these silos, and you sir, are full of shit.

  • Or they could just be setting up a trap. "Come on into remote location, I promise we're just napping".

    • by idontgno (624372)

      Worst... Trap.... Evar.

      Like Molten Core [wowwiki.com], without a lewtbomb and the end.

      Capt. Ragnaros yells: TOO SOON! YOU HAVE AWAKENED ME TOO SOON, SGT. EXECUTUS! WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS INTRUSION?
      Sergeant Executus yells: These mortal infidels, my lord! They have invaded your sanctum and seek to steal your secrets!
      Capt. Ragnaros yells: FOOL! YOU ALLOWED THESE INSECTS TO RUN RAMPANT THROUGH THE HALLOW COMMAND CENTER? AND NOW YOU LEAD THEM TO MY VERY LAIR? YOU HAVE FAILED ME, EXECUTUS! JUSTICE SHALL BE MET, INDEED

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @02:01PM (#45215565)

    You'd think about the obvious reasons for nuclear disarmament, but nobody ever spares a thought for the poor sods who have to sit there watching these doomsday devices: if they ever get used it's the end of the world, if they're ever attacked it will be with overwhelming force, and they are expected to be running their AAA-game 24/7/365, no holidays, no vacations.

    (Interesting thought experiment: replace "nuclear weapons officer" with "megabank sysadmin")

    • Give me a break (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater&gmail,com> on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @04:18PM (#45217491) Homepage

      You'd think about the obvious reasons for nuclear disarmament, but nobody ever spares a thought for the poor sods who have to sit there watching these doomsday devices: if they ever get used it's the end of the world, if they're ever attacked it will be with overwhelming force, and they are expected to be running their AAA-game 24/7/365, no holidays, no vacations.

      Oh, I think of the 'poor sods' in the missile silos... to laugh uproariously at them and how 'hard' they work. They're on duty in the silo for 24 hours once a week or so, and when they're not on duty they work 9-5 and get weekends off. When something in the system breaks, they phone home and someone else comes out to fix it.
       
      I sat my missile fire control console six on, twelve off, mumble feet under the North Atlantic for sixty to eighty days a pop. If the system went down, it was on us to fix it. No nine to five. No weekends. No meals at home. No sunshine. And back then, the Walkman was brand new and the absolute height of personal electronics. (Not that personal electronics make up much for what you're missing.) I truly had to have my AAA game, because there were dozens of ways to die or be badly injured surrounding me 24/7 for days on end.
       
      When it comes to a hard life in the strategic weapons world, the chumps out there with the prairie dogs aren't close to having the hardest. That (dubious) 'honor' belongs to my brothers and sisters boring holes out there in the deep blue.

      x-FTB2/SS, USS Henry L. Stimson 655B 1983-87.

  • You're stirring up my cold war nostalgia :'(
  • Strange... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pla (258480) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @02:05PM (#45215627) Journal
    If you planned to take a nap on the job - Why the hell wouldn't you close the door? It at least makes getting caught a bit less likely.
    • Re:Strange... (Score:5, Informative)

      by timeOday (582209) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @02:19PM (#45215859)
      RTA, they spend a long time (days?) down there and it is permissible for one to sleep while the other stands watch. But in this case they are supposed to lock the vault door:

      The written Air Force instructions on ICBM safety, last updated in June 1996, says, "One crewmember at a time may sleep on duty, but both must be awake and capable of detecting an unauthorized act if ... the Launch Control Center blast door is open" or if someone other than the crew is present.

      The blast door is not the first line of defense. An intruder intent on taking control of a missile command post would face many layers of security before encountering the blast door, which â" when closed â" is secured by 12 hydraulically operated steel pins. The door is at the base of an elevator shaft. Entry to that elevator is controlled from an above-ground building. ICBM fields are monitored with security cameras and patrolled regularly by armed Air Force guards.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      The door is often left open. It gets really hot and stuffy. BTW to get to that blast door you need to go through another bigger blast door. If the Bigger one was left open it either mean they had problems testing the generator, or some screwed up.

  • Maybe this is a clue as to some of the reasons a couple of high ranking officers have been fired in that command recently. Figures.

    • With the end of the Cold War, the importance of SAC (and it's successor STRATCOM) has declined markedly - and it's gotten even worse with the various battles/wars/whatever in the Middle East producing actual combat veterans who've started getting a leg up on the promotion ladder. Also the second best and brightest* aren't being recruited into the USAF strategic forces anymore. The results are pretty much what you'd expect. Everyone expected the 2007 muck up with the nuclear tipped ALCM's to be a wake up

  • by hduff (570443) <hoytduffNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @02:07PM (#45215671) Homepage Journal

    No longer in effect.

  • by EMG at MU (1194965) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @02:08PM (#45215681)
    I would nap and probably do a bunch of much worse stuff too if I were them. My other buddies from the academy are stationed in tropical paradises picking up the locals when they go on leave, General Sleeps with His Biographer is getting some, and here I am stuck in America's asscrack buried deep in a bunker with another guy who won't shut up and keeps eating my lunch out of the fridge.

    Seriously do these guys get hardship pay or anything? Is it a rotational program where they get to go somewhere better after they do their time in the bunker? Or is this really just the worst assignment in the Air Force?

    Anecdotally by buddy's father who is in the Air Force Reserve was deployed somewhere in the Arabian Sea doing logistical support for the operations over there. He said it was the best vacation he ever went on. He loaded and unloaded planes, planes that sometimes came frequently and sometimes did not. When he wasn't loading and unloading planes he was playing golf, hitting the beach, or hanging out with his fellow airmen. I would be pretty envious if I were stuck in a bunker in Idaho.
    • by Tukz (664339)

      "Why hold them to a higher standard".
      Oh, I don't know, maybe because they are guarding "Weapons of Mass Destruction".

      At least close and lock the damn door if you are going to nap.

      I highly doubt someone could get that far without someone tripping an alarm and the guard(s) waking up, but still...

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The term "Weapons of Mass Destruction" has lost most of its bite since they redefined it to make the Boston bombing sound more damaging than an average industrial accident.

    • I would nap and probably do a bunch of much worse stuff too if I were them. My other buddies from the academy are stationed in tropical paradises picking up the locals when they go on leave, General Sleeps with His Biographer is getting some, and here I am stuck in America's asscrack buried deep in a bunker with another guy who won't shut up and keeps eating my lunch out of the fridge.

      These guys specifically sign up to be part of the nuclear arsenal team - it's not like they assign these jobs to random privates fresh out of boot.

      Kinda like the saying*, 'don't join the Marines if you don't want to kill anyone,' you shouldn't join the nuclear arsenal team if you don't want to spend the majority of your time sitting on your ass guarding missiles from nobody.

      * Yes, I just now made that up.

      • somebody's got to keep the aliens [google.com] out!
      • by geekoid (135745)

        Incorrect.
        Most officers didn't choose to do that, they were assigned when there was an issue in their previous duties. Like screwing off and destroying a fighter.
        Or couldn't cut it in the field they chose, and took this instead of resigning.
        Sometime Some can't do their previous jobs for reason outside of their control, and there isn't a position to move to. For example Vision going bad on a pilot, but there isn't a position of their rank open. I didn't meet a single member of the crew where this was the pri

    • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @02:22PM (#45215913) Homepage Journal

      Yes, it's a sucky job. Often it gets assign to former pilot, and no one wants to do it.
      F.E.* Warren Air Force base is horrid, it's in a horrid place, and threes things happen when someone goes there:
      1) The retire
      2) The put 100% of their effort to getting a new station
      3) They just give up to get discharged.

      I was their for 18 months. During that time promotions were frozen(Thanks Reagan!) We were at 30% staffing. Meaning I spent many weeks work 72 to 100 houre, straight. as in No sleep, or at best an hour a night Plus I was told no one in my classification would every get transferred out because that don't see staffing getting put back up to 100%
      Plus, for some reason, they thought I was talking drugs, os about every month I had to go pee in a cup. I have no idea why they would think that

        The security teams the send out to the site our horrible people who will rob you blind.

      *Fuck Everybody Warren.

      • by jandrese (485)
        Keep someone up for 100 hours and they will look like they're strung out on drugs.
        • by geekoid (135745)

          Good point.
          OTOH, it was the whole services group not just me. They did have the gall to ask why there were some many alcoholics.

          I could go on, but I will spare you.

    • The folks I used to work with in the DoD would always refer to the USAF as the 9-to-5 branch of the military.

      • by Amouth (879122)

        I always heard the USAF referred to as "white mans welfare" by the people i knew in it.. Always have a job, only the officers are in harms way, and you get retirement too.

    • There aren't any more active silos in Idaho

      They are in Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota

  • Where the Russians were napping next to a mobile ICBM launch vehicle. Hopefully the US Nuclear Officers will get to bang a hot adversary like in the movie.
    • Maybe that was their plan all along? Desperate times, desperate measures and so on.
    • In one of the greatest achievements of a guy above his pay grade, Dan Ackroyd ended up married to Donna Dixon, the hot blonde Soviet soldier. I just happen to be in the middle of Doctor Detroit which I just read is where they met.

  • Can we not use the phrase "abrupt firing" when talking about nuclear missiles please?

  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @02:15PM (#45215801) Homepage Journal

    A) There are two blast doors.
    B) They are [REDACTED] meters below ground.
    C) There is an elevator
    D) They are their for more than a day, so they sleep.

    This isn't really much of a deal. There is nothing that can happen that they can nap through.
    Their Job is extremely boring, and their isn't a regular thing to watch. Like gauge, or pressure valves.

    • You can't pocket a giant metal bomb casing containing 4,255 pounds of C4 explosives, a nuclear core, 37 safety mechanisms, guidance systems, sensors, and whatnot anyway. What happens if somebody does walk past the guards into the nuclear arsenal?
    • by Nimey (114278)

      15-30 meters down, isn't it? I toured the (decommissioned) Minuteman command silo at Whiteman AFB in the mid '90s and I seem to remember it being pretty far down.

      I'm sure you're right about it being boring as fuck, yet stressful.

  • by Dega704 (1454673) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @02:28PM (#45215991)
    It's ok, though, because between the NSA spying on literally everybody, the TSA feeling us up at the airports, and the government spending millions pursuing "terrorists" such as Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, there is no way somebody is going to be able to walk through an unsecured, open door and wreak havoc; because the sheer irony itself would tear a hole in space and time.
  • This is one of the most important missions that the Air Force ever will have. I'm sure they put their best officers on it.

    That's DEEP SARCASM.

    This is a command problem.

    • by PhxBlue (562201)
      And that's why the commander at the very top of the Global Strike Command mission got the axe.
  • Ever since we built enough nuclear ICBMs to threaten mutually assured destruction, the most important military personnel have been those who diligently guard their country's nuclear weapons arsenal . As long as we possess nuclear weapons, their job performance (or lack thereof) may one day save or destroy millions or billions of lives. Like the Night's Watch in GoT, being a nuclear officer is not a glamorous job, but this work is infinitely more important to the safety of regular citizens than any other s
  • by warrax_666 (144623) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @02:38PM (#45216113)

    ... if all the lauch codes are zero anyway? [theguardian.com]

    (Well, alright that was some time ago, but really... this points to systemic issues, and I don't think they'll have been fixed within a few years.)

  • by Richy_T (111409) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @02:43PM (#45216185) Homepage

    How come we're not all dead? I thought (was told) there was a terrorist hiding around every corner.

  • by Bodhammer (559311) on Wednesday October 23, 2013 @02:52PM (#45216339)
    This is why the Navy is better than the Air Force. This could never happen on a Trident!
  • I bet the button pushers job title is "Mass Population Control Specialist" /DNRTA

  • Was talking with a new acquaintance who mentioned to be in the Navy. Turns out he was on nuc subs. He mentioned that the reason that many of the other forces struggle with stuff like this to him was really simple. In the Navy, on a nuc sub, if you screw up, you're likely dead (sunk). Tended to keep everyone's focus. Navy is often seen as somewhat lax compared to the other uniformed services, but maybe in this case, they're not.
    • In the Navy, on a nuc sub, if you screw up, you're likely dead (sunk).

      huh, and all this time I thought the main feature of a submarine was to sink and not be dead.

      • by Bodhammer (559311)
        It's just the opposite of airplanes. With airplanes, take-offs are optional, landings are mandatory...

Real Users find the one combination of bizarre input values that shuts down the system for days.

Working...