Friday, June 6, 2014

the last book I ever read (Duty by Robert M. Gates, excerpt seven)

from Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War by Robert M. Gates:

During the Bush administration, the Air Force, the branch of the military in which I had served briefly as a junior officer, was one of my biggest headaches. I thought the service did a superb job in Iraq and Afghanistan providing close air support, medevac, and transport as well as ordnance (IED) disposal and performing other important and often dangerous tasks on the ground. Earlier, I described my frustration in trying to get the Air Force leadership to provide more drones for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance use in the wars. But there were other problems as well.

The most significant related to the Air Force’s responsibility for our nuclear-armed bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles. On August 30, 2007, a B-52 bomber took off from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota at 8:40 a.m. carrying six air-launched cruise missiles, each armed with a nuclear weapon capable of explosive power more than ten times that of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The plane landed at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana at 11:23 a.m. It was parked there without any of the stringent security measures required for such weapons. At ten that evening, a member of the munitions crew at Barksdale discovered that the warheads were not mock training rounds but actual nuclear weapons that had been loaded in error. Only then was the incident reported to the National Military Command Center (NMCC) as a “Bent Spear” event—“an incident involving nuclear weapons, warheads, components or vehicles transporting nuclear material of significant interest.” Air Force chief of staff General Mike Moseley reported the incident to me on August 31. I was incredulous at such a monumental screw-up. I immediately called Hadley and the president to inform them. With a justified edge to his voice, Bush told me to get to the bottom of this mistake and to keep him informed. The initial incident report from the NMCC stated, “No press interest anticipated.” Wrong.

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