Oops! Nuclear Mistakes Happen. . .


. . .or so says Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynn.
According to a report from the New York TimesThe Lede, Wynne said:

In an organization as large as the DOD, the largest and most complex in the world, there will be mistakes,” he said. “But they cannot be tolerated in the arena of strategic systems, whether they are nuclear or only associated equipment.

A year ago, four electrical fuses for ICBM’s were shipped in error to Taiwan, and this follows an episode in which six nuclear warheads were mistakenly move to North Dakota from a depot in Louisiana. The Taiwan mistake was just discovered and reported.
This may seem like a small deal — but it’s not. As my colleague the much-followed ArmsControlWonk.com publisher Jeffrey Lewis has said, it’s not enough to blame people at the bottom of the command chain. This may be an institutional “pathology” that needs immediate correction.
As Lewis says about the Department of Defense thus far on its nuclear hiccups:

These guys don’t get it. This is not an isolated incident. The organization has a problem. This is dangerous.

We agree.
And this kind of management foul-up with WMD material and devices nullifies U.S. credibility when trying to counsel Russia, Pakistan, India, or any other nation on the management of its nuclear assets.
We have had two strikes now. We’ll hope we don’t go for a third.
— Steve Clemons


12 comments on “Oops! Nuclear Mistakes Happen. . .

  1. Thom Ehle says:

    You mention the 6 nuclear warheads that flew last year. Just last week, these 5 warheads were mentioned on a broadcast?
    What really happened there? 5 or 6 warheads went to Louisiana, how many returned to the roost?
    I thhink there is a missing nuclear warhead out in the world, and just as the anthax issue can’t get resolved, somebody is going to get nuked, and Iran will get the blame.
    I hope not, but who is asking the questions?


  2. arthurdecco says:

    “Hey, I’m human too.”
    No “Hey, I’m human” about it. Nuclear equipment doesn’t just get sent to Taiwan, mislabeled, by mistake. A couple of guys with hangovers didn’t make this happen. Who ya kiddin?
    Each step of the way, people had to sign off on this stuff. There would have been procedures and strict protocols to be followed. To. The. Letter.
    This second, more than one Someone knows exactly what happened, why it happened and when it happened because nothing was done that wasn’t pre-planned, tracked and recorded.
    We need to find and watch the film to know what went on and then get one of the Someone’s to comment on it.


  3. leo says:

    Hey… I’m human too.


  4. jon says:

    These incidents show a shocking decline in the quality of
    personnel and command detailed to monitor and safeguard the
    nuclear arsenal, and a frightening shift in the storage, handling
    and tracking of these materials.
    The fallout from the cruise missiles/B-52 episode is very
    disturbing. I would have thought that there would be farther
    reaching and more profound assessment of responsibility and a
    greater tightening of procedure.
    When you have thousands of nuclear warheads, and hundreds of
    thousands of components related to them in the national
    inventory, there will always be opportunities for mishandling
    and mischief. It’s easy to imagine conspiracy theories for these
    mistakes, but I’m inclined to believe that they are the result of
    human error compounded by poor storage and handling
    Somehow I doubt that Curtis LeMay would have stood for this
    kind of sloppiness and institutional decay.


  5. bob h says:

    Note also in the most recent issue of the Scientific American the article on the uselessness of port radiation detectors for protecting us from terrorist nuclear attack. The Atta-class, America-based terrorist just builds up his supply of enriched Uranium from small shipments that are hard to detect. A crude, gun-style bomb could then be easily constructed, with a yield that could kill 100,000’s of Americans.
    This is just about the only thing that ensures that 9/11 would be topped, and I think Al Qaeda is going to wait until they can do this.


  6. postmodernprimate says:

    “This may seem like a small deal”
    No, a small deal is forgetting to water your cactus or not having exact change. This is NOT a small deal.


  7. liz says:

    I agree none of these are mistakes. It’s not a mistake for numerous people to load nuclear weapons on a plane then a pilot fly it over America. It may have been a mistake that it was noted.
    It’s not a mistake to send nuclear parts to Taiwan. It’s probably a mistake anyone noticed.
    Our government doesn’t make mistakes….


  8. How Insane Is John McCain? says:

    The last thing we know is a President who might mix up which people he needs to nuke.


  9. Old Bogus says:

    This wasn’t a mistake. The mistake was letting some meddling DC Pentagon bureaucrat poke into stuff years old. Those fuses were intended for Taiwan just like the nukes last year were intended for the Mideast.
    Damned terrorist-loving meddlers.
    [For the sarcasm challenged, the above WAS sarcasm.]
    Charlie Green
    Texas Creek, CO


  10. easy e says:

    And the beat goes on. Just another “mistake”. This time a shipping error to Taiwan. Before it was an “intelligence failure” regarding Iraq and WMD (or lack there of).
    And now for another error or “investigative failure”: After FORTY YEARS LATER, there’s evidence of a CIA role in Bobby Kennedy’s killing….. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/6169006.stm
    Just another generation or two before we learn of the U.S. role in JFK, MLK, 9/11, etc., etc.
    PERFECT CRIMES will continue as long as the military-industrial-complex prevails.


  11. Skulz Fontaine says:

    Wow Steve, great new look for the Washington Note. Sorry, I’ve
    been on hiatus. Or some lazy nonsense like that. Ummm, about
    those nuclear triggers? I’ve got some laying out in our gravel pit
    out back o the house. Yeah, they fell off this nifty F-16 during the
    last urban warfare training session out here in Gaza Strip,
    Utah/Nevada. Know anyone interested? Nuclear triggers and
    missing for about a year or so. Yeah, no big deal.


  12. PissedOffCitizen says:

    “And this kind of management foul-up with WMD material and devices nullifies U.S. credibility when trying to counsel Russia, Pakistan, India, or any other nation on the management of its nuclear assets.”
    Well, it also makes Bush’s albatross, the DHS, one huge costly steaming crock of shit. We have had sixteen years through which to try to secure Russia’s nuclear weaponry, and have made virtually NO progress towards that end. Meanwhile, the level of incompetence in our massive bureaucracies has our bombers flying willy-nilly over the homeland with nukes flappin’ in the breeze, and shipping triggers to Taiwan, all while farming the development of sensitive security technologies out to countries such as China or India.
    Yet? We are supposed to believe these jackasses when they mouth platitudes about “homeland security”, and this God damned scam called the “GWOT”.
    Steve, if you get a chance, try to find the transcripts of Scheuer’s comments, made yesterday on Michael Savage’s radio show. I don’t think that this wackjob Savage expected Scheuer to be so critical of Bush, the DHS, Iraq, and McCain’s candidacy. He went so far to say that he believes “the terrorists” would prefer a McCain presidency. Of course, we can expect little difference, or substantive change, from ANY of these posturing elitist criminals vying for the Oval Office, but it was kinda refreshing hearing Scheuer step outside of Bushworld briefly, even if is only to sell a book. I’m sure he will figure out a way to once again insert himself deeply up the ass crack of some future lying sleezeball Washington denizen, after his self-serving bit of literary compost gets past its first printing.


Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *