CHEYENNE, WY (AMP) – More than a dozen airman who provide security for a nuclear missile base in Wyoming are under investigation for “illegal drug activity,” defense officials told The Air Force Times today.
Gen. Robin Rand, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, said the alleged drug use “came to light because one airman who had suspicion of drug activity by another reported that to his chain of command.”
It’s the latest scandal to hit the Air Force’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missile community, where morale and misconduct have been a top concern for Pentagon officials for several years.
The 14 junior enlisted airman are from the 90th Security Forces Squadron, at F.E. Warren Air Base outside Cheyenne. About one-third of the Minuteman 3 force of 450 intercontinental ballistic missiles are operated by the 90th Missile Wing.
The squadron provides security for the base as well as the launch control facilities and underground missile silos spread across the sparsely populated region.
These secret launch facilities, along with a breakdown in America’s chain of command, are at the heart of the new technothriller The War Cloud by New York Times bestselling novelist Thomas Greanias.
“From presidential candidates who don’t know what the nuclear triad is, to cheating and drug scandals among the launch officers, it’s obvious we need to take a hard look at our so-called Doomsday protocols,” Greanias said.
“General Rand appears to be doing just that here with transparency, and the outstanding airman who reported the potential breakdown in America’s chain of command performed his patriotic duty in safeguarding its integrity.”
Meanwhile, the 14 airman have been suspended from their duties while their cases are being investigated.
The misconduct highlights how the ICBM force at large is suffering from low morale, disciplinary problems, lack of resources, training lapses and leadership failures, according to The Air Force Times. Many officials attribute that to its lack of prestige and a mission that feels like a low priority in the post-Cold-War era.
In 2014, the Pentagon approved new bonuses for the nuclear force, including security personnel, of up to $300 a month, making them among the highest paid across the military.
In light of the existential stakes, however, $300 might seem paltry, and War Cloud author Thomas Greanias wonders if in addition the Pentagon could better address morale issues with “term limits” or shorter deployments for launch officers that advance their long-term career options.
“Kind of like a military Peace Corps.,” Greanias said. “Right now, if missileer morale problems are to be believed, it feels like a career graveyard. The whole idea, after all, is that in spite of all the drills you’ll never have to turn those launch keys.”