U.S. Air Force officers entrusted with launch keys to nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles have been caught leaving open a blast door aimed at helping prevent a terrorist or other intruder from entering their underground command post, officials tell The Associated Press. A look at key elements of the violations by two sets of Air Force officers:
-- In both cases earlier this year the missile crew commander and the deputy crew commander were disciplined for having left open the blast door to their underground launch control center while one of them was napping. That is a violation of a written rule meant to protect the command post from a potential intruder.
-- At Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana., the person who had been asleep initially lied about the door being open but later confessed, saying her crew commander had encouraged her to lie.
-- At Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota., one of the crew members acknowledged having committed the same transgression numerous times without getting caught.
-- The Air Force says that in neither case was the security of the nuclear missile was not compromised, due to other safeguards in place.
These violations are in addition to a number of other problems within the Air Force nuclear missile force revealed this year by The Associated Press:
-- In April, 19 missile crew members in the 91st Missile Wing at Minot were deemed temporarily unfit for duty and given weeks of remedial training. The wing's deputy commander of operations complained of "rot" in the force. Later, the officer in charge of the 91st's missile crew training and proficiency was relieved of duty.
-- A RAND Corp. survey of officers and airmen in the missile force found complaints about poor leadership, poor working conditions and concern that they were in a dead-end career field.
-- In August the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom failed a safety and security inspection. Nine days later the officer in charge of security forces there was relieved of duty.
-- Earlier this month the Air Force fired Maj. Gen. Michael Carey, commander of the 20th Air Force, which is responsible for the entire Minuteman 3 missile force, amid an investigation of an alcohol-related complaint.