Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Howie Chandler said today that a top-level nuclear review is being launched in the wake of a disturbing equipment failure at a nuclear missile facility in F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming. The review, which will include elements of the Air Force, Strategic Command, Defense Threat Reduction Agency and senior OSD leaders, will take at least "several months," Chandler told reporters after a presentation at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Here is what happened, as best the press knows: "An equipment failure disrupted communication between 50 nuclear missiles and the launch control center at Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming over the weekend," the AP reported. The failure lasted less than one hour on Saturday. The White House learned about the failure Tuesday morning.
Where is the Air Force going on this one? "We are going to take very hard look at command and control," the vice chief said. Since reports indicate that communications to the missiles were lost, I asked him how it was possible that we maintained the ability to launch and had control of the weapons if communications were lost. This is what he said the first time I asked: "I have seen a lot of things that have been said the vice chief does not talk about the readiness of nuclear forces, and our airmen should not be talking about the readiness of nuclear forces."
After his presentation, I asked him again and he stressed that contact with the national command authority, control and the ability to launch was never compromised and he also went out of his way to praise the missileers who discovered the problem and fixed it.
I also asked if any outside forces might have caused the problem and he said it's just too early to tell what caused the failure and why.
Chandler began his presentation with a very funny video. It shows a man ice fishing, jigging away. Suddenly, an orca sweeps up through the ice and swallows him. The caption: "a day in the life of a vice chief.