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Article published November 20, 2013
Air Force’s nuclear force has deep troubles
WASHINGTON — Trouble inside the Air Force’s nuclear missile force runs deeper and wider than officials have let on. An unpublished study for the Air Force, obtained by The Associated Press, cites “burnout” among launch officers with their fingers on the triggers of 450 weapons of mass destruction. Also, there is evidence of broader behavioral issues across the intercontinental ballistic missile force, including sexual assaults and domestic violence. The study, provided to the AP in draft form, says that court-martial rates in the nuclear missile force in 2011 and 2012 were more than twice as high as in the overall Air Force. Administrative punishments, such as written reprimands for rules violations and other misbehavior, also were higher in those years. These indicators add a new dimension to an emerging picture of malaise and worse inside the ICBM force, an arm of the Air Force. Concerned about heightened levels of misconduct, the Air Force directed RAND Corp., the federally funded research house, to conduct a three-month study of work conditions and attitudes among the men and women inside the ICBM force. It found a toxic mix of frustration and aggravation, heightened by a sense of being unappreciated, overworked, micromanaged and at constant risk of failure.