He made no direct reference to the problems revealed in the past year but declared, “How you do the job is really as important as the job itself. We depend on your professionalism.”
A day earlier, he said he realized the ICBM workforce has morale issues.
“It is lonely work,” he said. “They do feel unappreciated many times.”
F.E. Warren Air Force Base, which is headquarters for the organization in charge of all 450 U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles, has about 3,100 enlisted airmen and officers and saw 12 courts-martial in 2013, compared with nine the year before, 12 in 2011 and eight in 2010, according to Air Force statistics.
In each of the past four years, the courts-martial rate at F.E. Warren was higher than in the Air Force as a whole.
The Associated Press documented problems that go well beyond low morale in a series of stories in 2013, including one that disclosed that an ICBM operations officer had complained of “rot” infesting his missile force. Since then the service has tried to improve nuclear operations, but problems remain, including attitude issues, leadership lapses and, far more perilously, security lapses such as troops taking naps during 24-hour shifts with the blast door of their launch control center open. That could leave the missiles and airmen vulnerable and violates Air Force rules.
The ICBM force is less than half the size it was during its Cold War heyday, but the missiles remain on high alert, with pairs of officers on duty in the launch control centers 24 hours a day, seven days a week.