Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Exactly What We Don't Need (One More edition)

I guess you just need to expect incompetence from these people...

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon said on Tuesday that it mistakenly shipped non-nuclear ballistic missile components to Taiwan from a U.S. Air Force base in Wyoming.
It said the items have been returned to the United States.
At a news conference, Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne said that the misshipped items were four nose cone assemblies for ballistic missiles. He also said it was sent instead of helicopter batteries that had been ordered by Taiwan, he said.
Wynne said the matter is under investigation.
Ryan Henry, the No. 2 policy official in the office of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, said President Bush was notified of the mistake and the actions to recover the items. Henry called the mistake "disconcerting" and intolerable.

So, now the question is this: given that the Air Force has now shipped nuclear weapons across the country without properly accounting for them, and given this latest slip-up, who's being fired?

Shouldn't Gates just be wholesale cashiered on this one, to reassure the Chinese that we're serious about looking for accountability on this matter? I'm thinking that if we fired Gates, Wynne and a few others, that might do the trick.

Don't hold your breath.

Update I - Blue Girl - 10:20 central

It is time for the House and Senate Armed Services committees to call for and demand a global stand-down of the Air Force. The errors that are happening are too frequent and too egregious and the incompetence of the godboys at the top represents a clear and immediate threat to the national security. When the next president takes over, the Air Force needs a top to bottom evaluation, and a whole bunch of retirements need to be forced, and reviewed. Some of the incompetents with eagles and stars on their collars need to be retired as O-3's by congress. We take this all very personally in this household. We gave the Air Force the best years of our lives. We want to be proud of that again.



At a Pentagon news conference, Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne said the misshipped items were four electrical fuses for nose cone assemblies for ICBMs. He also said they were delivered to Taiwan in 2006 and had been sent instead of helicopter batteries that had been ordered by Taiwan.

The fuses were manufactured for use on a Minuteman strategic nuclear missile but contain no nuclear materials.

"This could not be construed as being nuclear material. It is a component for the fuse in the nosecone for a nuclear system," Wynne said. "We are very concerned about it."

Wynne said the matter is under investigation. He said the Taiwanese authorities notified U.S. officials of the mistake. He said the fuses had been in a shipping container sent from one U.S. Air Force base to another in 2005 and then delivered to Taiwan in 2006.

Well, I guess that's okay then! It happened several years ago! No big deal! Nothing like disclosing these kinds of things in a timely fashion, huh?

UPDATE III - Blue Girl - 11:00 AM

Without saying anything that I shouldn't - my husband spent his career working on electronics systems of ICBMs, so please believe me when I tell you this...it isn't about the nuclear material, and stressing that fissibles were not compromised, move along, nothing to see here...is a headfake.

These fuses are not what civilians think of when they hear the word "fuse." They are top-secret components in the electrical systems of ICBMs. The warhead is the easy part of a missile system. The hard part is the delivery vehicle - you don't deliver a nuclear payload by oxcart, you know. Compromising the electronics is possibly providing the final piece of information to a rogue state like North Korea that is openly developing missile technology to allow them to finally have a weapon that will reach the west coast. This is a big god-damned deal, and careers need to end over it.

UPDATE IV - Blue Girl - 11:30 AM

I just got off the phone. I called the Armed Services committee of both chambers (House: 202-225-4151. Senate 202-224-3871.) I was very respectful, but I also got my point across, that I am not a hysterical housewife obsessing over cable news - or at least not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill, hysterical housewife, anyway. That was dispelled when I gave them my husbands name, rank, dates of service, and ELAB AFSC.

Both of the staffers I spoke with were very polite and extremely concerned about this incident. They understood that it isn't about the fissibles, it's about the delivery vehicle. When I said the Air Force needed to stand down globally, the SASC staffer said "I can assure you something will come of this."

I am taking him at his word, as Senator Levin's proxy, but I will be watching just the same.

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