Three officers who work with missiles at the 91st Space Wing at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, fell asleep while holding a classified “code component” — a hardware dev ice containing the codes needed to activate the control system for Minot’s intercontinental ballistic missiles. The device, kept in a locked case, installs the codes that allow the missile launch control center to command the ICBMs in the missile silos. One piece of hardware is installed and the old one is removed, somewhat akin to changing hard drives in a computer. Four officers had completed the process of changes the codes for the system underground in the launch control center and returned upside to the large living center which contains a kitchen and bedrooms. Like Goldilocks, they went to some beds and fell sound asleep.
Last August, airmen of Minot’s 5th bomb Wing mistakenly loaded six nuclear warheads onto a B-52 which then flew to Barksdale, Louisiana. The bomber sat on the runway for about 12 hours before someone noticed the error.
The incident of sleeping officers, in itself, may not be anything more than three tired men who lay down for a nap and forgot to take necessary precautions. But, the rash of such incidents raises questions about oversight on our nuclear program.