The State of US Nuclear Bases is More Dire Than First Thought

By Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan on at

We've known for a while now that the state of the US military's nuclear infrastructure is... lacking. Like, still-uses-floppy-disks lacking. But according to a New York Times report, the country's nuclear silos are much more dangerously decayed than anyone thought.

At a briefing, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced a plan to invest billions of dollars in the country's ageing nuclear defence infrastructure, based on two Pentagon studies about the state of the systems that were triggered by cheating scandals uncovered at some of the bases earlier this year. The improvement effort could increase funding to the programme by 10 per cent every year for the next five years, according to Reuters, which could add up to many billions of dollars.

The State of America's Nuclear Bases Is Even More Dire Than We Thought

Chuck Hagel speaking today. Image: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

What could incite this kind of renewed investment in our nuclear infrastructure? According to the NYT, the studies uncovered incredible evidence of mismanagement at nuclear missile bases around the country. The anecdotes quoted in the story are unsettling, beginning with one story about how inspectors found that maintenance teams only had one wrench that worked on the warheads. As in one wrench for the entire supply of American warheads:

"They started FedExing the one tool" to three bases spread across the country, one official familiar with the contents of the reports said Thursday. No one had checked in years "to see if new tools were being made," the official said. This was one of many maintenance problems that had "been around so long that no one reported them anymore."

The rest of the report reads like something out of a slapstick comedy or Homer Simpson's job description; or it would, if it wasn't real. According to Hagel, the studies uncovered incredible negligence of the systems themselves, including blast doors that could no longer close, but also morale problems among staff due to "extreme testing" and lack of belief that new, promised equipment would arrive during their careers at the facility.

The State of America's Nuclear Bases Is Even More Dire Than We Thought

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel [New York Times; Reuters]