It’s no surprise that the United States remains at the top when it comes to its nuclear arsenal. That arsenal ballooned over the course of the Cold War, and despite the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States still maintains over 7,000 nuclear missiles, enough to blow up the whole world–a few times. Probably a little excessive.
What is surprising is the lack of competence demonstrated by officials at all levels of the U.S. nuclear program. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said himself that there is no room for error when it comes to keeping house in our nuclear program. Clearly, though, errors have been made.
In October Major General Michael Carey, who was at the very top of the U.S. nuclear program, was fired for getting drunk and womanizing on a diplomatic trip to Moscow.
Drinking on the job with that kind of responsibility probably sends the wrong message to the rest of the world, a world that is counting on us to behave like adults when it comes to handling the most dangerous weapons in on the planet. Ethics and morality aside, I’d rather have a crack-smoking mayor then a drunken nuclear weapons commander.
Of course that’s not the only scandal to rock the nuclear weapons program, and definitely not even the most dangerous one. Close to a hundred Air Force officers are now facing charges of cheating on proficiency tests. Scores from these tests are largely used to assign officers new positions and promotions. About a fifth of the officers working within the program have now been relieved of their posts, at least until this scandal can be sorted out.
You’ve got to wonder, if a fifth of the airmen running our nuclear program cheated their way into the program, how many are actually qualified to be even remotely close to a nuclear warhead? If our military lacks the competence to maintain a program of this stature and confidentiality, then I don’t want them to have any program at all.
President Obama already made one jump forward when he negotiated a new START Treaty with Russia, which should eliminate a good chunk of both countries’ nuclear weapons count by 2018. Despite that one stride, the United States is still slated to spend about $700 billion on the Defense Department’s nuclear program over the next ten years, according to the Ploughshares Fund, a group dedicated to ridding the world of nuclear weapons, not just in one region of it, but yes, in the western world as well.
We love to focus on Pakistan and India’s nuclear programs. Iran is constantly under fire from the United States for their program and tensions always seem to be running high. But maybe it’s time to turn up the heat on our own nuclear programs.
Dylan Lajoie, aka Pickles, is a senior political science major with a concentration in international relations.