Er, again. Another nuclear weapons related incident:
The U.S. military has regained control of four non-nuclear nose cone assemblies for a Minuteman missile mistakenly sent to Taiwan in 2006, Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne said during a news conference here today.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates learned of the situation on March 21 and immediately ordered that the United States regain “positive control” of the systems, Wynne said. He also notified the president of the situation.
It was the second incident with a strategic weapon in the past year. In August, an Air Force B-52 flew from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., to Barksdale Air Force Base, La., carrying atomic weapons. The crew did not realize they were carrying nuclear weapons until they landed.
Today, Gates signed a memorandum directing Adm. Kirkland Donald, director of Navy Nuclear Propulsion, to conduct a comprehensive investigation “to determine the facts into how this error occurred and who is accountable throughout the chain of command,” said Christopher R. “Ryan” Henry, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy.
Heads are going to roll — officers will lose promising careers, regular guys will get the blame. This process has already started, with the squadron commander in charge of Minot’s munitions crews.
If I have one bit of advice to Secretary Gates, it is this: Call an organizational theorist, like Charles Perrow, or a like-minded political scientist, like Scott Sagan, immediately.
Apportioning blame reassures the public and makes you look tough. But, if this accident represents a broader organizational pathology rather than mere negligence, disciplinary actions won’t solve the problem any more than screaming at someone who is sick.
These guys don’t get it. This is not an isolated incident. The organization has a problem. This is dangerous.
The New America Foundation will pay all of Scott Sagan’s expenses to come to DC if Secretary Gates will send someone — say Mr. Henry — to attend the meeting.