Do the Military’s Nuclear Operators Need More Incentives?

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel during a recent visit to the Pentagon's nuclear facilities

DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett

AA Font size + Print

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel during a recent visit to the Pentagon's nuclear facilities

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel wants to reform the troubled nuclear enterprise. Could more incentives and recognition help turn things around? By Stephanie Gaskell

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel summoned top leaders at the Pentagon on Wednesday to talk about ways to get a handle on the growing spate of scandals within the military’s nuclear enterprise. One possible solution? To give out more incentives and accolades to nuclear force workers who many say feel bored and underappreciated.

Hagel has given Air Force and the Navy leaders 60 days to come up with a plan to recommend changes and improvements to the nuclear enterprise after an investigation into alleged drug use uncovered a widespread cheating scandal by nuclear launch officers at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.

Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters at a press briefing Wednesday that military leaders are considering ways to better motivate missile launch workers. 

“That came up as well this morning, this idea of incentives and accolades and what manifestations are there that show the people that work in this force that they’re — that they’re valued,” he said. “This would be something that the Air Force would have to speak to, should that decision be made. But it was an issue of discussion, this idea of how do you reward the people that do this incredibly difficult work and make sure that they know that they’re valued and that we’re proud of them?”

(Related: Hagel Orders a Review of the Nuclear Force)

A recent RAND study found that many of the workers say they’re bored and underappreciated in the post-Cold War era. “As the role of the nuclear mission is perceived to be less important to the country, it may be more difficult to attract and retain the high-quality workforce needed,” the report said.

The Malmstrom case is one in a string of cases to rock the nuclear enterprise. Last year, another unit at Malmstrom, which operates a third of the 450 Minuteman III nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles in the military, failed a safety inspection and 17 personnel from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota were suspended after a failed inspection.

Kirby said Hagel is committed to fixing the problem. “I think the general consensus in the room was that we all need to accept the reality that there probably are systemic issues in the personnel growth and development inside the nuclear mission,” he said. “Now, exactly what they are and how to address them, well, that’s what they spent the bulk of the two hours talking about. But I think there was a general recognition that yes, there are systemic issues, and yes, we need to start trying to solve them.”

Close [ x ] More from DefenseOne
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from DefenseOne.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download
  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

    Download
  • Top 5 Findings: Security of Internet of Things To Be Mission-Critical

    As federal agencies increasingly leverage these capabilities, government security stakeholders now must manage and secure a growing number of devices, including those being used remotely at the “edge” of networks in a variety of locations. With such security concerns in mind, Government Business Council undertook an indepth research study of federal government leaders in January 2017. Here are five of the key takeaways below which, taken together, paint a portrait of a government that is increasingly cognizant and concerned for the future security of IoT.

    Download
  • Coordinating Incident Response on Posts, Camps and Stations

    Effective incident response on posts, camps, and stations is an increasingly complex challenge. An effective response calls for seamless conversations between multiple stakeholders on the base and beyond its borders with civilian law enforcement and emergency services personnel. This whitepaper discusses what a modern dispatch solution looks like -- one that brings together diverse channels and media, simplifies the dispatch environment and addresses technical integration challenges to ensure next generation safety and response on Department of Defense posts, camps and stations.

    Download
  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.