Columns / Discourse / January 29, 2014

Proposed changes to the U.S. nuclear force: Budget, personnel cuts would threaten security

In the political realm, scandals are not uncommon. Typically, the scandal revolves around some sort of moral standard, a deviation on society’s “rules” for anyone or anything in the public eye. In the case of the 34 U.S. Air Force officers (the ones who have been assigned to control the launching of nuclear missiles) that were caught cheating on their routine proficiency exams, I would hesitate to say that the most serious issue is the immorality of their dishonesty; the fact that men and women in charge of a substantial part of American citizens’ security are not doing all that is necessary in order to perform their jobs effectively is the most serious problem in my eyes and the eyes of many Americans.

However, personnel changes are not the direction I believe the Secretary of Defense should take. These 34 individuals are officers in the United States military and there are not many people who are qualified to simply step up to the plate and take their places. These individuals have worked to be where they are, and though they have done wrong, they are not easily replaced. Instead of pointing fingers, we should attempt to prevent further mistakes by figuring out exactly what is not working within this vital segment of homeland security. Should the officers subject to evaluation simply be evaluated more often? Should they be evaluated via a non-written method so that cheating is more of an obstacle than before?


Most likely, the changes made within the next 60 days will alter the ways the officers are tested. To prevent cheating, such exams could feasibly be made random as opposed to their current scheduled administration. Whatever the answers may be, and though human error is unavoidable to some degree, it is crucial that the military reevaluate something. I am only one person, but I highly doubt that the consensus of the American public will see this “hiccup” as insignificant, unimportant or desirable in the slightest. Despite the probability of an operator error, I also do not believe that such programs should be defunded.

Though the state of the national debt is a touchy subject for members of both parties in Congress, there are certain aspects of the national budget that must remain as they are. Clearly the portion of the nation’s budget that is dedicated to national security cannot be cut. When this country began, the framers of the Constitution made it a priority to ensure that the citizens of the United States would be guaranteed security. In the modern era of nuclear bombs, weapons of mass destruction and terrorism, security is a much more difficult feat than it was before the invention of airplanes, automobiles and submarines. Granted, with these greater threats comes the greater ability to defend against them.


America has the resources to protect its people; so long as the budget is not cut in opposition, mistakes such as this cheating scandal can be avoided in the future. This is not a matter of Republicans versus Democrats, conservative versus liberal, or any other kind of battle that divides the citizens of America; this is a matter of keeping the lives of all Americans safe and sound, no matter what party they belong to or what label they assign themselves.

Shannon Caveny

Tags:  Air Force arsenal chuck hagel homeland security national security nuclear arsenal nuclear disarmament Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty nuclear sector scandal Secretary of Defense United States

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