Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Nuclear burnout

The people with the finger on the big trigger are having problems.
Not exactly comforting news.
Robert Burns, AP Press (via Yahoo News), 20 November 2013 (hat tip: NC)
Trouble inside the Air Force's nuclear missile force runs deeper and wider than officials have let on
An unpublished study for the Air Force, obtained by The Associated Press, cites "burnout" among launch officers with their fingers on the triggers of 450 weapons of mass destruction. Also, evidence of broader behavioral issues across the intercontinental ballistic missile force, including sexual assaults and domestic violence.
Part of the problem seems to be the surreal nature of their assignment.
"We all acknowledge their importance, but at the same time we really don't think the mission is that critical," Neal said, adding that his peers see the threat of full-scale nuclear war as "simply non-existent." So "we practice for all-out nuclear war, but we know that isn't going to happen."
To anyone who pays any attention to the concept of Black Swans (disproportionally important unanticipated outlier events) this disconnect is very worrisome.
Events that seem highly unlikely, or even impossibly remote, happen rather frequently.  That there are personal issues in such a dangerous area is not going to help matters.  Just because it doesn't seem likely to make a difference, doesn't mean it won't.  World ending outliers deserve a lot of respect.

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