"We are, in fact, in a crisis right now," the commander, Lt. Col. Jay Folds, wrote in an internal email obtained by The Associated Press and confirmed by the Air Force.
Asked about this at a Senate hearing Wednesday, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley, the service's top official, explained the problem by stressing that launch control officers are relatively junior in rank -- lieutenants and captains -- and need to be reminded continually of the importance of "this awesome responsibility" for which they have been trained.
Donley said commanders must "ride herd" on the launch crews, and he said the Minot revelation shows that the Air Force has strengthened its inspection system. He said he is confident that the nuclear missile force is secure.
Sen. Richard Durbin, chairman of the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee, expressed outrage, saying the AP report revealed a problem that "could not be more troubling."
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