On Friday, US defense officials confirmed that the Air Force has suspended 14 members of a nuclear weapons security force pending an investigation on alleged systemic cocaine abuse. The investigation is the latest in a string of lapses in training and personal conduct over the past three years by the nuclear missile corps.
The investigation implicates servicemen at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming. The security group at F.E. Warren includes about 1,300 airmen, including those entrusted to patrol missile fields and respond to security emergencies, and are directly responsible with safeguarding US nuclear missiles from misuse or theft.
The investigation was announced by General Robin Rand, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, responsible for the entire US land-based nuclear missile force.
Gen. Rand refused to expand on the type of drugs involved or the degree of usage, but described the allegations of drug abuse as "credible." Two other defense officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to the Associated Press, said the drug use included cocaine.
The general noted that, "This is very important to me that we get to the bottom of this, we have a special trust with our nation and our public with the mission that we do in Air Force Global Strike Command."
The 14 service members are reported to be low-ranking enlisted airmen between the E-2 and E-4 designations. Once considered a top job, the importance of US nuclear assets diminished following the end of the Cold War. As a result, Air Force positions in nuclear-related fields are now seen generally to lack prestige and offer limited promotion opportunities, attracting lesser-skilled recruits.