- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 8, 2013

In an unprecedented move, the U.S. Air Force has quietly stripped 17 officers of the authority to order the launch of nuclear missiles.

The move comes on the heels of a military review that found several failings in the officers’ unit, the 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, CBS reported. In March, inspectors gave the officers the grade of “D” on their mastery of Minuteman III missile launch operations.

“We are, in fact, in a crisis right now,” said the base commander, Lt. Col. Jay Fields, in an email obtained by The Associated Press. He also said the unit was experiencing “rot” in its ranks, AP reported.

The Air Force claimed its March inspection was successful — but behind the scenes, and behind closed doors, it recognized the failure as significant. In April, upper brass began quietly stripping the 17 officers from power to control missile launches, CBS reported.