U. research scholar, former nuclear launch officers pen letter against Trump| October 19, 2016
Joined by nine other former nuclear launch officers, University Research Scholar Bruce Blair penned an open letter Friday questioning the ability of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to serve as commander-in-chief.
“The pressures the system places on that one person are staggering and require enormous composure, judgment, restraint and diplomatic skill. Donald Trump does not have these leadership qualities,” the letter reads.
Other signatories of the letter include former officers from all three of the missile launch stations still active in the United States.
Blair, who served in the underground launch center at Montana’s Malmstrom Air Force Base before accepting his position at The Wilson School’s Program in Science and Global Security, explained that the authority to deploy a nuclear weapon is a power granted only to the President and cannot be checked by any other decision-making body. He further noted that there is no room for flexibility once the decision is made at the highest end of the chain of command. Once the President issues a command, even the highest ranking officers in the Pentagon war room will have to create the launch order and must transmit the signal down to the very operators who are responsible for firing the weapons.
“All of us in our careers were trained and persuaded to not question the decisions made at the top — that being the White House or generals above us. Our job is to carry orders,” he said.
“I, as a very young man, [could] receive this message and it would take us one minute to turn the keys to send a signal to the missiles through underground cables,” Blair added. He said that he and his colleague could have fired up to 50 missiles carrying high yield nuclear weapons in a very short time.
Blair further noted that he has not seriously doubted any President’s or presidential candidate’s ability to control the nuclear arsenal as he does for Trump’s.
In their open letter, Blair and the signatories stated that Trump “has shown himself time and again to be easily baited and quick to lash out, dismissive of expert consultation and ill-informed of even basic military and international affairs — including, most especially, nuclear weapons.”
According to a directive from the Department of Defense, everyone with access to nuclear weapons except for the President must meet certain criteria that include being “dependable, mentally alert, and technically proficient commensurate with their respective U.S. nuclear weapons, NC2 systems, PCM and equipment, or SNM duty requirements.” Among other requirements, the individuals should “have good social adjustment, emotional stability, personal integrity, sound judgment, and allegiance to the United States.”
“I and some friends and acquaintances who formerly served as nuclear missile launch officers decided to issue a statement criticizing Trump as unfit to command our nuclear forces because we know that he would not pass these tests,” Blair said.
Blair also described the potency of a misguided decision, noting that the United States’ current arsenal can wipe out entire civilizations on the other side of the planet within tens of minutes.
According to Blair, there are currently 450 manned missiles in the United States controlled by 90 officers in three launch bases. Collectively, these missiles can kill 100 million people if launched all at once. All designated targets would be struck within thirty minutes after the missiles are fired.
“Thirty minutes from now, this could be the beginning of the end of 100 million deaths,” Blair said.
Yet Blair noted a silver lining in this election: Trump has raised awareness of nuclear responsibility. According to Blair, various polls have shown that the single most important issue to undecided voters in key swing states is whether Trump would bring the country to a nuclear war.
Since the publication of the letter, more former and current nuclear launch officers have voiced similar concerns, according to Blair. There are now more than twenty launch officers who have signed on to the letter, Blair noted.
“If you do not want Trump's finger on the ‘red button’, then you had better not elect him President,” Blair said.
Though the letter is not an endorsement of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Blair stated that he personally believes that Clinton is more prepared to take charge of the nuclear arsenal than Trump.