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AP Exclusive: Study finds key members of nuclear missile force feel ‘burnout’ from their work

launch center of ICBMs

On November 21 2013 the Associated Press released a study of the research-analysis group RAND Corporation on the work conditions of the members of nuclear missile force and concluded that the circumstances of the work combined with the enormous responsibility of safely operating nuclear missiles leads to burnout symptoms.

It also found what it termed “burnout.” In this context, “burnout” means feeling exhausted, cynical and ineffective on the job, according to Chaitra Hardison, RAND’s senior behavioral scientist and lead author of the study. She used a system of measure that asks people to rate on a scale of 1 to 7 – from “never” to “always” – how often in their work they experience certain feelings, including tiredness, hopelessness and a sense of being trapped. An average score of 4 or above is judged to put the person in the “burnout” range.

Since 50 years the ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) are ready to retaliate a nuclear attack, but as a matter of fact as a deterrent weapon the presidental launch order has never been given. During the Cold War and the beginning of the nuclear age the division was of great importance, but meanwhile the circumstances have changed and the probability for a launch is drastically diminished.

“The duty can be tiresome, with long hours, limited opportunities for career advancement and the constraints of life in remote areas of the north-central U.S., like Minot Air Force Base, N.D.”

The Washington Post, 21.11.13 : Read full article here.

The changing US national security attention with its focus on new appearances as cyberwar and drone technology makes the personnel of missile launch bases consider their economic future which has an additional effect on the self perception of their work.

To make a better picture what a launch center of ICBMs looks like there is a documentary on the US nuclear program that shows insights from a launch base which was put out of service and is used for museum purposes:

The film shows that it needs two persons to start the launching process for not a single person is able to initiate the launch signal. But the most scarrying point: after the two and a half minutes the missile is launched there is no way to avoid the impact. If there is a mistaken launch there is no possibility to hinder the missiles purpose. Why is there no self destruction mode built in for emergence case? With all respect on the duty of that executive personnel, these missile launch bases seem to me a ticking timebomb.