Now Burns is intimating that Secretary Hagel's support for Global Zero is germane to what's gone wrong at Minot. The simple fact is that the first evidence of a serious problem in how the Air Force handles nuclear weapons and delivery systems dates to August 2006 -- months before a little op-ed kicked off the latest round of disarmament talk. And the second incident in August 2007 occurred before the Nobel Prize was even a twinkle in then-Senator Obama's eye. None of these are mentioned in the AP story. That would get in the way of the partisan spin.
Also not mentioned by Burns is that the Global Zero report in question did not call for the elimination of ICBMs -- it called for the replacement of nuclear-armed ICBMs with conventional ones. The report, largely written by former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff James Cartwright, argued that nuclear-armed ICBMs were basically useless in any scenario not involving Russia for a very simple reason: The Earth is round. Russia sits between us and pretty much every place else of interest. As a result, U.S. ICBMs must overfly Russia (and Russian early-warning systems) en route to any target worth mentioning. This is, obviously, not an encouraging thought. Here is the former commander of the U.S. Strategic Command saying plainly: I faced real operational constraints that would have prevented me from ever firing these missiles. Is it any wonder that crews at Minot let their launch skills atrophy?
The solution to this problem isn't to pretend it doesn't exist or to scream "91st number one!" louder and louder until the hippies and their dangerous ideas go away. The solution is to assign missileers to missions that matter. For Cartwright and Global Zero that means "a conventional-armed extended-range ICBM [based on] some variant of the Hypersonic Technology Vehicle-2...to provide a 1-hour global strike capability by 2022." Some disarmament group, right? Cartwright would co-locate these missiles with missile-defense sites in California, Alaska, and, yes, North Dakota. This capability, Cartwright argued, would provide a useful conventional capability against Iran or North Korea -- threats that are more plausible than playing global thermonuclear war against the Russians.
Whatever you think of Cartwright's suggestion to replace nuclear-armed ICBMs with conventional ones, it is a heck of a lot more likely to fix the problem than hiring some goofball to dress up as Teddy Roosevelt.