NOVEMBER 22, 2010
In a scandal that puts the nation’s security at risk, alcohol abuse is rampant among U.S. government agents responsible for transporting nuclear weapons and sometimes they get drunk on the job and arrested for public intoxication during missions.
The unbelievable details of how drunken federal agents transport nuclear weapons, weapon components and special nuclear materials was recently exposed by the U.S. Department of Energy Inspector General. In a two-year period alone, 16 alcohol-related incidents were discovered and others likely went unreported, according to the inspector general’s published findings.
The agents work for a special unit known as the Office of Secure Transportation (OST), a 600-officer agency created in 1974 to safeguard and move nuclear weapons throughout the U.S. by air or ground. Candidates are well paid (between $43,000 and $68,000 to start) and carefully selected because their “critical sensitive position” requires a top security clearance, according to information posted on the agency’s website.
Those who pass the rigorous background check, physical and psychological tests go through a 21-week training program designed to assist them with preventing theft, sabotage or takeover of protected materials by unauthorized persons. Agents also undergo special training to ensure that they meet the “highest standards of reliability and physical and mental suitability.”
Incredibly, many begin to abuse alcohol during training, according to the inspector general. During the probe period covered in the report, 2007 to 2009, three agents got busted for public intoxication during secure transportation missions that included overnight stays at hotels. This presents a “potential vulnerability in OST’s critical national security mission,” the Energy Department watchdog found.
No word on what happened to the agents but the inspector general’s report indicates that there were no consequences and that many violations are “not reported as required.” Investigators suggest a common sense solution that includes a “zero tolerance” alcohol policy for agent candidates in charge of guarding nuclear weapons.
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