After a spate of recent articles in the press detailing serious problems in the nation’s missile command structure — ranging from rampant cheating on qualifying exams, large-scale chronic disrepair in the infrastructure, poor morale, high turnover and a host of other problems — a review board formed by DoD Secretary Hagel released its findings, and the results were pretty depressing. Says Yahoo News:

To illustrate the degree of decay in the ICBM force, the review found that maintenance crews had access to only one tool set required to tighten bolts on the warhead end of the Minuteman 3 missile, and that this single tool set was being used by crews at all three ICBM bases. The crews now have one at each of the three bases.

We have a disclosed defense budget of $550 billion, and only one set of tools to attach warheads to hundreds of missiles at three different ICBM bases. This, apparently, did not sit well with new Defense chief Chuck Hagel.

He said, “‘What is going on here?'” one of the senior defense officials recalled.

Actually, the best part of all this is:

They had to share [the tool set] via Federal Express delivery, the defense officials said.

Really? Fed Ex?

Scene i: Minot AFB, North Dakota

“Hey, did we get the warhead wrench yet?”

“Nah.”

“Anybody have the tracking number?”

Scene ii, Pentagon, Washington, DC

“Mr. Secretary, there’s someone calling on an unsecured landline claiming he’s the President of Venezuela, and he keeps saying “I have your missile wrench.”

On an apparently unrelated note, the Department of Homeland Security released its report on the recent White House intruder, and the story just gets worse.

The agent in charge of the attack doggies didn’t get the alert because, according to the New York Times,

…the officer did not realize that an intruder had made it over the fence because he was sitting in his van talking on his personal cellphone. The officer did not have his radio earpiece in, and had left the second radio he was supposed to have in his locker.

Tip-top folks we have on guard in the White House, right? Really on the ball.

Then there’s this (also New York Times):

As the officer stationed there tried to lock the doors, Mr. Gonzalez “barged through them and knocked her backward.” She told him to stop but he continued on to the East Room.

“After attempting twice to physically take Gonzalez down but failing to do so because of the size disparity between the two, the officer then attempted to draw her baton but accidentally grabbed her flashlight instead,” the report said.

“The size disparity between the two….” I like that. Another way of saying this would be “because, being a guy, he was a lot bigger than she was.” I’m all for gender equality, but what gibbering baboon thought that the best way to defend the President from intruders was to ask a female agent to tackle someone twice her size?

All of which is to explain why I said “apparently unrelated.” Both stories involve stunning incompetence and inexcusable negligence across a wide spectrum of reputedly-elite personnel in precisely those two areas we have always been led to believe are at the top of our priorities: our nuclear arsenal and the protection of our chief executive. For these jobs, only the finest, most dedicated people qualify.

Now there’s a scary thought. In the world of government and military service, these folks are supposed to be the best we have.

What if they are?