A few days ago, I saw a reference in a Democratic advertisement against Donald Trump asking if I would trust him with the nation’s nuclear codes. That’s an interesting question, as I spent almost a third of my Air Force career at the other end of those same nuclear codes.
As a Minuteman ICBM launch crew member, I inspected, inventoried, and signed for those same launch codes several times a month when my crew assumed alert. It was a simple process but one that never became routine. Every time I saw those codes, I was reminded of the incredible destructive power that was about to be placed in my care. I never questioned my willingness to use those codes, if called upon, and trusted completely the integrity of the process by which I would be asked to open them. This was made very clear to us one night, 8 August, 1974, when then President Richard Nixon resigned as President effective at noon the next day. As we watched his announcement that evening on our little TV, I clearly remember thinking to myself that I was sure steps had been taken to ensure that any irrational act by Nixon would never be acted upon and I did not need to question the security or the validity of the codes we had in the control center.
Which brings us to this comment about who should soon have charge of the nation’s nuclear codes. Clearly, this power must only be entrusted to someone who clearly and completely understands the gravity of their power and has the upmost respect for our national security. Since one of the candidates proved when she was Secretary of State that she had little respect for security of information that was classified at the same level as those nuclear launch codes, I cannot help but be concerned. Although it is true that Mr Trump has, at times, said things that I disagree with, I have seen no evidence that he does not understand or respect the systems we use to protect classified information. I also know that had I, or any other nuclear crew member, mishandled those launch codes, or any of the other classified information we maintained in the control center, in the same manner as Mrs Clinton has (according to the FBI), our punishments would have been vastly different than hers!
On the plus side, I have no doubt that the conscientious men and women who are not politicians but fellow members of the United States military will continue to protect the integrity of sensitive and vital national security information regardless of who is in the White House.