The commanders spoke of 'turmoil' in the nuclear missile branch of the Air Force and acknowledged the perception that the nuclear mission is a dying field. The best and the brightest young Air Force officers go to great lengths to avoid being assigned to the missile force.
"Sure, I understand that," you say. "You don't have to be a budding Einstein to figure out you don't want to be stuck in a cement hole in North Dakota. I'm surprised they got anybody with an IQ in the triple digits to do the job in the first place."
Apparently this was not always so. Ending the world in a radioactive catastrophe was once regarded as a promising career path. The men in those nuclear silos in the halcyon days of the Cold War were the cream of the Air Force crop. They sat beneath the fields of the Midwest with a smile on their lips and a song in their hearts, optimistic that they would be able to end humanity with a fiery final Armageddon or else they were squatting on the path to making general.
Alas, that world no longer exists. The replacement of the Soviet Union, the only nuclear-armed state in our weight class, with Russia, a country with nominally enough missiles to end our civilization, but with missile troops widely suspected of stripping their rockets of vital components in order to make vodka stills, means that our boys can't sit underground and still hope to make astronaut.
Consequently, the less talented are now in charge of weapons that could wipe out most of the higher life forms on Earth, and, unsurprisingly, they've been caught slacking. Even missile launch codes may have been compromised. The Air Force higher-ups don't say how, but knowing this generation as I do, having fathered a member of it, I suspect they were posted on Facebook.
The Air Force let this happen. The eager and ambitious were replaced by recruits straight off the short school bus. The motto "Peace through Deterrence" was informally replaced by "You got a thumb? We got a button for that!" which was considered superior, from a morale-preserving point of view, to "We're going to put you in a hole in the ground. Stay there."
What's to be done? Sadly, nothing. Sitting in a missile silo with someone you don't know or really like waiting for nothing to happen is never going to replace career choices like being a celebrity, a porn star or even a poorly paid humor blogger. It was tough enough to get people of my generation to do it, even though we were specifically trained to sit around with a bunch of unpleasant people and think about nothing until a bell went off. We called it high school.
In the modern era, which may fairly be said to present the fewest opportunities for boredom in human history, young people that will tolerate endless waiting for the off chance to incinerate humanity and still maintain a level of enthusiasm about it are getting nearly impossible to find. The Air Force shouldn't be surprised that it is digging around the bottom of the recruitment barrel, and when the people they select end up posting pictures of their missile silo on Instagram or pinpointing their ICBM's location on Google Earth and putting it on Reddit, that shouldn't shock them, either.
And it's going to stay that way until people once again see a promising future in ending the world.