Missileer Burnout?

Nov. 22, 2013—An unpublished RAND study commissioned by the Air Force and obtained by the Associated Press found that members of the nuclear missile force have low job satisfaction and often feel job-related “burnout,” according to the AP report published Nov. 20.

During the three-month study, RAND conducted confidential interviews with some 100 launch control officers, security forces, missile maintenance workers, and others in the missile field, states the report.

Chaitra Hardison, lead author of the study, told the AP participants rated their work experience on a scale of one to seven—an average of four or more was considered “burnout.” The 13 launch officers interviewed and 20 junior enlisted airmen assigned to the missile security forces scored a 4.4, according to the article.

The study also found that courts-martial in the ICBM force were 129 percent higher than the Air Force as a whole in 2011, on a per capita basis, and 145 percent higher in 2012.

Air Force Global Strike Command spokesman Lt. Col. John Sheets told the Daily Report the article failed to mention that those percentages are not only trending down, “in fact, the numbers of non-judicial punishment in 20th Air Force are actually below the Air Force for 2013.”

Sheets acknowledged the study is “useful for commanders.” However, he said it also must be considered in the context of other studies with larger sample pools, such as the Unit Climate Assessments (3,500-plus participants), the Air Force Culture Assessments Safety Tool (7,000-plus participants), as well as senior leader visits with airmen and commanders.

He said the Air Force has been “100 percent effective from an operational perspective,” though he said the ICBM mission can be stressful.

“It’s a demanding job with demanding standards in a demanding environment,” said Sheets. However, he noted that, “Morale scores across our missile wings are actually comparable to the Air Force average, ranging from neutral to fairly positive.”

Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh told the AP there is no evidence of fundamental problems in the ICBM community.

“There are issues like there are in every other mission area we have in the United States military, and we deal with the issues as they come up, and we deal with them aggressively. But, as far as getting the job done, they’re getting the job done. They do a great job of that every single day,” said Welsh.