AP investigates failures in safeguarding nuclear weapons

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AP national security reporter Robert Burns
AP National Security Reporter Robert Burns
Since May 2013, AP National Security Reporter Robert Burns has been breaking exclusive stories that reveal serious lapses in the handling of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Tapping his deep network of sources and doggedly investigating any number of leads, Burns has found that the military personnel who control 450 nuclear weapons are breaking security rules and experiencing burnout, amid lapses and misbehavior by their leaders. Burns has reported “rot” and low morale in the ranks of those responsible for safeguarding weapons that could kill millions.

The revelations prompted Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to order a full review into what is ailing the Air Force group responsible for nuclear missiles. In addition, the Air Force took the extraordinary step of firing nine commanders and announcing it will discipline dozens of junior officers in response to an exam-cheating scandal that spanned a far longer period than originally reported.

Based at the Pentagon, Burns has traveled the world with two presidents, eight secretaries of defense, one secretary of state and many top military leaders over the course of his 35-year AP career. He earned a 2013 Oliver S. Gramling Award, AP’s highest staff honor, in part for his work on this series, and for what Washington Bureau Chief Sally Buzbee hailed as “a run of reporting brilliance.”

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