Would the Air Force Let Airman Trump Near a Nuclear Weapon?

As a psychiatrist for the United States Air Force, one of my responsibilities was evaluating the mental stability of airmen who handled nuclear weapons, using the standards laid out in what is called the Nuclear Personnel Reliability Program. There is no need to justify why our military would take every precaution necessary to ensure that the men and women in uniform handling nuclear weapons were fit to do so, whether they were in charge of a missile silo or loading nuclear bombs onto aircraft — or giving the orders to them, on up the chain of command. Strangely, the commander-in-chief, the one who would decide when and how to use those weapons, is the only individual in the chain who is not subject to the ongoing certification under the program.

According to the program, or P.R.P., personnel who handle nuclear weapons are held to higher standards of physical and mental readiness than other personnel, and rightfully so. The Department of Defense Directive 5210.42 states: “Only those personnel who have demonstrated the highest degree of individual reliability for allegiance, trustworthiness, conduct, behavior, and responsibility shall be allowed to perform duties associated with nuclear weapons, and they shall be continuously evaluated for adherence to P.R.P. standards.”

On Tuesday the White House physician, Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, gave the president a clean bill of health. And no doubt, by many standards, Mr. Trump is in decent shape. But the standards for a person’s physical and mental health are a different matter from his fitness to oversee our nuclear arsenal. What if President Trump were, instead, Airman Trump, and was to be assessed under the program’s guidelines; would I certify him as “P.R.P. ready” to work in the vicinity of nuclear weapons?

I have not had the opportunity to examine the president personally, but warning signs abound. What if I had reliable outside information that Airman Trump displayed erratic emotions? That I saw very clearly that he was engaging in cyberbullying on Twitter? That he had repeatedly made untruthful or highly distorted statements? That his language implied he engaged in sexually abusive behavior? That he appeared paranoid about being surveilled or persecuted by others, that he frequently disregarded or violated the rights of others?

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