Jeffrey LewisRelease the Hounds!

If the commander at Kleine Brogel Air Base in Belgium were to go all Mr. Burns on the Peace Action “bomb spotters” — nothing would happen.

That’s because, as I pointed out to Elaine Grossman in her excellent story on the most recent security violations at  Kleine Brogel Airbase, the Belgian government has failed to hire a dog master for the base.


He tracked down an April response by the Belgian Defense Ministry to a lawmaker’s questions about how the January security breach could have occurred. NATO nations are responsible for safeguarding the U.S. nuclear weapons deployed on their bases, a facet of what the alliance has long termed “burden-sharing.”

At the time, there were 32 vacancies for “guard strike security” at Kleine Brogel’s 10th air wing, according to the government document. “The problems are mainly situated in filling the vacant places [for] guardian dog master.”

“It makes a mockery of burden-sharing if they can’t even find a guy to watch the dogs,” said Lewis …

Indeed.  US nuclear weapons perimeters are, in fact, supposed to be guarded by dogs.  Their absence (the dogs that didn’t bark) was a conspicuous element of the initial incursion.  You can read the original question, by Dutch MP Dirk Vijnck, and the answer by the Belgian MOD (in Flemish and en Francais) here.

One of Vijnck’s staffers has a blog, in which he suggests placing landmines throughout the base.  That seems unnecessary to me.  It would seem to me that a simpler solution is to either just hire a dog master, or remove the weapons altogether.

If they remain, that is.  I wonder.  Belgian security is woeful, no doubt about it, but this is really shocking.

By the way, the comments section has produced at least two worthwhile updates since I originally posted the story.  First, there is an interesting discussion about which bunker the activists entered.  (It doesn’t particularly matter from a security standpoint — the activists were probably at the next bunker — but we have a passion for detail here.)  Second, the piece of equipment in the photograph inside the bunker has been tentatively identified as a piece of ground support  equipment (an air conditionor/generator) for aircraft such as the Belgian F-16s stationed at the base.  That would suggest that the shelter was unlocked because it was in use.

Finally, you might be asking: How do I get sweet gig like dogmaster at a Belgian military installation?  Well, as it turns out, it is a very rewarding profession. “Our people are motivated. In the morning they are eager to get started. In this case, can you really say that we make our passion our profession,” according to one member of the Belgian “Inter-forces Kennel Unit” or IKE.  Really, you should read this entire story about the dog masters and their “four footed partners” on the Belgian military’s website.

Lots of unintentional comedy.


  1. P (History)

    There is something I don’t understand in this whole discussion: where are the US soldiers? It is clear that Kleine Brogel airbase is badly protected by the Belgian armed forces. But it is 701st MUNSS which is responsible to provide custody and control of the bombs until receipt of proper authority to release them to the Belgian Air Force.

    So why are there no US soldiers in the bunker the bombspotters managed to get into? May be because it was not storing nuclear bombs?

  2. Jeffrey (History)

    It is very odd.

    We wouldn’t expect security forces to be in the bunker, but we would expect security from the fence to the bunker door to be much better. And, frankly, I am surprised that the SACEUR didn’t have military police providing a temporary layer of additional security after the last incursion.

    Here is a pretty decent description of the security concept for Air Force security of nuclear weapons storage areas:

    “The physical security concept for a WSA consisted of a layered security approach. Strict personnel and vehicle entry control, exterior and interior structure alarms, electronic sensors and lighting was designed to detect a clandestine approach to storage structures. Once the threat was detected, an alarm monitor or security controller would dispatch assigned area patrols to assess. Many times, this assessment capability was enhanced by military working dogs. If the threat persisted and penetrated fencing then response forces would destroy it before it accessed structures.3 Figure 1 represents a notional WSA. One may conclude that even a large special forces team would have had a difficult task if they attempted to penetrate a structure housing nuclear weapons. This overarching concept remained largely intact with a few modifications.”

    Image: Security Concept for USAFE WSA

    Obviously, the reality at Kleine-Brogel falls rather short of this description.

    Which, again, raises the question of whether the weapons are still there.

  3. Spruce (History)

    Frankly, I would consider it laughable proposition that that base would have any nuclear weapons anymore. There is underperforming security and then there is uninterested security. And the performance of that base really falls in the second category. No matter how poorly resourced the security force is, you can see their attitude and conduct when they feel they are guarding something important and when they are there just for the show; this performance clearly falls on the second category. In fact, the performance and conduct of the security is far more relaxed in that area than what would be expected even from around conventional weapons – something you would expect from mostly abandoned or surplus areas where security is responding just because they have, not because they feel that there’s something worth protecting there.

    Taking into account that it is almost certain that US has consolidated its nuclear weapons in fewer bases, I find the most sensible and simplest explanation being that the weapons have been moved away. It’s much more reasonable solution than suggestion that everyone in the chain of command is negligent enough that the security arrangements would be that lax around nuclear weapons AND that the base security commander would not improvise something better despite low resources. People in that position tend to get something done when needed if they are responsible for something like nuclear weapons – for good reason.

    About that generator: It actually does not suggest that the hangar is in active use but that it is held in readiness for dispersal. If the hangar was in active use, the generator would be in more central position and there would much more equipment around – namely service, refuelling, and ammunition handling equipment. Instead, that looks like a place where one or two armed and refuelled aircraft would be moved during heightened readiness in case a threat of air attack or sabotage. The idea being that one bomb or sabotage attack would not knock out all of the aircraft. As such, it would explain both the low security (it really isn’t worth protecting in normal situations) and being unlocked (should it be needed, it needs to be accessed quickly).