US Strategic Command tweeted on New Year's Eve that it was prepared to drop something "much bigger" than the Times Square ball, a joke that bombed so badly the guardians of America's missile arsenal later acknowledged the punchline missed the mark.
On Monday, Stratcom tweeted: "#TimesSquare tradition rings in the #NewYear by dropping the big ball...if ever needed, we are #ready to drop something much, much bigger," according to screengrabs captured by The New York Times and other publications. The screengrab shows a US stealth bomber and bears a number of hashtags, including #PeaceIsOurProfession.
The tweet was reportedly up for about three hours before being deleted. It didn't appear to have been captured by the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine.
The joke drew criticism on Twitter, including from Walter M. Shaub Jr., who resigned as head of the Office of Government Ethics in 2017. "What kind of maniacs are running this country?" he asked in a tweet.
Stratcom acknowledged the humor was misplaced and posted an apology.
"Our previous NYE tweet was in poor taste & does not reflect our values. We apologize," the unified command tweeted. "We are dedicated to the security of America & allies."
Maj. Lindsey Wilkinson, a US Strategic Command spokesperson, said in an email that the tweet "was part of our Year in Review series meant to feature our command priorities: strategic deterrence, decisive response and combat-ready force," adding it was an error to connect it to New Year's Eve celebrations.
Stratcom, based at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, is one of ten unified command centers for US military. It is responsible for space operations, global strike, and global missile defense, according to its website.
CNET visited Stratcom as part of the 2013 Road Trip series.
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