JUNE 19, 2008
The U.S military has lost an alarming amount of sensitive nuclear missile components in addition to the recently disclosed inadvertent shipment of missile nose cones to Taiwan that led to the firing of two top Air Force officials.
A British international business newspaper disclosed this week that a Pentagon investigation found that the Air Force could not account for more than 1,000 sensitive components previously included in its nuclear inventory. The Pentagon’s top-secret report on nuclear safeguards attributed the serious mishap to the “gradual erosion of nuclear standards and a lack of effective oversight by Air Force leadership.”
When Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently fired the Air Force chief of staff and secretary for their embarrassing lapse in the handling of nuclear weapons, he assured that the Pentagon was evaluating the results of the comprehensive inventory of all nuclear-related materials to re-establish positive control of the classified components.
That was before this latest disclosure, which indicates that the severity of the problem is greater than previously thought. After all, it was less than a year ago that Air Force officials were forced to explain how six nuclear-armed cruise missiles basically disappeared for 36 hours without any military personnel even noticing.
It turns out that the missiles were inadvertently loaded onto a B-52 bomber and mistakenly flown from North Dakota to Louisiana. The plane’s crew members were never aware that they were carrying nuclear warheads and Air Force brass eventually admitted that procedures for the handling and transport of nuclear arms were not followed. Four colonels were relieved of duty and dozens of others were disciplined.
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