US military loses nuclear parts: report

Posted by archive 
Thu, 19 Jun 2008

LONDON (AFP) -- The US military has lost hundreds of sensitive nuclear missile components, in the latest embarrassment for The Pentagon, the Financial Times reported in its online version Thursday.

Citing US officials familiar with a Pentagon report, the British daily said the US Air Force could not account for many sensitive components previously in its nuclear inventory. One official put the number at over 1,000, it said.

The latest incident comes after blunders which saw live nuclear warheads transported over US skies, and an accidental shipment of nuclear triggers to Taiwan.

A senior official said the report had "identified issues about record keeping" for sensitive nuclear missile components. There was no suggestion they could have ended up in countries that should not have received them, he said.

Earlier this month US Defence Secretary Robert Gates sacked the air force's civilian secretary and chief of staff, blaming them for two major blunders that shook confidence in US control over its nuclear arsenal.

Gates said "a substantial number" of generals and colonels also face possible disciplinary action as a result of an investigation into a mistaken shipment of fuses for nuclear weapons to Taiwan.

The Taiwan incident, and an accidental transfer of nuclear armed cruise missiles from one US air base to another last year, were symptoms of a decline in the air force's standards and focus, Gates said at the time.

Daryl Kimball, head of the Arms Control Association in Washington, said the latest revelation was "very significant and extremely troubling" because it showed the Pentagon was not properly in control of its resources.

"It raises a serious question about where else these unaccounted for warhead related parts may have gone," he was quoted as saying by the FT. "I would not be surprised if the recent Taiwan incident is not the only one."

A spokesman for the US National Security Council declined to comment on the reportedly mislaid components.

"The White House has confidence that secretary Gates, through his actions with the air force, is addressing all of these issues," said spokesman Gordon Johndroe, cited by the FT.