Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Chuck Hagel Orders Fixes to 'Systemic Problems' in US Nuclear Arsenal

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Chuck Hagel Orders Fixes to 'Systemic Problems' in US Nuclear Arsenal

Article excerpt

The focus on post-9/11 terrorists armed with light weapons and suicide vests, plus the break-up of the former Soviet Union, may make it seem like the days of the cold war with its bristling nuclear missiles, heavy bombers, and strategy of deterrence known as "Mutually Assured Destruction" (MAD) are fading into history.

But the perceived need for such massive weaponry by current and former superpowers (and other countries as well) has never gone away.

At the Pentagon Friday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered an overhaul of what the Pentagon calls its "nuclear enterprise." This follows a series of incidents, including cheating on proficiency exams, deteriorating missile facilities, and a lack of oversight that already has resulted in missile crews being decertified and some senior officers being fired or forced to resign.

Prior to Secretary Hagel's announcement Friday, the Pentagon conducted its own review of what were found to be systemic problems with operation and oversight of the US nuclear arsenal. It also ordered an external review conducted by retired senior Air Force and Navy officers.

The internal review reported "challenges resulting from being understaffed, under-resourced and reliant on an aging and fragile supporting infrastructure in an over-inspected and overly risk- averse environment.

"Both reports identified serious issues with potential real world consequences if not addressed - some of which require long-term and permanent cultural and structural changes," according to the internal review.

Among such problems, according to the Pentagon: "A blurring of the lines between accountability and perfection ... Inadequate facilities and equipment ... A rapidly aging civilian workforce in Navy shipyards ... Lack of promotion opportunities ... career constraints resulting from nuclear specialization for both officers and enlisted personnel ... Stress on submarine crews created by shipyard shortfalls ... Unduly burdensome, overly technical, and excessively risk-averse implementation of the personnel reliability program."

"The internal and external reviews I ordered show that a consistent lack of investment and support for our nuclear forces over far too many years has left us with too little margin to cope with mounting stresses," Hagel told reporters at the Pentagon Friday. …

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