US & Canada

US defence chief Chuck Hagel calls for nuclear review

Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel appeared in Washington DC on 31 January 2013 Image copyright AP
Image caption Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel will meet senior military leaders in the coming weeks to discuss personnel issues

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered a wide-ranging review of the nation's nuclear forces following a series of high-profile scandals.

The Pentagon chief has summoned senior leaders to meet in the coming weeks.

The officials will then have 60 days to create a plan to identify and correct problems with the US nuclear force.

The review follows recent revelations that 34 US Air Force officers in charge of launching nuclear missiles cheated on proficiency tests.

"Secretary Hagel believes it is time for the Department of Defense as a whole to place renewed emphasis on examining the health of the nuclear force, in particular those issues that affect the morale, professionalism, performance, and leadership of the people who make up that force," Rear Adm John Kirby told reporters on Thursday.

Recent allegations of misconduct among military personnel "raise legitimate concerns about the department's stewardship of one of our most sensitive and important missions", he added.

The US military has been rocked by a series of scandals in recent months, including the suspension of 34 missile officers at a base in Montana.

Senior officers punished

That cheating ring was uncovered during an unrelated investigation into a US Air Force drug ring involving 10 officers at six military bases.

Two nuclear launch control officers at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana were said to be targeted in the probe.

Prior to that, the general in charge of the US Air Force's long-range nuclear missiles was sacked for conduct "unbecoming of a gentleman".

Maj Gen Michael Carey is said to have drunk too much and met "suspect" foreign women during a work trip to Russia in July.

Also in October, the Navy admiral who was second-in-command of the nation's nuclear weapons forces was demoted and sacked amid an investigation into illegal gambling.

Then-Vice-Adm Tim Giardina was accused of using counterfeit gambling chips in "a significant monetary amount" at an Iowa casino.

Senior military leaders meeting Mr Hagel in the coming weeks will discuss matters related to morale and personnel issues, Rear Adm Kirby said.

"Our concerns today are really more centred on people issues," he added, stressing the talks would not involve any known safety problems related to the US nuclear arsenal.

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