London, June 19 : The US military cannot locate hundreds of sensitive nuclear missile components, officials close to the Pentagon have said.
The US military cannot locate hundreds of sensitive nuclear missile components, according to several government officials familiar with a Pentagon report on nuclear safeguards.
An investigation condemning the US Military's accidental shipment of nuclear cones to Taiwan found that the Air Force also doesn't know the whereabouts of other nuclear parts.
One official said the number of missing components was more than 1,000.
Defence Secretary Robert Gates said the Pentagon would take inventory of every piece of nuclear weapon-related parts "to re-establish positive control of these sensitive, classified components."
"The investigation discovered the gradual erosion of nuclear standards and a lack of effective oversight by air force leadership," Gates said.
A senior defence official, however, said that the investigation did not mean that missing nuclear parts were in the hands of countries that should not have taken receipt of them.
"(It) identified issues about record keeping," he said.
Gates recently fired both the US Air Force chief of staff and Air Force Secretary after an investigation blamed the air force for the inadvertent shipment of nuclear missile nose cones to Taiwan.
The Financial Times reported that the US Air Force could not account for many sensitive components previously included in its nuclear inventory.
The disclosure is the latest embarrassing episode for the air force, which last year had to explain how a bomber mistakenly carried six nuclear missiles across the US. The incidents have raised concerns about US nuclear safeguards as Washington presses other countries to bolster counter-proliferation measures.
Admiral Kirkland Donald, the officer who led the investigation, concluded that both incidents had a "common origin" which was "the gradual erosion of nuclear standards and a lack of effective oversight by air force leadership".
Admiral Donald briefed Congress on the results of his investigation on Wednesday. Bryan Whitman, Pentagon spokesman, declined to comment on the classified report.