U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is ordering significant changes to the management of the country's nuclear weapons, after internal reviews concluded that the “incoherent” structure of forces means they cannot be properly managed, according to the Associated Press.
Two senior U.S. defense officials, who discussed the situation with the AP on condition of anonymity, told the agency that Hagel will be proposing additional investment of between $1 billion and $10 billion dollars and appointing more senior military officers to key posts.
U.S. nuclear forces have been rocked by a series of scandals in recent months. In January, a group of Air Force officers who work on nuclear launch duty were suspended and had their security clearances revoked, after being caught cheating on proficiency tests.
In addition, military-run nuclear facilities have failed safety inspections, troops have been found violating safety protocols surrounding launch command centers and an Air Force general in charge of an entire section of U.S. nuclear weapons was removed from his post, following an incident of embarrassing, drunken behavior while on an official visit to Russia, according to the AP.
In addition to the organizational shake-up, which Hagel is expected to announce Friday, the Obama administration has already announced plans to invest heavily in modernizing aging U.S. nuclear weapons equipment, which could cost the country $355 billion over the next decade, according to a December 2013 Congressional Budget Office report, stretching already depleted Pentagon budgets.
The congressionally mandated National Defense Panel put it bluntly in a July review of the Pentagon’s defense plans, saying the effort to build a new triad of nuclear bombers, missiles and submarines was "unaffordable" under present budget constraints, according to Reuters.
Hans Kristensen, a nuclear expert with the Federation of American Scientists, told the AP he was skeptical that Hagel's plans would have a significant impact on the morale of troops in U.S. nuclear forces, which the reports found to be low.
"Throwing money after problems may fix some technical issues but it is unlikely to resolve the dissolution that must come from sitting in a silo hole in the Midwest with missiles on high alert to respond to a nuclear attack that is unlikely to ever come," Kristensen told the agency.