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New air force chiefs promise to raise nuclear standards

In September 2007, nuclear armed cruise missiles were inadvertently loaded onto the wing of a B-52 bomber at Minot Air Force Base, in North Dakota, and flown to Barksdale Air Force Base, in Louisiana.
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Aug 12, 2008
The US Air Force's new chiefs vowed Tuesday to restore "perfection" as the standard for the control of US nuclear forces, in the wake of a series of embarassing blunders that cost their predecessors their jobs.

"It is a mission where anything less than perfection is not acceptable. And that is the standard," said General Norton Schwartz, the air force chief of staff.

"That certainly is the standard of the folks that brought that to us through the years, and we will return to that standard," he said at a news conference with Mike Donley, the new air force secretary.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates sacked their predecessors in June after an investigation into the nuclear mishaps found an erosion in standards and a loss of focus in the air force's handling of nuclear weapons.

The investigation was prompted by two major incidents that shook confidence in the air force's stewardship of the sensitive nuclear mission.

In September 2007, nuclear armed cruise missiles were inadvertently loaded onto the wing of a B-52 bomber at Minot Air Force Base, in North Dakota, and flown to Barksdale Air Force Base, in Louisiana.

In March, the air force discovered that four fuses for nuclear weapons and nose cone assemblies for ballistic missiles were mistakenly shipped to Taiwan as helicopter batteries in August 2006, an error that went undetected for 18 months.

Donley said a review into the accountability of generals and colonels singled out in an investigation of the Taiwan mis-shipment was expected to be completed in a couple of weeks.

A separate study of the military's management of nuclear weapons by a task force led by former defense secretary James Schlesinger is nearing completion, he said.

"What I can promise you is that we're taking a comprehensive look at this issue, so this is not onesies and twosies and a handful of fixes," he said.

The air force chiefs said they also would be giving high priority to the service's acquisitions programs, which have been plagued by spiralling costs.

The Pentagon was forced to reopen bidding for a 35 billion dollar contract for a new generation of air refueling tanker after government auditors criticized an award given to Northrop Grumman and its European partner EADS.

Schwartz also said he will focus on delivering more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets to US forces.

Gates had complained publicly that getting the military services to provide more unmanned surveillance aircraft was "like pulling teeth."

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Key US lawmaker threatens to hold up India nuclear deal
Washington (AFP) Aug 6, 2008
A key US lawmaker threatened Wednesday to hold up a landmark US-India nuclear agreement unless nuclear supplier states adopt a provision terminating the deal if India conducted a nuclear test explosion.

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