Hagel calls for review of US nuclear force

Defense Secretary Chuck HagelChuck HagelWho will temper Trump after he takes office? Hagel: I’m ‘encouraged’ by Trump’s Russia outreach Want to 'drain the swamp'? Implement regular order MORE on Thursday called for a wholesale review of the U.S. nuclear forces in the wake of a series of scandals involving nuclear officers.

Hagel ordered two reviews of the personnel operating the nation’s nuclear weapons, Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters Thursday, in response to the Air Force’s recent cheating and drug scandals.

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Kirby said that Hagel’s office and senior leaders at the Navy and Air Force would conduct an internal review and action plan over the next two months, along with an independent review of personnel issues.

The reviews are being taken after 34 Air Force officers were caught cheating on a nuclear proficiency test, which was uncovered during a separate investigation into drug use among officers in charge of launching nuclear missiles.

Kirby said that Hagel remains confident in the safety and security of the nuclear arsenal, but said that a “series of individual failures such as those we have recently witnessed give him pause.”

“To the degree there are systemic problems in the training and professional standards of the nuclear career field, the secretary wants them solved,” Kirby said. “To the degree leaders have failed in their duties, he wants them held to account.”

Both Hagel and Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James recently toured bases in Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota where intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) are operated.

The Air Force has struggled before with its nuclear forces.

In 2008, the Air Force secretary and chief of staff were both fired by then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates following a series of missteps, including a B-52 bomber flying across the country mistakenly armed with six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles.

Kirby said Thursday that 481 Air Force missile officers had been re-tested after the cheating allegations. He said that the pass rate was at 95 percent and 22 had failed. Those who failed would be retrained and re-tested.