Accessibility links

US Air Force Officers Disciplined for Nuclear Shipment Mistake


The U.S. Defense Department has taken disciplinary action against 15 senior Air Force officers, including six generals and nine colonels, for their role in the accidental shipment of nuclear warhead fuses to Taiwan. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports from Washington.

Earlier this year U.S. Air Force officials discovered that four electric fuses used to trigger nuclear missiles were mistakenly shipped to Taiwan in 2006.

The shipment was supposed to contain helicopter batteries ordered by the Taiwanese government.

The error prompted an investigation into the military's oversight of the nuclear arsenal and led to a shake-up of Air Force commanders.

Acting Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley told reporters at the Pentagon disciplinary action against the 15 officers could have major ramifications.

"These actions are administrative in nature, but can carry with them substantial consequences for the careers of these officers, including their potential to command, to be promoted or to retire in their current grade," said Michael Donley. "We recognize the years of dedicated service that these officers have given, but we can not ignore the breaches of trust that have occurred on their watch."

The disciplined officers were not fired and some were kept in leadership positions.

Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz says some of the officers remain critical to the nuclear mission.

"They are not accused of intentional wrongdoing, but they did not do enough to carry out their leadership responsibilities for nuclear oversight," said General Schwartz. "For that they must be held accountable."

The disclosure of the shipment to Taiwan followed a 2007 incident in which six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles were accidentally flown across the United States strapped to a B-52 bomber.

The pilot and the crew were not aware they had nuclear weapons on board.

In June, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates fired then Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Chief of Staff General Michael Moseley following the embarrassing incidents.

Earlier this month a task force looking into the problems recommended a major overhaul of how the Air Force handles nuclear warheads and related materials.

XS
SM
MD
LG