Nuclear Missile fuses accidentally exported to Taiwan, 2 top Air Force Brass lose their jobs.

excerpt from an article in the Salt Lake Tribune today:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates forced the resignation of two top Air Force officials Thursday, saying an investigation into the mistaken shipment of missile parts from Hill Air Force Base to Taiwan exposed a systemic “lack of focus” on nuclear accountability.
In addition to the resignation of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley and Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne, Gates said a “substantial” number of other officials – presumably including some from Hill – might be fired or reprimanded.
According to the investigation, recently completed by Navy Adm. Kirkland Donald, employees at Hill’s Defense Distribution Center violated a series of protocols for shipping and receiving supplies, leading to the inaccurate labeling of the missile fuses as helicopter batteries. When Taiwan ordered a set of batteries in the summer of 2006, Hill employees shipped the fuses instead.
The mix-up, which took nearly two years to resolve, may have violated international arms control treaties and caused further strain in relations between the United States and China, which considers Taiwan to be a renegade province.
But Gates said the Hill case was only the beginning.
“This incident represents a significant failure to ensure the security of sensitive military components, and more troubling, it depicts a pattern of poor performance,” he said. “Rather than an isolated occurrence,

Most logistics services at Hill are run by military contractor EG&G Inc., which won its $64 million contract at the northern Utah base in 2002 despite having a record of extremely poor performance ratings while doing similar work in Georgia. Gates’ statement did not mention the contractor specifically, but a timeline provided by his office points to several failures at Hill leading to the transfer of the missiles to Taiwan.

the shipment of the four forward section assemblies to Taiwan was a symptom of a degradation of the authority, standards of excellence and technical competence,” within the Air Force’s nuclear missile force.
Coupled with an August 2007 mistake in which an Air Force bomber was flown across the country by a pilot and crew that didn’t know they had nuclear weapons on board, Gates said it has become clear that the Air Force was suffering from a ”lack of critical self-assessment culture.”
Speaking more specifically to the problems identified by the investigation into the Hill error, Gates said that “individuals in command and leadership positions not only fell short in terms of specific actions, they failed to recognize systemic problems.”

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