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Pentagon to Investigate Nuclear Flight Incident

Representatives of the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and Defense Science Board are expected to investigate the institutional oversights that led to the accidental flight of six nuclear warheads in August, Inside Missile Defense reported yesterday (see GSN, Nov. 5).

Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne said in an Oct. 19 Defense Department briefing that he and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley asked the Navy to participate with Air Force personnel on a blue-ribbon commission reviewing the chain of events that led to the incident.

"We have asked to chair this blue-ribbon review and make recommendations as to how we can improve the Air Force's capability to safely and securely perform our nuclear weapons responsibility," Wynne said.

The panel is expected to review the "policies and procedures across all levels of (the Air Force) organization," said Maj. Gen. Richard Newton, assistant deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and requirements.

A standing Defense Science Board nuclear surety task force is also set to "look more broadly at DOD policies and procedures to ensure all factors that led to this incident are explored and addressed," Newton said.

The two investigations would build on the conclusions of a completed command-level Air Force review of the incident in which six nuclear warheads were mistakenly loaded on an Air Force B-52 bomber and flown from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., to Barksdale Air Force Base, La. (see GSN, Oct. 22; Carlo Munoz, Inside Missile Defense, Nov. 7).

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