Inside the Ring

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Defense officials say the rare firings of top officials by Defense Secretary Gates was more than simply due to two recent incidents of failing to adequately control nuclear arms, flying live nuclear weapons over U.S. territory and a mistaken shipment of nuclear weapons components to Taiwan.

Additionally, there were concerns among U.S. counter-arms proliferation officials that the incidents undermined U.S. pressure on states such as Pakistan and Russia to tighten controls on their nuclear arsenals.

As a result, Mr. Gates has ordered a blue-ribbon commission, headed by former Defense Secretary James R. Schlesinger, to review the management of nuclear weapons,.

The task force will provide its initial assessment of organization, procedures, policy and other Air Force nuclear issues in 60 days. A second 120-day phase will focus on “department-wide matters” related to a still-secret review done by Navy Adm. Kirkland Douglas.

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said international efforts to counter the spread of nuclear weapons were a “secondary concern” in Mr. Gates’ action. “Our primary concern is to safeguard the most dangerous arsenal in the world,” he said.

Mr. Morrell also said “we certainly, at the same time, don’t want to undermine our position that all nuclear nations need to have zero tolerance” when it comes to control over nuclear arms.

Bill Gertz covers national security affairs. He can be reached at 202/636-3274, or e-mail .

About the Author
Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon ( He has been with The Times since 1985.

He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.

Mr. ...

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