Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at Sandia Laboratories in New Mexico

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at Sandia Laboratories in New Mexico DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett

Hagel Orders a Review of the Nuclear Force

The decision follows a string of incidents that have raised questions abut morale and security. By Jordain Carney

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is ordering a review of the nuclear forces, an official said Thursday.

The decision comes after a string of incidents—including illegal drug use and most recently a cheating scandal—have put the force under a negative spotlight.

"Secretary Hagel believes it is time for the Department of Defense as a whole to place renewed emphasis on examining the health of the nuclear force, in particular those issues that affect the morale, professionalism, performance, and leadership of the people who make up that force," said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the press secretary for the Pentagon.

To start the review process, the secretary and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey will meet with "key stakeholders in the nuclear enterprise" during the next two weeks to discuss the challenges, Kirby said.

(Read more Defense One coverage on the nuclear force here)

Following that meeting, Defense Department leaders will study the leadership and management principles in the nuclear force and will make sure a successful deterrence strategy is in place to prevent the types of personnel issues that have plagued the nuclear force in recent months.

Pentagon leaders will also look for any problem areas in the development of the nuclear force and identify ways to fix problems, Kirby said. A plan for how to address any concerns will be given to Hagel within 60 days. And an independent group will also review the nuclear forces more broadly, although they will focus on personnel. The independent review will be finished within 90 days.

Kirby tied the secretary's decision back to a " larger concern that ... we have morale issues, we have performance issues inside a force inside the military that is just so vital to national security," but he said officials remain confident in the security of the country's nuclear arsenal.