November 14, 2014 / 2:50 AM / 5 years ago

Hagel to announce nuclear operations overhaul

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel listens during his testimony at the House Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill, November 13, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will announce on Friday a comprehensive plan to reform U.S. nuclear operations based on two reviews he ordered after a series of incidents involving nuclear personnel, two defense officials said.

“While our nuclear arsenal remains safe, secure and effective today, the reports tell us we must take action now in order to ensure that remains the case in the future,” the officials said on Thursday night.

Following a news conference at the Pentagon on Friday morning, Hagel will travel to Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota to discuss the plans with nuclear personnel.

Officials say that addressing the shortcomings in managing America’s nuclear arsenal will likely take billions of dollars.

In March, the head of the nuclear missile wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana resigned and nine officers were removed from their jobs over a test-cheating scandal that involved 91 missile launch officers.

The Montana base is home to a third of the nation’s nearly 450 intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Some 19 missile crew members at 91st Missile Wing at the Minot Air Force Base were decertified after a poor showing in a March inspection

Last year, the general overseeing the U.S. arsenal of intercontinental missiles was fired for personal misbehavior, just days after the deputy commander of U.S. Strategic Command, which oversees America’s nuclear arsenal and space operations, was relieved of his post during an investigation into gambling issues.

Reporting by Phil Stewart and David Alexander; Editing by Leslie Adler

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