The secretary had already ordered an investigation into how the four nose cone fuse assemblies for intercontinental ballistic missiles, instead of the requested helicopter batteries, were shipped to Taiwan, The Washington Post reported Friday. The mix-up wasn't noticed for more than 18 months.
Gates ordered the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Navy and the Defense Logistics Agency to inventory and assess control measures for all nuclear weapons and their associated components within 60 days "to verify positive control and accountability of all such materials," according to a memo released Thursday.
"This is about the trust and confidence of the American people and our stewardship of the most dangerous weapons in the world," Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said. "Getting to the bottom of this incident and ensuring our nuclear arsenal and associated components are properly safeguarded must be a top priority of this department. Secretary Gates believes this situation is totally and completely unacceptable."
Initial reports indicate the nose cones' outer packaging was mislabeled.