WASHINGTON, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- The United States should maintain nuclear weapons in Europe to keep credibility with countries relying on U.S. weapons for security, a Pentagon report said.
Besides maintaining tactical nuclear weaponry on European soil, a report by a high-level task force appointed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the United States should consider modernizing older nuclear warheads on cruise missiles, The Washington Post reported.
"The presence of U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe remains a pillar of NATO unity," the report said. "Some allies have been troubled to learn that during the last decade some senior U.S. military leaders have advocated for the unilateral removal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe."
The Secretary of Defense Task Force on Defense Department Nuclear Weapons Management, led by former defense secretary James R. Schlesinger, said in the report that as long as NATO members rely on U.S. nuclear weapons for security and maintain their own aircraft as part of that deterrence, "no action should be taken to remove them without a thorough and deliberate process of consultation."
The report released Thursday also said the most difficult challenge facing President-elect Barack Obama's administration "will be in persuading this nation of the abiding requirement for nuclear forces."
Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said Gates wants to review the panel's recommendations and evaluate them with the new service secretaries once they are named. Gates will retain his post when Obama takes office.