ARLINGTON, Va. — An independent task force has found a "lack of interest in and attention to the nuclear mission" across the Department of Defense.

"There has been a dispersal of office and personnel; there has been a downgrading and dilution of authority; there has been no training and no teaching of the doctrine of deterrence, and an absence of the understanding of the unique role that nuclear weapons must play, irrespective of how large their domain happens to be," said James Schlesinger, task force chairman.

But Schlesinger noted that the Navy has been "quite impressive" handling its nuclear mission, due in part to the fact that sailors on nuclear submarines have high morale.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates formed the task force after the Air Force mistakenly sent nuclear missile parts to Taiwan. An investigation into the incident revealed widespread problems in how the Air Force handled the nuclear mission.

On Thursday, the task force released the second part of its report on how the Defense Department manages the nuclear mission.

The report recommended establishing an assistant secretary of Defense for deterrence; reducing the number of missions assigned to U.S. Strategic Command; and designating a general officer on the Joint Staff to focus on the nuclear mission.

The U.S. military’s focus on transforming conventional forces has come at the expense of the nuclear mission, said Schlesinger, Defense secretary from 1973 to 1975.

"I think that there was a view that the nuclear mission was sizable, that in a sense, that it could take care of itself and that the new focus should be on building up certain conventional forces that seemed to be more relevant," he told reporters Thursday.

The report also found that U.S. European Command’s nuclear planning staff "has been allowed to atrophy to the point where it has been diluted to unacceptable levels," and recommended it be fully manned with nuclear experienced personnel.

The task force further recommended that U.S. Air Forces in Europe retain control of the Weapons Storage Security Systems in Europe rather than putting them under the control of the Nuclear Weapons Center.

"The U.S. Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) nuclear weapons mission area suffers from many of the same resourcing and expertise difficulties described in the Task Force Phase I report," the report said. "Nevertheless, the Task Force found the commitment of USAFE airmen to the safe and secure storage of nuclear weapons in Europe to be encouraging."

Schlesinger also faulted the military services for tending to "understate the unique aspects" of nuclear deterrence.

"The principal question is, to some extent, that they have failed to fully recognize the psychological and political consequences of our deterrent forces," he said.

Released in September, the first part of the task force’s report focused on how the Air Force can better approach the nuclear enterprise. Many of the task force’s recommendations are being implemented, such as putting one major command in charge of the nuclear bombers and missiles.

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