Air Force inventory systems that tally the location and value of property misidentified the locations of 79 active Minuteman III nuclear-armed missiles — or almost a fifth of the fleet — last year, according to an audit commissioned by the Pentagon.
Ernst & Young LLP, discovered the discrepancies during the recently completed second round of full financial audits in Pentagon history for the Air Force and other military services, which were released Friday. Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist may be asked about the flawed inventory of the intercontinental ballistic missiles during a hearing on Wednesday by the Senate Armed Services Committee on the fiscal 2019 audit.
“During our testing” in March of a widely used Air Force system for collecting and storing data on aircraft, satellites and missile systems, Ernst & Young said it identified a “number of errors” such as “79 ICBMs that were marked with the incorrect physical location.”
Captain Jacob Bailey, an Air Force spokesman, said in an email that “the Air Force has full control and accountability over ICBMs.” Bailey said Ernst & Young didn’t uncover a more serious “material weakness” but “a deficiency in timely inventory supply reporting” that may have occurred when data was inputted manually and would be corrected once a reconciliation was complete.
The LGM-30 Minuteman is a U.S. land-based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), in service with the Air Force Global Strike Command. As of 2018, the LGM-30G Minuteman III version[a] is the only land-based ICBM in service in the United States. The Minuteman-III was the first multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) ICBM to be deployed. Each missile can carry up to three thermonuclear weapons, and were initially armed with the W62 warhead with a yield of 170 kilotons.