NATO Nuclear Bases:

U.S. Should Seek Needs Reassessment and Increased Alliance Contributions

NSIAD-94-84: Published: Dec 23, 1993. Publicly Released: Dec 23, 1993.

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GAO provided information on U.S. nuclear bombs stored at North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) nuclear strike bases, focusing on the: (1) nuclear strike base requirement; (2) U.S. costs associated with supporting the NATO nuclear mission; and (3) problems U.S. Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) have in implementing and monitoring allied compliance with bilateral agreements.

GAO found that: (1) NATO can maintain a credible and survivable nuclear capability and meet its allied participation requirements with fewer strike bases; (2) the United States can reduce its support costs by consolidating its nuclear bombs at fewer storage sites; (3) NATO assessment of required nuclear capability does not reflect the Soviet Union's collapse or whether fewer bases can provide sufficient nuclear capability; (4) USAFE does not follow Department of Defense (DOD) and Air Force regulations to implement and monitor allied compliance with bilateral agreements governing support for U.S. personnel stationed at allied strike bases; and (5) the United States is spending millions of dollars for facilities, equipment, and other support promised by host nations because USAFE has not sufficiently identified internal and administrative control problems.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Air Force should direct the USAFE Commander-in-Chief to follow DOD and Air Force regulations for implementing and monitoring allied compliance with bilateral support agreements.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Based on GAO's review of the role of nuclear weapons in Europe, job code 701074, GAO plans to issue another report making a similar recommendation.

    Recommendation: To ensure the efficient use of U.S. funds, the Secretary of Defense should defer starting any new NATO nuclear-mission-related construction projects until the reassessment is complete.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD's decision to consolidate storage has removed the basis for this recommendation

    Recommendation: Considering the reduced vulnerability of NATO strike bases, and the cost to the United States to support the alliance's nuclear capability, the Secretary of Defense, in cooperation with the Secretary of State, should ask NATO to agree to consolidate nuclear weapons at fewer storage sites.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: As a result of this report, the House Armed Services Committee required DOD to review the situation regarding NATO strike bases and report on actions taken to consolidate weapons storage sites. In a March 1995 report to Congress, DOD stated that it would close additional storage sites, and that the remaining sites would be precisely the number recommended by GAO. These storage sites are scheduled to be closed by the end of FY 1996.

    Recommendation: Considering the reduced vulnerability of NATO strike bases, and the cost to the United States to support the alliance's nuclear capability, the Secretary of Defense, in cooperation with the Secretary of State, should ask NATO to agree to consolidate nuclear weapons at fewer storage sites.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Departments of Defense and State have already obtained NATO agreement to reduce the number of storage sites. Implementation will begin during the fiscal year 1996 budget year.

    Recommendation: Considering the reduced vulnerability of NATO strike bases, and the cost to the United States to support the alliance's nuclear capability, the Secretary of Defense, in cooperation with the Secretary of State, should ask NATO to reassess, using updated information, the number of strike bases needed to provide a sufficient nuclear capability, including peacetime requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: NATO has not reassessed the number of its strike bases.

    Recommendation: Considering the reduced vulnerability of NATO strike bases, and the cost to the United States to support the alliance's nuclear capability, the Secretary of Defense, in cooperation with the Secretary of State, should ask NATO to reassess, using updated information, the number of strike bases needed to provide a sufficient nuclear capability, including peacetime requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Departments of Defense and State have already obtained NATO approval for a reduction in the number of storage sites.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Air Force should direct the USAFE Commander-in-Chief to disclose any material weaknesses in the control and monitoring of bilateral agreements in the next annual statement of assurance required by the Federal Managers' Financial Integrity Act of 1982.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: During a follow-up review, GAO found that in many cases, USAFE officials still do not follow defined procedures for obtaining host nation support. GAO continues to consider these failures to be material weaknesses that should be reported under the Financial Integrity Act. DOD does not agree.

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