updated 4/6/2008 10:58:14 PM ET 2008-04-07T02:58:14

Inspectors warned Hill Air Force Base last year that its poor record-keeping could lead to inventory mistakes with ballistic missile parts without knowing a significant shipping error had already occurred, a newspaper reported Sunday.

The Pentagon announced last month that in 2006 the United States mistakenly shipped to Taiwan four electrical fuses designed for use on intercontinental ballistic missiles, but had since recovered them.

Initial blame for the wrongful shipment has been pointed to a Defense Logistics Agency warehouse operation at Hill and a contractor there.

An Air Force Audit Agency report dated May 30, 2007, did not uncover the shipping error, but highlighted problems with Hill's computer inventories of ballistic missile parts. The audit was obtained by the Deseret Morning News of Salt Lake City through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Inspectors recommended that Hill and its contractor conduct "a current and complete physical inventory of government-owned material and reconcile the inventory," the newspaper reported.

According to the audit, inspectors looked at whether contractors at Hill had recorded all the government assets stored at the facility in a computerized inventory system. That included parts for Peacekeeper and Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles, which are stored at the base and awaiting disposal or destruction.

Of 21 items inspectors were looking for, only one was properly accounted for in a computerized inventory.

"Additionally, management did not adequately reconcile assets to maintain reasonable internal controls" by conducting physical inventories to match computer inventories, the report said.

Inspectors wrote that Hill officials told them that contracts with the contractors also allowed them to exclude from the inventory system any items considered obsolete. Inspectors wrote that sensitive material should still be periodically inventoried until it was disposed.

The report said the commander of the 526th Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Systems Wing accepted those recommendations and ordered a complete inventory.

Last month, Defense Secretary Robert Gates ordered a full investigation of the mistaken shipment and ordered a full inventory of all nuclear weapons and related materials.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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