In a brief notice, the inspector general’s office said it would assess the extent to which Pentagon officials could detect and respond if the presidential emergency briefcase was “lost, stolen or in danger.”
“We may revise the target as the assessment progresses,” he added.
A US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said concerns surrounding the Jan.6 siege helped trigger the assessment.
Vice President Mike Pence was in the US Capitol, accompanied by a military aide carrying a spare nuclear briefcase when the building was stormed by supporters of then-President Donald Trump.
The briefcase contains the codes that the president would use to authenticate a nuclear missile launch order if he were not in the White House.
Security footage released during Trump’s subsequent impeachment trial showed Pence and the military aide carrying the codes being herded to safety as protesters approached their location.
“At no time was he in danger,” said a source familiar with the situation.
Even if the protesters had seized the briefcase, any nuclear strike order would have had to be confirmed and processed by the military.
But January 6 was just one of several times during the Trump presidency that the safety of the nuclear briefcase was called into question.
In November 2017, when Trump was in Beijing having lunch with Chinese President Xi Jinping, a Chinese security official got into a fight in another room with the US military aide carrying the briefcase.
The then White House chief of staff, John Kelly, a tall and imposing retired general, stepped in and got into a physical altercation with the Chinese official to ensure that the nuclear briefcase did not slip from the military aide’s hands. said a former senior Trump administration official.
On January 20 of this year, Trump insisted on leaving Washington before Democrat Joe Biden took office, which meant that a military man had to go with him until his successor was sworn in.
Trump was accompanied by a military aide carrying a nuclear briefcase to Palm Beach, Florida, and kept it close to him until Trump was no longer president, a source familiar with the situation said.