Air Force Command Brings Focus to Nuclear Enterprise

WASHINGTON, Nov. 9, 2010 — Over the past 15 months, the Air Force has built from scratch a mod­el new com­mand that will sus­tain and mod­ern­ize U.S. inter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile wings and the nuclear-capa­ble bomber fleet, the gen­er­al who leads the new com­mand said today.

LGM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile
The LGM-30G Min­ute­man III inter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile is an ele­ment of the nation’s strate­gic deter­rent forces. The “L” in LGM is the Depart­ment of Defense des­ig­na­tion for silo-launched; “G” means sur­face attack; and “M” stands for guid­ed mis­sile.
U.S. Air Force pho­to
Click to enlarge

“Some peo­ple have likened that to try­ing to build an air­plane while actu­al­ly hav­ing to fly it,” Air Force Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz told a group of defense reporters here. “And at times, it has seemed like that to us.” 

Glob­al Strike Com­mand is the Air Force’s first new major com­mand in 27 years. It’s also part of a larg­er strat­e­gy that Air Force Sec­re­tary Michael B. Don­ley and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Nor­ton A. Schwartz draft­ed “to bring focus and atten­tion back to the nuclear enter­prise,” Klotz said. 

The com­mand, acti­vat­ed in August 2009 with head­quar­ters at Barks­dale Air Force Base, La., has gone from 47 per­ma­nent staff and an equal num­ber of tem­po­rary-duty staff to a staff of 800, plus 100 contractors. 

“We had to pub­lish the guid­ance, the instruc­tions and the check­lists that gov­ern activ­i­ties inside the bomber and the ICBM worlds,” Klotz said. “As it turned out, we had to write near­ly 200 of these doc­u­ments that were sev­er­al hun­dred pages long and ensure that they got trained and imple­ment­ed in the field. It’s a pret­ty daunt­ing task.” 

The com­mand is respon­si­ble for three ICBM wings, two B‑52 Strato­fortress wings and the only B‑2 Spir­it wing. About 23,000 peo­ple assigned to the com­mand work in loca­tions around the world. 

For the first time since the end of the Cold War, Klotz said, the Air Force legs of the nuclear tri­ad — which is com­posed of land-based ICBMs, strate­gic mis­siles and bal­lis­tic-mis­sile sub­marines — are back under one command. 

Dur­ing the Cold War, Strate­gic Air Com­mand was respon­si­ble for the Air Force seg­ments of the triad. 

“At the end of the Cold War, … those respon­si­bil­i­ties were divest­ed,” Klotz said. “The bombers went to Air Com­bat Com­mand and the ICBMs went to … Air Force Space Command.” 

That meant two dif­fer­ent com­mands with two dif­fer­ent com­man­ders and two dif­fer­ent orga­ni­za­tions with dif­fer­ent pri­or­i­ties and dif­fer­ent resources were focus­ing on the Air Force nuclear enter­prise, Klotz said. 

“Our thought was that there was some fray­ing in the nuclear enter­prise as a result,” he added, “and to bring focus back to the enter­prise, a num­ber of steps were tak­en, includ­ing cre­ation of the Air Force Glob­al Strike Command.” 

In April 2009, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma told a large audi­ence in Hrad­cany Square in Prague in the Czech Repub­lic that the Unit­ed States would take con­crete steps toward help­ing to cre­ate a world with­out nuclear weapons. 

“We will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our nation­al secu­ri­ty strat­e­gy and urge oth­ers to do the same,” Oba­ma said, adding that as long as such weapons exist, the Unit­ed States “will main­tain a safe, secure and effec­tive arse­nal to deter any adver­sary, and guar­an­tee that defense to our allies.” 

That posi­tion is man­i­fest in the Defense Department’s April 2010 Nuclear Pos­ture Review Report, Klotz said, “and in the atten­tion to our enter­prise pro­vid­ed by senior lead­er­ship from [Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates] on down, as well as the resourc­ing that goes with it.” 

Still, the num­ber of U.S. nuclear weapons is declin­ing, from nine oper­a­tional bases and 1,054 mis­siles to three bases today and 450 mis­siles, he said. Dur­ing the Cold War, Strate­gic Air Com­mand had more than 1,000 bombers. Today, 76 B‑52s and 20 B‑2s make up the bomber inventory. 

“But I still think there is a com­pelling need for a bal­ance across the bomber, the ICBM and the sea-launched bal­lis­tic legs,” Klotz said. 

Klotz said he also sup­ports rat­i­fi­ca­tion of a new strate­gic arms reduc­tion treaty between the Unit­ed States and Rus­sia, which togeth­er are stew­ards of more than 90 per­cent of the world’s nuclear weapons. The old START treaty lapsed Dec. 5, and the Sen­ate has not yet vot­ed on the new treaty. 

“The sec­re­tary of defense, the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the com­man­der of [U.S.] Strate­gic Com­mand and vir­tu­al­ly every for­mer com­man­der of Strate­gic Com­mand have very cogent and com­pelling argu­ments in favor of rat­i­fy­ing the treaty,” he said. 

Klotz, who has been work­ing in arms con­trol and arms con­trol pol­i­cy since the mid-1970s, said such a treaty facil­i­tates impor­tant com­mu­ni­ca­tion between the two largest nuclear powers. 

“It’s crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant that the Unit­ed States and Rus­sia … have a con­tin­u­ous dia­log on issues relat­ed to nuclear pol­i­cy, includ­ing such areas as secu­ri­ty, safe­ty and com­mand and con­trol,” he said. 

“This type of inter­ac­tion in which the arms con­trol treaties are the cen­ter­piece, the nexus around which all that takes place, are crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant for under­stand­ing, for trans­paren­cy and for open­ness between the two largest nuclear pow­ers,” the gen­er­al added. 

Source:
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twitter.

Fol­low GlobalDefence.net on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →