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. 

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

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