Advisers: Consolidate Air Force nuke command

Michael Hoffman
Air Force Times
September 12, 2008

The Task Force on Nuclear Weapons Management recommended the Air Force put all its nuclear missions under Air Force Space Command and call the whole thing Air Force Strategic Command.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates organized the task force — which was headed by former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger — after axing the Air Force’s top two leaders last June due to its nuclear problems.

The task force recommended assigning a group of bombers to a numbered Air Force that would fall under AFSTRAT and have a sole nuclear mission.

After a tumultuous year in the Air Force’s nuclear enterprise, Gates said he’s confident the service “has begun to restore its nuclear mission, and is already tracking more than 180 corrective actions” the service is making.

Gates said his key concern remains the Air Force’s “lack of unity of command, and not having one person or organization accountable for the [nuclear] mission.”

Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz and Secretary Michael Donley have had discussions about standing up a new strategic command or placing the nuclear mission under Space Command like the task force recommended, said an Air Force official.

Schlesinger’s report also took aim at the Air Force’s inspection process.

Like similar reports done into the nuclear incidents that plagued the Air Force last year, Schlesinger’s team found an erosion of standards and capabilities within the service’s handling of nuclear weapons. Schlesinger said he was “surprised,” and that the erosion went beyond what he expected.

Those incidents include the mistaken shipment of four ballistic missile nose cones to Taiwan in 2006 that sat there until last March, and the unauthorized flight of six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., to Barksdale Air Force Base, La., in August 2007.


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