Posts Tagged ‘Nuclear Deterrence’

Re-invigorating nuclear enterprise a top priority

December 15, 2008

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Maintaining accountability and improving stewardship of the Air Force’s nuclear program is the top priority, said the service’s 19th chief of staff recently.

Gen. Norton Schwartz said the Air Force has gone through some “rough” air in the realm of nuclear deterrence, but the service is already on the path to recovery.

“The nuclear enterprise is getting a lot of my own and Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley’s attention,” he said.

As a result, Air Force officials have a rigorous accountability and “back to basics” approach for compliance, precision and reliability within the nuclear arena. The goal is to restore the Air Force’s nuclear mission to the standard of excellence for which it was known throughout the entire Cold War.

“We will train, organize and inspect to that standard,” General Schwartz said. “The bottom line is we lost focus, and we’re bringing that focus back.”

One way the service plans to accomplish this is by setting up a nuclear-only major command, called the Global Strike Command. This organization will include both the 8th and 20th Air Forces and will be responsible for the management of the Air Force’s nuclear assets.

“We will have the nuclear missiles and the nuclear-capable bombers in the same organization and the focus will be on the nuclear mission,” General Schwartz said. “We’re going to make sure that we’re focusing on doing our nuclear mission the right way, which is the Air Force way.”

In addition to establishing this new command, Air Force leaders also created a new Air Staff directorate, or A10, for nuclear matters. Called the Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration Office, and led by Maj. Gen. C. Donald Alston, the office will be the focal point on the Air Staff for the Air Force nuclear enterprise.

“The new directorate provides policy oversight, increased institutional focus and staff integration for nuclear issues,” General Schwartz said. “The A10 will be instrumental in managing the overall nuclear enterprise and will be directly involved in implementing the Air Force nuclear roadmap as well as preparing to stand up Air Force Global Strike Command.”

Other changes to the Air Force’s nuclear enterprise are also under way. The Nuclear Weapons Center at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., has been revitalized and expanded, with clearly understood chains of command to prevent repeats of past problems, the general said.

“The Nuclear Weapons Center now has complete control over the whole sustainment supply chain,” General Schwartz said. “That wasn’t the case earlier, and so now we will have a single entity that is responsible for ops and employment and a single entity that is responsible for sustainment.”

The chief of staff also pointed to efforts within the Air Force to develop a more centralized inspection process to ensure nuclear material is handled properly.

The general has been impressed with the progress made in the past three to four months and looks forward to tackling the other large nuclear enterprise issues such as how the Air Force can systematically rebuild its nuclear expertise within its ranks of Airmen through training and career development.

According to the general, all these changes are a vital part of Air Force stewardship of the strategic nuclear deterrence capabilities, which serves as an important national security backdrop for America and its allies.

“While today’s fight is vitally important to our Air Force, the capabilities that we provide in support of our nation’s nuclear deterrent force is just as, if not more, important,” he said.

“We have to return our focus to the fundamental capabilities of supporting deterrence,” he said. “Air Force capabilities help dissuade and deter our adversaries and it is always best to win without fighting.”
Matthew Bates (AFNS)

Defense secretary: Nuke capability critical to deterrence

October 31, 2008
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Calling nuclear weapons one of the world’s “messy realities,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here Oct. 28 that as long as others who could potentially threaten the United States possess or seek them, it’s critical that the United States does as well, and that they be kept safe, secure and reliable. 

“As long as others have nuclear weapons, we must maintain some level of these weapons ourselves,” Secretary Gates noted in a speech to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 

This, he said, “will deter potential adversaries while reassuring over two dozen allies and partners who rely on the U.S. strategic umbrella for their own security.”

The United States soon will have 75 percent fewer nuclear weapons than at the end of the Cold War, he said. But while endorsing more non-nuclear deterrence and response options, modern-day threats require the country to preserve what former President Bill Clinton called a “lead and hedge strategy.”

“We’ll lead the way in reducing our arsenal, but we must always hedge against the dangerous and unpredictable world,” he said. “The power of nuclear weapons and their strategic impact is a genie that cannot be put back in the bottle, at least for a very long time. While we have a long-term goal of abolishing nuclear weapons once and for all, given the world in which we live, we have to be realistic about that proposition.”

The secretary cited threats posed by rising and resurgent powers, rouge nations pursuing nuclear weapons, proliferation and international terrorism.

“There is no way to ignore efforts by rogue states such as North Korea and Iran to develop and deploy nuclear weapons, or Russian and Chinese strategic modernization programs,” Secretary Gates said. “As long as other nations have or seek nuclear weapons — and can potentially threaten us, our allies and friends — then we must have a deterrent capacity that makes it clear that challenging the United States in the nuclear arena, or with weapons of mass destruction, could result in an overwhelming, catastrophic response.” 

The United States continues to keep the number of nuclear states as limited as possible, the secretary said, citing “real successes” during the past 45 years through nonproliferation and arms-control efforts. He noted that many countries have opted not to seek nuclear weapons, recognizing that the U.S. nuclear capability protects them.

“Our nuclear umbrella — our extended deterrent — underpins our alliances in Europe and the Pacific and enables our friends, especially those worried about Tehran and Pyongyang, to continue to rely on our nuclear deterrent rather than to develop their own,” he said.

But possessing nuclear weapons means accepting the responsibilities involved, Secretary Gates said, citing problems that arose last year over the Air Force’s handling of nuclear weapons and related material.

He cited remedies being put into place:
— A new office within the Air Staff will focus exclusively on nuclear policy and oversight and report directly to the Air Force chief of staff.
— The Air Force’s proposed Global Strike Command would bring all nuclear weapons and material supporting U.S. Strategic Command under one entity.
— The Nuclear Weapons Center at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., has been revitalized and expanded, with clearly understood chains of command to prevent repeats of pass problems.
— The Air Force is undergoing a full review to provide better control of nuclear-related components, and placing them under the Nuclear Weapons Center’s control.
— A new, centralized process within the Air Force will ensure proper handling of nuclear material and provide expanded training for those charged with securing it.

Secretary Gates conceded the effort will be “a long-term process,” but said he is confident the Air Force “is now moving in the right direction.” He expressed thanks to the Airmen working to return the Air Force’s nuclear mission “to the standards of excellence for which it was known throughout the Cold War.”

Meanwhile, he said he looks forward to recommendations from a task force he formed to review nuclear enterprise oversight.

Secretary Gates confirmed that U.S. nuclear weapons are safe, secure and reliable, but said failure to look ahead to the future leaves a “bleak” long-term prognosis. No one has designed a new nuclear weapon in the United States since the 1980s, and veteran nuclear weapons designers and technicians are steadily moving into retirement, with no one following behind.

“The United States is the only declared nuclear power that is neither modernizing its nuclear arsenal nor has the capability to produce a new nuclear warhead,” Secretary Gates said. He also expressed concern that the country is not replacing its existing stockpile.

Congress’ refusal to fund a joint Defense Department and Energy Department program to field a safer, more secure warhead leaves the United States lacking, he said.

“The program we propose is not about new capabilities,” he said. “It is about safety, security and reliability. It is about the future credibility of our nuclear deterrent, and it deserves urgent attention.”

Donna Miles (AFPS)