Posts Tagged ‘Nuclear Weapons’

Obama Ready for Arms Control Talks With Russia

February 16, 2009

What is Barack Obama’s foreign and defense policy really about? Read the facts in Hampton Roads International Security Quarterly: Vol. IX, Nr. 1 (Winter 2009)

The Obama administration plans to negotiate an unprecedented strategic nuclear arms reduction initiative with Moscow. The drastic proposal, greeted by Russia, may result in cutting the American and Russian nuclear stockpiles by some 80 percent to 1,000 warheads each. [ FULL STORY ]

Navy SEALS Train USAF Security Forces

February 5, 2009

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The 5th Security Forces Squadron is participating in a series of training classes, which began Jan. 5, in an Air Force-wide initiative to improve the tactics, awareness, vigilance and survivability of security forces at Minot AFB (North Dakota).

“This training better prepares us for any situation we may come across,” said Master Sgt. William Wilson, 5th SFS security forces training noncommissioned officer-in-charge.

The training, called the Air Force Blue Coach Initiative, began at Whiteman AFB, Mo., where an entire flight participated in an intense Navy SEALs training program. Airmen of all ranks trained in preparation for the Mighty Guardian exercise. During this exercise, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency brought in outside forces to test the Air Force’s defenses.

“This exercise was the first time these newly-learned tactics were employed and Air Force cops defeated the Marine Corps aggressors,” Sergeant Wilson added.

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Upon successful completion of the exercise, the Air Force decided this was training all security forces members needed. Subsequently, Brig. Gen. Mary Kay Hertog, Director of Security Forces, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C., directed all security forces units to undergo the training.

The first two bases in Air Combat Command to receive the training are Minot AFB and Whiteman AFB during the fiscal year 2009, Minot being the first of the two bases.

General Hertog was not the only officer who felt the training was important for security forces members.

“Through this training, we received a higher level of individual and team tactics, which are vital to preserving our national resources and helps to ensure we have a fighting chance against a well-trained adversary,” said Capt. James Masoner, 5th SFS operations and training officer.

The training comes in four iterations available to 200 security forces members; the first was from Jan. 5 to 16. The next three will be: Feb. 23 to March 6, March 23 to April 3 and April 6 to 17.

The SEALs cover a wide variety of topics aimed at improving the capability of security forces units here.

“Our folks will learn how to best dress for cold weather, close-quarter combat, patrolling, employment of low-light equipment, among many others,” said Sergeant Wilson. “The trainers ensure our Airmen feel comfortable and completely understand all the tactics being taught. The training culminates to where we go out into the Weapons Storage Area and practice recapture techniques on structures.”

Sergeant Wilson said he has four members who have gone through the training. They act as instructors for training those who won’t have the opportunity to be trained first hand. He also said part of the contract states the trainers will leave all their lesson plans, power points, visual aids, etc.

Additionally, Sergeant Wilson said the training is considered an enhanced nuclear training initiative.

While all who participated in the first iteration of the training did extremely well, there were a few who shined for Sergeant Wilson.

One such Airman reflects on her experience from the training:

“At first, it seemed intimidating working with the SEALs,” said Senior Airman Angelena Lee, 5th SFS supply custodian. “They really had their stuff together and knew exactly what they were here to talk about. Between the five instructors, they had more than 120 years of experience.”

Another Airman from the first iteration revealed how important he felt the training was:

“It gives us a fundamental understanding for more advanced tactics and was a great way to get back to the basics,” said Staff Sgt. Casey Muffley, 5th SFS installation patrolman. “It was a great opportunity to train with highly-experienced military personnel and learn how to do our jobs better and work as a team much more effectively.”

Continued training of security forces personnel is a mission-essential task. These hard-working Airmen deserve only the best training the AF has to offer. Training is a crucial step to ensuring the nuclear surety of this base is as secure as possible, security forces leadership said.

“This training taught us how to overcome the challenges of our mission here,” concluded Airman Lee. “It improved our awareness, increased our vigilance and taught us new strategies for survivability.”

Ben Stratton

Gen. Craddock Says: Leave Troops, Nukes in Europe

January 21, 2009

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NATO Supreme Allied Commander – Europe (SACEUR) General Bantz Craddock has endorsed recommendations by a special Pentagon commission which confirmed the need to retain US nuclear weapons in Europe.

General Craddock, who previously served as Commander, US Army Europe, also said the U.S. command needs to retain four Army brigades, instead of cutting to two as has been proposed, and needs to retain current Air Force and Navy force levels.

Read more on Gen. Craddock’s remarks at Government Executive

Former Air Force Secretary Accuses China

January 8, 2009


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 Former Air Force Secretary Thomas Reed has co-authored a new book that makes the case that China has intentionally proliferated nuclear technology to dangerous regimes such as Pakistan and North Korea since the 1980s and is still debating internally whether to continue the flow of materials and know-how abroad. US News and World Report reported Jan. 2 that Reed’s work, The Nuclear Express: A Political History of the Bomb and Its Proliferation, claims that China even tested the first Pakistani bomb in 1990 for the Pakistani regime of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. This test and additional Chinese help, Reed told the magazine, enabled the Pakistanis to respond within three weeks of India’s nuclear test in 1998 with their own underground nuclear test.

January 7, 2009
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First Half of January: That’s the target date for the release of the phase II report by the nuclear task force led by former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger, Pentagon spokesman Chris Isleib tells the Daily Report. Chartered last June by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the gray-beard panel issued a Phase I report in September that concentrated on the Air Force’s nuclear mission and ways to improve and reinvigorate the service’s nuclear stewardship. The forthcoming Phase II work will address the nuclear mission across the entire DOD enterprise. The Phase I recommendations heavily influenced the changes that the Air Force leadership has made to the service’s nuclear organizations, operations, and culture as reflected in the service’s nuclear roadmap that came out in October. We’ll have to wait and see how the Office of the Secretary of Defense and other organizations respond to the Phase II report. So far, we are not aware of OSD making major changes to improve nuclear oversight at its level. Instead the focus, at least publicly, has been on the Air Force. But that doesn’t mean that changes aren’t called for at OSD’s level. In February 2008, for example, the Defense Science Board’s permanent task force on nuclear weapons surety recommended that OSD create the position of an assistant secretary of defense for the nuclear enterprise to ensure “continued attention to nuclear policy, acquisition, technology, surety, and command and control.” (DSB report) When asked about this recommendation during a Pentagon press briefing on Sept. 12, 2008, the date on which the Schlesinger Phase I report was released, Gates said he was “open” to the idea, but was “going to wait” for the Phase II report before acting.

Needed: Nuclear Deterrent

October 31, 2008
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On 28 October 2008, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates addressed the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington DC. The focus of his speech, given in full text below, was America’s strategic deterrent.

Thank you, Jessica, for that very kind introduction. And my thanks also to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace which has, for almost a century, been dedicated to understanding – and preventing – war and its myriad causes.
      I’d also like to thank you all for tearing yourselves away from our national election drama, for at least a little while. At one point, President Truman was traveling in England, and he commented on the strange behavior of Americans every four years. He said that “in election years we behave somewhat as primitive peoples do at the time of the full moon.” The moon is certainly full.
      It is an honor to speak at a forum with such a long and storied past. In fact, the idea for an endowment dedicated to international peace was first suggested to Andrew Carnegie almost exactly a century ago – right around the time that Carnegie entered the final phase of his life: dedicated to philanthropy and devoted to the cause of peace.
      At the time, the nation was reeling from a meltdown on Wall Street – and, I should note, a severe crisis in the credit markets. The international arena wasn’t much rosier. The early years of the century had seen the United States fight an insurgency in the Philippines, in which 4,200 Americans died. Russia and Japan had waged a brutal conflict, and the Boer War had recently ended. At the same time, Europe was arming itself to the teeth and forming a series of alliances whose implications were obvious to anyone who cared to look.
      Against this backdrop, there were proposals for arbitration courts, for arms limitations, for dispute resolution – all familiar to us today but somewhat of a novelty then. The movement for international peace may have been in its infancy, but it was having an effect. More so than ever before, the civilized world was focused on efforts to reduce conflicts around the globe.
      So was Carnegie, who brought to bear his considerable resources – including the establishment of this endowment. He had also agreed to fund a Peace Palace in Europe, in the Hague – he called it a Holy Temple of Peace – to house an international court of justice and a library, a function it still carries out today. At the dedication of the Peace Palace – in August of 1913 – Carnegie said that “the only measure required today for the maintenance of world peace is an agreement between three or four of the leading civilized powers . . . pledged to cooperate against disturbers of world peace.” The day when men would cease to take up arms against other men, he said, was “certain to come, and come soon, as day follows night.”
      Less than a year later, an archduke fell to an assassin in Sarajevo, militarism collided with miscalculation, bombast met bluster, and the continent was plunged into darkness, essentially for the next 75 years.
      I mention all of this because one of the hard lessons of history is that it has a way of defying even the best of intentions – especially on matters of war and peace. Consider that the carnage of World War I came in the midst of mankind’s first large-scale, concerted effort to bring about peace. And that this “War to End All Wars” was followed by another world war, employing even deadlier weapons – which, in turn, was followed by numerous conflicts throughout the last century and into this one.
      Simply put, we cannot predict the future. And so even as we strive to live up to our noblest goals, as Carnegie did, we must deal with the messy realities of the world in which we live.
One of those realities is the existence of nuclear weapons, the subject I want to discuss today.
      I should start by noting that three presidents I worked for during the Cold War – Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush – genuinely wanted to eliminate all nuclear weapons and said so publicly. More recently, George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger, and Sam Nunn echoed that sentiment in The Wall Street Journal. But all have come up against the reality that as long as others have nuclear weapons, we must maintain some level of these weapons ourselves: to deter potential adversaries and to reassure over two dozen allies and partners who rely on our nuclear umbrella for their security – making it unnecessary for them to develop their own.
      The Cold War is over, and with it, much of the need for a massive nuclear arsenal of the same size and composition as that period warranted. Our policies reflect a new set of post-Cold War requirements:
      • We have taken numerous weapons systems out of service – including the Peacekeeper ICBM, half our Minuteman ICBMs, and a number of ballistic missile submarines. Our B-1 heavy bombers and four Trident submarines no longer have a nuclear mission.
      • In 1992, we unilaterally stopped nuclear testing, and developed the Stockpile Stewardship Program to improve the safety, security, and reliability of our stockpile in the absence of further testing – a subject to which I’ll return later.
      • We have completed all the reductions required under the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty – or START.
      • We are planning to reach the limits of the Moscow Treaty – a two-thirds reduction of our deployed nuclear force levels of eight years ago – by 2010, nearly two years early.
All in all, within a few years we will have 75 percent fewer nuclear weapons than at the end of the Cold War.
      In 2001, after a thorough review of our strategic posture, President Bush announced a New Triad. It consists of: First, our strike capabilities, including our traditional nuclear deterrent and conventional capabilities; second, defenses, including limited ballistic missile defenses; and finally, an infrastructure to support the other two. The goal of the New Triad is to reduce our emphasis on nuclear weapons for deterrence and provide the President more non-nuclear deterrence options and responses to potential crises.
      Even so, we must be realistic about the world around us – about the challenges we face and about our ability to predict what other nations will do. President Clinton called his nuclear arms reductions part of a “lead and hedge” strategy: We’ll lead the way in reducing our arsenal, but we must always hedge against a dangerous and unpredictable world.
      That is still true today, and maybe even more so. Rising and resurgent powers, rogue nations pursuing nuclear weapons, proliferation, international terrorism – all demand that we preserve this “hedge.”
      There is no way to ignore efforts by rogue states such as North Korea and Iran to develop and deploy nuclear weapons, or Russian or Chinese strategic modernization programs. As long as other states have or seek nuclear weapons – and potentially can 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 other weapons of mass destruction – could result in an overwhelming, catastrophic response.
      There is little doubt that some nations will continue to think that possession of nuclear weapons is the best way to preserve their regime or threaten their neighbors. We remain concerned that this is the case with North Korea and Iran today, as it was with Libya and Iraq in the past.
      At the same time, demographic and budgetary concerns have led other countries to rely heavily on their nuclear forces. This is a strategy that resembles President Eisenhower’s “New Look,” during the 1950s, where nuclear weapons became the top priority for defense budgeting and strategic planning, as Eisenhower feared that trying to compete with Soviet conventional forces would either bankrupt America or turn it into a garrison state.
      Ironically, that is the case with, Russia today, which has neither the money nor the population to sustain its Cold War conventional force levels. Instead, we have seen an increased reliance on its nuclear force, with new ICBM and sea-based missiles, as well as a fully-functional infrastructure that can manufacture a significant number of warheads each year.
      China is also expanding its nuclear arsenal. It has increased the number of short-, medium-, and long-range missiles – and pursued new land-, sea-, and air-based systems that can deliver nuclear weapons.
      To be sure, we do not consider Russia or China as adversaries. But we cannot ignore these developments – and the implications they have for our national security.
      Our nuclear arsenal also helps deter enemies from using chemical and biological weapons. In the first Gulf War, we made it very clear that if Saddam used chemical or biological weapons, then the United States would keep all options on the table. We later learned that this veiled threat had the intended deterrent effect as Iraq considered its options.
While some may not see a real nuclear threat to the United States today, we should be mindful that our friends and allies perceive different levels of risk within their respective regions. Here, our arsenal plays an irreplaceable role in reducing proliferation.
      Ever since the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed in 1968, the international community has recognized that the fewer nuclear-armed states, the better. In recent years, this concern has been highlighted by the grim realities of ideological terrorism, revelations about scientists selling nuclear know-how to the highest bidder, and information exchanges between irresponsible regimes.
      Our goal continues to be to keep the number of nuclear states as limited as possible. And to this end, non-proliferation and arms-control efforts have had real successes over the last 45 years. South Korea, Taiwan, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, and Libya have all forsaken nuclear weapons for a variety of reasons. And our nuclear umbrella – our extended deterrent – underpins our alliances in Europe and in 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.
      Our nuclear arsenal is vital for a final reason I mentioned earlier: We simply cannot predict the future. Who can tell what the world will look like in 10 to 20 years? As someone who spent most of his career in the intelligence business, I can assure you that our track record for long-term guesswork hasn’t been all that great. We have to know our limitations. We have to acknowledge that the fundamental nature of man hasn’t changed – and that our adversaries and other nations will always seek whatever advantages they can find. Knowing that, we have to be prepared for contingencies we haven’t even considered.
      Try as we might, and hope as we will, 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.
      What seems to work best in world affairs, historian Donald Kagan wrote in his book On the Origins of War, “Is the possession by those states who wish to preserve the peace of the preponderant power and of the will to accept the burdens and responsibilities required to achieve that purpose.” Now, if we accept that nuclear weapons are still relevant – and indeed, necessary – then we also have to accept certain responsibilities.
      You are well aware of problems over the last year or so with the Air Force’s handling of nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons-related material.
      These problems are being addressed as I speak:
      • The Air Force is standing up a new headquarters office at the Air Staff that will focus exclusively on nuclear policy and oversight. This office will report directly to the Air Force Chief of Staff.
      • The Air Force has also proposed a Global Strike Command that will bring all its nuclear weapons and materiel supporting U.S. Strategic Command – the nuclear-capable bombers and ICBMs – under one entity that can focus solely on the nuclear enterprise.
      • The Nuclear Weapons Center at Kirtland Air Force Base is being revitalized and expanded – with a focus on sustainment and clearing up ambiguous chains of command that have created problems in the past.
      • During the 1990s, supply-chain streamlining folded some nuclear-related components – such as the nose cones sent to Taiwan – into the regular supply chain. The Air Force is undergoing a top-to-bottom review of which items need to be taken out of that chain and  placed under control of the Nuclear Weapons Center.
      • And finally, the Air Force is developing a stronger, more centralized inspection process to ensure that nuclear material is handled properly – an effort that will be bolstered by expanded training for security personnel assigned to nuclear duties.
      This will undoubtedly be a long-term process, but I have confidence that the Air Force is now moving in the right direction. And I thank all the Airmen who are currently working to return the Air Force’s nuclear mission to the standards of excellence for which it was known throughout the entire Cold War.
      Beyond changes currently underway, I asked former Energy and Defense Secretary James Schlesinger to form a task force to review the organization of both the Air Force and the Department of Defense as a whole to ensure that we have proper leadership and oversight of the nuclear enterprise. And I look forward to receiving his report and recommendations in December.
      There is another element equally important to our arsenal’s credibility: the safety, security, and reliability of our weapons.
      Let me first say very clearly that our weapons are safe, reliable, and secure. The problem is the long-term prognosis – which I would characterize as bleak.
      No one has designed a new nuclear weapon in the United States since the 1980s, and no one has built a new one since the early 1990s.
      The U.S. is experiencing a serious brain drain in the loss of veteran nuclear weapons designers and technicians. Since the mid-1990s, the National Nuclear Security Administration has lost more than a quarter of its workforce. Half of our nuclear lab scientists are over 50 years old – and many of those under 50 have had limited or no involvement in the design and development of a nuclear weapon. By some estimates, within the next several years, three quarters of the workforce in nuclear engineering and at the national laboratories will reach retirement age.
      Our nuclear weapons were designed on the assumption of a limited shelf life and that the weapons themselves would eventually be replaced. Sensitive parts do not last forever.
We can and do re-engineer our current stockpile to extend its lifespan. However, the weapons were developed with narrow technical “margins.” With every adjustment, we move farther away from the original design that was successfully tested when the weapon was first fielded. Add to this that no weapons in our arsenal have been tested since 1992 – so the information on which we base our annual certification of the stockpile grows increasingly dated and incomplete.
      At a certain point, it will become impossible to keep extending the life of our arsenal – especially in light of our testing moratorium. It also makes it harder to reduce existing stockpiles, because eventually we won’t have as much confidence in the efficacy of the weapons we do have.
      Currently, 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. The United Kingdom and France have programs to maintain their deterrent capabilities. China and Russia have embarked on ambitious paths to design and field new weapons. To be blunt, there is absolutely no way we can maintain a credible deterrent and reduce the number of weapons in our stockpile without either resorting to testing our stockpile or pursuing a modernization program.
      For several years, the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy have pursued a Reliable Replacement Warhead program – a program to field a safer, more secure warhead. New designs build in enhanced safety features and high reliability that can be assured without actual underground testing. The program would reinvigorate and rebuild our infrastructure and expertise. And it could potentially allow us to reduce aging stockpiles by balancing the risk between a smaller number of warheads and an industrial complex that could produce new weapons if the need arose.
      The Congress has so far refused to fund the program beyond the conceptual phase – and this year funding was cut for even that. The reason, I believe, lies in a deep-seated and quite justifiable aversion to nuclear weapons, in doing anything that might be perceived as lowering the threshold for using them, or as creating new nuclear capabilities. Let me be clear: The program we propose is not about new capabilities – suitcase bombs or bunker-busters or tactical nukes. It is about safety, security, and reliability. It is about the future credibility of our strategic deterrent. And it deserves urgent attention. We must take steps to transform from an aging Cold War nuclear weapons complex that is too large and too expensive, to a smaller, less costly, but modern enterprise that can meet our nation’s nuclear security needs for the future.
      I’ve spent most of my time talking about our nuclear arsenal. Before closing, I want to take a step back and discuss, briefly, some of the broader implications of deterrence in the 21st century.
      There can be little doubt that the post-Cold War world offers a new strategic paradigm for nuclear weapons, and particularly for the concept of deterrence. As our 2008 National Defense Strategy puts it, “the challenge is one of deterring or dissuading a range of potential adversaries from taking a variety of actions.”
      Deterrence has a specific policy goal – and, in this sense, deterrent strategies can be applied to many situations.
      A few examples come to mind.
      Rogue regimes that threaten their neighbors and our allies, potentially with nuclear weapons, are a problem today and will be in the future. Our goal is, in part, to reduce their ability to hold other nations hostage, and to deny them the ability to project power. The New Triad I mentioned earlier, with a conventional strike force and ballistic missile defense, helps achieve this. A conventional strike force means that more targets are vulnerable without our having to resort to nuclear weapons. And missile defenses reinforce deterrence and minimize the benefits of rogue nations investing heavily in ballistic missiles: They won’t know if their missiles will be effective, thus other nations will feel less threatened. And let’s not forget the deterrent value of other parts of our conventional military forces.
      We also still face the problem of weapons passing from nation-states into the hands of terrorists. After September 11th, the president announced that we would make no distinction between terrorists and the states that sponsor or harbor them. Indeed, the United States has made it clear for many years that it reserves the right to respond with overwhelming force to the use of weapons of mass destruction against the United States, our people, our forces, and our friends and allies. Today we also make clear that the United States will hold any state, terrorist group, or other non-state actor or individual fully accountable for supporting or enabling terrorist efforts to obtain or use weapons of mass destruction – whether by facilitating, financing, or providing expertise or safe haven for such efforts. To add teeth to the deterrent goal of this policy, we are pursuing new technologies to identify the forensic signatures of any nuclear material used in an attack – to trace it back to the source.
      As we know from recent experience, attacks on our communications systems and infrastructure will be a part of future war. Our policy goal is obviously to prevent anyone from being able to take down our systems. Deterrence here might entail figuring out how to make our systems redundant, as with the old Nuclear Triad. Imagine easily deployable, replacement satellites that could be launched from high-altitude planes – or high-altitude UAVs that could operate as mobile data links. The point is to make the effort to attack us seem pointless in the first place.
      Similarly, future administrations will have to consider new declaratory policies about what level of cyber-attack might be considered an act of war – and what type of military response is appropriate.
      Now, some may find it ironic that I chose this forum – dedicated to international peace – to address this topic – dealing with the most destructive weapons ever conceived by mankind and some of the most cutting-edge ideas for future warfare. At the end of the day, however, every great nation has learned – often the hard way – that, in George Washington’s words, “To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.”
      Not surprisingly, Andrew Carnegie rejected that notion. Never one to mince his words, even to the president of the United States, Carnegie traded sometimes-caustic letters with Teddy Roosevelt during his time in the Oval Office. In one exchange on arms limitations, Roosevelt cautioned him, writing “We must always remember that it would be a fatal thing for the great free peoples to reduce themselves to impotence and leave the despotisms and barbarisms armed.”
      Years later, Carnegie corresponded with a different president. Times were different. It was early 1917; Carnegie’s spirit was largely broken by the horrors of World War One; and President Wilson, who had won reelection with the slogan “He Kept Us Out of War,” was nearing the decision to send American doughboys to Europe. Andrew Carnegie, the great spokesman for international peace – who had once donated a rowing lake to Princeton to discourage football, because, he thought, that sport gave young men too much of a taste for violence – that same Andrew Carnegie encouraged the president in the strongest terms to declare war, because, he wrote, “There is only one straight way of settlement.”
      As long as human nature is what it is – as long as the tragic arc of history continues its course – we cannot eliminate the need to be prepared for war any more than Andrew Carnegie was able to eliminate war itself.
       As Theodore Roosevelt said, it would indeed be a fatal thing to leave ourselves unarmed against the despotisms and barbarisms of the world.
      Thank you.

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)

Air Force senior leaders take up key decisions

October 9, 2008
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Aviation Calendar 2009

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The nuclear enterprise, cyber organization, end strength, force shaping, and command and control of Air Force operations were just some of the topics discussed when Air Force senior leaders met at CORONA on Oct. 1-3 at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley set the tone stating, “Over the past two days we addressed several issues, making decisions on key Air Force missions necessary to move our Air Force in the right direction.”

The Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Norton Schwartz, followed with comments on the importance of the conference saying, “CORONA is a forum for decision. The teamwork manifested in this room will allow us to accomplish what our Air Force needs done.”

As a follow-up to the recent nuclear summit, the briefings and decisions at CORONA were dominated by discussions on the nuclear enterprise. Discussions included options to reconfigure the command structure for nuclear forces, roles and responsibilities of the Nuclear Weapons Center, the required skills and force development for personnel conducting the nuclear mission, and stand-up of the new nuclear-focused staff element organization within Air Force headquarters.

The leadership also decided to establish a nuclear focused major command to concentrate Air Force support for the nuclear and deterrence missions.

“We will announce decisions soon because they are crucial steps toward attaining excellence in our nuclear enterprise and revitalization of the nuclear culture across the Air Force,” said Mr. Donley.

Initial planning will be integrated into the Air Force Nuclear Roadmap, which will be unveiled in a few weeks.

In addition, the senior leaders discussed the Air Force active duty end strength ceiling, now to be 330,000 personnel, and addressed which missions and functional specialties should obtain additional allocations based on emerging missions as well as critically-manned career fields.

“Force shaping across the Air Force is hard work. There are many factors that need to be considered as we determine where manpower billets will be placed…everything from new missions that are directly contributing everyday to joint operations to shortfalls in specific functional areas,” said General Schwartz.
“The leadership will work to close this issue for this budget cycle in the coming weeks.”

A key component of the Air Force’s contribution to the current Global War on Terrorism is the execution of command and control of air assets supporting theater operations.

Leaders initiated discussions on how the service can better fulfill the responsibilities to organize, train, and equip command and control capabilities for the Joint Force Commander, as well as how the Air Force can best identify and overcome potential shortfalls in our capabilities.

“How we prioritize and utilize our command and control capabilities in support of joint force operations are key to the overall success of every mission,” said General Schwartz.

Also discussed was how the Air Force can improve support to Joint Force Commanders. One decision made is to assign a senior Air Force officer to appropriate JFCs with command authority to direct air support. The leadership also decided to strengthen our air to ground integration by increasing the number and training of the Airmen supporting tactical air control systems and accepting offers from other services to integrate their personnel into our command and control units.

Leadership also decided to establish a Numbered Air Force for cyber operations within Air Force Space Command and discussed how the Air Force will continue to develop capabilities in this new domain and train personnel to execute this new mission.

“The conduct of cyber operations is a complex issue, as DoD and other interagency partners have substantial equity in the cyber arena,” said Mr. Donley. “We will continue to do our part to increase Air Force cyber capabilities and institutionalize our cyber mission.”

Locations for the new nuclear command and cyber NAF were not addressed and require further deliberation.

Other key AF issues discussed include an update on the status of joint basing initiatives, the development of a common Logistics Standardization Evaluation Program, and review of the concept of integrating the networks used to repair the Air Force’s weapon systems.

“We came together to discuss key issues, chart a way ahead and move forward with sound decisions,” said General Schwartz. “Our goal is a more stable Air Force, focused on our core missions, as a key member of the joint team.”

“What Airmen do every day across the Air Force is not easy work. What our leadership team did over the last couple days at CORONA was not easy work,” said Mr. Donley. “But we all know how to rise to the challenge and the Air Force is better because of everyone’s efforts at making key decisions.”