Air Force Secretary Outlines Changes for Nuclear Force
Air Force Secretary Outlines
Changes for Nuclear Force
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C.
Marshall Jr., American Forces Press Service.
Washington D.C. – (AFPS)
– June 18, 2014 – Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James today outlined new
incentives and measures designed to change the culture of the service’s nuclear
Following a cheating scandal involving intercontinental
ballistic missile launch officers at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, and the
subsequent relief of nine officers, a commander’s retirement and 91 other airmen
receiving discipline, James touched on ways the Air Force has begun to address
“systemic issues.” “I do think this is more than a single issue,” she said in
remarks at a Defense Writers Group breakfast. “As I’ve said before, I do think
we need some holistic fixes for the nuclear force. This is not something that
happened in the last year or two, or even 10. It’s probably been happening
gradually over the last 25 years.”
The secretary said while there are likely no quick fixes to
resolve these issues, there are measures she and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen.
Mark A. Welsh III can implement now.
“Let’s talk money,” James said. “Money is not everything, but
money’s important. So right now, in [fiscal year 2014], just in the last few
months, we have redirected $50 million -- $50 million, by the way, is the most
that the Global Strike Command said they could reasonably spend in [the fiscal
Money should be spent reasonably, she said, so in addition to
$50 million, $350 million more will be redirected to the nuclear mission over
the next five years. The money will go to sustainment infrastructure and to some
of the “people issues,” the secretary added.
There could be more to come, James said, but this is what
officials have decided so far.
Another issue being addressed is undermanning in the nuclear
force, the secretary told the defense writers. “When you’re undermanned, that
means the existing people have to work harder,” she said. “That impacts morale
and it could impact other things as well. We have, right now, already directed
1,100 additional people are going to be inserted into the nuclear force to get
those manning levels up.”
They principally will be in the field, she said, and the Air
Force is going to 100-percent manning in the eight critical nuclear specialties.
Air Force officials have lifted some of the ongoing servicewide manpower
reductions to add people back into the nuclear force, she added.
Along with those adjustments, the secretary noted, she has
called for elevating the Global Strike Command commander’s position to the
four-star level and that the related major general position on the Air Force
staff be made a lieutenant general position. “We want to up the rank of the
nuclear forces within the Air Force,” she said. “Rank matters in the military,
so that’s another thing that we’re doing.”
Additionally, James said, the testing environment that
produced the cheating scandal has been revamped, and the inspections environment
will also see changes. “It had become this zero-defect mentality, where even the
smallest of the small kinds of errors could cause an entire failure,” she
explained. “That wasn’t a healthy environment.”
In the fall, James said, the Air Force also will introduce a
variety of new financial incentives for the nuclear force “to kick it up a notch,”
including offering accession bonuses for new officers’ ROTC scholarships and
James also noted 20th Air Force commander, Maj. Gen. Jack
Weinstein, has issued a series of directives to the field designed to start to
shift the culture. “Now, you know memos don’t shift culture,” she said.
“Leadership and time eventually shifts culture, but this is a start. This is
designed to stop the micromanaging, to push down to the lower levels [and
All of that will help, James said.
“We didn’t get here overnight, and we’re not going to fix it
overnight,” she added. It will take persistent focus, leadership and attention
for years to come, she said.
“With all of what I’ve just said, I’m certain that additional
resources are probably still in order,” James said. “We’re going to have to talk
about those resources as we get into the next [program objective memorandum]
James said she believes the U.S. nuclear mission is a
national mission for the entire Defense Department, not just the Air Force. “So
I’ll be talking to the deputy [defense] secretary, the secretary of defense [and]
the senior leaders of DOD to see what we can do about this,” she said.
(Follow Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone
Marshall on Twitter: @MarshallAFPS) :
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