Global Strike Command Will Stress Nuclear Mission
Air Force Secretary Michael Donley, left, and Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, Air
Force Chief of Staff, answer questions at an Aug. 5, 2009, Pentagon news
conference on the Air Force Global Strike Command activation. The new
command, with headquarters at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., stands up Aug.
7, 2009. U.S. Air Force photo by Scott M. Ash
Posted 8/7/2009 Updated 8/7/2009
by Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
8/7/2009 - WASHINGTON -- A key step in reinvigorating the Air Force's
nuclear deterrence mission will be made today with the activation of the
service's Global Strike Command at Barksdale Air Force Base, La.
Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley said the new command will bring
together the Air Force bomber force and intercontinental ballistic missiles
under a single commander.
"Standing up the command is no small task, and actually we're doing it
sooner than we anticipated," Donley said during a Pentagon news conference
Aug. 5. "This command will provide the combatant commanders the forces
needed to conduct strategic nuclear deterrence and global strike operations
through ICBM, B-2 and B-52 operations."
Air Force Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz will command the organization. The
headquarters will include 900 people, and is slated to reach full operating
capability by Aug. 7, 2010, Donley said. The 20th Air Force, the service's
missile organization, will come under the new command in December; and the
8th Air Force, the bomber component, will come under the command in April.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz stressed that the new
command will be a major command like Air Combat Command or Air Force Special
Operations Command. The role is to "organize, train and equip America's
ICBMs and nuclear-capable bombers, and prepare a cadre to do this important
work with passion and professionalism," he said during the news conference.
Ensuring professionalism and pride in the nuclear field will be vital to the
command's success, Schwartz said, noting that airmen with nuclear expertise
had been leaving the service, feeling their work was not appreciated.
"The bottom line is retention has a lot to do with perceptions on how
important people's work is, and how worthy that work is," the general said.
"We've worked to make it clear to those who will serve in this command that
the work is important to the country's defense and it will continue to be
Making the command a major command also will give airmen in the nuclear
fields an advocate equal to the other commands, he said.
The creation of the command is an effort to boost security and reduce
errors. In a 2007 incident, nuclear weapons were loaded aboard a B-52 bomber
at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., and flown to Barksdale before the mistake was
discovered. In another incident, nuclear nose cones mistakenly were shipped
to Taiwan. As a result, the service's top civilian and military officials --
Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley
Multiple studies of the incidents and the Air Force's atmosphere revealed
that the service's nuclear forces and the entire enterprise lacked clear
lines of authority and responsibility, officials said. The Global Strike
Command is one of the solutions.
Donley said moves at the Air Staff and in the field have emphasized
accountability and compliance with respect to nuclear issues at all levels.
The service has re-emphasized training for inspectors and added $750 million
over the Future Year Defense Plan for nuclear efforts, in addition to a $4.2
billion base budget. The service also is standing up another B-52 squadron,
in part to provide for longer and more focused training.
A number of entities have an interest in the nuclear arena, including the
U.S. Strategic Command and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. These
agencies will play a key role in inspections of the new command, Schwartz
The command will have an inspector general, and the service has made a
special effort to make the inspections "more challenging and intrusive to
ensure that commanders get good feedback in how healthy their commands
were," the general said.
Inspections will be demanding, he promised, and will include operations,
security, maintenance and weapons.
The emphasis on the nuclear missions means that when a mission requires B-2s
or B-52s to carry conventional weapons, they will be reassigned from the new
command to the regional commanders for that mission. Global Strike Command
will ensure that air and ground crews have expertise in conventional
weaponry and raids, but the focus must remain on the nuclear capability, the
chief of staff said.