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Global Strike Commander: Answer the call to advocate for nuclear deterrence, global strike

  • Published
  • By Megan Meyer
  • Air Force Global Strike Command
Lt. Gen. Jim Kowalski, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, discussed the importance of championing the nuclear enterprise at the 2011 Air Force Association Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition here Sept. 20.

"Our nation needs us to answer the call to be strong advocates for nuclear deterrence and global strike," Kowalski said. "We cannot again let ambivalence about our arsenal lead to atrophy."

About 200 attendees gathered to hear from the general in a standing-room-only crowd, almost one year after the command reached Full Operational Capability on Sept. 30, 2010.

Kowalski discussed the dissolving of Strategic Air Command in the years following the Cold War.

"Over time we talked less about the continued need for nuclear deterrence, we didn't remind our airmen that their work was still valued, and at all levels our attention to the high standards for our nuclear arsenal waned," Kowalski said.

The general said the underlying problems that led the Air Force to establish Global Strike Command can be traced to the diminished importance of the nuclear mission across the Department of Defense, and also to an Air Force organizational construct where nuclear deterrence was "just another mission area."

"It is not," Kowalski said. "This mission is different."

"Stewardship of the most powerful weapons in our arsenal is a special trust and responsibility," Kowalski said. "Nuclear operations require the highest standards of execution and compliance--standards that demand discipline and professionalism at all levels."

Achieving lasting cultural change is about behavior over time, Kowalski said. "Our Airmen at all ranks must understand why the nuclear mission is important and how it contributes to our security," he said.

General Kowalski explained the three tasks Global Strike Command faces to remain confident in its ability to execute nuclear deterrence and global strike missions.

The first is to sustain and enhance the current force while modernizing for the future.

To do this, Kowalski said, "we need to encourage our Airmen to think in terms of 'always better' where continuous improvements in productivity become a way of life." Also important is educating mid-level leadership to not only think 'always better,' but to also 'always listen' to the ideas subordinates bring forward, he said.

Global Strike Command's second task is to successfully advocate for retaining the nuclear Triad, Kowalski said. As the command implements the New START Treaty and reduces its number of deployed warheads, the importance of the Triad increases, he said.

"Most notably, the Air Force's share of the Triad is a relative bargain at less than 1% of the DoD budget," Kowalski said.

Coping with aging weapons systems is the third task for the Command, Kowalski said.

The command has been successful with a number of programs to ensure the Minuteman III is viable past 2020, such as replacing boosters, upgrading environmental controls, and modernizing security and support equipment including special purpose vehicles like the payload transporter, Kowalski said.

"While our units continue to achieve an alert rate over 99%, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, we will have to be innovative to keep the system in service until 2030," Kowalski said. "In coordination with Air Force Materiel Command, we have a solid roadmap to get the ICBM to 2030."

He also discussed the aging B-52 fleet, noting the airframe will celebrate its 60th anniversary next year.

"The B-52 is old," he said, highlighting that the three generations of Airmen who have flown the aircraft demonstrate its "strong and versatile design, and also how well our depot, supply systems, and Airmen are able to sustain and maintain our aircraft."

While the B-2 is one of the command's youngest airframes, Kowalski said it also requires modernization upgrades "to give the warfighter increased capability against hardened and deeply buried targets and to ensure the B-2 can hold targets at risk in denied airspace."

Kowalski also discussed the modern force Global Strike Command is pursuing, including a new penetrating bomber, a new stand-off nuclear cruise missile, a conventional prompt global strike system, and the ground-based strategic deterrent missile to replace the Minuteman III.

The general also highlighted the importance of balancing the nuclear and conventional missions of Air Force Global Strike Command, noting the command's recent role in Operation Odyssey Dawn.

While attending the conference, General Kowalski also presented the Gen. Thomas S. Power Award for best missile combat crew to Capt. Daniel Moore and 1st Lt. Stephen McVay from the 90th Missile Wing at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo.