Generals speak to importance, relevancy of nuclear enterprise

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Lesley Waters
  • Air Force Public Affairs Agency, Operating Location - Pentagon

Three Air Force generals discussed the state of the service’s nuclear enterprise during the Air Force Association’s 2013 Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition here Sept. 17.

Lt. Gen. James Kowalski, the Air Force Global Strike Command commander; Maj. Gen. Garrett Harencak, the Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration assistant chief of staff; and Maj. Gen. Sandra Finan, the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center commander, shared their perspectives on the nuclear enterprise and the role of deterrence in the nation’s defense.

“The challenges we face today, are different and much more complex than they were back (during the Cold War) in that ideological death struggle with the Soviet Union,” Kowalski said to open the panel. 

The only capability some countries have is nuclear weapons, which represent existential threats to the United States and the rest of the world.
Kowalski said the United States must be able to deter any adversary and assure any ally, maintaining an arsenal that is safe, secure and effective.
Harencak covered three items that showed how safe, secure and effective the U.S. stockpile is. 
“First, we, your United States Air Force, does nuclear deterrence ops superbly, each and every day,” Harencak said.
“There has not been a time where there has been a safer, more secure nuclear enterprise than today,” Harencak said. “It is because of the senior leadership who is committed to the nuclear enterprise for today and the future.”

“Second, is the relevancy of deterrence and the triad,” he said.  “Deterrence is as relevant today in 2013, as is it was in 1973, 1963 and 1953.” 

The triad refers to the three arms of the nation’s nuclear arsenal, which consists of strategic bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
Harencak echoed Kowalski when he said how difficult it is in sustaining and modernizing the weapon systems to provide deterrence in an ever-evolving strategic environment.
He concluded his remarks by saying, “We maintain a safe, secure and effective stockpile for the United States and its allies for as long as nuclear weapons exist.”
Finan concluded the panel saying the Nuclear Weapons Center is responsible for delivering the nuclear capabilities the warfighters use.  She highlighted how the NWC plans to recapitalize on the nuclear systems to include the ICBM program and depot maintenance concept.
“These programs will help us squeeze the value from every dollar we have,” Finan said.
The Air Force is trying to extend the life of the nuclear systems by working closely with the Navy on an interoperable warhead, she said, fusing capital assets and anything else to share costs and knowledge to make both more effective. 
“We are facing some difficult challenges in the budget world,” she said.  “We have to deliver for the United States the nuclear capabilities with the resources we have.”  
The three-day conference is a professional development conference sponsored and conducted by AFA in support of the total Air Force.