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Air Force nuclear mission embraces culture of empowerment

Lt. Gen. Stephen W. Wilson, the commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, and Maj. Gen. Garrett Harencak, the Air Force Assistant Chief of Staff for Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration, along with leaders for strategic forces from the Department of Defense and Navy, testified on the state of the nuclear enterprise during a Senate Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Strategic Forces hearing, Washington, D.C., April 22, 2015. The subcommittee convened to receive information on Air Force and Navy nuclear programs and the implementations of nuclear enterprise review recommendations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jim Varhegyi)

Lt. Gen. Stephen W. Wilson, the commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, and Maj. Gen. Garrett Harencak, the Air Force Assistant Chief of Staff for Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration, along with leaders for strategic forces from the Department of Defense and Navy, testified on the state of the nuclear enterprise during a Senate Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Strategic Forces hearing, Washington, D.C., April 22, 2015. The subcommittee convened to receive information on Air Force and Navy nuclear programs and the implementations of nuclear enterprise review recommendations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jim Varhegyi)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The top military leaders for strategic forces from the Department of Defense, Navy and Air Force testified on the state of the nuclear enterprise to members of Congress April 22, during an Armed Services Committee hearing.

“Let me first say the Airmen are doing an outstanding job every single day, providing a safe, secure and effective nuclear force for our nation, while ensuring our conventional mission continues to excel,” said Lt. Gen. Stephen W. Wilson, the commander of Air Force Global Strike Command. “We have instituted major changes based on feedback from our Airmen doing the mission, and are constantly assessing where we still need to improve.”

The improvements in AFGSC center around Airmen empowerment, ensuring those who do the mission have all the tools, training and equipment necessary to complete the mission.

“Due to the special trust and confidence the American people put in us every day, we can never fail them in ensuring a safe, secure and effective nuclear arsenal,” Wilson said.

Some of the improvements so far include deep cleaning of launch control centers, fielding of the Model Defender for security forces Airmen, creation of a helicopter operations group, and overhaul of ICBM crewmember progression.

“As part of the Force Improvement Program, the ICBM [community] alone brought forward over 350 recommendations from the Airmen doing the job and how to do it differently,” Wilson explained. “I look at it as our job to remove the barriers to their success.”

He said the command has issued more than 250,000 line items of equipment for the security forces Airmen alone.

“With the support of senior leadership, we have restored the nuclear focus and are starting to fund essential modernization efforts,” Wilson said. “We’re looking at this as a continuous improvement cycle. It’s not something that’s just one time and done … we’re taking this as a holistic, systemic view of enterprise with persistent attention and focus.”

Continued focus on the nuclear mission depends heavily on the funding levels in the fiscal year 2016 President’s Budget, explained Maj. Gen. Garrett Harencak, the Air Force Assistant Chief of Staff for Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration.

“Should the Air Force have to operate at sequestration-level funding in fiscal year 2016, no mission area – including nuclear deterrence operations – would be impervious to its effects,” he said.

The budget request supports modernization of the nuclear enterprise, as well as continued improvements to both the mission capability and quality of life for the Airmen who perform this mission.

“Every Airman’s voice needs to be heard,” Wilson said. “Through their innovation, hard work and shared commitment, they are able to truly create their own future, to write their own story.”

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