US Air Force seeks to fix nuclear mission
A new command and headquarters are part of the plan to refocus on its nuclear responsibilities.
The Air Force is moving forward with a "get-well plan" to restore its historic reputation for nuclear stewardship and create more accountability with the creation of a new command to oversee its nuclear mission.Skip to next paragraph
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High-profile blunders in recent years have shown that the service has been distracted from its nuclear operations, say senior officials, in part by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as senior leaders encouraged airmen to contribute overseas.
This week, the Air Force is expected to release a plan to refocus on its nuclear mission.
The new command, to be created within a year, will centralize all the Air Force's nuclear operations under one commander. Currently, nuclear weaponry and other "nuclear activity" falls under five separate commands. A new headquarters to oversee it all will be put in place within weeks, Air Force officials say.
Top Air Force officials may also revamp personnel policies to emphasize the importance of its custodianship of nuclear weapons and materials, which has been a traditionally important role for the service since the end of the World War II.
Nuclear-related incidents led to the unprecedented firings of the service's two top officials earlier this year. In 2006, the Air Force mistakenly shipped nuclear missile nose cone fuses to Taiwan instead of helicopter batteries. And last year, a B-52 bomber flew from a base in North Dakota to one in Louisiana loaded with nuclear cruise missiles instead of conventional munitions.
Last month, the service announced that it had taken disciplinary action against 15 officers, including six generals and nine colonels, based on the findings of an investigation launched by Defense Secretary Robert Gates after the shipments of the nose cone fuse assemblies to Taiwan.
The service has retained three officers who were part of the process that led to the failures because they are in the best position to help fix the problems, said Gen. Norton Schwartz, the new Air Force chief of staff.