Air Force Global Strike Command now is one year old.
Global Strike Command is the Air Force's newest major command which oversees the Air Force's nuclear enterprise.
Minot Air Force Base's 5th Bomb Wing with its B-52 bombers and 91st Missile Wing with its Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles are units of the command, which has its headquarters at Barksdale AFB in Louisiana. Col. Douglas Cox leads the Minot bomb wing and Col. Fred Stoss leads the Minot missile wing.
Submitted Photo --
A B-52H Stratofortress takes off during a rapid launch exercise at Minot Air Force Base June 28, shown in this photo by Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton.
Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz is commander of Air Force Global Strike Command. He is a former commander of the missile wing at Minot AFB.
The command has 23,000 professionals operating around the world, including at Minot AFB.
Klotz recently spoke to a Capitol Hill breakfast sponsored by the National Defense University Foundation in Washington, D.C., Following is his speech about Air Force Global Strike Command, including what is ahead for the command.
Command focus is nuclear issues, national nuclear policy
As you probably know, Global Strike Command was established as a key and critical part of a broader roadmap adopted by the Secretary of the Air Force Mike Donley and Chief of Staff General Norty Schwartz to ensure that the Air Force maintains the proper focus on its nuclear deterrence and global strike forces. The critical importance of this undertaking was recently emphasized in the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, in which Secretary of Defense (Robert) Gates stated that "As long as nuclear weapons exist, the United States must sustain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear arsenal to maintain strategic stability with other major nuclear powers, deter potential adversaries, and reassure our allies and our partners." Our command's mission statement closely adheres to this language, as does our command's motto: "To Deter and Assure."
We are establishing a methodical, step-by-step approach. The first step was the stand-up of the provisional command in January 2009, at Bolling Air Force Base, in Washington, D.C., under the leadership of then-Brigadier General Jim Kowalski, now vice commander of Global Strike Command. The next step took place almost one year ago, on Aug. 7, 2009, when General Schwartz formally activated Air Force Global Strike Command in a ceremony at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, the site of the command's permanent headquarters.
The first actual transfer of forces occurred on Dec. 1, 2009, when Global Strike Command assumed responsibility for the intercontinental ballistic missile mission belonging to the 20th Air Force, headquartered at F.E. Warren AFB, Cheyenne, Wyoming, and its three missile wings - at F.E. Warren AFB, at Malmstrom AFB, Montana, and at Minot AFB in North Dakota all under Global Strike Command.
Then on Feb. 1 of this year, the transfer of forces to Global Strike Command was completed when it took charge of Eighth Air Force and its long-range, nuclear-capable bomber mission. The Eighth Air Force is also headquartered at Barksdale and exercises command over the two B-52 wings, one at Barksdale AFB, the other at Minot AFB, as well as the B-2 wing at Whiteman AFB in Missouri.
The final step in the process will occur early this fall when Air Force Global Strike Command will achieve full operational capability with roughly 900 personnel on board at the headquarters and nearly 23,000 people in the entire command. Of special note, this command is a fully integrated "Total Force" team composed of active duty, Guard, reserve and government civilians.
Nuclear Posture Review and New START Treaty
As many of you may recall, April was a very busy month for nuclear policy issues, coinciding with the release of the Nuclear Posture Review or the NPR on April 6 and, the signing of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty or New START Treaty by Presidents Obama and (Dmitry)Medvedev (president of Russia) on April 8.
Air Force Global Strike Command is currently working very closely with Headquarters Air Force to ensure that we are fully prepared to implement the guidance in the Nuclear Posture Review and the provisions of the New START Treaty, if and when the treaty enters into force. So let me discuss for a moment these two very significant, landmark documents as they relate to our Global Strike Command.
The Nuclear Posture Review provides a roadmap for implementing the president's agenda for reducing nuclear risks to the United States, to our allies and partners, and the international community. There are many different, but interrelated aspects to this very comprehensive document. Accordingly, in my view, it has to be read in total and the temptation to focus on selective passages ought to be resisted. Having said that, one very important aspect of the 2010 NPR is that it revalidates the enduring importance of the nuclear triad to both deterrence and stability. Specifically, the NPR states that "Each leg of the triad has advantages that warrant retaining all three legs at this stage of reductions. Strategic nuclear submarines and the SLBMs (submarine-launched ballistic missiles) they carry represent the most survivable leg of the U.S. nuclear triad ... Single-warhead ICBMs contribute to stability, and ... are not vulnerable to air defenses. Unlike ICBMs and SLBMs, bombers can be visibly deployed forward, as a signal in crisis to strengthen deterrence of potential adversaries and assurance of allies and partners."
The second document that debuted in April was the New START Treaty. As Dr. James Miller, the principal deputy under secretary of Defense for Policy, and a former boss of mine, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee just last week:
"The New START Treaty will strengthen strategic stability with Russia at reduced nuclear force levels, improve transparency with key data exchange and verification provisions, enable the United States to retain and modernize a robust triad of strategic delivery systems, allow the freedom to alter our mix of strategic forces and protect our ability to develop and deploy non-nuclear prompt global strike and missile defenses. In short, Dr. Miller said the New START Treaty will make the United States and our allies and partners, more secure."
More specifically the New START Treaty specifies the total number of warheads and both deployed and non-deployed delivery vehicles that the United States and Russia will be permitted to maintain. Significantly, each side is permitted the flexibility to determine for itself the structure of its strategic forces within the treaty limits.
As Secretary of Defense Gates has stated, we plan to meet the treaty's limits by retaining a triad of up to 420
deployed single-warhead Minuteman III ICBMs at our current three missile bases, 14 submarines carrying 240 SLBMs, and up to 60 deployed heavy bombers. At the same time, over the next decade, the United States plans to invest over $100 billion to sustain existing strategic delivery systems and to modernize strategic systems.
In short, a robust and powerful nuclear triad will continue to be an important element of our national security posture for some years to come. For this reason, the men and women of Air Force Global Strike Command will continue to have a critically important mission and critically important work to perform. Being the stewards of two thirds of the United States' operational nuclear triad is a special trust and responsibility, and one that we all take very seriously.
Status of weapon systems
The work of sustaining and modernizing our strategic nuclear forces carries its share of technical and fiscal challenges. Our ICBMs, our bombers and our support equipment face chronic problems typically associated with aging systems ranging from vanishing vendors for spare parts to worn-out handling and test equipment. Additionally, the original design specifications in some cases limit the integration of modern communications or munitions and existing platforms.
To bring these challenges home, consider that the Minuteman III missile turned 40 years old this year. We are currently engaged in a just-over-seven billion dollar, multi-year program to refurbish or modernize the Minuteman III from nozzle to nosecone. Nevertheless, considerable work remains to ensure this weapon system is sustained as directed by Congress to the year 2030.
The venerable UH-1N Huey helicopter that supports our missile field operations and security also entered the Air Force inventory in the 1970s. While this helicopter remains a serviceable aircraft thanks to the expertise and heroic efforts of our helicopter squadron leaders and our contractor logistics support the Huey's ability to meet the post-9/11 security requirements is limited in terms of its range, its speed and its payload.
Both the B-52 and B-2 aircraft are also aging as well. As such, the current bomber force faces significant challenges in terms of sustainment of current capabilities and the modernization of the existing platforms to fully integrate into the current joint fight. The first B-52H Stratofortress entered the operational inventory in 1961. The "newest" B-52 is older than the pilots who fly it, and, in some cases, twice their age. The B-2 Spirit, the nation's most advanced bomber, is considerably newer but, even it is now over 20 years old. Now, for many of us, the 1980s do not seem that long ago, but, as an example, during the '80s, the fastest personal computer was a Commodore 64-with a whopping 64K of memory. And, while the B-2 has been updated, several of the systems on board have never been upgraded.
Global Strike Command is facing the modernization issues head-on. As the lead major command advocating for all Air Force nuclear deterrent forces, Global Strike Command has the opportunity to ensure that the Minuteman III, B-2 and B-52 remain an effective part of the Air Force inventory for many years to come. In the past, these weapon systems had to compete with other priorities within their respective Air Force major commands. Competing for funding and attention against high visibility programs was very difficult and honestly these weapon systems did not always fare as well as they should have. When fighting for dollars in today's difficult and constrained fiscal environment, Global Strike Command is focused on the sustainment and modernization of these weapon systems that in the past may have received less attention than they needed.
And not just weapon systems need attention. Global Strike Command has an opportunity to ensure that the manpower portion of the nuclear enterprise is properly resourced to meet future needs. Working with our training and education partners, ensuring that we recruit, develop and retain high-caliber talent to operate, secure and maintain the nuclear enterprise today, and in the future, is a top priority for our command. We must invest in the development of our people to ensure we bring together the right skills, experience, and right leadership to create and maintain the capabilities our nation requires. With only three bomber bases and three missile bases to draw from, we must be exceptionally deliberate in how we develop nuclear expertise.
Future weapon systems
While Air Force Global Strike Command is focused primarily on the sustainment and modernization of the weapon systems currently under its purview, we must, as a major command, be cognizant of the future and our opportunities to identify the timing and requirements for weapon systems modernization, sustainment, enhancement and possibly replacement.
While we work to sustain the Minuteman III missile to 2030, it is not too early to begin seriously considering what the next generation of intercontinental ballistic missile would look like. Advances in technology suggest the possibility of an ICBM (or ICBM-like system) of inherently greater flexibility, while maintaining the enduring attributes of rapid response, high reliability and assured penetration of defenses.
The Nuclear Posture Review states that, "Although a decision on any follow-on ICBM is not needed for several years, studies to inform that decision are needed now. Accordingly, the Department of Defense will begin initial study of alternatives in fiscal years 2011 and 2012. This study will consider a range of possible deployment options."
The recently-released Quadrennial Defense Review's report emphasizes the importance of taking steps to ensure that future U.S. forces remain capable of protecting the nation and its allies in the face of a dynamic threat environment. To this end, it directs enhancements to U.S. capabilities, including enhanced long-range strike capabilities as one means of countering growing threats to forward-deployed forces and bases, and ensuring U.S. power projection capabilities. As the Air Force develops and brings new strategic systems to the fight, Global Strike Command will be there every step of the way working to ensure that we have capable weapon systems for years to come.
While Air Force Global Strike Command is sustaining our current weapon systems and assuring the future of follow-on systems, we are also supporting today's fight. Currently, there are nearly 1,200 Global Strike airmen deployed around the world with 850 supporting Central Command and over 300 supporting missions in Pacific Command. In addition, on any typical day, we have approximately 1,100 20th Air Force personnel supporting Strategic Command. These strategic warriors provide the bedrock of deterrence and stability for our nation. Since March 2004, B-2 and B-52 bombers have been supporting the Continuous Bomber Presence mission in Guam. As the major command now responsible for these bombers, it falls to us to organize, train and equip those forces and send them forward to serve at Andersen AFB under the command of Pacific Air Forces.
A B-2 squadron from Whiteman AFB just returned from a four-month deployment to Guam. During its time at Andersen Air Force Base, the 393rd Bomb Squadron completed approximately 120 sorties flying more than 700 hours. Replacing the B-2s and now about halfway through their deployment on Guam, the 5th Bomb Wing from Minot AFB has six B-52s and over 300 airmen deployed to Andersen AFB. By maintaining this presence in the Western Pacific, our bombers are promoting security and stability in a region of vital interest to the United States, and to our friends and allies.
Pride in nuclear heritage
While Global Strike Command takes great pride in supporting today's fight and in providing a continuous bomber presence in the western Pacific, we realize that having pride in our nuclear heritage and mission is critically important to our future success of this command. With the stand-up of Air Force Global Strike Command, we saw an opportunity to recapture a critical part of that nuclear heritage.
One way we intend to re-ignite this pride and rebuild a culture of excellence is through a reinvigorated competition called "Global Strike Challenge"-an amalgam, if you will, of the best of bomb comp or bomber competition and the best of missile comp. Global Strike Challenge will pit the top security forces, maintainers, and missile and bomber crews from Global Strike Command, Air Combat Command as well as the reserve and the Guard in head-to-head competition to be recognized as the "best of the best."
As our premier crews train with great intensity for this competition, they are at the same time becoming unrivaled technical and weapon systems experts in their given disciplines.
The knowledge that each airman gains while preparing for Global Strike Challenge will raise the bar at his or her base, and ultimately strengthen the Air Force nuclear enterprise for years to come. This year's competition is already under way and will culminate with security forces events, score postings and a Global Strike Symposium at Barksdale AFB and in the Shreveport-Bossier area this November. We also hope to welcome observers from the French Strategic Air Force and the Royal Air Force at this event. The first-ever Global Strike Challenge is the beginning of a new tradition the best of the past launching us into the future.
The stand-up of Air Force Global Strike Command offers us many opportunities. The opportunity to focus an entire command on nuclear issues and national nuclear policy; the opportunity to ensure that the Air Force's nuclear deterrence forces are effectively sustained and maintained; the opportunity to make sure the nuclear enterprise is appropriately trained and manned; the opportunity to help develop new or follow-on systems; the opportunity to support today's fight while taking pride in our heritage ... these are just a few of the opportunities that Air Force Global Strike Command accepts with pride, as we build a model command of elite, highly disciplined airmen.
We truly understand that we have been given a special trust and responsibility for the most powerful weapons in our nation's arsenal and we will do our utmost to ensure mission success as we deter potential adversaries and assure our allies.