Nuclear seat at Air Force budgeting table pays off

Nuclear seat at Air Force budgeting table pays off

The Air Force added an assistant chief of staff in charge of nuclear weapons in 2008 in response to a host of nuclear embarrassments to include a B-52 mistakenly flying six nuclear warheads from North Dakota to Louisiana. Four years later the new position is paying dividends.

Maj. Gen. Donald Alston, since retired, took over the position on Nov. 1, 2008 after internal reports blasted the service for not having a headquarters position dedicated solely to nuclear weapons. Alston’s first job was cleaning up the mess left by so many years of nuclear negligence on the part of Air Force leadership following the end of the Cold War.

Fast forward four years and the discourse inside the Pentagon is dominated by defense spending cuts and the threat of sequestration. Establishing an assistant chief of staff dedicated to nuclear issues has given the nuclear community a seat at the table when it comes time to discuss the budget. Nuclear issues previously got folded under other portfolios.

“What it has done for headquarters Air Force is given a guy a seat at the table in corporate discussions where dollars are at stake, advocacy is required, and there is somebody there who speaks on behalf of this mission set,” said Maj. Gen. Maj. Gen. William Chambers, who took over for Alston in June as the assistant chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration.

Chambers must work with the other Defense Department agencies attached to the nuclear enterprise to include U.S. Strategic Command, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the Navy. Otherwise, the Air Force nuclear units could miss out on potential funding. Dedicating a two-star flag officer to the job shows the importance the Air Force places on the nuclear enterprise, said Lt. Gen. James Kowalski, head of Global Strike Command.

“If we didn’t have an A10 that would create another layer of management or bureaucracy between those organizations, and we in fact might not get the attention of having a two-star general officer who is watching it all the time,” Kowalski said.

It’s not just about immediate term funding issues. Chambers said he’s had the opportunity to start looking long term for the Air Force’s nuclear force — a privilege Alston didn’t have as he tried to fix many of the immediate problems plaguing Air Force nuclear squadrons.

“We are stronger and we have moved to a phase of this campaign in strengthening to the longer look that General Alston wasn’t able to have because of the immediate problems at hand. A longer look at the long term fixes the enterprise needs,” Chambers said.

Join the Conversation

Does anyone else here think that the USAF doesn’t need any more money than they are already getting or is it just me? Compared to the other services they build their bases more like fancy resorts rather than just making the basics like the Marines or the Navy.

Hey! I like those fancy resorts. Give us some place nice to go when working on crappy Navy or Army bases.

Now we know why the AF can’t replace aircraft and facilities — they need more General officers to argue with the existing General officers. We need more bureaucracy.

Actually, we have plenty of Generals who in charge of Global Strike Command for instance — why can’t they keep an eye on the nuclear enterprise?

We have forgotten responsibility — if we have many embarrassments over nuclear weapons going missing, why can’t we fire people and replace them with better officers?

The CSAF and the SecAF were both fired, and the nuke fiasco had a lot to do with it. I would think that would satisfy your “fire people” requirement. Lt Gen Kowalski at AFGSC is busy running the operational side of the house…the part that got the previously mentioned folks fired, and the main reason Global Strike Command was created in the first play. A10 advocates for the funding and priority that AFGSC needs to be able take care of their business, and they also do force management and longer term strategic planning within the AF and Joint world. This is a success story for the AF nuke mission.

We need a Nuclear Deterrence Agency to insure the nuclear enterprise and triad of delivery systems is properly funded. 20 years of neglect, a huge number of retirements from the laboratories spells disaster if we ever had to respond to a long term strategic threat.

Sounds to me like someone is jealous that a certain service actually takes care of their own. I’ve seen first hand how the Marines treat their own, disgusting.

And why do we need a triad? Why not a dyad?

Three seperate services supporting nuclear deterrence is a legacy of the cold war, and hasn’t been needed for21 yrs.… Yet we continue to pay for it even as our nuclear stockpiles have shrunk.

Which triad are we countering around the world? The reality is that as long as we maintai a second strike capability in some form, we have that block checked.

Go to a dyad. First strike from land based sustems, second strike from SSBNs. Get rid of the bombers.

Of course, with a smaller slice of the very lucrative nuclear money pot, the AF won’t be able to maintain as many world class golfing resorts… Ur, uhmm, I mean AF bases…

I don’t necessarily agree with “anon”, but I remember a congresswoman saying that “the triad is not the trinity”, we can at least discuss it.…

Dyad is all that is needed in today’s threat environment. Besides, the next hypersonic Air Force “bomber” is going to be a strike missile! That could be a triad manned bomber substitute. So, we don’t need to spend for a new “heavy” bomber.

As to weapons plant modernization, let the Pentagon absorb those upgrades from their remaining budget after sequestration the cost of fixing up those facilities — something they should have been doing all along, but instead used the money for those golf resorts. Consider it a penalty for not doing it right the first time.

If we were to switch to a dyad, the land based weapons should be the first to go because they are the most vulnerable. It is kind of hard for a foreign country to hit a U.S. bomber that is flying in an orbit in U.S. airspace or an SSBN that is in the middle of the ocean.

I’ll admit I’m a little jealous, but my opinion isn’t without rationality. The USAF spends a little too much on luxury. They have fewer planes than the Navy and fewer pilots. The Navy also spends its money keeping the ships afloat and maintaining personal for warships, special forces, and a cyber division. The Air Force has a lot less to do, but they still consume their fair share of the defense budget and once they’re done buying aircraft and training pilots they simply throw the excess into adding golf courses, flat screen TVs, excessively fine furniture, and some of the most amazing bathrooms I have ever used in my life.

…On second thought I can understand the bathrooms, but still my point remains.

I’m curious why you think the Air Force has less aircraft than the Navy. The USAF operates more F-16’s alone than the entire Navy fighter fleet. Once you add in the countless airlift sorties flown every day to support operations all over the world, you can see where the huge tab comes from.

The price to maintain a golf course for a year is probably less than the fuel cost for a single C-5 sortie, these gripes are a drop in a very big bucket…

How does A10 keep nukes from mistakenly flying to Louisiana, ostensibly the reason for the creation of the position in the article, if their function is arguing for funding?

They don’t. AFGSC does that now, but it was created after A10 was stood up on the Air Staff.

I know people were fired, a 1 star that I used to work for at the Air Logistics Center at Tinker had the bad luck to PCS into a job just before that incident — and he was fired. Oops.
But AFGSC could advocate for funding — they have their own General. If AFGSC needs funding and priority — like all other military units do — they can advocate for them like every other military unit does. Who advocates for funding and priority for Air Combat Command? Who does it for various Army Divisions? Aircraft carriers?? Why is AFGSC so unique?

I’m a former ICBM crew commander, but agree that the ICBM leg should be considered for retirement. I think the manned bomber force should retain the crew for positive control reasons.

How to build a US Air Force base:

1) Secure funding
2) Build golf course
3) Build O Club
4) Build bowling alley
5) Build stables
6) Build pools
7) Build housing, barracks, and PX’s
8) Go back to Congress and explain that more funding is needed because the base doesn’t actually have runways or hangars


Treshombres, thanks for your service. I disagree with your point however, for a couple of reasons:
1) ICBM’s are ready to fly right now. It would take hours to load out the bomber fleet and have it ready to fly.
2) ICBM’s are orders of magnitude less expensive to sustain than bombers or subs.

I’m surprised the Air Force doesn’t stand-down the nuclear bomber leg of the triad. They’d still keep the bombers, but they could focus on the more likely conventional missions, rather than the nuke mission. Let the ICBM’s and Subs perform that mission.

No, you’re thinking in terms of tactical air frames. He’s talking about total aircraft. The Navy has more total aircraft than the Air Force, especially helos. The Navy also has countless sorties that it flies every day around the world and those Air Force F-16s aren’t doing as much or going as many places as the Hornets and Super Hornets of the Navy. The point is that the Navy does more in the air than the Air Force, but they do it with less money since they have the largest fleet of ships in the world to operate. Black Owl is saying that extra money in the Air Force goes to unnecessary luxuries and I think his explanation makes sense. Though I’m not one to talk since I’m typing this on a very nice computer on an Air Force base that was bought with that money.

Top Airforce generals wanted more F-22s and were willing to sacrifice the F-35s at one point, but Mr. Gates stepped in and sacked the Two Top generals and forced them to buy the F-35 or nothing . Those who didn’t go along with Mr. Gates would suffer the same fate as previous generals who were forced to step down. All of the top Airforce folks Knew that if they had a really great fighter , that could be used the same way F-117s were used in Iraq as well as take care of anything that was a threat to aircraft like SAMs and enemy fighters that they would be better off with a bunch of F-22s (300– 500 ) and F-15Es and F-16s than they would be with just a few F-22s and a far too expensive and under performing F-35. Mr. Gates had to have his way, and He is far more responsible for this mess we are in, than anyone else by a long shot. It was his (MR.Gates ) incompetence as a Sec. of Defense that really put the Airforce into this too big (only option) to fail situation they ( we ) are in. The best solution is for the Airforce to turn the F-35 over to NASA for research and incorporate the advances made from the F-35 program into the F-22 and then buy new F-15Es and F-16 block 60s for attack role.

The F-35 technology should be integrated into the F-22 as block upgrades after they are fully tested and packaged as a block upgrade. If you have problems with development of a system then you don’t allow it to hold up the whole program like the F-35 you just hold off from incorporating it into a block upgrade.

Those two were fired more for their disagreement with Sec. of Def. Mr.Gates over their insistence in having more F-22s than the Nuke thing. The Airforce folks wanted more F-22s and had told reporters at a press conference that they would get more F-22s despite what they Sec. of Def. said . Mr. gates took exception with their remarks and found a way (nuke scandal ) to get rid of them. After that Mr.Gates was going to make dam sure that the Airforce did not get anymore Raptors, it is because of this little tiff that we are in such a bad position with the F-35 program. Mr. gates made sure that the Raptor option was gone before he left office , leaving the Airforce with only one Bad option , the F-35. Can you imagine the Sec. of Def. putting his ego before his country, but that is what he did. All of the think tanks that DOD paid to advise them on the issue , as well as the top Airforce brass who dedicated their lives to Airpower were all ignored , because of one man. He had to teach the generals a lesson that we are all paying for to this day. I encourage anyone who disagrees with this post to do a little homework ( research ) on this .

Bring back SAC and THEN build more 18 hole fields next to the runways.

Even in total aircraft, the Navy only operates about 3,700 aircraft(mostly helicopters), while the Air Force has over 5,500. As for those Hornets doing more good than all those F-16’s, if you count practicing touch and goes around the worlds oceans, then sure, I guess they are doing more, but unless the next war is won by who can land better, I’ll place my bets on the Viper… Besides, I’m pretty sure the Air Force handles more than its fair share of combat sorties in Afghanistan.

Also, its easy as a single college student to think that having nice facilities is unneccessary in the military, but once you factor having a family into the mix, the money spent starts to make a lot more sense. Its hard to be combat effective when you have a family to worry about at home who hates where they live…

It appears that some people here have not been educated in the nuke defense area… The incident that got some persons fired should have gone hire up and down the chain… There is no excuse when playing with nukes!!!

To what three services do you refer? The Air Force operates 2 legs of the Triad. Oh, and the SSBNs are THE most expensive part of the Triad.


NOTE: Comments are limited to 2500 characters and spaces.

By commenting on this topic you agree to the terms and conditions of our User Agreement

AdChoices | Like us on , follow us on and join us on Google+
© 2015 Military Advantage
A Monster Company.