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Work Finishes Trip Focusing on U.S. Nuclear Deterrent

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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WASHINGTON, Feb. 26, 2016 — Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work observed the test of an unarmed Minuteman 3 missile at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, last night, at the culmination of a trip to examine the progress of reforms in DoD’s nuclear deterrent.

Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva and Navy Adm. Cecil D. Haney, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, joined the deputy secretary for the launch. The warhead splashed down at the military’s test range near Kwajalein Atoll more than 4,000 miles away.

The crew that launched the missile are assigned to Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, and Vandenberg.

F.E. Warren Visit

Prior to attending the test, Work visited airmen at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, where he assessed the progress made in reinvigorating America’s most important military capability.

“I think you know that in 2014, we had an awful lot of issues that were identified in the nuclear deterrent and since that time we have done an awful lot to make sure that … we are improving and that that problem doesn't happen again,” Work told reporters traveling with him.

Air Force officials said the test went well and the deputy secretary was pleased with the performance of the Minuteman 3, which entered the system in 1970. “The Minuteman system, as part of our nuclear triad, continues to meet our 21st-century deterrence and assurance requirements,” Work said in a readout of the visit. “This operational test will provide the department with accuracy and reliability data that is essential to on-going and future modifications to the weapon system.”

Nuclear deterrence is the basis for strategic stability among great powers, the deputy secretary said. It is the U.S. position to move toward a world free of nuclear weapons, he said. But until then “we’re going to make sure that our deterrent is safe, reliable, secure and effective, and that we will make sure that we maintain strategic stability with our … great power competitors,” he added.

Improving the Health of the Force

Work was looking specifically at the progress in implementing 175 recommendations made in a report ordered by then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in 2014. The report was the result of a study that followed press reports detailing shortcomings in the nuclear enterprise. About 80 percent of those recommendations have been implemented, Work said.

“A key focus is on the health of the force -- the people,” the deputy secretary said. “The people are our best asset of the nuclear deterrent enterprise, just like they are in the whole department. If there’s a secret weapon that the United States has, it is our people.”

During his stop at F.E. Warren, Work spoke to junior enlisted personnel and officers to ensure they understand the importance of what they do, whether they have the resources they need and if they have seen a difference since the department began implementing the reforms.

Need for Collaboration

While in California yesterday, the deputy secretary spoke at In-Q-Tel Summit in San Jose. In-Q-Tel is a not-for-profit firm working to ensure that U.S. intelligence agencies have the latest technologies.

Work spoke about the importance of partnering with the commercial technology base, DoD’s investments in the fiscal 2017 budget request, and the development of the third offset strategy. DoD began a pilot program with In-Q-Tel last year.

Work noted the collaboration allowed the department to develop innovative solutions for some of its most challenging problems. “Last year we invested $10 million,” he said. “In the ‘17 budget we will invest $40 million.”

The stop in San Jose was part of DoD’s commitment to ensuring it stays ahead of competitors in a rapidly changing world, he said. It also signals the department’s effort to reach out and attract a new generation of Americans to serve their country, the deputy said.

“In Silicon Valley, we’re seeing a real explosion in progress,” Work said. “The department sees tremendous promise in [artificial intelligence] and autonomy as we look to achieve technological overmatch against our adversaries.”

He added, “The third offset strategy is based on the premise that advances in artificial intelligence and autonomy will allow the joint force to develop and operate advanced joint, collaborative human-machine battle networks that synchronize simultaneous operations in space, air, sea, undersea, ground, and cyber domains.”

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)