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DoD Briefing with Secretary of the Air Force Donley and Gen. Schwartz from the Pentagon

Presenters: Secretary of the Air Force, Michael Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Norton Schwartz
August 05, 2009

                SEC. DONLEY:  Well, thank you for joining us.  It's been a little over a year ago that General Schwartz and I set the course for the Air Force to reinvigorate our nuclear enterprise.  Findings in multiple studies had determined that our nuclear forces and our whole enterprise lacked clear lines of authority and responsibility.  And through a series of initiatives, captured in an Air Force road map for this enterprise, we set out to correct that situation.

 

                We've established in the Air Force an air staff directorate to ensure clear and consistent voice in the headquarters for the nuclear mission.  We've established a nuclear panel in our resourcing process, to make sure we have resource advocacy for the nuclear mission.  We've unified nuclear sustainment under the Nuclear Weapons Center.  And we've stood up an executive-level nuclear oversight board, which has met, I believe, three times thus far, to oversee these activities in total on a regular basis.

 

                This week, we will achieve a major milestone in the activation of Air Force Global Strike Command.  This command will bring together our strategic nuclear forces, our ICBMs and our nuclear bomber forces, under a single commander.  Standing up this command is no small task, and we have actually been able to do it a little bit of -- ahead of the schedule that we had forecast last year.  This command will provide the combatant commanders with forces to conduct strategic nuclear deterrence in global strike operations through the ICBM, B-2 and B-52 operations.

 

                We've reinvigorated in this process the accountability and compliance issues with respect to nuclear forces at all levels.  We have been reemphasizing training for inspectors at our inspection center and also at the MAJCOM level.

 

                We've -- over resourcing opportunities that we've had, we've added about $750 million over the five-year defense plan, in addition to an annual expenditure of about $4.2 billion per year on the nuclear enterprise.

 

                And finally, we are standing up a fourth B-52 squadron also to provide for longer and more focused training. 

 

                So this is a quick overview of all the things we've accomplished.  Global Strike is a major milestone for us, but this is a work in progress, and we still have a long way to go to continue rebuilding levels of expertise and focus that we need to sustain going forward to maintain nuclear deterrence into the future.

 

                Chief?

 

                GEN. SCHWARTZ:  Thanks, Mr. Secretary.

 

                Tomorrow will mark the culmination of many months of concentrated staff effort.  And we'll be establishing a command element with exclusive focus on two of three components of America's strategic nuclear deterrent.  It's a major command, like Air Combat Command or the Air Force Special Operations Command, whose role is to organize, train and equip America's ICBMs and nuclear-capable bombers and prepare a cadre to do this important work with passion and professionalism.

 

                Our expectation is high for the command's focus on precision and reliability and compliance in all matters nuclear.

 

                Lieutenant General Frank Klotz will lead the new command, fulfilling his role as the steward of the Air Force's contribution to America's deterrent posture, and importantly, the core human capital of the Air Force's nuclear enterprise.

 

                Thank you.

 

                Q    I want to ask about the cadre that you've talked about.  I saw that the Air Force is planning on adding 2,500 more airmen into nuclear jobs.  I was wondering when that's going to happen by, where they're going to come from.  And I was also wondering how the Air Force plans on keeping them in the -- keeping the entire nuclear force in the Air Force and doing nuclear jobs?  (Off mike.)

 

                GEN. SCHWARTZ:  Okay.  I think first of all, the command itself [sic, command headquarters] will number about 900 persons, give or take.  Much of the other capability is -- went to grow the fourth B-52 squadron that goes to Minot Air Force Base, and much of the rest went into the maintenance disciplines generally, both missile and aircraft. 

 

                I think fundamentally, the bottom line is that retention has a lot to do with perceptions of how important people's work is; in other words, how worthy that work is.  I think we've gone -- we've worked very hard to make it clear to those who will serve in this command that their work is in fact important to the country's defense and that it will have -- it will continue to be so for an extended period.  And we -- again, establishing a major command will give that community an advocate equal to that of other communities in our Air Force.

 

                SEC. DONLEY:  One of the by-products of this work this year, standing up Global Strike Command, establishing an A-10 directorate in the air staff, was that the Air Force was able to identify all the -- go out and identify all the nuclear expertise in the Air Force.  So basically, all our officers with backgrounds in this -- in this discipline were identified and really came forward in a way that allowed us to identify our best team and to take us forward in this mission area.

 

                So this was a good -- a good result of this work was to identify the nuclear expertise, get it concentrated in the right staffs, and give us a good baseline from which to move forward.

 

                Q     Sir, how is the inspections regime for this command going to happen?  And what role does U.S. Strategic Command play?  Do they have an inspection process for the new command?

 

                GEN. SCHWARTZ:  Sure.  There's a -- there are a number of entities that have an interest in the performance and the compliance of our activities and others in the department in the nuclear arena.  Certainly, the United States Strategic Command is one.  And they have an inspector general that -- that fulfills that purpose on behalf of General Chilton.  The Defense --

 

                SEC. DONLEY:  Threat Reduction Agency.

 

                GEN. SCHWARTZ:  Threat Reduction Agency, thank you, sir.  Threat Reduction Agency, also has a key role in this.  And they participate in all the inspections that are conducted, certainly by our inspector general activities in the Air Force.

 

                Now, importantly, the new command will have an IG, an inspector general.  And one of the things that has occurred in the past year as we have worked this is that we have made a special effort to make the inspections more demanding, more invasive, more challenging, in a sense, to assure that commanders in the field get good feedback on how healthy their organizations actually were.

 

                My judgment was that perhaps the inspections had not been as rigorous as we needed in the past, and so we've adjusted that.  And certainly, the Global Strike Command, that will be a major agenda item for General Klotz as he goes forward.

 

                Q     Are we going back to ORI-type thing?

 

                GEN. SCHWARTZ:  Well, there are a multitude that -- we don't call them ORIs, we call them nuclear surety inspections and so on.  But certainly they are -- they will be demanding both on the operational side, as well on security and the maintenance and so on of the various parts of the weapons systems.

 

                Q     Thank you.

 

                Q     A Global Strike question as opposed to a nuclear question.  Would this command be responsible for maintaining, organizing and equipping B-2s designed to carry this new Massive Ordnance Penetrator in a non-nuclear role?

 

                GEN. SCHWARTZ:  Yes.  What we decided to do was -- and there was a choice to be made here.  The choice was to put those platforms that are dual-capable -- in other words, have both the nuclear capability and a conventional capability -- should we do that in Air Combat Command and export that capability to Global Strike, or should we have those platforms in Global Strike and export their conventional capability back to Air Combat Command and so on and to other combatant commanders as required? 

 

                We decided to do the latter, to focus on Global Strike's mission certainly with respect to nuclear, but they have a role in assuring that the B-2s and the B-52s are organized, trained and equipped for the conventional missions as well.

 

                Q     And that would be the primary mission -- (inaudible).

 

                GEN. SCHWARTZ:  Again, this is -- the nuclear mission is the primary focus, but they will provide trained and equipped B-52 and B-2 crews and aircraft and maintainers to do the conventional mission as well.

 

                Q    (Inaudible.)

 

                GEN. SCHWARTZ:  No, sir.  The B-1s will remain in Air Combat Command.  They are non-nuclear, and therefore they remained in Air Combat Command.

 

                Q     Good morning.  Michael Sirak with Air Force Magazine.  A two-parter.  If I was explaining the significance of Friday's activation to my grandmother, a layperson, what is the real significance?  General Klotz will still not have oversight over the bombers or the ICBMs, and he still won't have his full headquarters staff.  So what is the significance?

 

                And part two, gentlemen:  Please provide an update on the notional schedule for the transfer of 20th Air Force and 8th Air Force over to the new command.

 

                SEC. DONLEY:  Right.  This is a step along the way, so it's an initial operational capability for the command.  They'll spend the next several months getting the command up and operating.  The plan is to transition control of 20th Air Force in the fall, probably early December time frame, I think is the target date, and to transfer 8th Air Force, the bomber component, into Global Strike Command in the February time frame.

 

                GEN. SCHWARTZ:  The key thing I think your grandmother would want to know is that while we make this transition, these elements will remain capable and ready to operate, and the transition will be done in a deliberate way so there's no hiccups along the way.

 

                Q      Friday's ceremony, that's an activation.  That's different than the IOC? milestone, isn't it?

 

                GEN. SCHWARTZ:  No.  We are considering establishing the command as IOC tomorrow.  And as the secretary indicated, the missiles would come in in December, the bombers in February, and we will have FOC one year from tomorrow.

 

                Q     That's ahead of schedule.  Originally, I thought, it was at the end of September.

 

                SEC. DONLEY:  Yeah, so we're a little ahead.  But remember we started with a provisional command at the end of last year.  So that command has been establishing the positions, doing the personnel work.  We then made a decision on the location of the command to be at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. 

 

                So this is an evolutionary process and this -- but this is very -- very much an important milestone on that road.

 

                Q     Yes.  My name is Bill Theobald.  I work for the Shreveport Times, actually.  I wondered -- the people in that community obviously are very interested in the impact this will have on their economy.  Have you determined yet whether you will need to expand the facilities there?  Any idea of that kind of issue?  Because I think that's one of the things they're interested in.

 

                GEN. SCHWARTZ:  Yeah, I think, as I indicated, that the command [sic, command headquarters] will add perhaps up to 900 additional personnel.  And at the moment, as the command grows, at least in its initial stages, we have the facilities and so on to handle the initial bed-down.  As the command matures and so on, we'll see what General Klotz believes he needs in terms of these or additional facilities or what have you.  But bottom line is, for the near term, certainly through the early part of next year, we're in good shape.

 

                MODERATOR:  Sir.

 

                Q     If I could just clarify your answer, General, to Tony's question. The platforms under the new command, if they're given a role, even in Global Strike, but with a conventional weapon, that goes back to Air Combat Command.

 

                GEN. SCHWARTZ:  (Chuckles.)  Remember how things are organized, and I want to keep this as simple as possible.  But with the force provider for conventional forces is Joint Forces Command and our representative to Joint Forces Command as an Air Force is Air Combat Command.  The command that's responsible for nuclear operations obviously is the U.S. Strategic Command, and our representative to Strategic Command will be Global Strike Command.

 

                If there are conventional missions to be performed, the way it works is that Joint Forces Command will make those assets available to the other combatant commands.  And so what will happen is that there will be a transfer of those assets and the over -- that the operational oversight of those assets for the mission to be executed -- from Global Strike and STRATCOM to the regional combatant command that would execute the mission.

 

                Q     (Off mike) -- can you expand on that, General, because while the exquisite role of the nuclear deterrent is very important and should be preserved, there's an effort all across the military to add value to every platform by stretching its capability.  What is the role of the new command in carrying out these other types of missions?

 

                GEN. SCHWARTZ:  That's exactly why it's called the Air Force Global Strike Command and not the Air Force Nuclear Command or some such thing.            You're quite right.  You know, we will be looking to expand the versatility of these platforms for whatever missions the nation may require.  And General Klotz has that mandate from the secretary, clearly.

 

                Q     Thank you.

 

                Q     I was going to ask, in -- the Schlesinger report pointed out that there was -- been some concerns that a nuclear assignment within the Air Force might not be -- was seen as not a strong assignment for an airman's career.  Why is it -- with the standup of Global Strike Command and the new emphasis on nuclear missions, why is it a good thing for an airman to take a nuclear assignment right now?

 

                SEC. DONLEY:  Well, in the first place, the establishment of a command in -- of a major command in the Air Force provides a focus for advocacy for this mission.  So in previous models that we'd been operating on for several years, the nuclear mission was an adjunct to the responsibilities of Air Combat Command, which covers lots of different functions and missions for the Air Force, and also Air Force Space Command, which has, obviously, space and related responsibilities. 

 

                So nuclear was, in a sense, an important but in some ways could be perceived as a secondary mission for those commands, especially in the post-Cold War environment, when it appeared that there was diminishing emphasis on the nuclear mission. 

 

                Our conclusion after some painful lessons learned and some excellent reports from senior levels in the Department of Defense was that we needed to refocus on the nuclear mission.  So even as we have, for example, spent the last 15 or 20 years expanding the flexibility of the bomber force from not just the nuclear mission into multiple conventional applications, we don't want to lose the expertise that we've gained and the flexibility we've gained to use the bombers in a conventional force mode.  But we needed to refocus on the nuclear mission and not lose sight of that.  Now, bringing a new major command online tells airmen that the nuclear mission has a long-term place in the Air Force.

 

                GEN. SCHWARTZ:  And that commander will have a seat at the table with his counterparts, three and four stars.

 

                Q     Can you just explain how the fourth B-52 squadron is going to work?  Is it -- are they rotational airplanes?  Or are they --

 

                GEN. SCHWARTZ:  No.  They are assigned aircraft.  And so there will be two squadrons at Minot, two B-52 squadrons, and two B-52 squadrons at Barksdale. 

 

                Q     Where are the aircraft coming from?  Is this a new squadron? 

 

                GEN. SCHWARTZ:  They were aircraft that were not otherwise assigned but, you know, largely at Barksdale.  A few were at Minot in what we call backup status.  But we're bringing these back up to full capability. 

 

                Q     Is there a significant cost there, …(Off mike.) ?

 

                GEN. SCHWARTZ:  That was part of the 700 million the secretary mentioned. 

 

                SEC. DONLEY:  And the manpower needed to be devoted to that, to bring this to operational capability. 

 

                Q     What is the status of bringing in a senior civilian -- in the secretariat, in the undersecretary's office, I believe -- to coordinate nuclear matters at headquarters level with General Alston’s A-10? 

 

                SEC. DONLEY:  I have a senior civilian, Dr. Gary Sanders, who's come from Sandia, to help us work through these issues, very well prepared for this work.  And he's assigned in the undersecretary's office, working with our A-10 on nuclear matters, very active, bringing a lot to the table. 

 

                Q     Does he participate at any of the meetings of the Nuclear Oversight Board? 

 

                SEC. DONLEY:  Yes.  Absolutely. 

 

                Q     Everybody in this room wants to know why this is embargoed and why we can't use it today.  It's an interesting story.  What was the rationale?  Why is this embargoed for use Friday?  Why can't we use it today?  Everybody's got this on their mind.  What's the rationale for doing it? 

 

                MODERATOR :  The reason we did this for Friday morning or Friday -- anytime Friday -- (inaudible) -- is just, as we looked at this historically and we know what’s happened in world history on Aug. 6-- (inaudible) -- we didn't want necessarily a bunch of news on that day appearing, when the event isn't actually till Friday.  If you remember, on August 6th in history, that was the date the bombing of Hiroshima occurred. 

 

                Q     Right. 

 

                MR.     :  We're just trying to be sensitive to that. 

 

                (Cross talk.) 

 

                Q     Today may be a slow news day -- (off mike) -- buried by, you know, another shooting in Pittsburgh, so a news issue. 

 

                MR.     :  Right. 

 

                Q     Okay. 

 

                Q     Luis Martinez at ABC. 

 

                If I could ask a question that's off-topic, the House Appropriations Committee has inserted $200 million in additional funding, in the appropriations bill, to purchase three new C-37 Gulfstreams to transport VIPs, members of Congress.  Is that something -- is that funding that you requested specifically?  And if not, is it something that you support?

 

                GEN. SCHWARTZ:  It is off the topic, but briefly, there is a need for lift capability, principally to support United States Africa Command.  And at least one of those aircraft is designated for that purpose.

 

                Q     But the language itself specifically requests that three, I believe, be based at Andrews Air Force Base for VIP lift.  Is that --

 

                GEN. SCHWARTZ:  I -- I can't go beyond my earlier comment.

 

                Q     Secretary, do you have anything to add to that?

 

                SEC. DONLEY:  We did not include these in our request.

 

                Q     (Off mike.)

 

                SEC. DONLEY:  I think we would support the president's budget, and let this work itself out in the congressional process, as it always does.

 

                Q     Talking about the priority that Global Strike Command is going to receive now, you mentioned that Klotz will have a seat at the table along with ACC, AFSOC and the rest.  What type of priority does the Air Force put right now on nuclear matters?  I mean, dealing with, what’s going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, how is that -- how are you guys looking at that now, a year later?

 

                GEN. SCHWARTZ:  I think it's pretty clear that -- that it requires senior leadership attention.  And we have certainly -- both the secretary and I and the rest of the team have devoted that attention, and the other four-star commanders as well.

 

                The key thing here is that, you know, we ended up focusing on other things -- and understandably, perhaps.  But we are now wiser, in that we have many missions to perform, profoundly important ones like the strategic deterrent mission, and will allocate our management attention accordingly.

 

                SEC. DONLEY:  Just one other aspect of this, obviously, we have a Nuclear Posture Review underway in the department.  At the same time, the administration is working on a potential START follow-on agreement with Russia.  So I think this is -- the combination of those activities has put more attention on the nuclear deterrent mission and the status of our inventory of weapons and various capabilities between the Air Force and the Navy as well.  So this is getting lots of attention.  The Nuclear Weapons Council, under Dr. Carter and his DOE counterparts, is very active.

 

                And this combination of events has put much more attention and has -- on the nuclear deterrent mission.  And I think the appreciation for the status of our capabilities is rising and is becoming well understood in the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense leadership.  So I think we're getting better visibility on that -- on this important mission this fall.

 

                Q     I ask you this question every time --

 

                MODERATOR:  (Off mike) -- the last two -- (off mike).

 

                Q     -- every time we see you, and it goes back to the kids on the flight line.  How do they view this?  I mean, how's their morale with this?  Do they see this establishment of the command as a plus, or as a rebuke to their past work?

 

                GEN. SCHWARTZ:  No, I think, again, they see this as a plus, that they will have people who will pay attention to their professional development, to their circumstances; people who will understand the work that they do intimately; that all of this is a plus.  And of course, you know, people in the end say, "Show me."  And so that's certainly at work here as well and -- but we intend to do that.

 

                Q     I realize the impact that the Schlesinger task force phase I report had in formulating the Air Force's nuclear road map.  Their phase II report came out later.  I'm wondering, even though that dealt with, I think, the DOD enterprise overall, not just with the Air Force, if that caused you to make any changes to the Air Force nuclear enterprise, what impact that phase II report had on you.

 

                GEN. SCHWARTZ:  Mr. Secretary.

 

                SEC. DONLEY:  My recollection is that their work -- it did inform some fine tuning, but not in a major way.  And I think their second report, I -- as I recall, endorsed the approach that the Air Force had taken, since we were -- had been working in parallel. 

 

                And in some cases they changed their views based on what they thought were better alternatives under way in the Air Force.  So I think -- the bottom line is that work ended up being very complementary both to informing the Schlesinger panel and to have them inform us on the progress of their work.

 

                MODERATOR:  (Off mike.)

 

                SEC. DONLEY:  Thank you very much.

 

                GEN. SCHWARTZ:  Tomorrow's a big day:  the first time we have stood up a major command in the Air Force in over 12 years.

 

                Q     Friday.  Friday.

 

                SEC. DONLEY:  Friday.

 

                GEN. SCHWARTZ:  Friday. 

 

                SEC. DONLEY:  Yes.  Yes.

 

                GEN. SCHWARTZ:  I stand corrected.

 

                SEC. DONLEY:  This is -- (inaudible).

 

                GEN. SCHWARTZ:  Friday.  Forgive me, sir.  Yeah. 

 

                Thank you.

 

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