Affording New Nukes

The Air Force’s nuclear systems are long overdue for a reset, and there’s new money in the Fiscal 2016 defense budget to replace USAF’s nuclear cruise missiles and rehab its ICBM force. But there are limits to the speed of the reset, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said in an interview with Air Force Magazine. “Of course we’d like to go faster,” Welsh said, but it’s “important for all of us in the military, and in the Air Force, specifically, to recognize that we have to be part of the nation’s debt problem solution. We understand that.” He said the nation must have “a very serious discussion about what we can afford in terms of recapitalization, in multiple mission areas, one of them being the nuclear business.” If the nation can’t afford “everything we’d like to buy right now,” then “we’re going to have to get serious about prioritizing and decide what comes first and when it can realistically be here.” That will decide, among other things, when a Long Range Standoff missile (LRSO), a replacement for the AGM-86B nuclear air-launched cruise missile, will come along, Welsh said. The Air Force “accelerated” the LRSO by two years in the Fiscal 2016 budget … after delaying it a total of five years in recent budgets.