Air Force Changing Nuclear Leadership Development, Broader Education

First Lt. Terrence Dale Duarte, 320th Missile Squadron missile combat crew commander and 2nd Lt. Nikolas Ramos, deputy missile combat crew commander, sit at the control console inside the launch control center at F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo., on Nov. 5, 2016. Air Force photo by SSgt. Christopher Ruano.

Lt. Gen. Richard Clark, Air Force deputy chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration, said Thursday the service is taking steps to ensure the upcoming generation of nuclear enterprise leaders are well-rounded and identified from an early age.

“We’ve established key nuclear billets,” which “allows us to monitor the billets and the people that are going into them so that we can develop people from a young age to be prepared to take on those key jobs,” Clark said at a Strategic Deterrent Coalition conference outside Washington, D.C. “It allows us to develop folks earlier, but two, it allows us to know who has had certain experiences so they can take them to the higher levels throughout their career.”

Clark’s team wants to give officers and enlisted airmen more time to reach those billets, such as assigning a master sergeant to a key spot instead of a staff sergeant, so they can better prepare to serve in those roles.

“It’s a way for us to build the expertise, but then keep the expertise, into the enterprise,” he said.

The service is also evolving its approach to nuclear education.

Lt. Gen. Anthony Cotton, the leader of Air University and former 20th Air Force commander, is ready to start building nuclear studies into core curricula at the Air War College, Air Command and Staff College, and Squadron Officer School, Clark said.

Every airman should learn about strategic deterrence as part of their basic knowledge, he argued, and his office is working closely with Cotton and Air Education and Training Command on broadening nuclear education’s reach.

“We have a number of different educational programs in our intermediate developmental education,” Clark said. “We have several different schools that are now set up and they’re dedicated to nuclear education. We have courses that are provided to people as they come into the enterprise to prepare them at different levels … so that people can get the education they need and have an understanding of the broader enterprise before they start doing the jobs that they’re tasked for.”