Bottom Line: Professional, Disciplined, Committed

The Air Force’s nuclear forces “are thoroughly professional, disciplined, committed to the mission, and performing the mission effectively,” according to the Defense Science Board’s permanent task force on nuclear weapons surety. Compared to the task force’s last look at the service’s nuclear enterprise—in 2010—there have been “important improvements” in areas like senior leadership attention, clarity of organization and responsibility, the inspection regime, logistics support, personnel support, and facilities, states the task force’s recently issued follow-on report. This includes “improved morale” among the airmen who perform the nuclear mission, states the report, dated April 2013 and based on the task force’s work between April 2012 and December 2012. However, there are still areas requiring improvement, in particular the Personnel Reliability Program, which “continues to be mired in bureaucratic excesses that detract” from its effectiveness, states the report. Commanders use PRP to ensure that airmen with access to nuclear weapons meet high standards of reliability, according to the report. There’s also “skepticism” among airmen about future support for the mission, given factors like comments from some national leaders, past and present, questioning the need for nuclear capabilities, states the report. (DSB follow-on review; caution, large-sized file.)