Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

The Schlesinger task force yesterday praised the Navy for maintaining its commitment to the nuclear mission since the end of the Cold War. In fact, task force chair James Schlesinger said the sea service’s Trident nuclear submarine arm has been “quite impressive” in its operations since then even in the face of a diminishing focus on the nuclear deterrent mission across the Department of Defense. Briefing reporters on the findings of the task force’s phase 2 investigation of DOD’s nuclear enterprise (see above), Schlesinger attributed the Navy’s success to keeping its nuclear mission “encapsulated” and preserving high morale. These two factors, he said, “protected the Navy mission from many of the ills that are associated with the Air Force.” As we know, the Air Force divided its nuclear mission between two commands after Strategic Air Command folded in 1992, and Schlesinger said the task force saw “indications of lower morale” when it visited Air Force nuclear units last year. Still, the task force’s phase 2 report does note some “fraying around the edges” with the Navy nuclear mission and recommends that the sea service strengthen its oversight, follow through on Office of the Secretary of Defense direction to maintain nuclear-armed Tomahawk cruise missiles until a follow-on capability is fielded, and do more to stem the decline of nuclear weapons and policy expertise across the service. We’ve already reported on some of the activities that the Navy has undertaken as a result of the several high-level OSD-sponsored nuclear reviews last year.