High Marks

With the pending release (now set for Wednesday, see above) of the Schlesinger nuclear task force’s Phase 2 report on Department of Defense nuclear weapons management, we asked the task force for its feedback on the Air Force’s actions in response to the panel’s phase I report. The Phase 1 work (full document, caution, large file), which came out last September, focused on the Air Force’s nuclear activities and contained 33 recommendations for improving oversight. James Blackwell, executive director of the task force told the Daily Report yesterday that Schlesinger and the other task force members believe that the Air Force, under the leadership of Secretary Michael Donley and Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz, has been “immensely responsive” to the task force’s Phase 1 recommendations. The service has “indeed considered” all of the concerns raised by the panel as well as its 33 recommendations, said Blackwell. The task force has “no major remaining concerns” with the Air Force over issues that have not been addressed, he added. Blackwell also noted that the task force members are “quite happy” with the Air Force’s decision to create Air Force Global Strike Command, a new nuclear-centric major command that will bring together the service’s ICBM force and nuclear-capable bombers under one umbrella. That move, said Blackwell, “implements the substance of the task force’s recommendations.” The task force had recommended bringing the entire bomber force, including conventional-only B-1Bs, under Air Force Space Command—where the ICBM force resides today—and morphing the command into a nuclear-focused Air Force Strategic Command. The fact that the Air Force plans to have a three-star general officer lead AFGSC rather than a four-star makes “really no substantive difference,” said Blackwell, as long as the three-star can report directly to the Air Force Chief of Staff and has the equivalent of a four-star’s access to resources and command authority.