New Shift Model for Missileers

The Air Force has just implemented two-person, 24-hour alerts for the crews of Minuteman III ICBM launch control centers in place of the three-person, 72-hour shifts that it instituted in 2007. In a May 2 release, 20th Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Roger Burg, who oversees the nation’s ICBM forces, said the change was effective as of May 1 at all Minuteman wings. He called the change “a step forward” for USAF since it learned that the benefits of the 72-hour model did not outweigh its risks. The 72-hour construct allowed 20th AF to decrease the number of travel miles to the ICBM complexes by almost two million miles and reduce its vehicle fuel costs nearly by half, Burg said. But it did not achieve the anticipated manpower savings and has placed a strain on training and evaluation, leaving 20th AF “now undermanned to execute this construct,” he said, citing an independent assessment. Further, the LCC crews require “a level of alertness and split-second decision making” that are difficult to meet under 72-hour alerts without increased manpower, he said.