The measures that the Air Force leadership has instituted since 2008 to reinvigorate the service’s nuclear enterprise “have been effective in correcting many of the deficiencies” and “in rebuilding the [nuclear] culture,” reported the Defense Science Board’s permanent task force on nuclear weapons surety following an independent assessment. “After extensive discussions and observing operations and logistics, the task force believes the Air Force leadership can have high confidence that, with few exceptions, the operating and direct support forces understand their mission and the demands of their mission, and are a professional, disciplined, and committed force,” reads the task force’s report, dated April. However, challenges remain. Among them, “urgent attention” is required to replace the service’s 40-year-old-plus warhead and missile maintenance support and test equipment. Further, the leadership should refocus the rigorous nuclear inspection regime “on areas of continuing concern rather than serving as a substitute for chain-of-command leadership and management,” states the report. (DSB full report; caution, large-sized file.)
These are the complete remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at the Reagan National Defense Forum, Dec. 3, 2022, in Simi Valley, Calif.