Defense Secretary Robert Gates has enlisted the help of retired Gen. Larry Welch, former Air Force Chief of Staff, to review the circumstances that lead to the B-52 weapons misadventure to provide “an independent outside assessment,” stated Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell. The Air Force’s internal investigation, which is still ongoing, is being run by Maj. Gen. Douglas Raabert, director of air and space operations at Air Combat Command. Morrell told Pentagon reporters late last week that, despite getting outside help, Gates “is confident that the Air Force can and is handling this properly.” On Sunday the Washington Post carried a recap of the incident and subsequent fallout that included this sobering assessment from retired Air Force Gen. Eugene Habiger, former commander of US Strategic Command: “I have been in the nuclear business since 1966 and am not aware o any incident more disturbing.”
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.