Taking a Leadership Role

US Strategic Command is implementing several changes in order to place a renewed emphasis on the nuclear mission and prevent the same type of breakdown in oversight and individual responsibility that led to last August’s inadvertent transfer of nuclear weapons aboard a B-52H bomber, said Air Force Gen. Kevin Chilton, head of the command. Chilton told defense writers March 4 in Washington D.C., that he is reinstituting the policy of having STRATCOM’s inspector general conduct “over-the-shoulder inspections” of the Air Force and Navy as they conduct nuclear surety inspections at bomber bases and ICBM sites and on missile submarines. STRATCOM has also established an overarching working group led by the command’s deputy commander to do quarterly reviews of the entire US nuclear weapons enterprise. Eventually these reviews will transition to semiannual events, he said. There will also be greater emphasis placed on the participation of nuclear forces in major exercises and on displaying “the mechanics” of them during these events. “At the lowest levels, people aren’t going to take you seriously unless you appear to be serious about this particular mission,” he said. As commander, Chilton also said he will be more proactive in talking about the importance of the nuclear mission and “recognizing the great people who do this mission” and the sacrifices they make. “They are really unsung heroes,” he said. “Talking about how important that mission is and how important readiness is for this mission,” he said, “is an important thing that leaders need to stand up and do.”