Clarifying recent comments that he wants incoming Air Force Global Strike Command chief Gen. Robin Rand to be another Curtis LeMay, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said Wednesday the comparison he intended was in terms of Air Force leadership. “LeMay … was an iconic leader,” Welsh told reporters in Washington, D.C. “That’s what I want the new commander” of AFGSC to be, he said. “I want him to lead this command in a way that is positive, is forceful, is clearly moving in a direction where the Air Force needs to take a stronger role in [the nuclear] debate in the country. And Curtis LeMay certainly did that.” USAF, he said, has gradually “lost” its centrality to the nuclear discussion, and Welsh believes it should be back at the center of it. He emphasized his own “apolitical” bent and said LeMay’s post-USAF political career and famous comments about nuclear warfare are of no interest to him. “I just don’t care,” he said. He wants Rand to be influential “on behalf of our Air Force in the missions and the debates that that command needs to be involved in. That’s what I was trying to say.” Welsh said he doesn’t know if Rand is a cigar-smoker, but if he does, “that wouldn’t have kept me from nominating him.”
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.