End Runs Don’t Scare Me

The Navy’s ability to secure a “sea-based deterrent fund” to finance its Ohio-class nuclear ballistic missile submarine program isn’t a concern to the Air Force, service Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said Wednesday. “I’m not scared of that thing at all” as a possible poacher of USAF funds, he told defense writers in Washington, D.C. “I’m not a conspiracy theorist,” he said, stating he doesn’t think the fund, which finances Navy nukes and subs separately from its base budget needs, is meant as a special side deal for the sea service. It’s just the “seapower caucus … trying to help” the Navy, he said. If there’s to be a special nuclear modernization fund at all, though, Welsh said it should underwrite the entirety of the nuclear enterprise, and that includes USAF bombers and ICBMS, both of which need replacement. “The debate … must include all pieces of the nuclear business,” he said. Welsh also said the USAF nuclear enterprise has made great gains in addressing morale and retention problems. He said the “pride is back” in the nuclear enterprise, and that the service had “50 percent more people” wanting to stay in the field “than we had jobs for” the last three years.” That, he said, is “a good indicator” and is proof that “a lot of good things have happened” in the nuclear Air Force.