Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James wants to upgrade Air Force Global Strike Command leadership ranks from a three-star to a four-star billet. The recommendation—part of the Air Force’s efforts to improve the nuclear mission—comes at a time when the service is considering consolidating its four-star general ranks. The proposal, however, must first be approved by Congress, according to a May 28 Air Force release. “This important mission in the Air Force deserves the highest level of leadership oversight similar to our other operational core mission areas,” said James. USAF also will elevate the Air Force assistant chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration from a two-star to a three-star billet and boost overall manpower in the nuclear career field. Each missile squadron also will get two new majors who will serve as assistant operations officers. The idea is to “fill the gap between the lieutenant colonel squadron commander and lieutenants and captains who perform the alert mission,” states the release. Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said the personnel moves demonstrate the importance of the nuclear mission. “We are not just increasing the rank within the organization, we are also increasing the overall manpower by more than 1,100 personnel to address shortfalls and offer our airmen a more stable work schedule and better quality of life,” said Welsh.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.