Defense Secretary Robert Gates, during his visit this week to Minot AFB, N.D. (see above), noted that he should receive this month the Schlesinger task force’s report on the nuclear enterprise oversight structure for not only the Air Force but also DOD as a whole. The task force’s first report focused exclusively on the Air Force, and service leaders utilized it along with other reviews to produce USAF’s new nuclear roadmap, released in October. However, in one significant departure, the service opted to form a new nuclear-centric major command with nuclear-capable bombers and ICBMs rather than adding the bombers to the space and ICBM missions now housed in Air Force Space Command. During Gates visit at Minot, the North Dakota Congressional delegation took the opportunity to advocate—again—that USAF place the new Global Strike Command at the northern tier base, saying in a joint release, “Today’s visit by Secretary Gates and Gen. [Norton] Schwartz is further evidence of the confidence America’s military leadership has in Minot Air Force Base.” Calling the visit by Gates and Schwartz, Air Force Chief of Staff, a “help for morale,” A1C Jeremiah Oswald with the 5th Bomb Wing’s civil engineer unit, said, “It shows that they think of us and that they’ve come here to support us.” (Includes AFPS report by Donna Miles)
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.