The Air Force nuclear enterprise—after missteps two years ago and a year’s worth of reinvigoration, reorganization, and re-focus—is “not out of the woods” yet, Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said Sept. 15. Addressing AFA’s Air & Space Conference, Schwartz said, “It took years for atrophy to set in,” so a year’s worth of fixes won’t immediately correct course. “We can’t be complacent now,” Schwartz said, promising to keep the pressure on until the Air Force’s competence and credibility in nuclear activities is unquestioned by Pentagon leadership and the American people. Talking with reporters later, Schwartz said the service has yet to implement a myriad of further, smaller corrective actions, some as simple as shifting nuclear documentation from paper-based to digital format. “We can do better,” he said. “It ain’t over yet.”
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.