Air Force Global Strike Command, a new major command to be led by a three-star general, will be activated by next September, with responsibility for the Air Force’s nuclear missiles and nuclear-capable bombers, service leaders formally announced Friday. The move is the centerpiece of the Air Force’s response to nuclear weapons-related problems that have surfaced over the last year. Air Force Secretary Michael Donley, presenting his service’s new nuclear roadmap to reporters at the Pentagon, said the plan is the result of “painful lessons learned” from a series of internal and external reviews. Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said the roadmap highlights a “back to basics approach” to tightening up the nuclear enterprise. The new command will comprise the ICBM force of 20th Air Force—now under Air Force Space Command—and the B-52 and B-2 bombers of 8th Air Force—now under Air Combat Command. According to the organizational chart in the roadmap, 8th AF and 20th AF would become AFGSC elements. The conventional-only B-1B bombers of 12th AF will remain under ACC’s control. Maj. Gen. Donald Alston, director of Nuclear Plans and Operations, who oversaw development of the roadmap, said a provisional command and commander should be in place “in the next two or three months.” Alston, who is the likely officer to head the service’s new A10 Air Staff dedicated to nuclear matters, described the September 2009 target for operational status as an “aggressive” timetable. He declined to explain why Global Strike Command will be led by a three- and not a four-star general, except to say that several leadership options were considered.
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.