Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana stands to gain personnel from an expansion of its current nuclear mission and its potential as the site for the service’s new Global Strike Command, so says Lt. Gen. Robert Elder Jr., head of 8th Air Force and overseer of USAF’s nuclear-capable bomber force, in a Shreveport Times report. Elder said that Barksdale would add about 300 people as an offshoot of USAF’s planned activation of a fourth combat-coded B-52 squadron at Minot AFB, N.D., and another 500 or so with the reopening of Barksdale’s weapon storage area. Barksdale will gain both active and Reserve airmen to handle the increase in initial flight training stemming from the activation of the fourth B-52 squadron. Elder also said that Barksdale is on the short list to host the new command, which will comprise both nuclear-capable bombers and the ICBM force. (The North Dakota Congressional delegation hopes Minot gets the new command.) Elder said that, with the new command, Barksdale could gain another 1,000 people. Elder acknowledged that, when it comes to standing up the new Global Strike Command with its strictly nuclear mission focus, the Air Force still is “trying to sort that out.” Currently, B-52 squadrons swing back and forth from nuclear to conventional missions. Elder told the newspaper: “The No. 1 priority is to reinvigorate the nuclear enterprise, but at the same time they don’t want to undermine the great work we’re [the B-52 force] doing in theater operations. It adds a little bit of complexity to the problem.” He also said that 8th Air Force would sacrifice its three-star billet to the new command.
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.