AFGSC took a team effort

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- (Editor's note: The following is a speech given by The Honorable Michael B. Donley, Secretary of the Air Force, during the Global Strike Command Activation Ceremony) 

It is certainly a great day for our Air Force, as we achieve a major milestone in the revitalization of our nuclear enterprise. We are indebted to many men and women who have worked hard, some for more than a year, to make today a reality. We owe special thanks to Major General Kowalski, Maj Gen Alston, Maj Gen (ret) Henderson and the many staff elements from the Headquarters, Air Force; Gen Corley and Air Combat Command; and Gen Kehler and Air Force Space Command, as well as the many personnelists, programmers, financial managers, engineers, and others who devoted their time and talents to stand up this new command. 

By unfurling the flag of Air Force Global Strike Command, we will achieve the goal of bringing together the strategic nuclear capabilities of our ICBMs and bombers under the leadership of a single commander. As part of our Air Force heritage, the men and women of Air Force Global Strike Command will inherit the mantle of the legendary Strategic Air Command. The Cold War environment in which SAC was created is long gone. But, from that heritage and experience, we expect Global Strike Command to carry forward a renewed commitment to the highest standards of professionalism, excellence and nuclear expertise to guide the new generation of Airmen overseeing our Nation's most critical military mission. 

As Secretary Gates has noted: ―Handling nuclear weapons--the most powerful and destructive instruments in the arsenal of freedom--is a tremendous responsibility... You must never take your duties lightly. There is simply no room for error. Yours is the most sensitive mission in the entire United States military. And he concluded, I am confident it is in good hands.

General Schwartz and I are here today to affirm that conclusion. Between us, over the past year, we have visited each of the units that will become a part of Global Strike Command. And we are likewise confident that, thanks to the hard work of America's Airmen, our nuclear deterrence mission is in good hands. 

It is worth remembering for a few moments, however, how we got here. In recent decades we had asked you to balance this ―most sensitive mission against other priorities, including nuclear draw-downs and conventional missions, as we took advantage of lessening tensions with our former Soviet adversaries. In Operation Allied Force, B-2 bombers became synonymous with global precision strike, and in Operation Enduring Freedom, B-52s crews innovated tactics to excel in the close air support role. But after 17 years of continuous operations in the Middle East, we began to see the strains of spreading the nuclear mission across three major commands, and asked ourselves whether the existing organizational structure provided adequate oversight of this vital mission area. 

Last year, we made a commitment to reverse the trend and renew our commitment to Air Force stewardship of the nuclear enterprise. Since approving our nuclear roadmap last fall, the Air Force has: Unified nuclear sustainment into the Nuclear Weapons Center to consolidate authority and responsibility for nuclear weapons-related materiel. Established an Air Staff directorate to ensure a clear and consistent voice for the nuclear mission. Established a Nuclear Deterrence Operations Panel to ensure resource advocacy for the nuclear enterprise.

Enhanced our inspection process with improved inspector training, headquarters oversight of command-level Nuclear Surety Inspections, and a centrally managed core team of highly experienced inspectors. Established a Nuclear Oversight Board, which the Chief and I chair, to provide executive-level supervision of nuclear issues. 

Today's activation of the Air Force Global Strike Command is simply the next important step in this on-going revitalization effort. 

Moving Forward 

Despite this progress, there is still much work to be done. The institutional lessons the Air Force has learned from the past few decades are clear. As the strategic environment and technologies change, we must adapt accordingly. But even as we change, and adapt where we retain ongoing responsibility for national and joint mission areas like the nuclear enterprise we must not lose focus. 

General Schwartz and I are counting on Air Force Global Strike Command leadership-under the able hand of Lieutenant General Frank Klotz-to retain this focus, and to establish and sustain an uncompromising standard of excellence in nuclear operations. This will require hands-on leadership--at all levels--to instill a strong culture of compliance that internalizes precision, reliability, and critical self-assessment. Americans have entrusted Global Strike Command with a solemn responsibility, and we know you will deliver. 

We are immensely proud of the Air Force's 60+ year record in operating and sustaining our Nation's nuclear deterrent force. Today we take special note that this mission continues and that it is time to look forward and reaffirm expectations for the future....a future that starts today at Barksdale Air Force Base with the activation of Air Force Global Strike Command. 

Congratulations and thanks to all who contributed to making this day a reality. Thank you.