Defense Futures and Nukes

By John Liang / December 23, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The Defense Science Board today released a pair of reports about future challenges for the U.S. military and nuclear inspections.

You can read the full 505-page "Challenges to Military Operations in Support of U.S. Interests," or if you just need some lighter reading over the holiday break you could just read the 113-page executive summary.

That report is "robust in scope," as DSB Chairman William Schneider writes in his cover letter without a hint of understatement. Schneider says it "concerns itself with challenges the U.S. military might face in the future, emphasizing areas where the nation is less well-prepared."

Future adversaries are more likely to attack the nation with asymmetric tools of war, employed using non-traditional concepts of operation. Thus, challenges from nuclear weapons, from cyber warfare, in and from space, to force deployment and resupply, and on U.S. soil, may well dominate in the decades ahead. Addressing U.S. vulnerabilities in these and other areas is the focus of the study's effort, leading to actions for the Department that can improve the nation's posture against future threats.

The second report released today is on "Nuclear Weapons Inspections for the Strategic Nuclear Forces."

The report is the second in a "four-phase effort" meant to look at the security of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, according to retired Air Force Gen. Larry Welch, who chaired the DSB task force:

Phase I addressed weapons security and was completed in the summer of 2007. Phase III was added as a first priority and assessed the systemic causes of the unauthorized movement of nuclear weapons from Minot AFB to Barksdale AFB. Phase IV will focus on nuclear weapons inspections of non-strategic nuclear forces.

In this week's report, the DSB calls on the Air Force secretary and chief of staff as well as the major air commanders to:

- Provide clear direction on the collective and individual objectives of the set of nuclear inspections.
- Remove any direction or implication that inspection teams have an education or mentoring responsibility during the conduct of an inspection.

Additionally, the Air Force secretary "should direct formation of a team of (Nuclear Surety Inspection), (Nuclear Operational Readiness Inspection), (Defense Nuclear Surety Inspection) inspectors and officers and senior NCOs from bomber units and ICBM units to increase the clarity of direction for nuclear weapons operations." Specifically, the DSB report recommends that the secretary:

- Expand the technical manuals as needed.
- Restore the clear direction formerly embodied in Air Force regulations on nuclear operations and inspections.

Further, the SECAF should:

- Require that Air Combat Command, Air Force Space Command, and U.S. Air Forces in Europe provide a common set of demanding standards that NSI and NORI/ORI inspectors must attain and sustain.
* The requirements for initial assignment should include at least one assignment performing nuclear weapons duties.
- Direct that (Air Force Inspection Agency) produce:
* A formal training course and assemble training teams to assist major air command inspection teams.
* Standardized checklists for inspections of common areas.
- Direct that the NSI Process Review Conference be held each six months.
- Direct that major air commands have the authority for by-name assignment to MAJCOM inspection needs.