Global Strike Promotion

By Gabe Starosta / May 29, 2014 at 1:30 PM

The Air Force’s most senior nuclear billet may be getting a promotion, bringing Air Force Global Strike Command in line with all of the service’s other major commands.

Since its inception in 2009, AFGSC has notably been the only command-level organization in the Air Force led by a three-star general rather than a four-star. Service officials have acknowledged that the lower rank becomes relevant when multiple major commands are competing for resources, and the Air Force today announced steps to level that playing field.

According to a service news release, Secretary Deborah Lee James will recommend that the billet of AFGSC commander, now filled by Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, be bumped up to a four-star job to be filled by a full general. The change requires congressional approval.

The release also states that the nuclear policy position on the Air Staff -- the role of assistant chief of staff of the Air Force for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration -- should be increased from a two-star billet to a three-star position. Similarly, that will increase the authority and seniority of the position to more closely fit with the Air Staff’s manpower, strategic planning, intelligence, operations and logistics leadership structures.

The changes may help the Air Force ensure that its officers are selected for high-level leadership positions across the Pentagon -- for example, on the Joint Staff or at U.S. Strategic Command, which is currently led by a Navy admiral. Lt. Gen. James Kowalski, the former commander of AFGSC who served for close to three years as a three-star general surrounded by four-star officers, is now the deputy at STRATCOM.

These moves in the nuclear community are part of a package of responses to several lapses in nuclear missile wing performance over the last 18 months, most prominently a cheating scandal that led to the resignation of several midlevel officers. To try to improve morale and communication at the Minuteman III missile squadrons, the release states that the Air Force will add more junior officers, majors in particular, to those units to bridge the gap between commanding officers -- usually lieutenant colonels -- and the lieutenants or captains who generally perform the missile alert mission.