Last week, U.S. Congressman John Fleming met with USAF Global Strike Command Commander Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson to discuss securing the nuclear mission at Barksdale Air Force Base.
In particular, Fleming discussed a new nuclear storage facility and the recent assurance from the Air Force that a four-star general would be put in command of Global Strike.
“Something I have been pushing for since I came to Washington is a modernized nuclear weapons depot and that’s something the Air Force hasn’t followed through on due to cost. Our nuclear enterprise was an afterthought at the time and more recently its importance has been realized,” said Fleming.
He said Washington and the Pentagon have realized the importance of nuclear bombers and missiles, which Global Strike Command controls. This is backed up by the Air Force redirecting $50 million in Fiscal Year 2014 funding to address urgent, near-term nuclear sustainment shortfalls as well as $350 million over the future years’ defense program.
The Air Force recently announced it plans to promote leadership of Global Strike from a three-star to four-star general. This would increase stature for the mission and ensure that commander access to national strategy, policy and direction at Air Force meetings.
“When it comes to resources, a four-star general gets more attention and it’s evident already that resources are already being moved into the Global Strike Command to beef up the command despite sequestration,” said Fleming.
Although it is far from a done deal, Fleming is confident the move will happen, saying the chances are “better than 80 percent.”
“General Wilson reiterated to me the Air Force is not in any way considering relocating the headquarters for Global Strike from Barksdale. No question that having Global Strike Command remain at Barksdale and be lead by a four-star is the utmost security of the base.”
All of the provisions will need to be approved by Congress. Fleming said he could not get a confirmed timetable, but said “it feels more like months instead of years.”
The nuclear triad, two-thirds of which are managed by Global Strike Command, consists of three bomber bases and three land-based nuclear missile bases. Air Force Global Strike Command was formed out of realignment in August 2009 due to a mishap involving nuclear weapons on a B-52 mission from Barksdale to Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota.