Day by Day

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Peace Was Our Profession

Once upon a time, the United States Air Force was simply and clearly delineated into three major commands - MAC, TAC, and SAC (Military Airlift Command, Tactical Air Command, and Strategic Air Command, obviously respectively.)

That all changed in 1992, when the Cold War having been declared won by default, it was felt that a reorganization was needed.


Various reasons were given, cost-savings of course being one of them, however sometimes organizations reorganize for the sake of reorganizing.

The USAF changed to AMC (Air Mobility Command, to replace the more pronounceable MAC, though not sure why), ACC (Air Combat Command, combining assets from TAC and SAC, and providing another unpronounceable acronym), and to further complicate matters, the nuclear assets of ACC, formerly of SAC, would also report to USSTRATCOM (US Strategic Command). Confused?

Yeah. (First rule of thumb of military acronyms - the military SPEAKS in acronyms, so they should at least be pronounceable.)

We went from having one command managing ALL of the assets needed for nuclear response via air and space (the Navy handling the submarines, logically enough) to spreading the wealth.

The result?

A "Lack of Focus" according to the report recently issued by a panel chaired by retired USAF General Larry Welch.

After the Cold War, the once-vaunted Strategic Air Command, which controlled all Air Force nuclear weapons, was dismantled. The military's nuclear missiles were assigned to a division responsible for operations in space, and its nuclear bombers were moved to Air Combat Command, which also includes nonnuclear fighters and reconnaissance aircraft.

Although the internal Air Force review has not been made public, a copy of its executive summary obtained by The Times asserts that the split organization has led to fragmentation of policies and accountability, without a single commander responsible for nuclear missions.

These are nuclear weapons, folks. Our government agonizes about the potential loss of control of nuclear weapons in other nations, e.g. Pakistan, Russia, and the development of weapons in countries such as Iraq and Iran. Yet, we've managed to instituionalize the loss of control in a formal manner within our own nuclear forces.

An interesting quote from the article:
"We can't go back to where we were in 1991," Peyer said. "We don't live in the same world. It's not the same environment."
(Note: Major General Polly Peyer conducted an internal United States Air Force review.)

The general is correct. Until 1991, we faced primarily ONE nuclear enemy - the Soviet Union (I know, I know, the Soviets had disbanded, but I'm trying to keep this simple). Now? Who knows. Literally. Russia hasn't had the tightest control of its nuclear assets, and those potentially lost nukes could be anywhere. Iran is trying to gain nuclear assets, North Korea does have nuclear assets, and let's not forget our friends, the terrorists.

This is a time when we need ABSOLUTE control over our nuclear forces with a clear, simple chain of command. Anything else is foolish and inviting trouble.

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