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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

American Forces Press Service

Work Details How DoD Will Implement Nuclear Improvements

By Cheryl Pellerin
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Nov. 14, 2014 – The Defense Department will implement more than 100 recommendations to improve its nuclear deterrent enterprise and in the process make the difficult job of working in that environment better for the nuclear workforce, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said today.

Work took the podium after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's announcement to the Pentagon press corps about a series of reforms to the nuclear enterprise that will be made based on recommendations of an internal review and an independent external review of the enterprise.

Hagel ordered the reviews in January after revelations about troubling lapses and poor morale in the U.S. nuclear forces.

Hagel and Work joined other speakers at the briefing today, including Navy Adm. Michelle Howard, vice chief of naval operations; Navy Adm. Cecil D. Haney, commander of U.S. Strategic Command; Air Force Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command; and Army Sgt. Maj. Patrick Z. Alston, Stratcom's senior enlisted leader.

High-level Visit

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James also appeared on the podium, and today she'll accompany Hagel on a day-long visit to Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota.

Minot AFB is the only dual-wing, nuclear-capable base in the Air Force. The 5th Bomb Wing and the 91st Missile Wing are based there and are part of Air Force Global Strike Command. Assets assigned to the base include the B-52H Stratofortress strategic bomber, the UH-1 Huey helicopter, and the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile.

At the briefing, Work told reporters that the department has had many nuclear deterrent enterprise reviews but said this one is different because DoD's senior leadership is involved.

"One of the things that the internal review said is, 'You don't have anybody looking at this as an enterprise and you better get somebody to look at it as an enterprise because at an enterprise-wide view, you're having problems,'" Work said.

Taking an Enterprise-wide View

The reviewers recommended the department consider the fact that past reviews have focused on individual problems in the intercontinental ballistic missile force and the sea-launched ballistic missile submarine force, Work added, but no one was taking an enterprise-wide view.

Work, who spent 27 years in the Marines, said, "The external reviewers, as a Marine, really knocked me and the secretary and punched us between the eyes, because they told us … 'You have got to take ownership of this issue, Mr. Secretary.' And the secretary did."

The Nuclear Deterrent Enterprise Review Group, or NDERG, is another reason the latest review is different, the deputy secretary said.

Work said he, the No. 2 civilian in the department, co-chairs the NDERG with the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the No. 2 uniformed officer in the department, and both report directly to Hagel.

Internal and External Reviews

Retired Air Force Gen. Larry D. Welch and retired Navy Adm. John C. Harvey Jr. co-authored the external review, Work said.

"It is because of the insistence of two really seasoned nuclear officers that, if you do not do this as a secretary-level initiative, you're going to go the same way as in the past," the deputy defense secretary said.

Heading the internal review were Navy Rear Adm. Peter J. Fanta of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Madelyn R. Creedon, who at the time was assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs. In July she was confirmed as principal deputy administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration.

Between them, the internal and external reviews produced more than 100 recommendations, Work said, and Hagel has assigned Dr. Jamie Morin, director of the Office of Cost Analysis and Program Evaluation, to establish a team that tracks each recommendation individually.

Accountability will change as well, Work said, adding that Hagel has granted the Air Force authority to elevate the Global Strike Command to a four-star billet and the Air Force staff's head of strategic deterrence and nuclear integration to a three-star billet so they wouldn't be outranked by their nuclear counterparts.

Big Moves to Improve the Nuclear Enterprise

The department also is making big moves in oversight, the personnel reliability program and the inspection regime, Work said, all of which were mentioned in both reviews as "getting out of control."

The next NDERG meets on Nov. 19, he added, "to make final changes to the personnel reliability program, the inspection regime and the security regime to take the burden off of our airmen and sailors and the officers who've supervised them."

The investment in the nuclear deterrent program will be billions, the deputy secretary said.

"We spend about $15 billion to $16 billion a year on the nuclear enterprise, he said, "and we're probably going to have to increase that on a sustained basis of at least 10 percent."

Making the Deterrent Safe and Secure

Despite the range of issues, Work said the people who work in the department's nuclear enterprise realm are "just unbelievable." "They were able to make this deterrent safe, reliable, effective and secure. But we were doing it on their backs," he added.

With the implementation of recommendations from the reviews, Work said, the department is "not going to ask the impossible of our sailors and soldiers and airmen who have been making this enterprise work. We're going to make it better for them and we're going to make sure that it remains that way."

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