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SECDEF Announces Nuclear Force Reforms

Credit: DoD

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced today a comprehensive action plan to reform the DoD’s nuclear enterprise and called for additional critical investments in sustainment as well as measures to address longstanding cultural issues that have hurt the morale of the nuclear force.

In February 2014, following a series of scandals involving the nation’s nuclear forces and their leadership, Hagel directed both an internal and external review of the entire Defense Department nuclear enterprise.

The reviews concluded that while our nuclear forces are currently meeting the demands of the mission with dedication, significant changes are required to address systemic problems that could undermine the safety, security and effectiveness of the force in the future.

Together, the two reviews identified more than 100 recommendations to improve the nuclear deterrent forces. They focus on several key areas, including: oversight, investment and personnel and training and their recommendations range from acquisition investments to cultural challenges that will take time to see through.

The recommendations range from acquisition investments to leadership challenges that will take time to see through, such as improving the morale of the force. Generally, they focus around several key areas, including:

  • Clarifying the nuclear deterrent enterprise leadership structure and reducing administrative burdens imposed on the forces.
  • Providing increased resources to improve and sustain current equipment.
  • Changing the “culture of micromanagement,” boosting morale, and improving the manner in which training and inspections are conducted.

Actions Underway

Secretary Hagel has already established a Nuclear Deterrent Enterprise Review Group (NDERG) to establish senior leader accountability and bring together all the elements of the nuclear force into a coherent enterprise.  This group, which consists of the leaders responsible for training, funding, and implementing the nuclear mission, has already met twice. The NDERG will report to the SECDEF on at least a quarterly basis.

A program to track and assess the implementation of the over 100 recommendations from the internal and external reviews has also been established.

Secretary Hagel has further directed an update to the Personnel Reliability Program (PRP) regulations to remove administrative burden on the service members that fall under this program. Under new guidelines, inspectors will be prevented from questioning judgments made by medical professionals. The rules will also provide some common sense adjustments governing who must be in the PRP program and ensure reliability without imposing bureaucratic red tape that harms the mission. There are approximately 17,000 personnel on the PRP across DoD including 12,000 in the Air Force.

The Navy will hire approximately 2,450 civilian shipyard and refit facility workers and approximately 100 personnel (mix of civilian and military) for the Strategic Weapons Facility and TRIDENT Training Facility to improve sustainment and training of the ballistic missile submarine force.

The Air Force will replace its ICBM security force helicopter fleet of UH-1s and improve its associated infrastructure. The Air Force will fund nearly 1,100 (military and civilian) billets to fill gaps in operations, maintenance, security and other critical mission areas. Personnel will begin filling these billets as the Air Force Personnel Center can place them.

The Air Force is also planning Military Construction to improve the Weapon Storage Facilities (WSF) at four sites beginning with FE Warren Air Force Base over the coming years.

These investments will cost several billion dollars over the five-year defense spending program in addition to ongoing modernization requirements identified in last year’s budget submission. The Department will prioritize funding on actions that improve the security and sustainment of the current force, ensures that modernization of the force remains on track, and that address shortfalls, which are undermining the morale of the force.

Read the report: Independent Review of the DoD Nuclear Enterprise .pdf (June 2014)

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