Somewhere, Curt LeMay is Smiling
No more warnings for nuclear inspections.
The era of no-notice evaluations for nuclear units has returned. Air Force officials say the new system will prevent unit commanders from "gaming" the system, by ensuring that their best airmen are on duty during the inspection.
That invites a rather snide (and obvious) observation. Given some of the recent inspection failures under the "gamed" system, we can only wonder how some of those units would fare under the no-notice approach.
As Air Force Times reports, the new system will go into effect later this year. Under the revised inspection criteria, the service will evaluate units with one team of experts. Currently, nuclear surety inspections are conducted by teams representing the major commands and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA).
In many respects, the new inspection system is nothing more than a return to the old way of doing business. No-notice inspections were the norm during the heyday of Strategic Air Command, which controlled most of the nation's nuclear stockpile for decades, until its demise in the early 1990s.
Since then, the Air Force has adopted a "kinder, gentler," approach to inspections, with units receiving notification well in advance. The return to no-notice evaluations is aimed (in part) at restoring high standards and accountability in the nuclear program, and preventing mishaps like the ones at Minot AFB, North Dakota, and Hill AFB, Utah.
Implementing the new system may be tough on the inspectors--and the units they evaluate. As AFT observes, the service is finding it difficult to find personnel with detailed knowledge of nuclear systems and procedures--the type of experts that SAC produced in droves. With declining emphasis on the nuclear mission over the past decade--and limited promotion prospects--many of those officers and senior NCOs elected to retire.
Now, it's a fair bet that some of them will be coming back--as GS-13s, 14s, and 15s.