Thursday, June 19, 2008

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.


James Skylar Gerrond said...

Ironically, a lot of the experts that return to be GS civilians will probably be the very same CGOs and junior FGOs that took the voluntary separation pay 18 months ago. The Air Force paid us to leave and now it looks like they are going to pay again to get us to come back.

billmill said...

All I can say is , it's about time. Any pre notice of an inspection has allowed commanders for years to do just that, game the system. Going back to the old school way should help weed out the lazy and incompetent and allow the Air Force back to gain back some needed credibility

PCSSEPA said...

A big Sierra Hotel on no notice inspections. General Curtis LeMay is indeed smiling about this return to common sense inspections. The enemy is not going to call you ahead of time to see if you are ready.

A. McCrory said...

It's interesting that now it's referred to as "gaming" the system. The reason the AF went to announced inspections was because commanders were supposed to have too much integrity to game. Commanders invited scrutiny and would to put 100% effort in the nuclear mission 100% of the time. Higher headquarters weren't supposed to tell a commander how to do his or her job.

Is there less integrity now? Has the AF just now figured out that when you have competing mission the one that gets the least glory will be the one that gets the least effort?

You can expect that in 10 or 15 years the announced inpsections and professed intergrity of commanders will return.