The transfer of the mission is part of a phased approach, which began in August with the activation of the Global Strike Command, to unify all Air Force nuclear-capable assets under one command, officials said.
“We are well on our way to consolidating all of our Air Force assets in this critical mission area under a single command — one that will serve as a single major command voice to maintain the high standards necessary for stewardship of our nation’s most powerful weapons,” said Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz, commander of the Global Strike Command.
The new command gains three missile wings, one each at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo.; Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont.; and Minot Air Force Base, N.D., with the assumption of the entire 20th Air Force mission, including that organization’s responsibility for all of the United States’ 450 ICBMs.
The 576th Flight Test Squadron at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., as well as the 625th Strategic Operations Squadron at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., also now come under the Command’s responsibility. Previously, all of those units were part of Air Force Space Command.
“The creation of this new command reflects the Air Force’s firm and unshakable conviction that nuclear deterrence and global strike operations are a special trust and responsibility — one that we take very seriously,” Klotz said.
On Feb. 1, Global Strike Command also will gain 8th Air Force, based at Barksdale, and along with it, 8th Air Force’s nuclear-capable bombers. At that time, the command also will acquire the B-52 Stratofortress wings at Barksdale and Minot, and the B-2 Spirit wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.
The Air Force Global Strike Command was established in an effort to boost security and reduce errors.
In a 2007 incident, nuclear weapons were loaded aboard a B-52 bomber at Minot Air Force Base and flown to Barksdale before the mistake was discovered. In another incident, nuclear nose cones mistakenly were shipped to Taiwan. As a result, then-Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and then-Air force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley resigned. Another 15 officers, including six generals, were disciplined.
The new command is part of a roadmap to improving the Air Force’s Stewardship of its nuclear program, Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley said during an October 2008 Pentagon media roundtable to introduce the plan.
“This is a critical milestone for us. It’s a new starting point for reinvigoration of this enterprise,” he said then. “The changes we make today will help us focus on this enterprise regardless of other changes in Air Force missions along the way, and regardless of how big or small the nuclear enterprise is.”