Doug Toppin's Blog

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From Triad to Monad? The Decline of the USAF Strategic Nuclear Force and Unusual Management Situations

I regularly listen to the Arms Control Wonk podcast and a recent episode caught my attention from several perspectives. The first is how the USAF strategic nuclear forces have become a career limiting profession. This is likely because tactical actions have become the highest priority due to various conflict locations. These actions are performed by USAF manned and drone or autonomous aircraft missions and get the most attention and therefor budget. This prioritization implies that strategic missions get pushed down the budget and interest stack. The podcast also noted that almost none of the interviewed missile launch control staff volunteered for their duty assignment indicating reduced interest in that area.

The second point is an unusual one in how people that have a “world ending” function can be managed and motivated. By that I mean if a missile launch officer trains to only perform one final function, that of launching an ICBM, then how can they be motivated and measured for every other day of their working career? Recent embarrassing episodes of cheating on exams surfaced some time ago and it is easy to see how tempting it can be to get perfect grades because there are very other other methods of judging progress in their job.

The podcast referenced a potential for changing ICBM payloads to conventional weapons thus allowing them to be used in current conflicts. This would be a substantial change in procedures, protocols and related hardware I would think and not taken lightly but it would allow them to be used and give involved personnel the opportunity to participate in current conflicts.

The podcast episode can be found at armscontrolwonk.com/archive/5200/modernization-mountain-ash-carter-and-the-aging-triad

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