Air Force Official Sees Return to Nuclear Testing

The United States will need to resume nuclear testing in the future, a key Air Force official said last month, arguing that such a step is an inevitable part of modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal, the Albuquerque Journal reported (see GSN, Oct. 29).

“Right now, I don’t think we need testing,” said Brig. Gen. Everett Thomas, head of the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. “But, eventually, we will because, no matter what you do, a 1957 Chevy is not going to drive right in 2030. I don’t care how many pieces and parts you replace, you will eventually have to replace that 1957 Chevy — unless you just want it as a historic relic where people can come by and see it. That’s the analogy, absent testing.”

The Bush administration has sought to develop a new nuclear warhead design, but has twice been rebuffed by U.S. lawmakers who have rejected the idea in part because of fears that Washington would have to end its 16-year nuclear testing moratorium (see GSN, Nov. 10).

Thomas heads a relatively new command, created in March 2006 to consolidate responsibility over ensuring that Air Force units are supplied with the nuclear weapons they require. His center plans to add nearly 300 personnel to handle the weapons over the next 2 1/2 years.

“I’m going to be the Wal-Mart for all nuclear weapons for the United States Air Force,” Thomas said.

The mission has taken on new importance after a series of security lapses that forced the Air Force to re-evaluate its nuclear management (see GSN, Oct. 27).

“We lost our focus. … I don’t think that’s even open to interpretation,” Thomas said. “There was a loss of focus, and now we have to get it back.”

The service announced plans recently to create a Global Strike Command that would oversee all Air Force nuclear operations.

“The Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center sustains bombers, ICBMs and cruise missiles,” Thomas said. “We’re going to let them (Global Strike Command) concentrate on operation, training and equipping of the force that delivers the weapons. We’re going to concentrate on getting the weapons to them” (Charles Blunt, Albuquerque Journal, Nov. 9).

November 11, 2008
About

The United States will need to resume nuclear testing in the future, a key Air Force official said last month, arguing that such a step is an inevitable part of modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal, the Albuquerque Journal reported (see GSN, Oct. 29).