NEWS | Feb. 13, 2009

Editorial: Maintain Nuclear Deterrence

By General C. Robert Kehler Washington Times

I am responding to the article "Air Force fails new nuclear reviews" (Page 1, Feb. 4).

Nuclear deterrence is the foundation of our nation's security.

The Minuteman intercontinental-ballistic-missile (ICBM) force is a critical part of that deterrence. Deployed across almost 35,000 square miles of the Great Plains, the missiles are operated, secured, maintained and sustained every minute of every day by almost 10,000 dedicated airmen. These airmen understand the awesome responsibility that comes with the nuclear-deterrence mission, and they accomplish their mission with great skill and professionalism.

As the reporter correctly pointed out, a number of disturbing incidents have caused us to re-examine every aspect of our nuclear mission. As a result, we are aggressively finding and fixing problems. Inspections are among the tools our commanders use both to identify problems and to see where we're making solid progress. The most recent inspections have shown us that we still have work to do; they also have shown us that our nuclear-deterrent force is safe, secure and fully capable of performing its mission.

Perfection is our standard. The demand for focus, attention to detail, discipline and dedication to the highest principles and standards surrounding nuclear weapons has not changed for the past 50 years. We make no excuses for the problems we have had. The U.S. Air Force is absolutely committed to restoring our nuclear enterprise as our top priority and will use tough inspections to help us do just that. We have had inspection failures in the past and likely will have them in the future. In the meantime, we will strive for perfection while we provide the responsive deterrent force America demands.

GEN. C. ROBERT KEHLER, U.S. Air Force, Commander, Air Force Space Command, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.