The U.S. Air Force is moving to simplify its program for ensuring that personnel with nuclear-weapons responsibilities are fit to perform their jobs.
The Personnel Reliability Program has been around for decades and is utilized by all U.S. military units with roles in the nuclear-weapons mission, according to Col. Zannis Pappas, who is the career field manager for the Functional Authority Division and Nuclear and Missile Operations.
“Certifying officials, who are normally commanders, constantly assess their folks, monitor the program, and watch for problems,” the colonel said in a Thursday Air Force Global Strike Command news release. The command manages the service’s arsenal of Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles and its fleet of strategic bombers.
In 2012, more than 12,000 airmen were subjected to scrutiny under the Personnel Reliability Program. Pappas said it was important to streamline the program to make it easier to implement and manage.
The move comes amid an ongoing Air Force investigation into a test-cheating ring involving dozens of nuclear-missile officers at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana. Concerns also have been raised in recent months over drug possession by some Global Strike Command personnel, and over some missile-control officers napping while on duty with the blast doors to underground launch complexes left ajar — a security violation. Largely because of these scandals, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a comprehensive review of all personnel issues in the military’s various nuclear-weapons missions.
Anyone in the program is required to let officials know if changes in their private lives or work responsibilities could affect their job performance or that of their colleagues, Pappas said.
“Our rule of thumb is, when in doubt, report it,” he said. “If a PRP individual is off their A-game for any reason, or has any life event that might distract them or cause their leadership to doubt their reliability with nuclear-related duties like something medical, financial, relationship, or legal, that individual or any other individual aware of the life event is expected to report it.”
“If you were in a non-PRP job, you might not need to report a pending divorce to your unit commander,” the official said. “If you are in a PRP job you are required to do so.”
The head of Global Strike Command on Wednesday said he did not know when the Air Force cheating probe would be finished or when its results would be published, the Great Falls Tribune reported.
Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, who was visiting Malmstrom, said he believes there is strong support for a program rolled out earlier this month that aims to gather perspectives from nuclear-missile personnel on things they would like to see changed about their jobs.
“People are optimistic that people are listening,” the three-star general said.
The Force Improvement Program “was created as an aggressive, action-oriented effort with the goal of making rapid and substantial change to the ICBM mission,” states a separate Global Strike Command release. “Designed from the ground up, the FIP is a field-level initiative to draw on the experiences of airmen at all levels.”
Airmen assigned to the initiative conducted their final field visit on Feb. 23 when they traveled to Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, after previously visiting the other Minuteman 3 wings in Montana and North Dakota.