Air Force To Streamline Nuclear Personnel Reliability Efforts

Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick Alston, U.S. Strategic Command senior enlisted advisor, speaks with company-grade officers at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., last Friday. The Air Force intends to streamline its effort to ensure the reliability of personnel assigned to the nuclear mission.
National Journal
Rachel Oswald
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Rachel Oswald
Feb. 28, 2014, 8:52 a.m.

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.

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