McChord PNAF…Perfect… Always! Today and Tomorrow

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Rodney Lewis
  • 4th Airlift Squadron commander
 Over the last few months I waited patiently for the Department of Defense 2010 Nuclear Posture Review Report (NPR), and on April 10 my wait ended. Based on media reports, I expected a shift in United States policy regarding our nuclear stockpile. The report introduced the policy of "no new nuclear weapons," which reaffirmed the importance of our nuclear stockpile life-extension options.

The NPR addresses a key priority of our nation, "to remain committed to ensuring that the nuclear weapons stockpile remains safe, secure, and effective." The importance of this priority is emphasized in the NPR because "today's nuclear weapons have aged well beyond their originally planned lifetime."

The NPR looks ahead three decades and states that "every nuclear warhead now in the stockpile will require some level of technical attention," and that any life-extension programs to existing nuclear warheads "will use only nuclear components based on previously tested designs." Moreover, all life-extension options will be explored on a case-by-case basis. Our nation "will give strong preference" to options for refurbishment of existing warheads or the reuse of nuclear components from different warheads. The outright replacement of nuclear components would only be undertaken if the other options aren't viable and would require Presidential authorization and Congressional approval.

How does the NPR impact us here at Team McChord? The 62nd Airlift Wing is vital to the execution of U.S. nuclear policy due to our Prime Nuclear Airlift Force (PNAF) operations. McChord leadership has placed this mission as a top priority for our Airmen and civilian partners. Our motto, "PNAF... Perfect... Always," allows each of us to quickly understand our priorities and Wing Commander's intent. As our nation's leaders determine the future of our nuclear weapons stockpile, Team McChord must be ready to execute our PNAF mission today as well as three decades in the future. The NPR is very clear, "the fundamental role of U.S. nuclear weapons, which will continue as long as nuclear weapons exist, is to deter nuclear attack on the United States, our allies, and partners." What we do to support PNAF operations directly impacts our nation's ability to keep our nuclear weapons stockpile "safe, secure and effective" in a deterrence role.