We must re-focus, fix problems

  • Published
  • By Gen. Bruce Carlson
  • AFMC Commander
By now you have heard about the resignations of the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force. This was unprecedented and I want to make sure you know I am fully committed to finding and fixing the root causes of the Air Force shortfalls recently identified by the Secretary of Defense. Together we owe it to the citizens of our great nation to address this situation directly in order to resolve systemic problems and regain our credibility as guardians of our nation's nuclear arsenal. Let there be no misunderstanding, the stewardship of our nuclear enterprise is one of our most sacred responsibilities--and we will identify and fix the gaps in our execution of this critical strategic mission.

The facts surrounding the unauthorized B-52 flight with live nuclear weapons onboard and the recent mis-shipment of four Mark 12 nose cones to Taiwan highlighted a brutal truth: there are problems within our nuclear enterprise. Some of those problems lie within this command and we will fix them.

We started to repair the kinks in our nuclear enterprise several years ago. To regain unity of command in the acquisition and sustainment of the ICBM fleet we stood up the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. We continue today with the development of the commercially-based Expeditionary Combat Support System for more positive inventory control, improved in-transit visibility and more accurate parts forecasting. These are good first steps and we must continue to reinforce their success. However, organizations and systems alone will not be enough. It will take the personal involvement of each person on the Air Force team--military, civilian, contractor, National Guard and Reserves.

During the next few months there will likely be several reports, studies and audits conducted. I ask for your personal commitment to attack head-on the root causes and systemic shortfalls identified in any of these reports.

After all, this is not just a nuclear enterprise issue, it's also about regaining the culture which created the world's most feared and respected Air Force--a culture based on discipline, adherence to standards and strict attention to detail. So these incidents must serve as our wakeup call...we each need to actively execute the fundamentals of our profession every day.

Whatever job you hold in AFMC, you are a critical link in the chain and our overall success depends on your actions, your individual discipline, adherence to standards and our strict attention to detail.

In 1979 a commercial aircraft took off from New Zealand with 257 people aboard for a sightseeing trip to Antarctica. Unbeknownst to the crew, ground personnel had introduced a two-degree error in their navigational computer. When they flew down below the clouds over the snow and ice of that frozen continent they had no way of knowing that this small error placed them directly in the path of an active volcano, the 12,447-foot Mount Erebus. The white clouds above and snow covered land below masked the rapid approach to the large mountain. By the time the cockpit warning sounded it was too late and everyone aboard perished in a tragic accident caused by a very small error put in place well before the actual mission launched. Similarly, a single error in a logistics system, on a shipping document or in an RFP each has the potential to throw the entire Air Force off course with tragic results.

The Air Force's priorities remain unchanged: win today's war, take care of our people and prepare for tomorrow's challenges. We must join together and exercise the teamwork and discipline which created this nation's great Air Force. Now is not the time to speculate or become defensive. It is a time to act, to fix, to succeed. Together we must rededicate ourselves to excellence by recommitting to the basic fundamentals of our profession...discipline, adherence to standards and strict attention to detail.

As one of your wingmen, I stand beside you as we work together to restore the nation's confidence in our great Air Force. Thank you for your service.