(Editor's note: These stories and photos are a continuation of information from the Sunday, May 5, edition of The Minot Daily News about the nuclear triad symposium held in Minot earlier this month.)
Lt. Gen. James Kowalski, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, debunks the myth that the nuclear triad is a Cold War force.
Some proponents for eliminating nuclear weapons or reducing their numbers have said the nuclear triad is a Cold War force and is no longer needed.
Lt. Gen. James M. Kowalski, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, recently spent time with the 91st Missile Wing, visiting various locations at the base on May 2, shown in this photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Crawford. During his visit Kowalski also spoke with airmen during an all call, where he discussed the importance of the Air Force Global Strike Command mission and budget concerns.
"I don't think that we're a Cold War force any more than our special operating forces are a Cold War force, that our F-15s are a Cold War force and that our aircraft carriers are a Cold War force. The fact that we continue to use weapons that were developed and deployed in the Cold War does not mean they're a Cold War force," said Kowalski
"The kind of force we have is determined by our doctrine, our organization, our training, our leadership, our materiel and our personnel," he added.
Minot Air Force Base has two legs of the nuclear triad 150 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles and bombers, specifically B-52 bombers, The Navy has the third leg of the triad submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
Kowalski spoke to participants of the nuclear triad symposium, "Sustaining the Triad: The Enduring Requirement of Deterrence" held May 3 in Minot. The symposium was hosted by the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce and Task Force 21, Minot's base retention committee.
Kowalski spoke by teleconference from Global Strike Command headquarters at Barksdale AFB, La.
Global Strike Command, activated in August 2009, is a major command with about 23,000 people. The command is responsible for the nation's three ICBM wings, the two B-52 wings and the only B-2 wing. Besides Minot AFB, the two other ICBM wings are at F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo., and Malmstrom AFB, Mont. Minot AFB and Barksdale AFB have the only B-52 wings, and Whiteman AFB, Mo., has the only B-2 wing.
Kowalski said the North Koreans are on their third nuclear test. He said Iran has a space program and people should not be naive about it. He said it's not an Iranian space program but it's about Iranian capability to deliver nuclear weapons and intercontinental missiles.
He said the same with North Korean's space program. "It's not about space, it's about delivery of a system," Kowalski said.
"The world that we're migrating to is a world where potentially these states could have anywhere from 50 to 75 mobile ICBMs in 15 years," he said.
Kowalski said President Obama's April 2009 speech given in Prague in the Czech Republic is often credited with the president earning the Nobel Peace prize. He said the president's statement was fairly clear in that speech: "As long as these weapons exist, the U.S. will maintain a safe, secure and effective arsenal to deter any adversary and guarantee that defense to our allies."
Kowalski said Russia and China are clearly making significant investments in nuclear forces. "What is interesting when we have discussions about Pakistan, India and North Korea, it is not clear to me that any of these countries are particularly motivated by whether or not the United States has nuclear weapons. If Iran gets a nuclear weapon, he said, they can be added to the list.
He said in some cases, this is a response to western and particularly United States conventional forces but in most cases, these states would have these weapons because of regional concerns and concerns about their neighbors.
He said the role of nuclear weapons in regional deterrence is probably going to increase in the future.
"This world is very different than the Cold War world," Kowalski said.
He said the triad protects against risks including dramatic change in the nature of nuclear states, and technical failure in one of the U.S. systems.
But Kowalski said sustaining the force has its challenges because of some budget issues. However, he assured, they will not take any risks in the readiness state of the nuclear forces.
He said upgrades to the B-2 must be pursued to keep that bomber viable as the platform that ensures no adversary can find safe haven anywhere.
"On our B-52, we see that as the premier standalone platform now and in the future ," he said. He said to continue in that role as a premier platform some upgrades are also needed.
He said a new long-range strategic bomber is necessary. Whether it's nuclear or conventional, we will need this bomber," he said. He said the bomber is being planned to be nuclear capable.
Kowalski said the Minuteman III ICBM will be sustained to 2030.
"This leg of the triad provides us strategic stability. It poses an almost insurmountable obstacle to any adversary. There are 450 hardened dispersed launch facilities in the heartland of our nation," he said.
"Without the Minuteman III leg of the triad, the United States could be vulnerable to nuclear coercion or extortion by a state with as few as 50 to 75 ICBMS," Kowalski said.
He said another common myth about the nuclear triad is that recapitalizing the forces is not affordable.
"I certainly won't deny that recapitalizing our forces requires tough choices but I would challenge the idea that it's unaffordable," he said.
He said Global Strike Command has less than 1 percent of the Department of Defense's operating budget and the command operates two of the three legs of the triad.
"That's seems like relatively inexpensive insurance to me," he said. "So $4.7 billion to operate two legs of the triad does not strike me as unreasonable for our nation."