WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio — Sustaining the Air Force nuclear arsenal was emphasized by Gen. Donald Hoffman, commander of Air Force Materiel Command, as he led his center and wing commanders along with AFMC headquarters senior staff through two days of in-depth discussions during AFMC's semi-annual senior leaders conference here Sept. 1 and 2.
Hoffman used the conference to reinforce AFMC's vital role as caretaker of the nuclear arsenal.
"Sustaining our nuclear assets remains our No. 1 priority," the general told attendees. "Every one of us has a role in this responsibility. Our nuclear force must remain a reliable force."
His views were echoed by Brig. Gen. Everett Thomas, commander of AFMC's Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. Thomas said the Air Force lost focus on management of its nuclear weapons as the service went through organizational transitions in the mid 1990s. Two well-publicized mishandlings of nuclear components in recent years highlighted the need for the Air Force to regain emphasis on the nuclear sustainment mission.
Thomas said improvements are ongoing, including activation of the new Air Force Global Strike Command, the organization responsible for employing the nuclear assets managed and maintained by AFMC. Also, he said his center is almost complete with its third phase of realignments.
"We must not repeat mistakes of the past. We have to ensure seamless transitions without gaps," Thomas said. "We have tough challenges that we are going to have to work on for a long time."
He added that the AFNWC continues to grow and develop plans, programs and processes to sustain the service's nuclear assets, to include the establishment of an Air Force nuclear management training course that is being hailed as a "big hit."
Hoffman emphasized other important priorities for the command, including acquisition improvement and efforts to bolster the size of the command's civilian workforce. He said a robust workforce will help AFMC better achieve its warfighter-support mission.
Conference attendees heard other updates on issues central to how AFMC improves the way it carries out its mission, including a status report on the Global Logistics Support Center, Centralized Asset Management and the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center's initiative known as high velocity maintenance — an initiative to reduce the time aircraft are out of service undergoing programmed depot maintenance. The center is located at Robins AFB, Ga.
During a special "green" session, conferees were updated on current and future ways for AFMC to conserve energy, including the use of several renewable and alternative energy sources.
Topics relating to the command's "people" priorities included workforce management and an update on the National Security Personnel System. While a Department of Defense team reviewed NSPS earlier this year and recommended it be restructured, no decisions have been announced on what type of restructuring will take place.
Scott Blanch, president of Council 214 of the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest union representing AFMC civilian workers, spoke to the gathering in what he said was the first time a union official was invited to address an AFMC senior leader conference. He praised the strong relationship AFGE has with the command calling it a "model for the Department of Defense."