A Pentagon advisory group recommended Friday that the Air Force, which has been embarrassed by a series of nuclear-related mishaps, should consolidate under a single organization the now-divided responsibilities for its nuclear weapons management.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the group made a strong argument for that action, but he was not sure how it would be implemented.
"One of the concerns that I had" based on previous revelations about shortcomings in the Air Force's stewardship of its nuclear arsenal "is the lack of unity of command and not having one person or organization accountable for the overall mission," Gates said. "I'm not sure what the right answer is."
Gates spoke at a Pentagon news conference before James Schlesinger, who was secretary of defense in the 1970s, unveiled the recommendations of an advisory panel that he led in a study of the Air Force's nuclear weapons management.
Schlesinger said a central recommendation by his group was that the Air Force convert its existing Air Force Space Command — which now has responsibility for the service's land-based nuclear missiles but not other nuclear weapons — into an organization called Air Force Strategic Command. The new organization would "be held accountable for the efficacy of the nuclear mission."