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Vandenberg weapons storage area joins AFNWC

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Brig. Gen. Everett H. Thomas, commander of the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., will formally accept responsibility for weapons storage area logistics operations here in a ceremony at the Pacific coast club at 10 a.m. Wednesday. 

The weapons storage area, originally a part of the 576th Flight Test Squadron here that processes unarmed re-entry vehicles used in Minuteman III test launches, will now serve as a detachment of the 789th Munitions Maintenance Group headquartered at Minot AFB, N.D. 

As part of a realignment of organizational responsibilities, the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force directed the transfer of WSA logistics operations responsibilities from Air Force Space Command to the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center. The action confers two major benefits: streamlined sustainment and positive control of nuclear weapons systems with the goal to continually emphasize rigor and standardization in this critical function. 

Gen. Donald J. Hoffman, commander of Air Force Materiel Command, said, "No mission is more important than safeguarding our country's vital capabilities and maintaining nuclear deterrence. The AFMC pieces of this enterprise are acquisition and sustainment, but we didn't have unity of command for those responsibilities until we established the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M." 

General Thomas echoed those comments and described how the new center will affect WSAs. 

"While the responsibility for logistics operations in the WSAs has changed hands, now coming under the AFNWC, most of the activities around the WSAs won't change. The facilities themselves and related security operations remain the responsibility of the installation commander," he explained. "However, as we're doing Air Force-wide, we will continue to sharpen the focus on achieving excellence in all areas of nuclear sustainment by streamlining those activities and exercising positive inventory control over all weapons and nuclear-weapons-related material. The bottom line is we will meet all nuclear weapons readiness requirements and provide operationally ready assets to the warfighters when called upon to do so." 

General Thomas assumed command of the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., on April 17, 2008. He is responsible for the entire scope of stewardship and sustainment of Air Force nuclear weapons and support equipment in the continental United States ensuring safe, secure and reliable nuclear weapon systems to support nuclear capable combatant commands and the Air Force nuclear units. 

Under AFNWC, installation WSA munitions organizations provide operationally ready nuclear weapons, cruise missiles, and re-entry vehicles/systems when and where needed. Activities include maintaining, handling, storing, accounting for, and controlling nuclear weapons on a day-to-day basis. 

The Air Force directive says that host installation commands will continue to have responsibility for the WSA facility and provide traditional mission support activities, such as security, infrastructure maintenance and management, vehicle maintenance, personnel support, communications and services to WSA resident units and activities. Roles and responsibilities of those installation activities will be largely unchanged. 

The directive goes on to say that consolidating nuclear sustainment activities in the Air Force under a single commander provides an effective mechanism for improved nuclear sustainment force management and development, focused advocacy for nuclear sustainment programs, and clear lines of authority and accountability to ensure compliance with nuclear surety standards. 

"Additionally, AFNWC oversight through a first-ever Directorate of Nuclear Surety will facilitate one voice to manage the WSA as a system," added General Thomas. "This was a key recommendation of the Air Force Comprehensive Assessment of Nuclear Sustainment II which provided comprehensive recommendations outlining ways ahead for improving the nuclear sustainment enterprise." 

Media Advisory: Media interested in attending should call Senior Airman Bryan Boyette at 805-606-3595. A convoy will leave the main gate at 9:30 a.m.

For more information on the AFNWC, please contact Mr. John Cochran at (505) 846-3956.