New Nuke School Boosts Enrollment Four-Fold

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Air Force photo / R.J. Oriez

The Air Force's Nuclear Security Tactics Training Center opened in Wyoming last month.

The Air Force has opened a $4.2 million Nuclear Security Tactics Training Center in Guernsey, Wyo., so that the service’s 620th Ground Combat Training Squadron can train more airmen to protect the nation’s nuclear-tipped ICBM arsenal.

“The Air Force has always had a requirement to secure nuclear weapons, to ensure the safe and secure transport of these weapons and to deny any unauthorized access to secure areas,” Air Force Major General Michael Carey, commander of the 20th Air Force, says in an Air Force release. “Camp Guernsey is the only place in the world where this type of specialized training, to prepare security forces Airmen for that mission, takes place.”

Carey added that the new schoolhouse boosts the number of nuclear-security airmen that can be trained simultaneously from 100 to 400.

Which leads to some head-scratching…

— If, as the Air Force says, this is the only site where such training is done, how have we managed to limp along with only 25% of the training pipeline apparently required before the new facility opened?

— Is the increase in what Air Force officials call student “throughput” designed to reduce Air Force nuclear-weapons snafus that have given the service a black eye in recent years?

— Is each leg of the triad (land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, bombers carrying atomic weapons, and submarines armed with nuclear missiles) getting such stepped-up higher education? Many nuclear experts view the nation’s land-based missile force as the most likely to be cut if the nation elects to move to a nuclear dyad. The Air Force has been defending it as the most stabilizing of the trio. Last year, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned the ICBM leg could be on the chopping block if sequestration, now delayed but not yet dead, takes place.

— “We have more nuclear weapons than we need,” President Obama said last March. “I firmly believe that we can ensure the security of the United States and our allies, maintain a strong deterrent against any threat, and still pursue further reductions in our nuclear arsenal.” While everyone wants all nuclear weapons safe at all times, how does a quadrupling of nuclear-weapons security-officer training capability square with Obama’s push to reduce the size of the nation’s nuclear arsenal?