Never Doubted, Always Feared

  • Published
  • By Maj. Gen. Scott Jansson
  • Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center Commander

Editor’s note: Jansson retires on October 6 after 33 years on active duty having served as a group commander, F-16 system program manager, wing commander for two wings, center vice commander and commander, Defense Logistics Agency center commander, and Air Force Program Executive Officer for both conventional and nuclear weapons.  

As I look back on not only my assignment here at Kirtland, but also my career as an Air Force officer, I never would have predicted the route my career would take when I graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1984 with a bachelor’s degree in astronautical engineering.  Namely, that my career would book-end with nuclear-related assignments.

My first assignment was as a satellite engineer and chief of the Nuclear Detonation Detection Branch for the GPS Joint Program Office at Los Angeles AFB, California.  During my last assignment, I have been the commander of the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, as well as the Air Force Program Executive Officer for Strategic Systems. 

The AFNWC is responsible for the life cycle management of nuclear weapons systems supporting two legs of the nation’s nuclear triad, including intercontinental ballistic missiles and air delivered cruise missiles and gravity bombs.  It is also responsible for managing the Air Force’s nuclear command and control communications  systems.  

I have enjoyed seeing the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center's evolution from its beginnings as a staff of only five to 10 people in 2006, before my time as its commander, to more than a thousand employees today in 2017.  The Air Force stood up the center as its center of excellence for delivering nuclear capabilities our Nation’s warfighters use every day to deter adversaries and assure our allies.  Since then, the center has continued to grow and expand its mission.  For instance, in the past two years, we’ve taken on management of NC3 and the construction of new weapon storage facilities.  We’ve also implemented Air Force Materiel Command’s vision for synchronizing the research & development, test, procurement, fielding and sustainment of nuclear and dual-capable weapon systems in direct support of Air Force Global Strike Command and United States Air Forces in Europe…a concept we call nuclear materiel management.

As the single manager for all Air Force nuclear materiel, the center’s workforce continues to ensure our nuclear weapon systems are safe, secure, reliable and effective.  The center is sustaining and modernizing the nation’s aging Minuteman III ICBMs and will recapitalize them with the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent ICBM system now in development.  We’re also sustaining the aging Air Launched Cruise Missile to 2030 when it will be replaced with the new Long Range Standoff weapon, which also recently started development.

It is no coincidence that the center was activated at Kirtland Air Force Base. In 1947, then Maj. Gen. Curtis LeMay established the Air Force’s first cadre of nuclear experts here at Kirtland to be the single interface with the larger nuclear community that was coalescing. Ever since, Air Force personnel at Kirtland have been key players in the nuclear enterprise.

As Dr. Heather Wilson said during her confirmation hearing for Secretary of the Air Force: “We must maintain a safe, secure and reliable nuclear deterrent. The deterrent has been effective for over 70 years.  The air and ground legs of the triad were a core mission of the Air Force and will continue to be a core mission.”

Credible and flexible nuclear deterrent capabilities that can impose unacceptable costs on adversaries remain critically important to the security of our Nation.  

For decades, America's strategic nuclear triad of bombers, ICBMs and submarine-launched ballistic missiles has provided the foundation for our national security, while assuring allies of our protection and deterring our adversaries. Our strategic nuclear triad remains relevant for as long as our adversaries have nuclear weapons or threaten our way of life. To ensure this capability remains robust, reliable, flexible and survivable well into the future, it is the center’s highest priority to sustain, modernize, and recapitalize the two legs of the triad that are the responsibility of the Air Force, bombers and ICBMs, as well as the communications systems that enable the President to effectively command and control those capabilities.

The nuclear deterrence mission must remain the highest priority for our Nation and Air Force. As Secretary of Defense James Mattis noted, maintaining our nuclear arsenal is paramount to national security.

Our passion to earn the trust of the American people is unquestionable. It is our promise to the President that, if called upon, the weapons we provide will meet that call with an effective and overwhelming response.  It is our commitment to place into the mind of any potential adversary that there is no path to victory when engaging in a nuclear confrontation with the United States, and that the result would be catastrophic defeat for their nation.

One thing that has been constant in my past 33 years is that I have worked with dedicated, patriotic Americans who support the ultimate defense of our Nation and protect our Constitution.  I’m proud to have been the center’s commander at this significant point in its history and pleased to be ending my career with such an outstanding team of professionals that ensure our nuclear most powerful weapons are never doubted, always feared.