|"Push the button, I dare you"|
Of the three pillars for the future defense strategy noted in the QDR; in defending the homeland, pride of place is given to the deterrent effect of US nuclear forces. As stated by the QDR:
Our nuclear forces contribute to deterring aggression against U.S. and allied interests in multiple regions, assuring U.S. allies that our extended deterrence guarantees are credible, and demonstrating that we can defeat or counter aggression if deterrence fails. U.S. nuclear forces also help convince potential adversaries that they cannot successfully escalate their way out of failed conventional aggression against the United States or our allies and partners.Clearly and repeatedly denoting the mission and responsibilities of the nation's missile based nuclear forces will not only hone the focus of the nation's missileers but also give them a renewed sense of pride in the work they do, something severely lacking since the fall of the Soviet Union. Indeed, as unfortunate as renewed antagonism with Russia over Ukraine has become; the Air Force should take full advantage of the crisis to increase training and improve doctrinal understanding of the mission of its nuclear forces. A well trained force, instilled with a belief in its mission is a happy force.
There are additional measures the Air Force can undertake to improve the morale of its units. As part of its commitment to the Obama administration's New START treaty with Russia, the Air Force will soon remove 50 nuclear missiles from their silos and put them in storage. However, the silos will not be decommissioned, but will be kept 'warm' i.e. fully manned. The Air Force originally planned to decommission and destroy the silos and reduce the missile force, however, fearing the loss of jobs this would entail, certain Congressmen forced the Air Force to keep personnel stationed in the silos. Its hard to see how the morale of highly specialized troops will improve when their mission will entail little more than custodial work. Instead of forcing the Air Force to maintain a bloated force, Congress should allow the silos to be fully decommissioned. The resulting job losses will be insignificant, especially in states where the shale gas boom is creating thousands of jobs.
While there is no silver bullet for curing low morale, the potential danger posed by a depressed nuclear force should spur the Air Force to seek out every cure imaginable. By starting with some of the above recommendations the Air Force will go a long way towards securing the future of America's missile based nuclear deterrent.