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US Air Force Creates Global Strike Command for Nuclear Weapons

The U.S. Air Force has announced plans to put all American nuclear-armed bombers and land-based missiles under a new command, in an effort to prevent further security lapses like the ones that resulted in the dismissal of top Air Force leaders earlier this year. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.

The Air Force leadership announced Friday the creation of Global Strike Command, a new organization to be led by a three-star general.

The new Secretary of the Air Force, Michael Donley, says he wants to improve the focus on nuclear weapons following two incidents that led to the firing of his predecessor in June. In the first incident, U.S. nuclear weapons were accidentally flown across the United States. The other incident involved the accidental shipment to Taiwan of non-nuclear components for nuclear bombs.

Officials blamed the lapses on an erosion of concern in the Air Force for its nuclear responsibilities, something Secretary Donley wants Global Strike Command to change.

"The changes we're making today will help us focus on this enterprise regardless of other changes in Air Force missions along the way, and regardless of how big or small the nuclear enterprise is," he said. "We should be focused on our stewardship of this nuclear mission however it expands or contracts in response to national policy."

Officials say the Air Force has already taken many steps to improve its nuclear weapons operations, but the new command will not be fully established until next September.

The Air Force decision differs from some of the recommendations made by a senior-level review panel. The panel had recommended that U.S. nuclear forces be put together with space and cyber-space commands. Secretary Donley says he and other officials concluded that the nuclear force needs its own command in order to ensure full attention to those extremely important and dangerous weapons.

The Air Force manages two of the three parts of the U.S. nuclear deterrent. The third part, nuclear missiles that can be fired from submarines, is handled by the Navy.