Air Force names one-star general to lead provisional nuclear command

The Air Force announced on Thursday that Brig. Gen. James Kowalski, deputy director for global operations on the Joint Staff, will lead the provisional Global Strike Command, the precursor to a new organization that will comprise all of the service's nuclear-capable B-52 and B-2 bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The creation of Global Strike Command is a key component of Air Force efforts to centralize diffuse nuclear assets and operations, and restore credibility to its deterrence mission after a string of highly publicized failures drew attention to the service's deteriorating expertise and management of nuclear materiel.

Kowalski is a decorated bomber pilot who has held a variety of leadership positions, including commander of the 405th Air Expeditionary Wing in early 2003 when the unit provided strike, battle management and aerial refueling for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The provisional command is scheduled to be activated on Jan. 12 at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington. A permanent location for the command has not been decided yet, said Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Elizabeth Aptekar. Kowalski will play a role in making that decision, but he is unlikely to lead the permanent command when it stands up later next year. That position will go to a three-star general, and it would be highly unusual for a one-star to be elevated to three-star rank in that period of time, several sources said.

Kowalski will be responsible for determining the personnel and resource needs of Global Strike Command and the components across the service from which they will be drawn. As such, he will work closely with other major commands and the headquarters Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration Office, a newly created organization led by Maj. Gen. C. Donald Alston.

Alston led a task force earlier this year that developed a roadmap to improve nuclear operations across the service. Among other things, the task force recommended the creation of Global Strike Command and changes in inventory control and management.

The Air Force has a clear understanding of where its weaknesses are in the nuclear mission, Alston said in a November interview with Government Executive. "We have the right focus in the field now," he said.

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