How to win the nuclear surety ‘Super Bowl’: Preparing for a nuclear surety inspection

  • Published
  • By Dave Clark
  • 90th Missile Wing Weapons Safety
As it is well-known, the 90th Missile Wing is only a few months from its Nuclear Surety Inspection. This year it will also be inspected by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. Air Force Global Strike Command and DTRA use the NSI to validate that Airmen here are operating, maintaining and securing the Minuteman weapon system in a safe, secure and reliable manner. This is the 90th MW's "license" to operate.

The key to passing a NSI is for personnel to prepare and polish what they do so well every day.

Nuclear-capable units that have done well on their inspections began by planning well in advance and developed comprehensive preparation plans covering all aspects of the inspection.

To help fine tune preparations for the NSI, below is a list of recommendations honed from years of conducting and participating in NSIs. Although not all-inclusive, they contain areas units should focus on as well as some guidelines to help them do well.

Know the Rules: Review the Instructions and Supplements

Know Air Force Instruction 90-201, Inspector General Activities and the AFGSC supplement to understand how a nuclear surety inspection is conducted.

Review the nuclear surety requirements and AFGSC supplements below as well as other job-related instructions:

· Department of Defense 3150.2, Nuclear Weapons System Safety Program Manual
· DoD S-5210.41-M/AFMAN 31-108, Security Policy for Protecting Nuclear Weapons
· DoD 5210.42R/AFMAN 10-3902, Nuclear Weapons Personnel Reliability Program
· Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction 3263.05, Nuclear Weapons Technical Inspections
· AFI 63-125, Nuclear Certification Program
· AFI 91-101, Air Force Nuclear Weapons Surety
· AFI 91-102, Nuclear Weapon System Safety Studies, Operational Safety Reviews, and Safety Rules
· AFI 91-103, Air Force Nuclear Safety Design, Certification Program
· AFI 91-104, Nuclear Surety Tamper Control and Detection Programs
· AFI 91-105, Critical Components
· AFI 91-107, Design, Evaluation, Troubleshooting, and Maintenance Criteria for Nuclear Weapon Systems
· AFI 91-108, Air Force Nuclear Weapons Intrinsic Radiation and 91 (b) Radioactive Material Safety Program
· AFI 91-114, Safety Rules for the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Weapon
· AFMAN 91-118, Safety Design and Evaluation Criteria for Nuclear Weapon Systems
· T.O. 11N-20-7, Nuclear Safety Criteria
· 20 AFI 31-133, ICBM Systems Security Standard
· EAP-STRAT Vol 16, ICBM Code Component Control Policy and Procedures

Stay knowledgeable about job-related weapons, equipment, vehicles, technical orders and checklists. Are items serviceable and properly certified? Are checklists current?

Take the time to read formal MAJCOM inspector general cross-feed reports, which can be obtained from self-inspection monitors.

What worked or didn't work? Avoid the same traps.

Review the current and back issues of the Air Force Wingman the Inspector General publications. There really are some useful articles and inspection tips.

Engage in informal cross-feed sessions by talking to friends at other units that have recently undergone an NSI.

Make a game plan

Pick the members of primary and back-up teams carefully. Beware of developing an "A Team" syndrome, where all of a unit's best people are grouped together on a particular shift or team. Experience has shown that successful units spread the wealth so there are no "B Teams."

Start early reviewing training records, drivers' licenses, certification forms, Personnel Reliability Program and nuclear surety rosters, etc.

Balance preparation efforts

Focus initial efforts on the critical pass/fail areas. Remember that some areas could affect the pass/fail criteria. For example, Personal Reliability Program issues could affect the outcome of an NSI, thus the role of the medical and support folks is critical. Remember: nuclear surety is a team effort.

Focus on the major areas:
· Management and administration
· Technical operations
· Tools, test, tie-down and handling equipment
· Condition of stockpile
· Storage and maintenance facilities
· Security
· Safety
· Supply support
· Logistics movement
· Explosive ordnance disposal
· Nuclear control order procedures
· Emergency exercises

Practice, practice, practice

This is the most important element of success. Personnel should train as they would fight -- avoiding simulations or deviations as much as possible.

Start at the section level first. Focus on technique and theory and do table top discussions for operations. Get quality assurance/standardization and evaluations personnel involved by using them to evaluate progress and training. Be tough on the unit -- allow no excuses.

Conduct realistic practice inspections with quality assurance, Stan-Eval and base exercise evaluation team personnel taking the role of major command inspectors. Those local-level inspections can and should be brutal, guided by the philosophy that by being tough on oneself is the best way to prepare for a stringent, compliance-oriented NSI. Teamwork is the natural outgrowth of that level of emphasis.

Be ready at "game time"

Make a good first impression. The appearance of work areas and personnel says a lot about a unit's day-to-day operation.

Conduct pre-task reviews and post-task critiques.

Know waivers and under what circumstances simulations are allowed.

Display a sense of urgency and a positive, professional attitude.

When unsure of the answer to an inspector's question, get into the books and find the answer. Don't guess or "shoot from the hip."

Correct problems on the spot.

Share information gleaned during the inspection with other sections. Prevent similar errors and build on successes.

It takes a team effort to complete a nuclear surety inspection in a successful manner.

Those familiar with professional football know each team's goal is to make it to the Super Bowl. Those teams use the same concepts described above: leadership, teamwork and training. They practice constantly and make midseason changes as needed. Coaches and players watch other teams to learn from their successes and mistakes. Playing a key leadership role, coaches, team owners and general managers ensure their players have the resources they need.

In the end, if the leaders and the players have put it all together successfully, they make it to playoffs and to the Super Bowl. These same concepts apply when preparing for the NSI.

The NSI is F. E. Warren's Super Bowl -- the chance for its personnel to prove they're the best at what they do!