An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Nuclear Surety Triad - Personnel, equipment and procedures

  • Published
  • By Donald Koenig
  • 90th Missile Wing Safety
"Because of political and military importance, destructive power, and the potential consequences of an accident or unauthorized act, nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons systems require special consideration, and must be protected against threats inherent in their peacetime and wartime environments," stated the Secretary of Defense about nuclear matters. Nuclear surety is a "special consideration" to ensure nuclear weapons are protected against peacetime and wartime threats.

Material, personnel and procedures act as the tripod, or triad, to nuclear surety. Nuclear surety at a missile wing is all-encompassing and applicable at all times. Air Force Instruction 91-101, Air Force Nuclear Weapons Surety Program, defines nuclear weapons surety as "Material, personnel, and procedures which contribute to the security, safety, and reliability of nuclear weapons and to the assurance that there will be no nuclear weapons accidents, incidents, unauthorized weapons detonations, or degradation in performance at the target."

Because of the extreme consequences, there are no other options except to follow the nuclear surety requirements. None. How would you explain an incident to your boss? We didn't do the inspection because we were busy? Would your boss accept that answer? This isn't the first time we've handled nuclear weapons; we've been doing this for years. It's important and it's what we do. The nuclear surety triad gives our national command authorities the ability to secure our way of life, and it all starts with the personnel leg of the triad.

Personnel really are the glue keeping nuclear surety together. Starting with the President all the way down to the missile and munitions technicians, operators, security forces, explosive ordinance disposal Airmen, and everyone involved in the ICBM business. Everyone plays a vital role. All are as important as the other, and the leg cannot stand without everyone pulling their weight. If you are involved with maintenance, operations, or security, then you know about the Personnel Reliability Program.

The PRP is a vital part of nuclear surety. Airmen on PRP status ensure those performing duties involving nuclear weapons meet the highest possible standards of reliability. This means the whole person, not just physical health. Accountability, while not directly mentioned in the official Air Force guidance, is one of the most important parts of the PRP.

We need to ensure those around us meet the highest standards. One of the best and most effective methods of doing this is to listen to your co-workers. They could be speaking volumes by what they say and how they act. This is a continuous evaluation process, not a one-time evaluation. If you are on PRP, continue to look at yourself and be aware of your co-workers.

Material is another leg of the Nuclear Surety triad that includes nuclear-certified equipment. This is the equipment which technicians, operators, and security forces members use every day to either to maintain, operate, or safeguard the weapons and weapon systems. Without NCE being maintained and used properly, our weapons and weapon systems will not function correctly when needed.

The inspections we perform on our NCE are vital to their function and longevity. NCE has several very unique and hugely important rules. All NCE has been designed, evaluated, and tested to perform a specific job before becoming certified. NCE includes anything from simple equipment items such as lifting slings and hand trucks, to large powered vehicles such as payload transporters and forklifts. Maintaining NCE can be challenging, expensive, and time consuming. The nuclear surety triad depends on proper maintenance of our Nuclear Certified Equipment.

While working with or securing nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons systems, there are strict procedures which must be adhered to. The only option is to use approved procedures. Like PRP, they're tightly intertwined in nuclear surety. They also completes the final leg of the Nuclear Surety Triad.

Procedures and technical data are the strength of the nuclear surety triad. Not only does the maintenance technician have to follow technical data, but the security forces Airmen have their procedures as well as the missileers. My point is everybody has some sort of procedures, even the wing commander. We don't have a choice but to follow our procedures, especially when dealing with nuclear weapons.

When procedures need to be changed, those changes must be reviewed, evaluated, approved, and placed in our published procedures. We have procedures to do just about everything. If we are out there doing something without proper procedures, we need to stop and get them approved.

Nuclear surety is vital. The most important thing we do every day. No matter where you work, nuclear surety is the driving force. Whatever your role is at the 90th Missile Wing, nuclear surety must be job #1. There is no other option, and it's what we do. It's that simple.