Secrecy News

USAF Seeks “Resilient” Nuclear Command and Control

The US Air Force last week updated its guidance on the command and control of nuclear weapons to include protection against electromagnetic pulse and cyber attack, among other changes. See Air Force Nuclear Command, Control, and Communications (NC3), Air Force Instruction 13-550, April 16, 2019.

“This is a complete revision to the previous version of this instruction,” the new guidance states. “It revises the command relationships, roles and responsibilities, the governance structure, and addresses resourcing, architecture and configuration management, resilience, and assessments.”

“Resilience” here pertains particularly to “two of the most broadly applied challenges: hardening against the effects of electromagnetic pulse and threats in the cyberspace domain.” These topics were scarcely mentioned at all in the previous version of the Air Force Instruction that was issued in 2014, nor did the term resilience appear in the earlier document.

Several new classified directives on nuclear command and control have been issued in recent years (such as Presidential Policy Directive-35 and others) and their content is reflected at least indirectly and in part in the new unclassified USAF guidance.

A broader modernization of the nation’s entire nuclear command, control and communications system is underway at U.S. Strategic Command, costing a projected $77 billion over the coming decade. See “STRATCOM to design blueprint for nuclear command, control and communications” by Sandra Erwin, Space News, March 29, 2019.