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The Presidential Nuclear Initiatives of 1991-1992

By Susan J. Koch | CSWMD Case Study 5 | September 01, 2012

On the morning of September 28, 1991, then-Colonel Frank Klotz witnessed an historic moment at Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota. As he and other senior officers from the base bomber and missile units watched, the crews for the B-1 strategic bombers that had been on alert that day climbed into their cockpits, started the planes, and taxied one after another away from the alert aircraft parking area. That scene was repeated at all 11 Strategic Air Command (SAC) bases in the United States. By the end of the day, there were no U.S. bombers on alert for the first time in over 30 years.

Although the numbers varied over time, a significant portion of U.S. strategic bombers had been on continuous alert since 1957: fully fueled, loaded with weapons, with crews in a special nearby area—ready to launch in a few minutes. On September 28, 1991, Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney signed an Execute Order to end that practice immediately. It has never resumed.

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arms control case study nuclear issues Susan Koch