Defense Officials Urge Nuclear Deterrent Funding

WASHINGTON, Nov. 3, 2011 — The nation’s secu­ri­ty strat­e­gy is built on nuclear deter­rence, and the sys­tems and work­force that sup­port nuclear capa­bil­i­ties must be sus­tained, senior Defense Depart­ment offi­cials told Con­gress yes­ter­day.

James N. Miller, prin­ci­pal deputy under­sec­re­tary of defense for pol­i­cy, and Air Force Gen. C. Robert Kehler, com­man­der of U.S. Strate­gic Com­mand, dis­cussed DOD per­spec­tives on the nation’s nuclear pos­ture before the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee.

Miller acknowl­edged in pre­pared tes­ti­mo­ny that since the height of the Cold War, the U.S. nuclear arse­nal has declined from about 31,000 war­heads in 1967 to just over 5,100 in 2009, and has dropped slight­ly since.

He added that unclas­si­fied esti­mates sug­gest Rus­sia has 4,000 to 6,500 nuclear weapons, 2,000 to 4,000 of which are tac­ti­cal weapons. Chi­na is esti­mat­ed to have a few hun­dred nuclear weapons, and India and Pak­istan less than Chi­na, he added, while the Unit­ed King­dom and France each have a few hun­dred, North Korea has test­ed a plu­to­ni­um-based weapon, and Iran is pur­su­ing a nuclear capa­bil­i­ty.

“Although both Rus­sia and the Unit­ed States have sub­stan­tial­ly decreased nuclear weapons since the Cold War, even after [the new strate­gic arms reduc­tion treaty] is ful­ly imple­ment­ed, togeth­er we will account for over 90 per­cent of the world’s nuclear weapons. As a result, our focus for the next stage of arms con­trol is bilat­er­al efforts with Rus­sia,” Miller tes­ti­fied.

He not­ed the 2010 Nuclear Pos­ture Review direct­ed DOD to ana­lyze deter­rence require­ments to set a goal for future nuclear reduc­tions below New START require­ments, which call for both the Unit­ed States and Rus­sia to reduce their stock­piles to 1,550 strate­gic war­heads by Feb­ru­ary 2018.

Miller said defense experts are per­form­ing that analy­sis in line with nuclear pos­ture review strate­gic guide­lines. The goals, he added, are to:

— Pre­vent nuclear pro­lif­er­a­tion and nuclear ter­ror­ism;
— Reduce the role of U.S. nuclear weapons in nation­al strat­e­gy;
— Main­tain strate­gic deter­rence and sta­bil­i­ty at reduced nuclear force lev­els;
— Reas­sure U.S. allies and part­ners; and
— Sus­tain a safe, secure and effec­tive nuclear arse­nal.

“Our analy­sis is also con­sid­er­ing the crit­i­cal ques­tion of what to do if deter­rence fails,” he added. “In effect, we are ask­ing: What are the guid­ing con­cepts for employ­ing nuclear weapons to deter adver­saries of the Unit­ed States, and what are the guid­ing con­cepts for end­ing a nuclear con­flict on the best pos­si­ble terms if one has start­ed?”

That analy­sis should be com­plete this year, Miller said, after which the depart­ment expects to receive new pres­i­den­tial guid­ance.

Miller not­ed that NATO also is con­duct­ing a nuclear pos­ture review, which is expect­ed to be com­plete in the spring, before the next NATO sum­mit.

“As with all NATO doc­u­ments, the [review] will be a con­sen­sus doc­u­ment,” Miller said. “We believe that it will include a dis­cus­sion of the role and size of NATO nuclear forces, as well as a dis­cus­sion of the pos­si­bil­i­ty for future nuclear reduc­tions.”

Miller said as the 2010 Nuclear Pos­ture Review states, the Unit­ed States will pur­sue fur­ther reduc­tions in nuclear weapons with Rus­sia. Those reduc­tions, he said, may include strate­gic and tac­ti­cal deployed and non­de­ployed nuclear weapons.

How­ev­er, Miller added, the end result “will ensure that the Unit­ed States main­tains our abil­i­ty to deter a nuclear attack, our oper­a­tional flex­i­bil­i­ty and the abil­i­ty to hedge against geopo­lit­i­cal and tech­ni­cal uncer­tain­ty.”

Main­tain­ing strate­gic sta­bil­i­ty with both Rus­sia and Chi­na will remain a key pri­or­i­ty in the years ahead, Miller said, and U.S. offi­cials will con­tin­ue to pro­mote more sta­ble, resilient and trans­par­ent strate­gic rela­tion­ships with those coun­tries.

“The Unit­ed States took the first step by declar­ing the num­ber of nuclear weapons in the U.S. stock­pile, and we would wel­come rec­i­p­ro­cal dec­la­ra­tions by Rus­sia and Chi­na,” he added.

While depart­ment offi­cials rec­og­nize fis­cal aus­ter­i­ty will con­strain spend­ing on nation­al secu­ri­ty pro­grams in the years ahead, Miller said, sig­nif­i­cant reduc­tions to fund­ing for the nuclear enter­prise would place strate­gic and extend­ed deter­rence com­mit­ments at risk — a pos­ture he said the Unit­ed States can­not afford.

The nuclear enter­prise remains, for the fore­see­able future, the foun­da­tion of the U.S. deter­rence strat­e­gy and defense pos­ture, he not­ed.

“The U.S. nuclear weapons infra­struc­ture requires sig­nif­i­cant and imme­di­ate invest­ment,” Miller said. “To remain safe, secure, and effec­tive, the U.S. nuclear stock­pile must be sup­port­ed by a mod­ern phys­i­cal infra­struc­ture and staffed by the most promis­ing sci­en­tists and engi­neers of the next gen­er­a­tion. I under­stand the bud­get pres­sures, but the nuclear enter­prise is an area where there is a need to invest now to save mon­ey lat­er.”

Kehler, also in pre­pared tes­ti­mo­ny, not­ed Strat­com main­tains around-the-clock oper­a­tion of the nation’s nuclear deter­rent tri­ad: bal­lis­tic mis­sile sub­marines, inter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles and nuclear-capa­ble heavy bombers.

“The pur­pose of the nuclear deter­rent force remains clear: to deter attacks on the U.S. and our allies and, if deter­rence fails, to respond accord­ing to pres­i­den­tial direc­tion,” the gen­er­al not­ed.

Strat­com has a role in oth­er defense capa­bil­i­ties that con­tribute to the nation’s deter­rence options, he added: bal­lis­tic mis­sile defens­es, advanced con­ven­tion­al pre­ci­sion-strike capa­bil­i­ties, space defense and cyber defense, coun­ter­ing weapons of mass destruc­tion, and main­tain­ing and devel­op­ing intel­li­gence capa­bil­i­ties nec­es­sary for a dynam­ic oper­at­ing envi­ron­ment.

Still, he said, Stratcom’s top pri­or­i­ty remains ensur­ing the nation has “a safe, secure, and effec­tive nuclear deter­rent force and to oper­ate that force to deter attack on the U.S. and our allies.”

Con­tin­ued fund­ing sup­port is essen­tial to the long-term safe­ty, secu­ri­ty, and effec­tive­ness of the nation’s nuclear deter­rent force, the gen­er­al said.

Specif­i­cal­ly, he added, fund­ing is vital for tri­ad sus­tain­ment and mod­ern­iza­tion. He cit­ed the need for a replace­ment for the Ohio-class sub­ma­rine fleet and require­ments scop­ing for both the next-gen­er­a­tion bomber and fol­low-on ICBMs. In addi­tion, the gen­er­al said, fund­ing is crit­i­cal for weapon life exten­sions and infra­struc­ture recap­i­tal­iza­tion — includ­ing a ura­ni­um pro­cess­ing facil­i­ty and chem­istry and met­al­lur­gy research replace­ment facil­i­ty — as well as for reac­tor design activ­i­ties for sub­ma­rine replace­ment and com­mand-and-con­trol facil­i­ties.

“It is crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant to pro­ceed with the planned invest­ments in force sus­tain­ment, force mod­ern­iza­tion, war­head life exten­sion, the Stock­pile Man­age­ment Pro­gram and the Depart­ment of Energy’s nuclear enter­prise,” Kehler said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)