Modernization and sustainment across the nuclear triad are
essential to maintaining national and allied security, three Defense
Department experts told Congress on July 14, 2016.
DoD witnesses Robert Scher, assistant secretary of defense for
strategy, plans, and capabilities; Navy Adm. Cecil D. Haney,
commander of U.S. Strategic Command; and Air Force Gen. Robin Rand,
commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, testified before
the House Armed Services Committee's strategic forces subcommittee.
Maintaining Nuclear Deterrence
Scher said President
Barack Obama's approach to reducing nuclear dangers “has
consistently included two key pillars: working toward a world
without nuclear weapons, and maintaining effective deterrence along
the way.” Because world nuclear disarmament is not assured, Scher
said, “We must proceed with modernized replacements to maintain our
nuclear deterrent for us and our allies.”
The United States'
sea-, air- and land-based nuclear delivery systems make up the
“triad,” which Scher called the best approach to maintaining nuclear
deterrence. The triad and dual-capable aircraft, he said, “provide
the credibility, flexibility and survivability to meet and adapt to
the challenges of a dynamic security environment.”
An Air Force T-38 Talon and B-2 Spirit fly in formation during a training mission over Whiteman Air Force Base, MO
on Feb. 20, 2014. The B-2 is a multirole bomber capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear ammunition. DoD photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)
Scher said the projected cost for the nuclear force's
modernization is $350 billion to $450 billion over 20 years. “While
not a small amount of money, ... the total defense budget in fiscal
year 2016 alone was over $580 billion,” he said. “The cost for
nuclear modernization is substantial, but it is not unreasonable for
what [Defense Secretary Ash Carter] has called the bedrock of our
Modernizing will allow the United States to shrink
its nuclear arsenal while still reassuring allies “that they do not
need their own nuclear capabilities,” Scher said.
Haney also emphasized the need for nuclear
“Our capabilities as a whole have lasted well
beyond their designed service life,” he said. “It is crucial that we
modernize our strategic deterrence capabilities, which underpin our
national and global security.”
Countries such as Russia,
China and North Korea have their own nuclear agendas, he said.
“Comprehensive strategic deterrence and assurance and escalation
control require a long approach ... and it's far more than just
nuclear weapons and platforms,” he added.
proposed 2017 defense budget addresses modernization priorities and
“supports my mission requirements,” Haney said. “But let me be
clear,” he cautioned. “There are no margins to absorb new risk.”
‘Already Long Overdue'
Rand also spoke about
“long-overdue” nuclear modernization efforts. Modernization plans
are in place, he said, for the Minuteman intercontinental ballistic
missile system, the bomber fleet, the air-launch cruise missile, the
UH-1N helicopter, nuclear weapon storage facilities and more.
“I am prepared to offer my opinion on the consequences to our
nation's and our allies' security if these already long-overdue
modernization efforts are not carried out according to their
scheduled timelines,” he said.
By Karen Parrish
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