Hearings

Jul 27 2011

Sustaining Nuclear Deterrence After New START

Turner Opening Statement

Washington, D.C.— U.S. Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH), the chairman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, today released the following opening statement for the committee’s hearing entitled “Sustaining Nuclear Deterrence after New START”:

“With the National Defense Authorization Act for FY12 recently passed by the House, this represents our subcommittee’s first non-budget-driven hearing for the 112th Congress. Our panel consists of non-governmental witnesses, three distinguished gentlemen who have each served in previous administrations in some senior capacities relating to our discussion today:

  • Dr. Keith Payne, a former Commissioner of the Strategic Posture Commission, and Professor and Head of the Washington-based Graduate Department on Defense and Strategic Studies for Missouri State University. 
  • Dr. Morton Halperin, also a former Commissioner with Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, and a Senior Advisor to the Open Society Foundations;  and finally,
  • Franklin Miller, a Principal of the Scowcroft Group, who has served in senior capacities in a number of administrations.

“The witnesses have been asked to provide their assessment of post-New START U.S. nuclear policy and posture, including:

  • potential reduction of the U.S. stockpile below New START levels;
  • the significance of nuclear modernization;
  • considerations relating to a recently announced upcoming  review of U.S. deterrence requirements; and
  • non-strategic nuclear weapons forward-deployed in Europe for extended deterrence and assurance.

“Today’s hearing is just one in an ongoing series of events by which the House Armed Services Committee will conduct oversight of these issues.

“On July 7th, the full Armed Services Committee received a classified briefing from the Department of Defense, the Department of State, the National Nuclear Security Administration, and STRATCOM on the several topics being considered today. 

“We have also notified the administration that we intend to hold an open hearing on these same issues again this Fall, with testimony by a panel of government witnesses. 

“I want to thank our witnesses for appearing today, and to further thank them for their leadership and service to our country on these issues.

“I would like to highlight four important areas that I hope our witnesses and our discussion may touch upon today. 

“First, I want to emphasize the bipartisan consensus on that has emerged on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue about the urgent need to modernize the U.S. nuclear enterprise in order to be able to create a sustainable deterrent for ourselves and our allies.  After two decades of neglect, our nuclear enterprise has fallen onto hard times.  Awareness of these facts has been spurred in part by the Strategic Posture Commission (created by this subcommittee, under the leadership of its former Chair, Ellen Tauscher), and also by the experience of the debate over the New START treaty. 

“Specifically, I think we’ve come to see a pragmatic, bipartisan convergence on two basic points: 1) that nuclear abolition is a long way off, and 2) that we will ensure that our nuclear deterrent remains credible for the foreseeable future. 

“To be sure, full funding for nuclear modernization is costly, and difficult in these challenging economic times.  But it is necessary.  Pledging $85 billion over ten years for nuclear weapons activities, President Obama noted in December that,

“I recognize that nuclear modernization requires investment for the long-term, in addition to this one year budget increase.  This is my commitment to Congress—that my Administration will pursue these programs and capabilities for as long as I am President.” 

“This statement built upon the observation of the November update to the “Section 1251 Report,” namely that,

“given the extremely tight budget environment facing the federal government, these [increased budget] requests to the Congress demonstrate the priority the Administration places on maintaining the safety, security and effectiveness of the deterrent.”

“To be sure, we have our policy differences, but I believe that even our differences have helped spur a healthy and constructive debate.  In all candor, Congressional focus on these issues has languished for too many years—but I believe the events of recent years have the potential to usefully renew attention, by members of both houses of Congress.  

“My second point, however, is one of concern.  The ink is barely dry on New START, and already senior administration officials are describing their ambitions to move to deeper nuclear reductions below the treaty’s levels—changes which could include cuts to our non-deployed hedge stockpile, potential elimination of a leg of the triad, altering the long-established U.S. counterforce nuclear targeting strategy and reducing the alert postures for our forces.  Administration officials have even indicated that reductions could be made unilaterally. 

“Premature steps to cut our nuclear force below New START levels, and in particular cuts which outpace modernization progress, could threaten to upset some of the broad consensus which has been so carefully acquired. 

“My third point concerns an upcoming 90-day review of deterrence requirements announced on March 29 by National Security Adviser Tom Donilon administration for the express and apparently single-minded purpose of creating options for further reductions.  As we all know, strategy must drive force structure, not the other way around, but we also know that it is easy to change assumptions in order to get the answer you want.  This committee will continue to conduct oversight on this review, and decisions about U.S. nuclear strategy and force structure more broadly. 

“We also continue to monitor another study, the Deterrence and Defense Posture Review (D-D-P-R) currently ongoing for NATO.   Which brings me to my fourth and final point.  The forward-deployment of U.S. non-strategic weapons in Europe has long contributed to Alliance solidarity and the transatlantic link.  NATO’s new Strategic Concept reaffirms that NATO is a nuclear alliance, and the importance of broadest possible participation by allies in the nuclear mission. 

“Some of us are concerned that the administration, potentially in concert with some West European allies, might try to use the D-D-P-R to pressure Central and Eastern Europeans to begrudging accept substantial reductions or even complete withdrawal of these weapons from Europe, an act which could have untold and adverse consequences for the future of the world’s oldest and most successful alliance. 

“This year, the House of Representatives acted to address each of several concerns.  The House-passed NDAA included provisions which would sustain the linkage between progress in nuclear modernization to both further nuclear cuts and New START implementation, involve Congress in the longer-term decision-making about deeper reductions, and slow down the withdrawals.  The administration expressed strong objections about some of these provisions, and issued veto threats about others.” 

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