Washington, DC – Today House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) and Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairman Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) sent a letter to Secretary Bodman, Secretary Gates, and Secretary Rice regarding the Administration’s new nuclear weapons policy statement.

Text of the letter is below and attached: 

Dear Secretary Bodman, Secretary Gates, and Secretary Rice,

    Thank you for your letter of July 24, 2007 regarding the role of nuclear weapons in United States national security policy. 

    You wrote that nuclear weapons play an essential role in maintaining deterrence, and “will continue to be required for the foreseeable future,” and we agree.  We also share your view that the United States should seek to maintain a credible strategic deterrent with the smallest possible number of nuclear weapons consistent with our national security interests. 

    We further agree on the importance of the “decades-long, bipartisan partnership” between Congress and the Executive Branch on these issues.  In the spirit of this partnership, the House Armed Services Committee has been conducting thorough oversight of the nation’s nuclear weapons programs.  This year we have held hearings examining implementation of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Act of 2000, the nuclear weapons budget request for Fiscal Year 2008, and outside perspectives on U.S. nuclear weapons policy. 

    We also take seriously our responsibility to help shape nuclear weapons policy.  The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, as passed by the House in May, contains a provision that would establish a bipartisan commission to examine U.S. strategic posture.  The commission would be charged with examining U.S. strategic posture and making recommendations on changes to that posture, particularly regarding nuclear weapons policy.  We believe this commission could play an important role in spurring and framing a needed debate over the role of nuclear weapons in the United States’ 21st Century strategic posture.  We hope we can count on your support for this effort. 

    Your letter and the summary paper emphasize the significance of the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program to U.S. nuclear weapons policy.  We have thoroughly examined the RRW program, through a series of classified and unclassified briefings in addition to our hearings.  We see promise in the proposed RRW program, but we take issue with your assertion that any delay in RRW would “force the United States to maintain a large stockpile of nuclear weapons and sustain it through increasingly costly and risky Life Extension Programs,” and “raise the prospect of having to return to underground nuclear testing to certify existing weapons.” 

    As we stated in the report accompanying the legislation, we believe it is too early to know whether RRW can deliver on the objectives that have been established for the program, and the prudent course at this point is rigorous study of the feasibility of achieving those objectives.  With bipartisan support, the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2008 as drafted by this committee and approved by House fully authorizes the proposed design and cost studies for the RRW, eliminating only those funds requested to support more advanced development activities. 

    Thank you again for your letter.  We look forward to working with you on these critical issues.

                                                            Very truly yours,


         Ike Skelton                                              Ellen Tauscher

         Chairman                                                 Chairman

         House Armed Services Committee                 Subcommittee on Strategic Forces

                                                                      House Armed Services Committee