LOSING TIME: Nuclear Deterrence

Nov 13, 2017
Defense Drumbeat

“Every day we live under a continuing resolution is a day we do damage to our military.”  - Mac Thornberry, Chairman, House Armed Services Committee

Nuclear Deterrence


As we have heard from three successive Secretaries of Defense from two different Administrations, nuclear deterrence is the Department of Defense’s “highest priority mission.” And as HASC heard from the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Paul Selva, during his testimony in March: 

“there is no higher priority for the joint force than fielding all of the components of an effective nuclear deterrent… we in the Joint Force put our nuclear deterrent as the number one priority for modernization and recapitalization.” 

Despite this priority and nuclear threats from North Korea and Russia, U.S. nuclear forces are rapidly aging and many are well beyond their expected lifetimes. The newest systems in our nuclear forces, the ballistic missile submarines, are over 20 years old; the B-52 bomber is more than 50 years old; and the Minuteman III ICBM is approaching 50 years old. The replacement programs for each of these systems are on tight schedules and there is no margin for further slips.    


Under the CR, nuclear modernization and recapitalization programs are severely under resourced by over $1 billion. Specifically, the Air Force Long-Range Strike Bomber (the B-21) is underfunded by over $640 million, the Air Force’s programs for developing the new ICBM and nuclear cruise missile are underfunded by over $460 million, and the Navy’s Columbia class ballistic missile submarine program is underfunded by more than $140 million.


The NDAA fully funds the Air Force and Navy modernization programs at the required levels. Senior leaders and program managers within the nuclear enterprise have repeatedly told Congress that stable and predictable funding is the #1 risk to their programs—and CRs provide neither stability nor predictability. 

115th Congress