WASHINGTON - Today, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, made the following remarks, as prepared for delivery, on the Subcommittee's hearing titled "Fiscal Year 2018 Priorities for Nuclear Forces and Atomic Energy Defense Activities." For testimony and to watch the hearing click here.
"Welcome to our hearing on “Fiscal Year 2018 Priorities for Nuclear Forces and Atomic Energy Defense Activities.'
I thank our witnesses for being here today and for your service to the Nation. In uniform or out, your service to the American people is greatly appreciated.
We have a full witness panel today because—due to the compressed schedule for the budget request and defense authorization bill—we’re going to attempt to cover the waterfront on all things nuclear.
Our witnesses are:
• The Honorable Frank Klotz
Administrator and Under Secretary for Nuclear Security
National Nuclear Security Administration
• Dr. Robert Soofer
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy
Department of Defense
• General Robin Rand
Air Force Global Strike Command
• Vice Admiral Terry Benedict
Navy Strategic Systems Program
• Dr. John Zangardi
Acting Chief Information Officer
Department of Defense
• Ms. Susan Cange
Acting Assistant Secretary of Energy for Environmental Management
Department of Energy
Two and a half months ago, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Selva, testified before our full committee that:
'There is no higher priority for the Joint Force than fielding all of the components of an effective nuclear deterrent and we are emphasizing the nuclear mission over all other modernization programs when faced with that choice…we in the Joint Force put our nuclear deterrent as the number one priority for modernization and recapitalization.'
This priority has now been clearly stated by three successive Secretaries of Defense—from Secretary Hagel, to Secretary Carter, to Secretary Mattis.
As my friend and ranking member has repeatedly pointed out, this subcommittee agrees with that prioritization on a bipartisan basis.
And I am pleased to say that the Fiscal Year 2018 budget request put forward by the Trump Administration two days ago reinforces that priority. This is good news—as a nation we need to put our money where our mouths are.
This committee played a key role in building the current broad, bipartisan agreement on the importance of the U.S. nuclear deterrent and the urgent need to carry out the full nuclear modernization program put forward by the Obama Administration.
Reflecting on the budget request, let’s be clear about one thing: the billion dollar increase requested for NNSA’s nuclear weapons activities goes a long way, but does not fully fill the gap identified by Secretary of Energy Ernie Moniz in his letter to the Office of Management and Budget in December 2015. The Secretary said there was over a billion dollar gap between the program of record in FY18 and the funding allocated—we’re still several hundred million dollars short here.
As the Trump Administration embarks on its Nuclear Posture Review—in which several of our witnesses are intimately involved—we will take stock today of this and all of the priorities, policies, and programs related to nuclear deterrence and nuclear security more broadly.
Let me briefly highlight two.
Of particular concern to this subcommittee are the nuclear advances being made by foreign countries and how those impact our own deterrent. As we heard from the Defense Science Board earlier this year: “nuclear weapons are a steadily evolving threat—in both new and familiar directions.” We must understand how the threat is evolving and anticipate what must be done to compensate.
The U.S. focus in recent years has been on downplaying the utility of nuclear weapons—but most other nuclear powers have not followed this lead. The U.S. will ensure its nuclear deterrent is robust and credible against all potential threats today and for the long-term.
Another longstanding concern of this subcommittee has been the state of the infrastructure within the NNSA enterprise. The committee has held several hearings on this topic in the past year, and I’m pleased that the budget request provides additional funding here.
We will take a look at the projects that are being proposed and make sure we are truly buying down the massive backlog of deferred maintenance and repair needs. We will also look to see what authorities and processes can be provided or streamlined to ensure we’re doing this smartly, effectively, and efficiently.
In closing, let me revisit something that General Hyten, the Commander of U.S. Strategic Command, said at our hearing back in March:
'At a time when others continue to modernize and expand strategic capabilities, nearly all elements of the U.S. nuclear delivery systems, weapons stockpile, NC3, and other critical infrastructure are operating well beyond their expected service life… Planned sustainment and modernization activities must be completed on schedule as any delay will impact the execution of our strategic deterrence mission and unacceptably degrade our ability – and ultimately our credibility – to deter and assure.'
For our #1 priority defense mission, this is a sobering reminder of the tremendously important job facing these witnesses and this subcommittee. Let’s get to work."