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Strategic Weapons in the 21st Century


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Strategic Weapons in the 21st Century

SW21 2009: Congressional Perspectives

Senator Jeff Bingaman

The United States is pursuing the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. This objective, consistent with Article VI of the NPT, was also articulated in the Wall Street Journal Op-Ed piece by Perry, Shultz, Nunn and Kissinger. Progress towards this end can only be achieved through negotiated reductions.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman

Senator Jeff Bingaman

An important step will be a renegotiation of a START agreement, including verification. Additional steps will be pursued through other treaties and discussions with allies. The Nuclear Posture Review due in December of 2009 should outline a framework for U.S. forces consistent with these goals.

The National Security Budget should support a nuclear weapons complex configured for a smaller stockpile and for a corresponding dismantlement effort. Sustaining this smaller stockpile into the future will be achieved through a 30 year LEP for the W76, and with a pending LEP for the B61. A corresponding LEP for the W87 has already been supported. The laboratories needed for ongoing stockpile support and for hedging against uncertainty will be sustained through diversification, which I support. However, Work for Others support for security infrastructure remains an issue.

In summary, the U.S. is committed to stockpile reductions, and the process is underway to codify these reductions in international agreements.

Senator Jon Kyl

The new Administration faces both great economic challenges and great national security challenges. The challenge of maintaining a viable deterrent is particularly great, but has been neglected. This situation is illustrated by the recent firing of senior Air Force officials, some of whom appear to have encouraged this neglect. It is further illustrated in the fact that there has been no significant modernization of our nuclear weapons. The nuclear complex has deteriorated and we are losing expertise.

Sen. Jon Kyle

Senator Jon Kyl

We thus face increasing uncertainty, and have insufficient capacity to respond to problems. Threats remain as do other national security needs. Some states are modernizing their nuclear capabilities, and others may be tempted to compete with the U.S. Yet deterrence still works, even if differently than during the Cold War. U.S. nuclear capability provides assurance to allies and thus prevents further nuclear proliferation. Nuclear weapons continue to make conventional warfare less likely.

In recent years, military and technology leaders have been at odds with political leaders. Both Congress and the Administration share the blame. One consequence of this tension, among others, is that the stockpile stewardship bargain is not being kept. The new Administration is trying to keep past commitments and is trying to learn. Its national security goals are laid out broadly on the White House web site. The reports of the Perry/Schlessinger Commission will also be an important resource.

In response to a question about how to ‘educate’ the Hill, Senator Kyl stressed that such efforts should start with Congressional staff and utilize such vehicles as the Kyl/Byrd forum on defense. Op Eds would also be a useful tool. When asked how proliferation issues should be balanced against such other factors as deterrence, sustaining the stockpile and the CTBT, Kyl called attention to trade-offs, such as that between testing and stockpile stewardship. We haven’t really invested adequately in stewardship or in stockpile modernization and hence are moving to zero through neglect. As for proliferation, Kyl stated that there has been no gain on the proliferation side in return for U.S. restraint.

SW21 2009: View From STRATCOM

Vice Admiral Carl Mauney

There is a continuing need for nuclear deterrence in a world of uncertainty – about the intent of strategic competitors, over whether deterrence will work, and over technology. Fundamental to how deterrence works is the need to influence the thinking of adversaries, and particularly their perceptions of relative costs and benefits. One must understand clearly what are the values and capabilities of adversaries, and one must know what are their goals and objectives. Really knowing them is knowing how they make decisions.

Vice Admiral Carl Mauney

Vice Admiral Carl Mauney

One must also have credible tools in place to influence those goals, objectives and decisions. One must also have accurate warning of the intent as well as the actions of adversaries, and communication must be consistent, reliable and accurate, both with adversaries and with one's own forces. Those forces must be ready and capable of acting. And if deterrence fails, then those actions must be sufficient at least to achieve one's aims, if not overwhelming. Ensuring that forces are sufficient requires adaptability (tailored deterrence), appropriate use of allied nuclear forces, and regular exercises that build capability and confidence, and demonstrate that capability to potential adversaries.

Nuclear forces-in-being play vital roles beyond deterrence. Most importantly they must be able to carry out a nuclear attack (or response) should deterrence fail. They also cast long shadows over decisions made by adversaries, and they form the foundation for the rest of our military posture. They influence and force conscious decisions by competitors about their investment in their own forces and infrastructure, and more broadly affect both their explicit actions and their intentions. Deterrent capabilities can help influence and deflect terrorist actions, although nontraditional strategies may make such influence more effective. Nuclear forces, together with corresponding infrastructure and human capital (harder to maintain as forces in being are reduced) provide us with a hedge against surprise, and help preserve diversity in overall military capability.

In summary, nuclear deterrence has played a key historical role, and STRATCOM is working hard to maintain this vital capability.

In response to a question, Adm. Mauney affirmed that declaratory U.S. nuclear policy must contain elements both of specificity and of ambiguity.

SW21 2009: View from NNSA

Thomas D'Agostino

It may be possible to achieve a national consensus, a ‘right middle ground' on the meaning of nuclear security. Nuclear weapons have in the past deterred nuclear war and have provided security assurance to allies.

Thomas D'Agostino

Thomas D'Agostino

Today they remain factors in the security calculations of other countries. While the overall security environment is less certain than it was, assurance is still important.

We also need renewed emphasis on preventing diversion of nuclear materials and weapons, and on our ability to attribute the origins of any materials used in a nuclear attack.

NNSA will remain a vital part of the nuclear security enterprise. The Administration marshals unique skills and capabilities, including responsibilities for nuclear weapon, counterterrorism, nonproliferation, nuclear forensics, incident response, and research and development. In order to be responsible stewards of our nuclear capability, the enterprise requires a strong science and technology base. Secretary Chu is actively engaged in these issues and understands the seriousness and scope of these responsibilities.

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