Opening Statement by Ranking Member Reed at SASC Hearing on Nuclear Policy & Posture
Thank you, Senator Inhofe. I also want to thank all the distinguished witnesses for agreeing to testify today.
Ms. Creedon, you have a long history serving this committee, including as the lead professional staff member for the Strategic Forces Subcommittee when I was ranking member on that subcommittee, and you have also served as a senior official in the executive branch on matters pertaining to nuclear policy. Mr. Miller, you have served 31 years in the federal government as an expert on matters of nuclear policy and strategy under both Republican and Democratic administrations. You worked extensively on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties at the end of Cold War and on the Strategic Offensive Arms Reductions Treaty in 2003. General Kehler, you commanded U.S. Strategic Command from 2011, when the New START Treaty took effect, until your retirement in 2013. You are a trusted voice in all matters of nuclear strategy. I want to thank all of you for your service to our country.
I would like to hear from our witnesses on a number of issues that have evolved since the release of the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review.
First and foremost is the Administration’s notification of withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF Treaty, with nothing to replace it. While I understand that Russia was in noncompliance and that China also poses a threat, I am concerned that the U.S. did not redouble efforts to pressure Russia back into compliance or seek modifications to the treaty, if necessary. Treaties are a major component of our security strategy – we build and modernize nuclear weapons, but we also have treaties, which prescribe numbers and use. By withdrawing from the treaty without a strategy for what comes next, the Administration now has freed Russia to produce as many non-compliant SSC-8 cruise missiles and their launchers as they wish. These are small, highly mobile systems capable of hiding within Russia’s large interior land mass while holding at risk targets across Western Europe. The issue for the United States and its allies is how to respond to these Russian deployments and whether we are entering a new, destabilizing arms race.
A second issue I would like the panel to address is the decision in the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, or NPR, to pursue two new capabilities. One capability is to develop a low yield warhead for the submarine ballistic missile to counter the Russian “escalate-to-deescalate” strategy, which calls for Russia to use a low yield weapon first in a conflict. In addition, the 2018 NPR called for a study on bringing back the submarine launched cruise missile we retired in the 2010 NPR to also counter the Russian escalate to deescalate strategy. While the threats may be changing, creating or renewing nuclear capabilities is not without controversy. I am interested in hearing your views on whether these capabilities are necessary to protect our national security, if there are alternatives responses to the threats, and what are the consequences of developing these new capabilities.
A third issue for our panel is the question of whether to adopt a policy of no-first use of nuclear weapons. The United States has never adopted such a policy and has preferred a stance of strategic ambiguity. I understand that this issue was debated at length during the Obama Administration and the decision was ultimately made not to adopt such a policy for strategic security reasons and to support our allies. However, I believe that a robust debate on this issue is always good and I would like to know each of your views on a “no first use” policy.
Finally, I am concerned that we are on the verge of breaking the longstanding linkage between arms control and nuclear modernization. In December 2010, when the Senate approved the New START treaty for ratification, part of the context surrounding that ratification was a bipartisan consensus that the nuclear triad would be modernized. President Obama affirmed this commitment to modernization in February of 2011. I am worried we are now breaking that linkage – we are moving forward on modernization but have withdrawn from the INF Treaty, and there appears to be a growing reluctance to extend the New START Treaty for five years past its expiration date of 2021. Arms control and nuclear modernization work should proceed hand in hand to increase our overall security posture.
I would like to hear from our witnesses about whether they support extending the New START Treaty and what other arms control measures we might take with respect to nuclear weapons not covered by the START Treaty.
Former Secretary of Defense Carter often stated that our nuclear deterrent is the bedrock of every national security action we take; it serves as the backstop to containing further conflict among nuclear armed states. But with that responsibility comes a commitment to engage if possible on reducing the level of risk these weapons might pose to the world at large. Every President since the dawn of the nuclear age has accepted this moral responsibility. I am deeply concerned today that this Administration is not pursuing the U.S. commitment as a responsible nuclear power to reduce the risk of nuclear confrontation. I look to this panel for recommendations on how best to re-engage on this commitment.
President Reagan stated that “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. The only value in our two nations possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they will never be used.” As much as President Reagan valued a strong nuclear deterrent, he also valued the importance of arms control as an essential part of the security architecture to lessen the risk of these weapons ever being used. The two are linked and we must not forget that linkage.
Again, let me thank today’s witnesses and I look forward to their testimony.