The Defense Department is on track to meet the requirements of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, as it also modernizing its ballistic missile defense capabilities, a senior defense official told Congress May 9.
Madelyn R. Creedon, assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs, told the House Armed Services Committee’s Strategic Forces Subcommittee the United States and Russia are making good progress toward new START requirements. The treaty sets February 2018 deadline for both countries to comply with new reduced limits in their nuclear arsenals.
“The department is on track now to ensure that … compliance with the treaty is achieved, and at the moment, it looks like compliance can be achieved with about a six months window to spare,” Creedon reported.
DOD is evaluating options for what the New START force structure to be implemented in 2015 will look like, and is expected to reach a decision by the end of this year, she told the panel. “We’re trying to fully analyze all the options, provide enough flexibility to make sure that we’ve got the right decision and still come into compliance with New START in 2018,” she said.
U.S. Strategic Command is committed to fielding a modernized nuclear triad that complies with New START as it maintains credible deterrence, Air Force Gen. C. Robert Kehler, the Stratcom commander, told the panel. A nuclear triad is an arsenal composed of three components, traditionally intercontinental ballistic missiles, strategic bombers and submarine-launched ballistic missiles. The idea behind this strategy is to greatly reduce the enemy’s capability to destroy all the country’s nuclear weapons with a first-strike attack.
“In today’s uncertain and complex world, Stratcom’s fundamental purpose remains constant,” Kehler said. “With the other combatant commands, we must deter, detect and prevent attacks against the United States, assure our allies and friends of our security commitments to them, and if directed, employ appropriate force to achieve national objectives if deterrence fails.”
Nuclear forces alone aren’t enough to provide a credible deterrence, Kehler acknowledged. It must be tailored to specific scenarios and actors, and requires a broader array of tools, he said.
“However, as long as nuclear weapons exist, my number one priority will be to deter nuclear attack, and assure allies and friends with a safe, secure, and effective nuclear force,” he told the panel. “To do this, my objective remains to field a credible New START compliant triad of survivable ballistic missile submarines, responsive intercontinental ballistic missiles and flexible nuclear capable heavy bombers that can present any would-be attacker with insurmountable problems.”
This triad provides “the best blend of survivability and flexibility and responsiveness,” he said. “Those are military attributes that are not only beneficial to us, but typically very difficult for an adversary to overcome.”
Kehler also emphasized the importance of an updated comprehensive warning system, assured command-and-control system and a highly specialized nuclear-weapons complex. It also demands continual efforts to reduce vulnerabilities that could disrupt these activities and the command-and-control network that ties them together, he said.
The team of military members, civilians and contractors that operate this enterprise ensure that it is “safe, secure and effective,” he said, warning against funding decisions that could compromise that.
“It will not remain that way unless we keep the nuclear weapons complex, the delivery system modernization, and sustainment programs on a stable, and committed course,” he told the subcommittee.