A Malmstrom Air Force Base missile maintenance team removes the upper section of an intercontinental ballistic missile at a Montana missile site. The section was picked at random for a "glory trip," or a test launch, at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., in August 2014. Air Force photo by Airman John Parie.
Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash), the senior Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, on Wednesday condemned the Trump administration’s pending Nuclear Posture Review, saying the draft version calls for an expansion that would divert resources from needed programs.
The results of the review are expected to be released in February, although the Huffington Post published what it said was a draft version on Jan. 11.
In his statement, Smith expressed concern the review “calls for an expansion of America’s currently unaffordable $1.2 trillion plan to upgrade our nuclear weapons enterprise with even more new nuclear weapon systems and additional unneeded capacity.”
Smith said that price tag already “is completely unrealistic,” and adding to it “would further draw resources away from capabilities and training that we need to most effectively counter our near-peer adversaries.”
Smith argued the United States already has an “extremely robust, highly credible nuclear deterrent” that can respond to any attack and defend allies, adding, “We are currently in the process of upgrading that deterrent in an effort that will cost some $40 billion per year.”
That amount is “far more” than the Russians and Chinese are spending on nuclear weapons, he said, and it would be “irresponsible and misleading for the administration to act as if those countries are upgrading their nuclear arsenals while the United States is doing nothing.”
However, US Strategic Command boss Gen. John Hyten has repeatedly said the US can no longer afford to delay modernization, noting the average age of the United States’ nuclear warheads is 26 years old.
“The reliability on those weapons systems is already unacceptable, and it’s going to get worse every year as we go forward,” Hyten said in June at an AFA Mitchell Institute event in Washington, D.C. “I’m worried that our nation won’t be able to go fast enough to keep up with our adversaries any more.”
In March, USAF Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress it could cost six to seven percent of the Defense Department’s budget annually to update all three legs of the nuclear triad, but he emphasized “there is no higher priority for the joint force.”
Rather than increasing US security, Smith said, the administration’s recommendations will “feed a nuclear arms race, undermine strategic stability by lowering the threshold for nuclear use, and increase the risk of miscalculation that could precipitate a nuclear war.”
He criticized the review for “funneling ever more money into nuclear warfighting options, at the expense of our conventional capabilities; of our ability to manage the essential fiscal component of our national defense; and of strategic stability.”
“A nuclear posture that implements the President’s view that his nuclear button is ‘bigger and more powerful’ is short-sighted and ill-advised. This review is a missed opportunity to introduce realism into our nuclear weapons planning, enhance our security, and reassure our allies,” he said.
Claude Chafin, the spokesman for the Republican-led House Armed Services Committee, said the committee has “not been briefed on the NPR” and “it would be inappropriate to comment until we have.”