Nuclear Obstacles

The lack of an established budget is the biggest obstacle to executing a “smart plan” for sustaining US nuclear deterrent assets, said retired Gen. Larry Welch, senior fellow at the Institute for Defense Analyses and former Chief of Staff of the Air Force. Speaking during a June 14 Capitol Hill speech sponsored by AFA, the National Defense Industrial Association, and the Reserve Officers Association, Welch referred to the budget uncertainty as a “showstopper.” The primary job of the US nuclear plan—including fielding and sustaining nuclear-capable bombers, submarines, and ICBMs—is to deter the use of nuclear weapons. That requires investment and resources, he added. But despite the financial ambiguity, Welch said several government agencies, such as the Air Force, Navy, and National Nuclear Security Administration, have demonstrated an “unprecedented level of cooperation” in extending the life expectancy of US nuclear assets thus far—one example, recycling 40-year old nuclear components. They have been “enormously innovated” in discovering ways to extend the limitations currently facing the nuclear complex, he said.