Protecting the Triad

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) praised the Defense Department for its “clear commitment” to modernizing the nuclear triad despite tough economic times during Wednesday’s hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s strategic forces panel. However, he noted that sustaining and modernizing the triad will not be cheap, citing an estimated $120 billion cost just over the next decade. A modernized tried must be affordable, said Sessions, the panel’s ranking member. “Uncontrollable cost, perhaps more than anything else, could be a threat to our ensuring it in the future,” he asserted. He expressed his support “to do whatever is possible to modernize our nuclear weapons,” but he also acknowledged that he’s “been taken aback” by the estimated cost of $8 billion or more to build a new uranium-processing facility and a plutonium-handling facility for the nuclear weapons complex. Madelyn Creedon, assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs, said the Pentagon’s Fiscal 2013 budget request generally protects the nuclear modernization initiatives despite “some adjustments in some of the schedules of programs,” like the two-year slip to the fielding of the Ohio-class replacement submarine. “Where we are all concerned, and where we have work to do, is in the outyears,” she said. (Creedon-Weber joint statement)