Senators Press Hagel on Nuclear Views

During Thursday’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on former Sen. Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be the next Defense Secretary, senators from both sides of the political aisle scrutinized Hagel’s endorsement of the Global Zero Commission report that last year called for slashing nuclear weapons stockpiles. SASC Chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) questioned whether now was the right time to unilaterally disarm in light of recent aggressive acts by North Korea, like its long-range missile test. Hagel countered, saying neither Global Zero’s position, nor his own, has ever been for unilateral disarmament, but rather for acting only in concert with other nations. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) pointed out that the Global Zero report “refers to itself as a dyad, not a triad report.” He questioned the report’s proposal to eliminate “the 76 nuclear B-52 bombers entirely, leaving only 18 B-2 bombers [and] reducing nuclear submarines from 14 to 10” as well as “eliminating all tactical nuclear weapons, [and] de-alerting all weapons.” Hagel responded that the report “didn’t propose or call for anything,” but rather was “illustrative—proposing nothing, but laying out different scenarios and schedules.” He said he is “committed to maintain a modern, strong, safe, ready, and effective nuclear arsenal” and to “modernizing our nuclear arsenal.” (Hagel’s responses to advance policy questions) (For more on the Global Zero Commission report, see Zero Deterrent from Air Force Magazine’s 2012 archive.)