The flexibility the nuclear triad provides is the key to deterrence, Lt. Gen. Jack Weinstein, the deputy chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration, said Thursday. Speaking at an AFA-sponsored, Air Force breakfast in Arlington, Va., Weinstein said each leg challenges other nations to account for each capability, and sustaining them is necessary to prevent future massive conflicts like those that killed tens of millions of people during the 20th century. “We need to remember our actions or inactions impact what others do,” Weinstein said. “So, do we need a strategic bomber? Do we need a submarine-based platform? Do we need a Long-Range Standoff weapon? Do we need a gravity bomb? Do we need a ground-based ICBM? And do we need command and control and infrastructure to support all legs of the triad? The answer to all these questions is a resounding yes.” Weinstein said the modernization costs, which are projected to reach seven percent of the entire DOD budget in the mid 2020s, are “not historically unreasonable,” noting nuclear enterprise upgrades amounted to about 20 percent of the DOD budget in the 1960s and up to 10 percent of the budget in the 1980s. The total life-cycle cost of upgrading the nuclear enterprise is expected to be $1 trillion, he said. President Barack Obama’s budget requests have funded the modernization programs thus far, but fixes will need to be found for the 2020 bow wave, he acknowledged. As far as development goes, Weinstein said the LRSO Milestone A decision and Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent request for proposal are both before Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall. In June, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told lawmakers during his nomination hearing the LRSO milestone A decision was expected within two weeks and the GBSD milestone A decision was expected in August.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.