For the first time in American history, the nation is facing “two nuclear-capable strategic peer adversaries at the same time,” which is why maintaining and upgrading the U.S. nuclear deterrence force is more critical now than ever. This warning was delivered on Tuesday to the Senate Armed Services Committee budget hearing by Navy Adm. Charles A. Richard, commander of U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM).
The stark warning is likely aimed at wavering Democrat lawmakers, who, as I have written here, are under pressure from the left wing of their party to reduce or eliminate many U.S. nuclear weapons modernization programs. President Biden has also expressed his desire to significantly cut the U.S. nuclear arsenal, as I’ve noted.
STRATCOM controls the nation’s nuclear triad, which consists of strategic bombers, ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
And the two peer threat countries are of course, Russia and China.
The role of nuclear forces is not just to deter nuclear conflict, but also to deter conventional war and adventurism by adversaries. In that regard, said the Admiral, “Chinese and Russian [nuclear] advances are eroding our conventional deterrence.” Or our ability to deter war with conventional forces alone.
As I have written here and here, Richard reminded the committee that China is rapidly expanding its strategic nuclear capabilities and are on pace to at least double their nuclear weapons stockpile by the end of the decade.
Defense.gov News stated that “the admiral mentioned that Chinese ICBMs can be mounted on trucks so their location can be concealed. They also have modern, sixth generation nuclear-capable strategic bombers and submarines.”
The site added that Richard explained that while “China is capable of executing any plausible nuclear employment strategy regionally now and will soon be able to do so at intercontinental ranges,” Russia remains the “pacing nuclear strategic threat.”
According to Richard, Russia, under Vladimir Putin, is aggressively engaged in conventional and nuclear capability modernization, which is approximately 80 percent complete.
Meanwhile, Richard added, the U.S. nuclear modernization effort has not even begun. Given these growing threats, modernization of the nuclear triad is the Pentagon’s top priority, he said.
Defense.gov News quoted the admiral as saying:
We’re at a point where end-of-life limitations and [the] cumulative effects of underinvestment in our nuclear deterrent and supporting infrastructure, against the expanding threat, leave me no operational margin. Our nation simply cannot attempt to indefinitely life-extend leftover Cold War weapon systems and successfully carry out the assigned strategy.
Message sent – ‘This is no time to cut spending on U.S. nuclear forces.’ Hopefully, the message was received. ADN