Today Chairman Mike Turner reminded Congressman Ed Markey that there is strong bipartisan support for maintaining full funding for our nuclear modernization efforts, as well as sustaining our nuclear deterrent.
“Congressman Markey believes that if we eliminate our nuclear deterrent, we’ll suddenly have the funds to pay for every program he thinks is a priority. However, the President, the Secretary of Defense, our military commanders, and key national security leaders in the House and Senate recognize that full nuclear modernization funding provides the safety under which those programs exist,” stated Turner.
Turner, who leads the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, which has responsibility for overseeing our nuclear capabilities, has been working closely with members of the Obama Administration and our uniformed services on this issue. In the process he has received detailed classified briefings on the state of our deterrent’s readiness and reliability as compared to that of Russia, China, and other states. It’s not clear if Markey, who is Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committee, has requested a briefing or has spoken with senior military officers about the need for nuclear modernization within the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).
Clear Support for Nuclear Modernization Funding
President Barack Obama
In a December 20, 2010 letter to Sen. Lamar Alexander on funding for the modernization of nuclear weapons complex President Obama wrote:
“I recognize that nuclear modernization requires investment for the long-term….That is my commitment to the Congress – that my Administration will pursue these programs and capabilities for as long as I am President.”
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta
Today (10/13/2011) at a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee, Secretary Panetta responded to a question from Turner by stating his full support for the funding of modernization of our nuclear deterrent:
Turner: “In effect, your funds are being stolen for water projects across the country, and I think you might have an opinion about that.”
Panetta: “Well, as a former [House] member, I know in those committees, they’re going to reach for whatever they can in order to try to see if they can fund those projects. I understand that process. But I think it’s tremendously shortsighted if they reduce the funds that are absolutely essential for modernization.”
“If we aren’t staying ahead of it, we jeopardize the security of this country. So, for that reason, I certainly would oppose any reductions with regards to the funding for weaponization [sic. modernization].”
The House Budget Committee’s report accompanying the FY12 budget resolution said, “this resolution addresses to reverse the pattern [of underinvestment in the nuclear weapons complex] by prioritizing the nuclear modernization work of the NNSA. This includes providing fiscal space for the modernization of the nuclear weapons complex...”
The budget committee report further stated the budget resolution “assumes full funding for the modernization of the infrastructure that builds and maintains the nation’s nuclear weapons systems.”
In May, the House passed by an overwhelming margin (322 to 96) the FY12 National Defense Authorization Act, which recognized the critical need for nuclear modernization and authorized full funding for NNSA. The bill was reported out of the House Armed Services Committee by a vote of 60 to 1.
The Senate Armed Services Committee has reported its version of the NDAA—which includes full funding for the NNSA which oversees our nuclear modernization efforts.
Former Commander of U.S. Strategic Command - General Kevin Chilton, USAF
In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on June 16, 2010, General Chilton was asked about the appropriate size of the nuclear stockpile, and stated:
“I do not agree that it is more than is needed. I think the arsenal that we have is exactly what is needed today to provide the deterrent. And I say this in light of -- when we talk about the non-deployed portion of the arsenal, it is sized to be able to allow us to hedge against both technical failures in the current deployed arsenal and any geopolitical concerns that might… cause us to need more weapons deployed.”