Today, Congressman Mike Turner gave remarks at the Nuclear Deterrence Summit. The Summit is an annual conference hosted by the publisher and parent organization of the Nuclear Weapons and Materials Monitor, a leading trade publication for the U.S. nuclear weapons community. Turner, who is Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, focused on the governance, management, and oversight of the nuclear security enterprise, the relationship between weapons reductions and the need for modernization, as well as the recent reports of proposed unilateral cuts to our nuclear deterrent.
The full text of Congressman Turner’s remarks follow below.
On Governance, Management, and Oversight of the Nuclear Security Enterprise
“The pointed criticisms about excessive, ineffective, and unnecessary bureaucratic processes—and confused and redundant management relationships—should sound eerily similar to the reports that spurred the creation of NNSA in 1999. The bottom-line is that implementation of NNSA has failed to achieve what the NNSA Act intended to do: create a lean, effective, and well-managed organization that is focused on meeting the nuclear security needs of the country. Not on meeting the needs of the bureaucracy.”
On the Relationship between Weapons Reductions and Modernization
“Some in the Administration are making he said-she said statements, stating that the Administration has tried, but Congress won’t fund the promises. I think that misses the point. The linkage is clear, reductions are not in the US national security interest without modernization. It simply isn’t good enough to try when it comes to national security—we have to succeed. We have to be adults about these issues; the nuclear deterrent is too important to our national security.”
On the President’s Review of Our Nuclear Force Structure
“Every other President has asked one simple question when conducting a review like this: what level of nuclear forces do I need to ensure that a potential enemy or adversary knows that if he attacks the United State or our allies, we will have the ability to respond with nuclear forces that could result in nothing less than total devastation?
“It’s now clear why the Administration has been refusing to inform the Congress about exactly what options the mini-NPR has been studying since the President signed PPD-11 last year.
“It has not yet been explained to me how fewer nuclear weapons in the U.S. deterrent is necessarily better for the country’s security.
“When allies see us backing away from our extended deterrent, and potential adversaries see us giving up these capabilities while they are growing them in practically every way—cascades of proliferation cannot be far behind.”
Remarks at the Fourth Annual Nuclear Deterrence Summit
The Honorable Michael R. Turner
Chairman, Strategic Forces Subcommittee, House Armed Services Committee
February 17, 2012
Thank you for your kind introduction, and thank you to the Exchange Monitor for hosting this event today. It is a privilege to have the opportunity to share my thoughts with such a broad array of folks from all parts of the U.S. nuclear weapons world: political, policy, and technical. I was reviewing the list of outstanding thinkers and leaders you have heard from over the past three days, and I hope I can provide another perspective to the mix.
Everyone here knows that this is a very busy week on Capitol Hill: budget request week. We’re still trying to digest everything in the budget request and plan our way ahead, but some initial outlines are clear at this point. So in my brief remarks today, I’d like to give you my perspective on the President’s FY13 budget request, and its implications for our nuclear forces in the near- and long-term.
But before we get to that, I want to spend some time on the other topic that has been on my mind—and my subcommittee’s agenda—this past week. And that is the growing recognition that the governance, management, and oversight structure we’re using to run the nuclear security enterprise is simply not working.
Governance, Management, and Oversight of the Nuclear Security Enterprise
As you may know, my subcommittee held a hearing yesterday morning that examined this issue of governance of the national labs and plants that sustain our nuclear weapons stockpile. It can be a rather arcane topic for a congressional hearing, but I believe, this topic—as much if not more than the budget—will determine the fate of our nuclear weapons program.
The hearing centered on the recently released report by the National Academies of Science. I believe this conference heard from Dr. Chuck Shank yesterday on this very report. Our subcommittee mandated this assessment by the National Academies in our FY10 defense authorization bill, and we thought its findings and recommendations deserved a close look. The conference report accompanying that bill explained that the study should provide “an even-handed, unbiased assessment of the quality of the scientific research and engineering” at the labs and an assessment of the “factors that influence” such quality. The recently released Phase I report focuses on the latter: management-related factors that influence the quality of science and engineering at the labs.
The findings in the National Academies study are not terribly surprising to those who have been paying attention to these issues—but they are still quite troubling. Here are a couple quotes from their report:
“In the view of this committee, the relationship between NNSA and its [labs] is broken to an extent that very seriously affects the Labs’ capability to manage for quality science and engineering. There has been a breakdown of trust and an erosion of the partnering between the Laboratories and NNSA to solve complex science and engineering problems; there is conflict and confusion over management roles and responsibilities of organizations and individuals.”
The National Academies’ report also finds that that the level of detailed, transactional-level management and oversight that NNSA applies to the labs is causing significant inefficiencies and risking the quality of science and engineering at the labs. The report says:
“There is a perception…at the three Laboratories that NNSA has moved from partnering with the Laboratories to solve scientific and engineering problems, to assigning tasks and specific science and engineering solutions with detailed implementation instructions. This approach precludes taking full advantage of the intellectual and management skills that taxpayer dollars have purchased. The study committee found similar issues in transactional oversight of safety, business, security and operations. Science and engineering quality is at risk…”
I take these findings, and the associated recommendations, very seriously. I take them seriously not just because they come from the distinguished National Academies, but because they are backed up by so many other independent assessments. In 2009, a bipartisan assessment by the Stimson Center, which was paid for by NNSA itself, found:
“The implementation of the NNSA Act failed to achieve the intended autonomy for NNSA within the Department of Energy. The Labs now must operate within a complicated set of bureaucratic relationships with both DOE and NNSA. An excessively bureaucratic DOE culture has infiltrated NNSA as well.”
Also in 2009, the bipartisan Strategic Posture Commission made strikingly similar findings. They include:
“…the governance structure of the NNSA is not delivering the needed results. This governance structure should be changed…In [the Commission’s] view, the original intent of the legislation creating the NNSA has not been realized. The desired autonomy has not come into being. It is time to consider fundamental changes.”
“Despite the efforts of thousands of dedicated and competent civil servants, Federal oversight of the weapons enterprise needs significant improvement… Despite some success, the NNSA has failed to meet the hopes of its founders. Indeed, it may have become part of the problem, adopting the same micromanagement and unnecessary and obtrusive oversight that it was created to eliminate…”
“The leadership of all three weapons laboratories believes that the regulatory burden is excessive, a view endorsed by the Commission. That burden imposes a significant cost and less heavy-handed oversight would bring real benefits…”
Listen to those quotes. The pointed criticisms about excessive, ineffective, and unnecessary bureaucratic processes—and confused and redundant management relationships—should sound eerily similar to the reports that spurred the creation of NNSA in 1999. The bottom-line is that implementation of NNSA has failed to achieve what the NNSA Act intended to do: create a lean, effective, and well-managed organization that is focused on meeting the nuclear security needs of the country. Not on meeting the needs of the bureaucracy.
Thanks to all of these assessments, recognition is growing that changes are needed. Our tight fiscal environment requires us to ensure every dollar possible is going towards getting the mission accomplished. Every dollar that goes towards redundant, burdensome, and non-value-added oversight processes is a dollar that is only hurting the mission.
Let me also say that we all need to recognize that, alone, simply moving boxes on an organizational chart isn’t going to resolve these problems. It is going to take leadership, both within the Administration and on Capitol Hill—as well as a consensus on why NNSA’s mission is so important and what needs to be done to move forward. My subcommittee’s Ranking Member, Loretta Sanchez, and I have agreed to take a hard look at these issues over the next few months and work together to help address the concerns of the National Academies study group, the Strategic Posture Commission, and all of the others. For the sake of our nuclear deterrent, extended deterrent, and nonproliferation programs—not to mention our budget—we need to start addressing these long-standing, well-documented problems.
FY13 Budget Request, Modernization Commitments, and the Future of our Nuclear Deterrent
Let me pivot now to talk about the President’s FY13 budget request for nuclear weapons. The President’s budget request is a clear articulation of his priorities. This most recent budget request asks the men and women in uniform who have given so much already to give that much more, so that the President may fund more domestic programs. The President claimed that the defense budget would rise every year, but ignores the fact that this FY13 request is $46 billion less than what he said he needed last year and more than $5 billion less than what was appropriated for fiscal year 2012.
Some would say this is the result of the debt limit standoff and the Budget Control Act. I’m a Member of Congress who never thought the Super Committee would work. That’s why I opposed the legislation. I disagree that the present situation was the inevitable result of that Act. Just looking at the billions of dollars in new spending on more “stimulus” in the President’s budget, I am hard pressed to understand why the President couldn’t have chosen to provide more funding for the nation’s defense if that was his priority.
What is most troubling to me is just how quickly the President has abandoned the key commitments he made to modernize our nuclear deterrent when he was seeking Senate ratification of his START Treaty—which was just over a year ago. Let’s look to the President’s modernization plan that he put forward in his 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). I’ll read a few brief excerpts from that document:
“The Administration will fully fund the ongoing life extension program (LEP) for the W76 submarine-based warhead for a Fiscal Year 2017 completion, and the full scope LEP study and follow-on activities for the B61 bomb to ensure first production begins in FY2017.”
“In order to sustain a safe, secure, and effective U.S. nuclear stockpile as long as nuclear weapons exist, the United States must possess a modern physical infrastructure – comprised of the national security laboratories and a complex of supporting facilities.”
“Funding the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project at Los Alamos National Laboratory to replace the existing 50-year old Chemistry and Metallurgy Research facility in 2021.”
“Developing a new Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 Plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee to come on line for production operations in 2021.”
This was President Obama’s modernization plan.
And not that long ago – late 2010 – a little over a year ago, to secure ratification of New START, he made a series of commitments to the Senate that he would fund and carry out his plan.
In a letter to several senators, he said that “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.”
In his message to the Senate on the New START Treaty in February 2011, he said “I intend to modernize or replace the triad of strategic nuclear delivery systems: a heavy bomber and air-launched cruise missile, an ICBM, and a nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) and SLBM; and maintain the United States rocket motor industrial base.”
The President’s message also highlighted his commitment to modernizing the infrastructure that supports our nuclear deterrent, saying, “I intend to accelerate, to the extent possible, the design and engineering phase of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) building and the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF).”
These assurances allowed the Senate to ratify the treaty, and inextricably linked New START nuclear force reductions with modernization efforts.
Such linkage was codified in condition 9 of the Resolution of Ratification of the treaty and section 1045 of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2012. We will see the first report, because of the FY12 Omnibus Appropriations Act, which underfunded the 1251 plan for FY12 by about $300 million. Clearly, modernization was linked to the prospect of further reductions in U.S. nuclear weapons.
Yet, the FY13 budget request will delay procurement of replacement nuclear ballistic missile submarines, delay delivery of a modernized W76 and the B61-12 gravity bomb, and indefinitely defer construction of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement facility that the President specifically certified he would advance.
What’s more, the President’s FY13 budget request makes clear that he has walked away from the November 2010 “Section 1251” plan that he submitted to assure the Senate of his intention to modernize the U.S. nuclear deterrent and its supporting infrastructure.
Some in the Administration are making he said-she said statements, stating that the Administration has tried, but Congress won’t fund the promises. I think that misses the point. The linkage is clear, reductions are not in the US national security interest without modernization. It simply isn’t good enough to try when it comes to national security—we have to succeed. We have to be adults about these issues; the nuclear deterrent is too important to our national security.
As Secretary Gates said while testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee in June of 2010:
“I see this treaty as a vehicle to finally be able to get what we need in the way of modernization that we have been unable to get otherwise….We are essentially the only nuclear power in the world that is not carrying out these kinds of modernization programs.”
And just earlier this week we perhaps see why President Obama has so quickly and easily abandoned these promises. As the Associated Press reported on Wednesday,
“The Obama administration is weighing options for sharp new cuts to the U.S. nuclear force, including a reduction of up to 80 percent in the number of deployed weapons…No final decision has been made, but the administration is considering at least three options for lower total numbers of deployed strategic nuclear weapons cutting to: 1,000 to 1,100; 700 to 800, and 300 to 400.”
Never before has a President done something like this. Yes, Presidents since Truman have updated the nation’s nuclear war plan. But I cannot find a precedent for a President to tell the national security team that, regardless of the nuclear weapons modernization programs of China, Russia, Pakistan, North Korea and others, the U.S. should plan to reduce to as low as 300 nuclear weapons.
Every other President has asked one simple question when conducting a review like this: what level of nuclear forces do I need to ensure that a potential enemy or adversary knows that if he attacks the United State or our allies, we will have the ability to respond with nuclear forces that could result in nothing less than total devastation?
It’s now clear why the Administration has been refusing to inform the Congress about exactly what options the mini-NPR has been studying since the President signed PPD-11 last year.
It has not yet been explained to me how fewer nuclear weapons in the U.S. deterrent is necessarily better for the country’s security.
When allies see us backing away from our extended deterrent, and potential adversaries see us giving up these capabilities while they are growing them in practically every way—cascades of proliferation cannot be far behind.
For 66 years, since the U.S. used them to end World War II, our deterrent has kept the world safe. This is not a recipe the Congress will let the President arbitrarily change to satisfy a small cloister of arms control and disarmament ideologues.
After the upcoming recess, I will introduce the “Maintaining the President’s Commitment to Our Nuclear Deterrent and National Security Act of 2012.” Pardon the long title, but with all the modernization promises the President made that are now in danger, it’s going to be a lengthy bill.
We will push to codify the President’s promises and we will build on the important legislative checks we enacted in last year’s defense authorization act that. For example, that bill requires the Commander of U.S. Strategic Command to assess, before any Presidential decisions to lower U.S. nuclear forces are implemented, whether those reductions are in the U.S. national security interest. And it establishes U.S. policy regarding tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. I expect more bicameral support this year in view of what one of my colleagues called the “reckless lunacy” of instructing the military to plan for an 80% reduction in the U.S. nuclear deterrent–coupled with the now apparent total abandonment of the President’s modernization promises.
I want to thank Ed Helminski and the Exchange Monitor for inviting me to speak here today.
I don’t believe that this is a subject which has to divide us across party lines. After all, Presidents and Congress’ of different parties have seen the need for a strong nuclear deterrent going back many decades, and Presidents of both parties have failed to always provide the supervision and support that is clearly required. I continue to hope that the bi-partisan consensus shown to us by the Perry-Schlesinger Commission can guide us in the years ahead.
I continue to look forward to hearing from so many of you as the Strategic Forces Subcommittee deliberates and debates how to resolve the challenges we face.
Thank you for your time and attention. I look forward to your questions.