WASHINGTON – Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, delivered the following opening statement at a subcommittee hearing on FY22 Strategic Forces Posture:
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
I’m pleased that we are having this hearing because I believe it is vitally important that we hear directly from the witnesses about the importance of supporting our nuclear modernization and the strategic threats our nation is facing today and in the future.
At his confirmation hearing in January, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, like the previous four Secretaries of Defense, confirmed “that nuclear deterrence is the Department’s highest priority mission and that updating and overhauling our nation’s nuclear forces is a critical national security priority.”
This confirmation aligns with the testimony of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Milley, who before this Committee last year credited a safe, secure, and guaranteed nuclear enterprise as the primary reason why “we have not had a great power war in 75 years, since World War II.”
Amidst speculation that the Administration would make cuts to critical nuclear modernization programs, my Republican colleagues and I wrote to President Biden last month to make very clear several important points as they consider their first budget request:
• First, “we have regrettably allowed much of our nuclear deterrent to atrophy.”
• Next, “most U.S. nuclear delivery systems have been extended far beyond their originally planned service lives and cannot be sustained beyond the 2025 to 2035 timeframe.”
• And, therefore, “now is the time to prioritize long-overdue investments required for the Department of Defense and the National Nuclear Security Administration.”
As we all wait for the Administration to deliver its complete budget request for Fiscal Year 2022, I was encouraged that they seemed to indicate support for nuclear modernization in the “skinny” budget; however, we will need much more information before we can be certain this is the case.
I am however, disappointed in the overall top line number and its failure to keep up with inflation, much less the 3-5% increase recommended by military experts to properly resource our forces amid increasing threats from China, North Korea, Iran, and Russia. I hope to hear from our witnesses today how the global threat picture has evolved over the last decade and how you assess the “strategic risk” posed by our adversaries and the risk of “strategic deterrence failure.”
Russia has been aggressively modernizing its nuclear forces for more than a decade and is coming to the end of this modernization program. The United States on the other hand is just beginning this process. Russian efforts include development of entirely new capabilities including novel delivery systems such as Poseidon, an autonomous, nuclear-powered/nuclear-armed, underwater delivery system, and the SKYFALL nuclear-powered cruise missile that the Trump administration accurately dubbed the “road-mobile flying Chernobyl.”
Russia is also building a large, diverse, and modern set of non-strategic systems that are dual-capable and not accountable under any arms control agreement, including the New START Treaty which was extended for five years by the current Administration without getting anything in return. Russia’s non-strategic nuclear weapons modernization is increasing the total number of such weapons in its arsenal, while significantly improving its delivery capabilities. According to then DIA Director General Ashley, “Russia's stockpile of nonstrategic nuclear weapons, already large and diverse, is being modernized with an eye towards greater accuracy, longer ranges and lower yields to suit their potential war-fighting role.” This includes the production, possession, and flight testing of the INF Treaty killing 9M729 ground-launched cruise missile.
However, Russia isn’t the only threat we must consider. Over the next decade, China will expand and diversify its nuclear forces as it seeks to be a strategic peer to the United States. This past February, Admiral Richard stated, “China’s nuclear weapons stockpile is expected to double (if not triple or quadruple) over the next decade.” They are also on the cusp of fielding a triad and are undertaking some very provocative activities at their nuclear test site. This undertaking has occurred at the same time they have refused to participate in good faith arms control negotiations, calling into question their commitment to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.
Ms. Dalton, Admiral Richard’s views on Communist China’s nuclear modernization are well known. I am interested in hearing from you today on whether or not you concur with both his and the Intelligence Community’s assessment of China’s nuclear modernization trajectory and doctrine. He’s stated that China has a No First Use Policy that you “could drive a truck through.” I think it may be better characterized as them having a No First Use policy you could drive a “road-mobile ICBM through.” Ms. Dalton, I would like to hear if you agree that China could quadruple its warhead stockpile over the next decade and that its No First Use policy isn’t worth the paper it’s written on?
Admiral Richard in your written statement you say, “for the first time in our history, the nation is on a trajectory to face two nuclear-capable, strategic peer adversaries at the same time, who must be deterred differently.” I am very interested in hearing more about that and specifically, how our nation should approach this problem of deterrence. I was also struck by portions of your testimony that described your challenges associated with planning for future conflicts and the very real possibility that adversaries may “consider nuclear use as their least bad option” and I look forward to learning more about this as well.
As for Space, General Dickinson, this committee knows better than most that Space is no longer an uncontested environment. It has become increasingly crowded and is now classified as a warfighting domain. To continue to be effective in space and to support the joint force, we must be able to work together with our allies and with renewed focus, our commercial partners. It means information cannot be so classified that it cannot be communicated quickly. It means working with our allies to develop norms for how we operate. It also means publicizing the destabilizing space activities of Russia and China. Finally, it means taking advantage of the immense technological leaps that we are seeing in the commercial sector, particularly in constrained budget environments. I look forward to hearing how Space Command is working to address these issues and others raised in your testimony.