By Terri Moon Cronk
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2015 – The president’s proposed fiscal 2016 budget proposal contains funding to provide a “stable and robust” nuclear deterrent capability for the nation, Brian P. McKeon, principle deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, told the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces here yesterday.
McKeon and Navy Adm. Cecil D. Haney, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, testified before the panel on strategic force needs in the fiscal year 2016 president’s budget request. Both officials said the budget request funding protects vital U.S. interests.
Need to Modernize Delivery Systems
“Significant resources” will be necessary in the next decade and beyond to modernize nuclear deterrence delivery systems and extend warhead life across the triad to preserve military capabilities amid evolving threats, McKeon said.
The president’s plan for nuclear sustainment and modernization aligns his commitment to “retaining a safe, secure and effective deterrent for as long as nuclear weapons exist,” he told the panel.
The budget request for the strategic force focuses on maintaining “stable and robust deterrence in a time of geopolitical uncertainty, while managing the transition from existing nuclear force to a modernized nuclear force,” McKeon said.
The White House plan reflects the smallest nuclear arsenal since the Eisenhower administration and it will continue to shrink, McKeon said.
“Our approach to warhead sustainment and modernization will enable additional reductions in the nondeployed hedge force,” he said.
While Stratcom remains mission-ready and its strategic nuclear force is safe, secure and effective, “serious attention” must be directed to strategic threats, weapons of mass destruction, and space and cyberspace, Haney testified.
The nation continues to witness emerging capabilities, such as modernizing strategic nuclear capabilities, counterspace and cyberspace activities, conventional and asymmetric threats and disturbing trends that upset the strategic balance, a concern for Stratcom and other combatant commands, the admiral said.
Strategic deterrence today is far more than just nuclear, although it is underpinned first and foremost by nuclear capabilities, Haney said.
“Deterrence includes a robust intelligence apparatus, space, cyberspace, conventional and missile defense capabilities, and comprehensive plans that link organizations and knit their capabilities together in a coherent way,” he said.
Investment in Strategic Capabilities
“Achieving strategic deterrence in the 21st century requires continued investment in strategic capabilities and renewed multigenerational commitment of intellectual capital,” Haney said.
The president's budget request for the strategic force strikes a responsible balance between national priorities, fiscal realities, and begins to reduce some risks that accumulated following deferred maintenance and sustainment, he added.
The budget proposal supports Stratcom’s mission requirements, but no margin exists to absorb new risk, Haney noted.
“Any cuts to the budget [request], including those imposed by sequestration,” he said, “will hamper our ability to sustain and modernize our military forces.”