"Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to thank General Kehler and General Alexander for their many years of service to our nation and acknowledge the dedication of the brave men and women under their command, whose main mission is to protect this nation against strategic attack.
The importance of our nuclear forces for the security of our nation and that of our allies was made clear by Deputy Secretary of Defense Carter, when he told this committee last month that, even in the face of the drastic budget cuts brought about by the sequester, “we in the Department of Defense will try to protect our nuclear capabilities to the maximum extent possible,” and that nuclear deterrence “is the last thing that you want to do serious damage to.”
Yet, his comments seem to foretell that despite the Department of Defense’s best efforts, we can expect shortfalls in funding for the nuclear modernization commitments that were the basis for the President’s policy to reduce U.S. nuclear forces, as well as the Senate’s support for the New START Treaty.
It is important to recall the linkage between nuclear force reductions and the need to modernize our nuclear infrastructure and weapons. Indeed, the President’s own 2010 Nuclear Posture Review stated, “these investments are essential to facilitating reductions while sustaining deterrence under New START and beyond.”
It was terribly troubling to hear General Kehler tell the House Armed Services Committee last week that, as the sequester impacts continue to grow, “reduced readiness and curtailed modernization damage the perceived credibility of our capabilities, increasing the risk to achieving our primary deterrence and assurance objectives.” In other words, if we do not consistently demonstrate – both through words and funding -- a commitment to modernize our nuclear deterrent, our allies might lose confidence in the U.S. nuclear umbrella, while potential adversaries could be led to believe they might hold a nuclear advantage over the United States.
Another important rationale for the President’s decision to reduce both the role and numbers of nuclear weapons is what the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review refers to as “the growth of unrivaled U.S. conventional military capabilities.” Yet, we have heard from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Service Secretaries that the sequester and future years funding reductions will have real, negative consequences for our ability to deal with crises around the world.
I would like to hear from General Kehler what these trends portend for the role of U.S. nuclear forces in our military strategy, especially in light of the fact that virtually all the other nuclear powers are modernizing their nuclear forces and placing more reliance on nuclear weapons in their national security strategy. Under these circumstances, further reductions in our nuclear arsenal would be ill advised.
I was pleased to hear the President finally acknowledge, in his recent State of the Union address, the need to “strengthen our own missile defense capabilities.” I hope the use of the phrase, “our own,” was a specific reference to our ground-based midcourse defense system, which I believe has suffered from neglect over the past four years and now must be expanded and modernized to stay ahead of the ballistic missile threat to the homeland.
Unfortunately this Administration has thus far failed to implement an effective cyber deterrence strategy that dissuades those seeking to hold our economic and national security interests at risk in cyberspace. Not a day goes by where it is not reported that are national security is being exploited in the cyber domain. Nation states such as China and Iran have been exposed publically for attempting to gain access to national secrets and undermine our defense and economic interests. Criminal and terrorist organizations continue to actively pursue and exploit malicious capabilities with little resistance or consequences. This must change. More must be done to make it clear that there will be consequences for anyone who seeks to undermine our national security through cyberspace. While the White House has been quick to blame Congress on the need for cyber legislation, it has been slow in developing and implementing the far more important strategy for exposing, countering, and deterring our adversaries.
Despite my concerns on White House policy, progress is being made within the Department of Defense. The organizations and structures are maturing and the department is beginning to rise above the interagency gridlock which has sought to undermine the Pentagon’s reach. I am happy to welcome General Alexander and applaud him and his team for the progress they have made in just the last year in developing the foundations necessary to start developing the offensive cyber capabilities and personnel necessary to defend the nation and project power in the cyber domain.
Certainly, more must be done and resources must be allocated; however, progress is being made and I am pleased to see for the Department is moving past its defense only mindset. The full spectrum of cyber defense – from our mainframe computers to our network switches to our endpoints – must not be overlooked and the asymmetric and relatively low cost potential of offensive cyber must be a priority.
Under sequester every Department of Defense account will be subject to the highest level of scrutiny. The threats we face however are blind to our fiscal woes and are emboldened by our dysfunction. Every dollar we spend must be maximized and those going towards nuclear deterrence, missile defense and cyber should be placed at a premium. The full spectrum of strategic capabilities must not be overlooked, as they are the nation’s ultimate insurance policy."