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November 19, 2021

Republican Defense Leaders in Congress Condemn Reported Censorship of Pentagon Views on Long-Standing Nuclear Policies

Six of the top Republicans in Congress, led by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today sent a letter to Biden administration officials expressing grave concern over reports that the National Security Council has blocked the Department of Defense from making recommendations about changes to the United States’ nuclear declaratory policy through the ongoing Nuclear Posture Review — potentially preventing our nation’s top security officials from advocating against the “unwanted” and “destabilizing” adoption of “Sole Purpose” or “No First Use” nuclear policies.

The letter’s signers also included U.S. Sens. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and U.S. Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, Michael McCaul (R-Texas), ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

“It would be unwise and irresponsible to muzzle the considered advice of the U.S. government’s foremost experts on nuclear deterrence issues at the DOD, and throughout the interagency. It would also deprive the President of your views, the views of NATO allies, and those of our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region,” the members wrote to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley.

“As the administration’s [Nuclear Posture Review] moves towards completion, it is imperative that the process will set aside the distractions of ideologues who ignore the dangerous new geopolitical reality taking shape with China’s astonishing expansion of its nuclear and conventional military capabilities, and Russia’s ongoing nuclear modernization and increasingly aggressive posture in Europe.”

The members continued, “We urge you to ensure the [Nuclear Posture Review], including any potential change in U.S. nuclear declaratory policy, addresses the increasingly dangerous strategic environment, allies’ views and concerns, as well as the deteriorating condition of U.S. nuclear forces relative to the modernization efforts underway in the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation.”

To clarify these media reports, the members asked the administration officials to provide written assurance that they will submit appropriate recommendations regarding any changes to U.S. nuclear declaratory policy during the Nuclear Posture Review, along with the intelligence community’s best judgment regarding allied and partner countries’ opinions any changes to U.S. nuclear declaratory policy.

The letter can be read here or below. 

Dear Secretary Blinken, Secretary Austin, Director Haines, and General Milley:

We are writing to you today to express our concern about the conduct of the administration’s ongoing Nuclear Posture Review (NPR).  Specifically, we are concerned by recent reports that the National Security Council may have directed the Department of Defense (DOD) to only submit possible courses of action, and not any recommendations, related to a change in U.S. nuclear declaratory policy. Ostensibly, this is due to an assumption that DOD and other interagency officials, now confronted with the reality of our adversaries’ growing military threat and allies’ serious concerns about the possibility of unwanted changes to U.S. nuclear policies, would recommend against potentially destabilizing U.S. policy changes such as adopting a “Sole Purpose” or “No First Use” nuclear declaratory policy.

It would be unwise and irresponsible to muzzle the considered advice of the U.S. government’s foremost experts on nuclear deterrence issues at the DOD, and throughout the interagency.  It would also deprive the President of your views, the views of NATO allies, and those of our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region.  Further, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is statutorily obligated to provide his best military advice to the Commander-in-Chief on these important issues. 

As the administration’s NPR moves towards completion, it is imperative that the process will set aside the distractions of ideologues who ignore the dangerous new geopolitical reality taking shape with China’s astonishing expansion of its nuclear and conventional military capabilities and Russia’s ongoing nuclear modernization and increasingly aggressive posture in Europe. It must instead focus on a dispassionate, objective assessment of the facts. We urge you to ensure the NPR, including any potential change in U.S. nuclear declaratory policy, addresses the increasingly dangerous strategic environment, allies’ views and concerns, as well as the deteriorating condition of U.S. nuclear forces relative to the modernization efforts underway in the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation.  It is no exaggeration to say that this NPR may be the most consequential ever conducted as the United States and our worldwide network of allies face the largest geopolitical shift since the end of the Cold War.  We must be clear-eyed in addressing this growing challenge to global stability.

Our Committees have previously requested all ally responses to the “Sole Purpose Questionnaire,” and any other cables or memos describing ally views regarding a potential change in U.S. nuclear declaratory policy.  We seek your written assurance that each of you, on behalf of your respective departments and agencies, will submit recommendations to the President and the National Security Council regarding any potential changes to U.S. nuclear declaratory policy during the NPR. We request that you notify your respective oversight committees when those recommendations have been made and the form in which those recommendations were/will be provided. 

Further, we request information from the Director of National Intelligence regarding the Intelligence Community’s best judgment regarding the list of allied and partner countries that would be supportive, neutral, or opposed to a change in U.S. nuclear declaratory policy, such as a “Sole Purpose” or “No First Use” nuclear declaratory policy.

We thank you for your prompt reply to these important matters of national security.

 


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