WASHINGTON — The U.S. military will continue to make investments to sustain its nuclear weapons and delivery platforms, even as Washington looks to enter talks with Moscow about reducing deployed strategic warheads by one-third, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said June 19.
The Pentagon will maintain its so-called triad of bombers, ballistic missile submarines and intercontinental ballistic missiles, Hagel said during a speech in Omaha, Neb.
Hagel said the United States will “maintain a ready and credible nuclear deterrent” while ensuring safety and effectiveness of existing weapons.
Even with long-term defense spending cuts on the horizon, the Pentagon will continue to invest in nuclear weapons and delivery systems, Hagel said. The Department of Defense (DoD) would also seek to retain experts in this career field.
Earlier June 19 during a speech in Berlin, President Barack Obama said he would pursue negotiated reductions with Russia of up to one-third the number of deployed strategic nuclear weapons. Obama’s announcement came at the conclusion of a two-year review of the size and mission of U.S. nuclear forces.
Also June 19, the Pentagon released an updated report on the U.S. nuclear employment strategy, the first update to the document in more than a decade and only the third revision since the end of the Cold War. In the nine-page report, the DoD said the threat of global nuclear war “has become remote,” however, “the risk of a nuclear attack has increased.”
Currently, the greatest “immediate threat and extreme danger” is nuclear terrorism, the report said. Other threats include nuclear proliferation in Iran and North Korea.
In the long term, the United States “must continue to address the more familiar challenge of ensuring strategic stability with Russia and China,” the report said. As for the U.S. nuclear stockpile, the DoD “should maintain legacy weapons to hedge against the failure of weapons undergoing life-extension only until confidence in each life-extension program is attained,” the report said.
DoD will also retain the “ability to forward deploy nuclear weapons with heavy bombers and dual-capable fighter aircraft in support of extended deterrence,” the report said.