The Final Report of the Congressional Commission on the
Strategic Posture of the United States
Quote: [Red text added for emphasis]
Nov. 16, 2023 | By John A. Tirpak
To confront a world with not one but two major nuclear powers—neither of which is willing to enter arms talks—the U.S. must revive its atrophied nuclear weapons enterprise with all speed and build up its stock of conventional weapons in order to deter war, the chairs of a bipartisan strategic posture panel told the House Armed Services Committee on Nov. 15.
The U.S. has no margin left for modernizing its nuclear forces, and it’s doubtful that planned upgrades will arrive on time, Madelyn R. Creedon and former Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), chair and vice chair of the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States, told lawmakers after spending the last year studying the issue.
As things stand now, “the United States lacks a comprehensive strategy to address the looming two nuclear-peer threat environment and lacks the force structure such a strategy will require,” the report states.
In crafting its final report, the commission started with five assumptions, Creedon told lawmakers:
The 160-page report, compiled by a 12-person expert panel, did not provide cost estimates for any of their recommendations—a fact that rankled some of the representatives at the hearing, including ranking member Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.)—but this was not part of the commission’s charter, Kyl said.
“The commission’s report is threat-informed, forward-looking bipartisan consensus,” Creedon said. It “provides high level guidance to shape and ensure future decision makers have real options while generally refraining from choosing specific systems. We provide characteristics of recommended capabilities but do not pick the winners and losers.”
Several members of the committee pressed the witnesses on whether the U.S. should develop the nuclear Sea-Launched Cruise Missile that the Biden Administration decided not to pursue, but while they said it could play an important role in enhanced deterrence, they reiterated that they would not single out specific programs.
The commission did urge the full implementation of the strategic program of record, “which includes replacement of all U.S. nuclear delivery systems, modernization of their warheads, comprehensive modernization of U.S. nuclear command, control, and communications (NC3), and recapitalizing the nuclear enterprise infrastructure at the DOD and DOE/NNSA.”
All told, the panel included 81 recommendations in its report, mostly oriented toward generic capabilities needed to counter or offset those fielded by China, Russia and other nuclear powers or prospective ones.
Creedon said the report’s subtlety has led to some confusion about its findings.
“We are not recommending substantial increases in the new U.S. nuclear force posture. We want to avoid a new nuclear arms race, and most importantly, we want to avoid a nuclear conflict and thus we need a credible conventional and nuclear deterrent,” she said.
“We do recommend that we plan and be prepared for a more challenging future while fully supporting diplomatic and whole-of-government operations to reduce tensions and ensure strategic stability.”
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