In the April 99 issue of THE SUBMARINE REVIEW, Capt. Bill Norris commented on subject study pointing out areas about the report that bothered him. Several of his thoughts deserve further discussion:
He was concerned that the study members were, in the main, military officers, government officials and national laboratory employees (from only one laboratory). It was not obvious from the report, but in fact, personnel from all of the nuclear weapon laboratories were invited to participate. This was a lengthy study, and it’s unfortunate that more of the personnel who initially started the project were unable to stay to completion. Participants also were from think tanks and included former officials. In general with a few exceptions, this was a middle-of the-road constituency without abolitionists and blatant nuke em hawks.
Bill commented that “the study gives mixed signals for the nuclear Tomahawk”, that “non-strategic nuclear weapons are systems without an advocate” and the study seemed to focus on strategic weapons. He opined that the emphasis on strategic forces may be because the major operations input appeared to be STRATCOM. The study group did not envision itself as a cheerleader for nuclear weapons but tried to discern the proper role. It is certainly fair to note that the study gives mixed signals concerning nuclear Tomahawk and indeed all of the so-called theater nuclear systems. Especially, within the Operations Group there was a strong feeling that the distinction today between strategic and non-strategic nuclear weapons was a bogus concept. All nuclear weapons use by any thoughtful leader entails a decision that crosses an immense chasm; truly a strategic decision. The same warhead may be used by strategic or non-strategic platforms. Range can be considerable for so called non-strategic weapons. The real difference is that strategic systems in our inventory have been brought under the regime of arms control agreements; to date active stockpile nonstrategic weapons have not. Further, absent political considerations and extant international agreements, there appears to be little reason for long term investment in so-called non-strategic weapons and the modifications to USAF fighter/attack aircraft to carry them. The delivery of nuclear weapons can be effectively executed by bombers ICBMs and SSBNs. This feeling is not universally shared.
Bill commented that 111 would like to have had the concept that new weapon development or modification of existing weapons be accepted and expected more strongly emphasized”. The study noted (page 3-22) that it was not the purpose of the study to define the number or shape of future U.S. nuclear forces, and argued for strong operator input into the design of future weapons. The paper also stated as one of its operations conclusions that: .. The United States should develop a nuclear warhead capable of attacking deeply buried or hardened underground facilities as well as an extremely accurate, relatively low-yield, low- altitude burst weapon for use against biological weapons facilities.” (page 3-57). Preservation of the country’s capability for design and production of nuclear weapons is a hallmark argument of this study. (page 1- 41 ). I agree completely with Bill that we should not let the stockpile we have inherited become the requirement for the future.
Bill noted “that budget is ignored as a reality” . Fiscal concerns were mentioned on 15 different pages in the first 3 chapters, and Bill properly highlights the importance of proper funding. It should be noted that without a coherent argument for why strategic systems are necessary it will be virtually impossible to successfully argue for the necessary budget. This paper sought to lay out the need for continued attention to nuclear weapons in the post-ColdWar world with viable programs and policies. The coherent argument of the Department of Energy for a well-planned Stockpile Stewardship Program has enabled DOE to stabilize the Defense Programs budget after a steep slide. The Department of Defense needs to learn from that lesson.
Bill notes that the .. report points out, nuclear policy and planning is an area of expertise that we are not maintaining”. It would be an overstatement to conclude that the authors of the report believe that current nuclear policy and planning over-all is not being maintained. It also would be a grave mistake for our potential adversaries to believe this area is being ignored or neglected today. It is fair to assert that the study participants were concerned about the future plans to ensure that sufficient personnel were prepared and that the Department was properly organized to focus on the right policy issues.
Bill Norris presents a thoughtful discussion that helps to clarify this study. Nuclear weapon policy and role in the contemporary U. S. military structure is a subject that increasingly is becoming a key responsibility of the Submarine Force as other parts of the Armed Forces focus on different principal missions. This dialogue is important and welcomed.