KINGS BAY TRIAD DETERRENCE CONFERENCE
AMBASSADOR LINTON BROOKS[This is an unofficial transcript provided by National Security Reports.]
AMBASSADOR LINTON BROOKS: Peter asked me, in addition to introducing the panel, to say a couple of words as a scene setter. This conference exists for two reasons. One is because we’re concerned, many of us, with the overall level of commitment to the nuclear enterprise and to nuclear deterrence. But the conference specifically is built on two beliefs: most of us believe that the Triad makes an important contribution to national security; and many of us fear that the Triad is under assault.
I want to suggest one way of thinking about these problems, and then I’ll introduce the panel, who will offer up a variety of perspectives. So I’ll make a series of assertions. Assertion number one, the assault on the Triad is long-term, not short-term. It is a mistake to over-react to studies like the recent Cato study saying let’s just go to submarines; or the Global Zero study or any of the comparable studies.
In the short-term the Triad will remain because there’s absolutely no strategic, political or fiscal benefit to eliminating it. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t going to be pressures in the short-term. The first pressure is actually going to come, who knows when, when the Russians decide they are no longer going to let missile defense serve as an excuse for not engaging on arms control. Because although what the press has spoken of in the president’s proposal of a one-third reduction in warheads, it is virtually certain that the United States will include a comparable reduction in delivery systems.
And if you took a one-third reduction from the current 700 deployed delivery systems, you’d be under 500. And if you like the Triad, you will find us falling to fighting among ourselves about how to construct a Triad at that level. So that’s the first point of pressure and that’s an internal problem. The American people aren’t going to vote on the balance among Triad levels, we are going to have to think through that issue ourselves.
Now as I say, right now we are being saved from facing up to that by the Russian Federation. And there’s every evidence we’ll be saved from facing up to it by the Russian Federation for some time. But the thing about authoritarian systems is that if they decide to change their mind they can do it pretty quickly.
In the long-term, we have threats to the Triad, and I assert that those threats are different for each leg. The ICBMs problem is it doesn’t have a good bumper sticker. It really doesn’t. With the Submarine Force, it’s survivable second-strike. Put that on a bumper sticker and people understand that.
With the bomber force, it’s the flexibility of having a man in the loop. People understand that. You’ve heard already today from Frank- and you heard last night from General Welch- the importance of the ICBM force, but it tends not to fit onto a bumper sticker.
So what we need to do is work very hard to make it clear to non-specialists why the ICBMs are a crucial element going forward. You’ve heard that argument a little bit from Frank. We need to keep working on it.
The challenge for the Submarine Force is quite different. The Submarine Force- submarine leg of the deterrent- is almost always what people want to default to. But the problem for the submarines is to avoid major disruption due to high unit cost.
There are two risks: one is stretch-out. We’ve already played that card and I’m not sure there’s anymore that can be done there. The other is pressures to reduce or eliminate survivability features. We can explain why stretching out procurement of the Ohio follow-on is dangerous because, as you heard already, we’re already assuming we can do something with the Ohio-class operational life that’s never been done before. So we can explain why assuming even more stretch-out is dangerous.
But we need to make sure that we continue to stress the importance of spending money on survivability when, we will be told by some of the people Frank referred to that, quote, “There is no threat.” And I point out to you the grandparents of the last Ohio follow-on commanding officer are dating now … So we’re talking about a world that is a very long time in the future. And that does not suggest to me that skimping on survivability features and the ability to maintain survivability against strategic surprise is a wise thing for the government.
The threat to the bomber force is to avoid getting the nuclear mission submerged in the important conventional missions of the future. You’ve heard Frank mention a plan to build the next bomber now but certify it for nuclear missions later. Okay, that’s a rational decision. I understand that.
Maybe we’ll build a long-range standoff weapon, and maybe we won’t. I don’t see a whole lot of excess money. The bomber force is crucial to the United States conventional superiority, so it will be modernized, sooner or later. The key will be not to let that drive out its important nuclear role.
And finally, as Frank has said so eloquently, we really face a conundrum. Nuclear war has been made essentially impossible between major powers through nuclear deterrence for 70 years. And in a somewhat bizarre twist of logic, the absence of that war is now being used to say nuclear weapons are irrelevant because, after all, there’s been no war between major powers.
And we need to educate the American people why nuclear deterrence remains important. But we also need to continue to make sure that the men and women who are actually doing all this understand why that is important. Because as some would argue we saw in the Minot incident of a few years ago, if everything you hear tells you that your mission is obsolete, it’s kind of hard to get excited about it on a day-to-day basis. So those are challenges for all of us.
The most important challenge we’ve been asked to address on this panel is the need for an affordable, relevant and executable nuclear deterrent. We have four extraordinary panelists. Their bios are in your program.
Let me just mention briefly, Amy Woolf, who will speak first, is from the Congressional Research Service. She has two jobs. Her formal job is to be the source for Congress and staff on all technical aspects associated with nuclear deterrence. Her unofficial job is to explain to those of us who do nuclear deterrence, how the Congress works and why they don’t see the clarity of our vision.
And secondly, we will hear from Mark Schneider. Mark is sort of a walking inter-agency- meaning he’s served in a large number of government positions in multiple cabinet departments. Most recently he is associated with the National Institute for Public Policy, which is one of an unfortunately small number of think tanks that tries to counter some of the less accurate analysis we hear. They’ve recently produced a report on minimum deterrence, and I suspect Mark will be drawing heavily on that report.
Thirdly, we’ll be hearing about the relationship between nonproliferation and deterrence from Matt Kroenig. He is part of an unfortunately small rising generation of scholars who are looking at the issues of deterrence and its intellectual underpinnings from an academic perspective, tinged in his case with a good deal of reality.
And finally, we’ll hear from Peter Huessy. And if you don’t already know who Peter is, you obviously wandered into the wrong conference. The small boat conference is down the hall.