I want to thank the Submarine Industrial Base Council for the invitation to speak here tonight. Thank you Dan [DePompei] for that gracious introduction.
I’d also like to thank Navy Under Secretary Work for attending this conference as well as Vice Admiral Burke, Rear Admirals Johnson and Bruner, Kevin Poitras of General Dynamics and Matt Mulherin of Newport News Shipbuilding.
I see Rear Admiral Benedict, with whom I’ve met recently; Sir, I’m counting on you to make sure we deliver the Ohio-class replacement submarine and common missile compartment on time with our British Allies.
At the beginning of this Congress, I took over the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.
From that position, I oversee for the committee the nation’s nuclear deterrent programs, including programs related to the three legs of the nuclear triad.
In that capacity, I have appreciated the support and expertise of men like Rich Mies, whom we all know. Admiral, I thank you for being here as well and for your leadership.
Admiral Mies has taken his time to help me work through some of the key problems that arc in front of this nation today, and I’d like to talk to you about them and then take a few questions before I let you get back to your evening program.
This nation has some key decisions ahead of it.
We find ourselves in the position of having to recapitalize our entire deterrent at exactly the time that every other nation is growing or modernizing its nuclear forces, but, we have absorbed reductions in our defense budget of $480 billion and we’re now five days into President Obama’s defense sequester.
Many people, including too many in the Congress, forget about this first nearly half trillion dollar cut the Defense Department has sustained.
They have become so focused on the blunt, dumb tool of sequester, that they ignore that DOD is practically the only part of the federal budget that has had to sustain spending cuts, again, half a trillion dollars before last Friday and the start of sequestration. I wish I could tell you how this ends; I can’t.
My colleagues and I on the Armed Services Committee were told this wouldn’t be allowed to happen, but here we are. Twice, we have passed legislation through the House to fix the defense sequester.
The Senate hasn’t acted. The Senate hasn’t even passed a budget in nearly four years.
And, President Obama can’t ever seem to raise taxes enough to pay for his spending habits to find a way out of this problem.
As many of you no doubt agree, we can’t tax ourselves out of a $16 trillion budget debt, with tens of trillions of dollars more in entitlement~related debt ahead of us.
But, if we can’t fix this problem, we will do what Secretary Panetta described as cuts that would “decimate our defense. It would cripple us in terms of our ability to protect this country.”
I agree with General Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the President’s senior military advisor, by law, when he said two weeks ago before the House Armed Services Committee that the Pentagon can’t afford $1 more of defense spending cuts- this was before sequestration kicked in- and do the mission. I hope President Obama was listening to his senior military advisor.
President Obama and the Senate must take up the House- passed bills and cease holding hostage our men and women in uniform.
A great Senator. Phil Gramm of Texas. used to say, “never take a hostage unless you•re prepared to shoot him.”
It is beyond me why President Obama has taken the Department of Defense hostage.
As I mentioned at the outset of my remarks, the United States is in the position of having to modernize and replace its entire nuclear triad in the very near future.
For example, the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine was first commissioned in 1981.
The Navy has testified that these boats will literally have to be pulled out of the water by 2029, which is now, thanks to last scary President’s budget request, the earliest the Ohio-class replacement submarines will be available.
The Minuteman Ill intercontinental ballistic missile has been deployed and on-alert since 1970.
We are currently in the process of studying how to replace that missile. beginning in the 2030 time frame. These will be sixty-year old ballistic missiles. on alert, every day. The B-52 bomber, the buff, has been performing the strategic deterrent mission since 1955.
With some skill, and some luck, we will continue to fly this bomber until 2040. By 2040, we will have B52s that are 90 years old. Who in this room would get on an airplane at Reagan National or Dulles that was 90 years old? But this is what we ask our airmen to fly.
I won’t go into detail on the air-launched cruise missile except to say that we also have only just begun to study what we will do to replace this critical capability. Every single one of these systems is essential.
They are complementary of each other because together they form a three-legged stool, our nuclear triad, that has kept us and kept our nation and its allies safe for decades now . As General Larry Welch, former commander of the Strategic Air Command and Chief of Staff of the Air Force has stated, [it is]
“my belief that adequate strength in each leg of the triad is even more important today than it was at the height of the Cold War. Doing away with one of these legs does violence to one or more of essential four characteristics of an adequate deterrent force. To do so would increase risk.”
Think about it. Since the United States used nuclear weapons against Japan to end the bloodiest war in human history, the great nations of the world have not fought each other. It hasn’t happened. Yet, somehow this country, or at least our current political leadership, assumes that peace and security is the status quo. Of course, it isn’t.
Of course, as history has shown, it is our nuclear deterrent that is the most cost-effective and proven means of promoting the peace. Our real and potential adversaries and competitors understand this.
Russia, for instance, has tested three new ICBMs since the New START treaty was entered into in February of201 I. It is now developing a new heavy ICBM that reportedly could carry 15 warheads.
Russia is also deploying two new missile submarines, two new submarine-launched ballistic missiles, a new strategic bomber and a new air launched cruise missile.
The People’s Republic of China is preparing, for the first time in its history, to put to sea a ballistic missile submarine and sea- launched ballistic missile. It is developing and deploying three new long-range ballistic missiles capable of attacking the United States.
India is developing a sea-launched ballistic missile- the Pacific Ocean is about to get a whole lot more crowded- and Pakistan is on a path to soon surpass Great Britain as the fifth ranking nuclear weapons state.
If President Obama is right, and there is peace and security in a world without nuclear weapons, it seems every other country with nuclear weapons- or, like Iran, the aspiration to develop them- has missed the memo.
Russia’s Vladimir Putin tells his people that, “nuclear weapons remain the main guarantee of Russia’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity, it plays a key role in maintaining global and regional stability and balance”.
President Obama, however, said at the State of the Union address last week that, “we will engage Russia to seek further reductions in our nuclear arsenals … because our ability to influence others depends on our willingness to lead.” He said largely the same thing at his speech in Prague in 2009.
It has been said that a leader without followers is a guy out for a walk. I fear that the world has failed to follow our President’s leadership by example. We cannot continue alone on the path of disarmament. I think General Welch had it right when he said that,
“The only basis for the idea that drastically reducing the number of nukes we have would magically make us safer and help eliminate other nuclear dangers is hope. But hope is not a plan, and hope is not a basis for security. Hope does not defend us. I would ask who would be willing to rely on hope for the safety and security of their family? … Leading the world to zero nuclear weapons is, at best, ~ fairy tale.” (emphasis added)
As I look ahead to the FY 14 National Defense Authorization Act, my priorities are to ensure the complete and robust modernization of our nuclear deterrent, the ultimate guarantor of our security and the commitments we have made to the security of 31 allies.
Especially in this era of defense budget cuts and sequestration, it is critical we fully fund our nuclear deterrent modernization .
I agree with Deputy Defense Secretary Carter when he testified before the House Armed Services Committee that
“nuclear deterrence is pretty important. So it’s the last thing that you want to do serious damage to. So I would imagine that the Department of Energy, and the leadership there, and certainly we in the Department of Defense, will try to protect our nuclear capabilities to the maximum extent possible.”
Now I want to be clear, I will resist any further reductions to our nuclear forces that do not meet the test laid out by General Scowcroft and Secretary Kissinger in their Washington Post oped last April:
“the overarching goal of contemporary U.S. nuclear policy must be to ensure that nuclear weapons are never used. Strategic stability is not inherent with low numbers of weapons; indeed, excessively low numbers could lead to a situation in which surprise attacks are conceivable.” These are wise words borne from experience over hope and ideological rigidity. I want to encourage you all to reach and share your advice and experience with me in the weeks and months ahead.
You all know far better than us in Washington what is needed to provide a robust deterrent, including the sea-based leg of the triad, for our nation’s security. And, you all will be on the front lines of the battle we fight to fix the President’s foolish defense sequester. I look forward to working with you in the days, weeks, and months ahead.
Thank you for letting me come here to share some thoughts and thank you for your attention. If there are any questions, I’d be happy to take them now.