In a Politico op-ed today, Congressman Michael Turner (R, Ohio) criticizes the Obama administration’s lack of transparency on its controversial study of future reductions to America’s nuclear deterrent—including one option that would cut the arsenal by 80 percent, down to as few as 300 deployed strategic nuclear warheads.
Turner, who chairs the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, questions the wisdom of any further nuclear reductions given continuing advances by other nuclear armed states:
Russia has 4,000 to 6,500 warheads, and China is reported to have more than 300—though no one outside of the Chinese Communist Party knows for sure. Both of these countries—as well as India, Pakistan (building a stockpile expected to soon surpass Britain), Britain herself, France, North Korea and, perhaps soon, Iran—have active nuclear weapons modernization programs. Only the U.S. does not…. Any further nuclear reductions must be met with ample justification for how U.S. security will be enhanced. Simply saying that the U.S. should “reduce the roles and numbers” of its nuclear weapons is nothing more than hope in the place of a strategy.
The congressman expresses concern about the irregular process by which the president is examining potentially deeper cuts to the nuclear arsenal, and the Obama administration’s unwillingness to share with Congress basic information about its internal deliberations:
This new strategic review could be on the president’s desk within the next month. It is unclear whether he expects the cuts to be unilateral or within the framework of a treaty with Russia or China and others. At least one of the president’s senior advisers has suggested these reductions could be unilateral.
It’s worth noting that the impetus for this review is outside the norm. Traditionally, a president has directed his military advisers to determine, chiefly, what level of our nuclear force is needed to deter a potential adversary from attacking us or our allies. The answer to that question should be what drives the strategy—not a president’s political ideology.
The House Armed Services Committee has been asking questions, holding briefings with the administration and even hearings in my subcommittee—all without any detailed explanation from the administration of what exactly is being discussed in the strategic review. In fact, Congress only learned about the review from the media.
Why would the administration be unwilling to share even the basic terms of reference for this review, known as Presidential Policy Directive 11? Why wouldn’t it share other basic instructions from the Defense Department? The president, after all, is directing a strategic review that could border on disarmament and significantly diminish U.S. strength.
What Turner finds equally alarming is the Obama administration’s refusal to support funding to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal and supporting infrastructure—funding that the White House had promised in return for Senate passage of the controversial New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) in December 2010:
The president’s most recent budget, however, abandons the nuclear modernization funding he promised. This can only be described as bait and switch. The Senate has been deceived.
Read the whole thing.