China is quickly becoming more capable and assertive, and concerns about its nuclear modernization and expansion are mounting. Russia’s comprehensive modernization of its nuclear capabilities, over 80% complete, includes the addition of new dual-capability systems that threaten the United States and its allies and partners, said Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for strategy, plans and capabilities.
Melissa Dalton spoke yesterday at a Hearing of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee on the “FY22 Budget Request for Nuclear Forces and Defense Activities of the ‘atomic energy’.
“We face multifaceted deterrence challenges in all areas of the two competitors, which add increased escalation risks, all making deterrence more difficult. Strategic risks, emanating from both North Korea and from Iran, add significant complications to the strategic threat picture, ”she said.
For these reasons, nuclear deterrence remains the department’s highest priority mission, Dalton noted, adding that more is needed to deal with these growing and multifaceted threats.
The national defense strategy review will focus on integrated deterrence, she said, which means an effort to deal with threats and opportunities in conventional, cyber, space, hybrid, information and nuclear, she said.
“Nuclear forces remain essential to ensure that no adversary thinks they can use nuclear weapons, for any reason, under any circumstances, against the United States or our allies and partners, without risking devastating consequences.” said Dalton.
“This is why the nuclear triad remains the bedrock of our strategic deterrence, but we must modernize our aging capabilities to ensure credible deterrence for the future,” Dalton added.
The Defense Ministry’s budget request for fiscal year 2022 for nuclear forces is $ 27.7 billion. It includes $ 15.6 billion to support and operate current nuclear forces and $ 12.1 billion for recapitalization programs.
It supports nuclear triad modernization efforts and ensures that modern replacements will be available before aging systems reach the end of their extended lifespan, she said.
“This modernization effort is at a critical juncture,” said Dalton, adding that “nuclear weapons have been extended well beyond the original lifespan and the tipping point where we must simultaneously revise these forces is now here. Updating and overhauling our country’s nuclear forces is a key national security priority. “
The department will always seek to balance the best capabilities with the most cost effective solution, as well as ensuring that the United States has the right capabilities to deal with current and future threats, she noted.
Dalton mentioned that to ensure the right balance of capabilities, a review of nuclear policy and posture is underway, which will be incorporated into the national defense strategy currently under development, under the guidance of the strategic direction acting national security.
The review will focus on the vital interests of the United States, as well as its allies and partners, and will be informed by the current and projected global security environment, threats posed by potential adversaries, and the capabilities of the United States. , allies and partners to respond to these threats, said Dalton.
“Consultation with the allies will be a central part of this review, and we have started to engage with the allies to ensure that their views are heard and understood before drawing any conclusions,” she said.