Admiral Charles Richard (Commander of U.S. Strategic Command)–America’s military organization responsible for the nukes–went on Tuesday to Washington to ask the Senate to approve new nukes.
Richard stated that “Sustainment, modernization and maintenance of our nuclear forces…has transformed from something we should be doing to something we must do,” in a prepared statement before he testified.
As part of routine inspection of Pentagon budgets, Admiral Richard testified in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Richard, as Commander of STRATCOM was primarily interested in asking for more money to purchase better nuclear weapons. Richard claims that Russia and China pose a danger to America’s nukes, so America cannot afford to replace them.
America’s nuclear weapons infrastructure has been in decline for years. Some intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, have been in existence since the 1970s. Many of the Command and Control systems used to facilitate communication between America’s nukes and warmachines run on old computers. In 2019, the Pentagon was able to get the system on floppy drives.
Richard says there is no room for error in the Defense budget. He stated that if we discover we were wrong, the decision to defer or divest could take 10 to 15 years to recover and make the nation incapable of responding to advancing threats. “Any decision to delay recapitalization or defer recapitalization must be made with the assurance that for the next 40-years we won’t require that capability to deter future threats. Many of these we cannot predict.
STRATCOM ‘s motto is “Peace, our profession.” It has a very specific view of the world. The logic of STRATCOM states that America prevents countries like Russia or China from using nuclear weapons and keeps the whole planet under constant threat. It is so terrifying to think that America could unleash nuclear hell. This is why Russia and China would not dare attack the planet with nuclear or conventional weapons.
STRATCOM’s strategy is based on some dark assumptions regarding human nature. Richard repeatedly stressed the notion that China was a new and terrifying nuclear threat in both his written and oral testimony. According to 2020 Pentagon estimates China is in the “low 200s” and has an unconstrained “no first use” nuclear policy.
America currently has around 5,500 nuclear weapons. There are approximately 1,700 nuclear weapons deployed. This means that they are in missile silos and ready to be used by bombers. They are also stored in submarines that travel around the globe. The Pentagon estimates that China has 1,500 more nukes than America.
Richard and others believe that China is secretly building better and more powerful nuclear weapons. It is secretly building more and better nuclear weapons than the rest of the world. Richard stated that these capabilities “question China’s declared ‘No First Use” policy declaration and implied minimum-deterrent strategy.
According to Richard and STRATCOM, the world is a scary place. The world according to Richard and STRATCOM is a frightening place. China has a nuclear arsenal, North Korea is developing nuclear weapons, and Russia is building them. While some may be true, much of it is paranoia that has fuelled nuclear brinkmanship over generations. Richard stated that he is expected to deter all nations at all times during his hearing. “It’s important that we remember that many of the quantities in these requirements were established when the threat level was actually lower than what we see now.”
The Federation of American Scientists estimates that there were 70.300 nuclear arms on the planet in 1986. It now estimates that there are 13,100. Although we have fewer nukes than a generation ago now, the threat of these weapons will continue as long as Richard and others view nuclear war as a zero-sum game with potential winners.
Richard testified that America needs better nukes to counter the current threat from Russia and China. Richard even suggested that U.S. Air Force bombers be placed in the air armed to nuclear bombs, should America’s ICBM silos collapse.
America has done this before. The U.S. maintained a credible threat of nuclear destruction against its enemies in the years following World War II by flying bombers above the earth 24 hours a days and 7 days a weeks. It was a disaster. Pilots who were often addicted to amphetamines and worked long hours lost their nuclear weapons in various accidents.
In 1966, 4 was destroyed by an accident. One burst and released a radioactive cloud which radiated Spanish farmland. In 1968, a B-52 crashed into Greenland. It also lost a nuke and irradiated the land. It took many years to remove the radioactive materials. Richard recommends that this world be returned to if the U.S. is unwilling to spend billions on its aging nuclear weapons.