Inside the Ring: Problems of U.S. Nuclear Forces Must Be Addressed

The U.S. has developed and deployed nothing new in the strategic nuclear force since the late 1980’s. If you’ve been following these developments, this is nothing new under the sun from the last five to ten years. The only thing that should be new news is the level of complacency, neglect and urgency needed to stem the tide — of which only a small chance of doing so remains possible.

The prevailing view in the United States is that Nuclear Weapons are Cold War Relics while it also believes its adversaries create new ones, collect and expand their collection like children do LEGOS for fun.


U.S. strategic nuclear forces, both weapons and personnel, are experiencing serious problems that must be addressed urgently.

That is a central conclusion of a new study called the “Nuclear Enterprise Review” that the Pentagon is expected to release next week, according to defense officials familiar with the study.

Fixing nuclear forces’ problems will require the investment of billions of defense dollars in modernizing systems and greater leadership attention to training and readiness for the thousands of military personnel who operate and maintain the world’s most powerful arsenal.

The findings were made by an independent review panel on nuclear weapons personnel that identified key leadership and management lapses within nuclear forces.

The review followed several troubling incidents involving nuclear forces and personnel, including a cheating scandal uncovered in January on proficiency testing at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, home of 150 Minuteman 3 nuclear missiles. The scandal ensnared 34 troops.

The Pentagon launched two reviews of the nuclear enterprise in February, one internal and a separate one by outside experts to identify and remedy any systemic problems.

The internal study was led by the military’s Joint Staff and Madelyn Creedon, assistant defense secretary for global strategic affairs. It has made several recommendations for fixing nuclear enterprisewide forces and personnel problems, as well as leadership shortcomings.

The independent study, whose findings will be released next week, was led by retired Air Force Gen. Larry Welch, a former chief of staff, and retired Navy Adm. John Harvey, a former nuclear-trained surface warfare leader. Their report is said to highlight serious concerns about the deterioration of nuclear forces during the Obama administration.

President Obama set the tone for America’s declining nuclear forces by announcing plans last year to eventually eliminate all nuclear weapons. He also is seeking further negotiated cuts in nuclear forces at a time when Russia and China are building up strategic weapons.

Both Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who ordered the reviews, and Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work are said to be intensely focused on fixing the nuclear enterprise problems, said administration officials who noted that Mr. Hagel’s solid backing for fixing the problems is surprising. A former liberal Republican senator, Mr. Hagel had been a vocal supporter of the anti-nuclear weapons advocacy group Global Zero before he became defense secretary.

National security officials say Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John F. Kerry are frustrated by the White House’s tight rein on foreign and defense policies.

The officials said a “gang of five” in the White House has been exercising near-total control over those policies, cutting out key experts and most of the established bureaucracy.

The five are longtime Obama adviser Valerie B. Jarrett, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice, Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken and Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for communications. They are said to dictate key policy decisions to Mr. Hagel, Mr. Kerry and other top leaders with little input from Cabinet agencies and departments.

Mr. Blinken, a loyalist of Vice President Joseph R. Biden, is said to be in line to become the next deputy secretary of state, the officials said.

One official familiar with the situation compared the White House’s dictatorial approach to policymaking to the seven-member Standing Committee of the ruling Chinese Communist Party Politburo, the ultimate decision-making authority.

Spokeswomen for the White House and State Department did not return emails seeking comment.

Pentagon spokesman Navy Adm. John Kirby said Mr. Hagel enjoys close and productive ties with the president’s national security team.

“His focus remains on working as a member of that team to do the things necessary to defend the American people at a very challenging time in history,” Adm. Kirby said.

Full article: Inside the Ring: Problems of U.S. Nuclear Forces Must Be Addressed (Washington Times)

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