On April 25 the seven Subcommittees of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) began releasing their marks in preparation for the full HASC mark up of the defense bill on May 9. Among the marks released today was the Strategic Forces Subcommittee mark. The Subcommittee is scheduled to take up the mark on April 26.
If previous years are any indication, the Subcommittee marks are likely to be very short. In the case of Strategic Forces, controversial issues such as missile defense funding, the budget for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) weapons activities account, and likely amendments on nuclear weapons and missile defense from Chairman Rep. Michael Turner’s (R-OH) “Maintaining the President’s Commitment to Our Nuclear Deterrent and National Security Act of 2012,” (H.R. 4178) and Rep. Mo Brooks’ (R-AL) “Protecting U.S. Missile Defense Information Act of 2012.” (H.R. 4125) will not be debated until the full Committee considers the defense bill.
The Subcommittee mark doesn’t contain detailed funding levels for strategic forces programs at DoD and NNSA. Those figures may not be revealed until HASC Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) releases his Chairman’s mark prior to the full Committee mark up. Recall that House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) provided nearly $4 billion more for National Defense (Function 050) than the Presidents budget request.
Most of the Subcommittee’s legislative provisions and reporting requirements pertain to making drastic changes to NNSA’s governance and management systems to make the agency more independent and efficient and missile defense programs. Below is an early look at some of these provisions.
Re: missile defense, the mark proposes a $356 million increase for the ground based midcourse defense system (GMD), despite the fact that the system has not had a successful flight intercept test in 3+ years and additional funding will not ameliorate many of the problems that continue to plague the system.
The mark also requires the Missile Defense Agency to develop a plan for the deployment of missile defense site on the East Coast of the United States to be operational not later than the end of 2015. The mark would also authorize $100 million in FY 2013 to be available 30 days after the plan is presented to the congressional defense committees. For a good take on why this would be a bad idea, see Noah Shachtman’s piece over at Danger Room here.
In keeping with Chairman Turner’s zeal for national missile defense programs, the mark includes a provision requiring Europe to shoulder much more of the financial burden for the European Phased Adaptive Approach.
Meanwhile, the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee mark includes two controversial provisions re: the air- and sea-based legs of the U.S. nuclear triad:
- A provision requiring the Secretary of the Air Force to make certain that the new long-range strike bomber will be certified to use strategic weapons by the date it receives declaration of initial operational capability.
- A provision requiring the Secretary of the Navy to maintain a minimum of 12 ballistic missile submarines in the fleet.
The Pentagon’s FY 2013 budget request delayed procurement of the first Ohio-class replacement submarine by two years, which according to current plans will result in a strategic submarine fleet of 10 subs in the 2030s. The Pentagon has also indicated that it plans to delay certification of the nuclear mission for the new bomber to control costs.
Rep. McKeon has stated that HASC will seek to begin undoing the two-year delay to the Ohio-class by adding funding in FY 2013 for research and development for the program, which was more than $600 million less than projected as of the FY 2012 budget request.
There is simply no need to rush the certification of a nuclear capability for the bomber and requiring the Navy to maintain 12 ballistic missile submarines in perpetuity regardless of the global security environment makes neither strategic nor fiscal sense. U.S. nuclear force structure should be driven by strategic needs (a review of which is ongoing) and affordability, not the inertia of the status quo.