It seems to be all the rage lately so I figured I’d join the fray. At a March 5 hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development on NNSA’s FY 2011 budget request, ranking member Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) asked NNSA administrator Tom D’Agostino to compare the investments the Russians and Chinese are making in their nuclear warheads and delivery systems with U.S. efforts to maintain its deterrent.
MR. D’AGOSTINO: In a general sense what’s happening is up until this budget request, what we have been doing is just maintaining and not letting anything break and taking care of the stockpile without underground testing.
What we haven’t been doing is investing for the future and providing a sustainability on that front. Other nations have said publicly, frankly, that they are going to move forward in a visible way and increase their investments and have done so.
Details I can provide in a classified setting, but in general we have not been keeping up, and this budget request is the president’s signal that he cares about nuclear nonproliferation because of the increase there and the charge to secure material in four years, but he also knows that you cannot reduce the size of the stockpile without maintaining the stockpile and maintaining it in a way that’s going to have some longevity and sustainability, because these things are not going away in his lifetime, as he has said, and then it is our job, ultimately, to make sure that they are taken care of in the best possible way and particularly to deal with the threats that we believe we have from a safety and security standpoint that we know we can address.[emphasis mine].
Look I get it that the administration wants to convey the impression that it’s really serious about nuclear deterrence, our complex and experts were largely ignored before this budget, some of the buildings at our laboratories and production facilities are really old, etc. I even agree that some of their arguments have merit.
But that’s no excuse to run roughshod over the facts, which are these:
1) Even before the FY 2011 budget, the U.S. has successfully maintained an arsenal that is not only safe, secure, and reliable, but is also more lethal on a per-weapon basis today than it was during the Cold War.
2) Even before the FY 2011 budget, our confidence in the reliability of our nuclear warheads has been steadily growing.
Describing our post-Cold War efforts to maintain the arsenal as “not letting anything break” or “not keeping up” doesn’t even begin to tell the whole story paints a misleading picture of what we’ve actually been doing and are doing and deserves some further clarification from D’Agostino.
Unfortunately Di-Fi wasn’t around to call T-D’ag out on it.