Secretary Clinton’s Nuclear Comments Consistent with Expert Analysis
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s questioning of the current U.S. strategy of rebuilding the entirety of the nuclear arsenal simultaneously is consistent with a growing chorus of experts who criticize the current administration’s plan.
Washington, DC. – The New York Times reported that a hacked audio recording of Secretary Hillary Clinton at a fundraiser featured her questioning the current plan to rebuild the entirety of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. This modernization plan could cost up to a trillion dollars over the next thirty years and syphon funds from other defense and national priorities. It has also been criticized by nuclear experts as contributing to a new nuclear arms race with Russia.
According to the New York Times, Mrs. Clinton’s remarked:
“There’s a lot of other money we’re talking about to go into [nuclear] refurbishing and modernization,” adding, “Do we have to do any of it? If we have to do some of it, how much do we have to do?”
Secretary Clinton’s remarks join an established sentiment that the modernization plan may be unaffordable, garnering notably bipartisan support from Chairman of the Senate Arms Services Committee, Senator John McCain (R-AZ). During a May 2016 Brookings Institution discussion on the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, Sen. McCain commented:
“when you look at some of the estimates as to what it would take to update the triad, would it be the long range bomber or missiles or new submarines? It’s very, very, very expensive. Do we really need the entire triad given this situation?”
While some modernization is necessary for the safety and security of U.S. nuclear forces, many are wary that “modernization” could be used to escalate or proliferate nuclear tensions in a destabilizing and counterproductive manner.
According to the New York Times, Mrs. Clinton references the plan to build a new nuclear cruise missile directly, stating, “The last thing we need are sophisticated cruise missiles that are nuclear armed.”
Secretary Clinton’s comments join a growing chorus of analysts and experts who view the new nuclear cruise missile, officially known as the Long-Range Standoff Weapon (LRSO), as destabilizing and strategically unnecessary. Most notably, former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry and Assistant Secretary of Defense Andy Weber called for President Obama to kill the program in a Washington Post op-ed last year, stating that:
“President Obama can lead the world to a stabler and safer future by canceling the plans for a new U.S. nuclear-capable cruise missile,” noting that the move “would not diminish the formidable U.S. nuclear deterrent in the least.”
Experts consider the new nuclear cruise missile to be a destabilizing weapon, in part because an adversary cannot tell whether a bomber is deploying cruise missiles with a nuclear or conventional payload, increasing the risk of miscalculation during a time of crisis.
Experts also question the strategic necessity of a new nuclear cruise missile, given the redundancy already built into the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
Andy Weber added:
“The concept of deploying a new stealthy nuclear cruise missile on a new stealth bomber that will already deploy modernized nuclear bombs defies reason. The United States can forego this capability at no risk to robust U.S. nuclear deterrence.”
In addition, the military utility of a nuclear cruise missile is questionable; it is not apparent what targets require a nuclear cruise missile for destruction that could not instead be attacked using a conventional variant like the new JASSM-ER cruise missile or other nuclear bombs and missiles.
John Tierney, Executive Director of the Center for Arms Control & Non-Proliferation, was encouraged by Secretary Clinton’s comments.
“Building a new nuclear cruise missile is the definition of redundancy – for $20-30 billion. Both presidential candidates must take a serious look at the current plan to modernize our entire nuclear arsenal for approximately $1 trillion over 30 years. There are superior and more cost-effective alternatives that must be considered.”