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Managing a Stable Strategic Drawdown

Prepared statement of ADM Henry G. Chiles Jr., USN, commander in chief, U.S. Strategic Command, before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Feb. 23, 1995.

Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. ... USSTRATCOM is 2 1/2 years old, the first new unified command of the post-Cold War era. Our mission reflects continuity with the past: to deter major military attack against the United States and its allies and, if attacked, to employ forces. The context in which we carry out that mission, however, is decidedly different. The Cold War is over. The strategic confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union has been replaced by a fundamentally new relationship with a different set of countries based on cooperative threat reduction and mutual downsizing of strategic forces. We have made progress in that regard.

 USSTRATCOM's current challenge is to provide a flexible, credible, safe, secure and effective deterrent while managing a stable drawdown of nuclear forces in concert with Russia and other START [Strategic Arms Reduction Talks] treaty partners of the former Soviet Union.

 Over the past decade, the total obligational authority dedicated to strategic nuclear forces has decreased by some 75 percent, so that it now constitutes less than 3.5 percent of the total defense budget. Since 1985, the number of people in our strategic nuclear forces has declined approximately 50 percent, the number of strategic bases has dropped 60 percent, and the number of strategic nuclear weapons platforms (bombers, ballistic missile submarines and intercontinental ballistic missile silos) has been reduced about 44 percent. Many strategic force programs have been terminated, curtailed or outright canceled, resulting, by General Accounting Office estimates, in a cost-avoidance savings of approximately $100 billion over the estimated full life-cycle costs of those programs.

 In addition, our strategic force posture has changed significantly. The operating tempo of our Trident ballistic missile submarines is down, and our strategic bombers have not been on alert since 1991. Since last May and for the first time in 35 years, the United States and Russia have not had nuclear missiles targeted at each other. Our forces can be rapidly retargeted, and we assume Russia's can be as well. Nonetheless, detargeting is an important symbol of how the strategic relationship has changed between our countries.

 These substantial savings have been possible without increasing the security risk to the United States, precisely because of our improved strategic relationship with the states of the former Soviet Union. Maintaining a stable strategic relationship with those states, especially Russia, is an essential element in reducing the threat that their forces could pose to this nation.

 There have been important successes in the United States' efforts to reduce the size of the former Soviet Union's nuclear arsenal and to encourage denuclearization in Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine. The Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program, for example, has facilitated in tangible ways the safe dismantlement of nuclear weapons and efforts to ensure control of fissile material. Kazakhstan allowed the United States to move nearly 600 kilograms of highly enriched uranium to the United States. Decisions by Belarus, Kazakhstan and, most recently, Ukraine to accede to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty as nonnuclear weapons states enabled the START I treaty to enter into force this past December.

 USSTRATCOM has been an active participant in efforts to establish greater rapport between American and Russian military personnel. We have visited each other's command centers, launch silos and training facilities, and we have met the individuals who run them. Through these efforts, we have dispelled myths and appreciate better each other's capabilities, problems and concerns. We have discussed efforts to ensure safeguarding of nuclear weapons. We have sent a clear message, not only of America's determination to remain strong, but also of our commitment to broaden the base for future cooperation in the interest of a stable strategic relationship.

 Over a year ago Gen. Col. [Igor] Sergeyev, commander in chief of the Russian strategic rocket forces, visited USSTRATCOM headquarters and toured some of our land-based missile complexes. Last August, I was his guest for a week in Russia, and my deputy, [Air Force] Lt. Gen. Dirk Jameson, visited Russia last month to brief Gen. Sergeyev on the results of the United States' Nuclear Posture Review.

 Both we and our Russian counterparts have also encouraged visits by middle-grade officers, tomorrow's military leaders who deal with practical problems today. This past October we hosted 10 Russian SRF officers, who toured USSTRATCOM headquarters in Omaha, Neb.; training activities at Vandenberg AFB [Air Force Base], Calif.; Minuteman II dismantlement activities at Whiteman AFB, Mo.; and Minuteman III operations and maintenance facilities at Malmstrom AFB, Mont. We expect similar exchanges in 1995, including observation of more training activities in the United States, a reciprocal visit by American missileers to Russian facilities and participation in technical discussions focusing on operations, maintenance, and weapons security and safety.

 The START I treaty entered into force on Dec. 5, 1994. Both the United States and Russia are already well on their way to reducing forces to the START I limits of 6,000 accountable weapons. Russia has already destroyed close to 400 intercontinental ballistic missile silos as well as older ballistic missile submarines and bombers. For its part, the United States has retired from strategic service all Poseidon SSBNs [fleet ballistic missile submarines], all Minuteman II ICBMs and a substantial portion of its strategic bomber force. In terms of usable weapons, or weapons remaining in strategic service, the United States is today virtually at START I limits, although we still have considerable work to do between now and 2001 to eliminate retired strategic launchers in accordance with the treaty.

 If ratified and implemented, the START II treaty will contribute even more to the stability of our strategic nuclear relationship with Russia and, hence, the security of the United States. The START II treaty limits the United States and Russia to 3,000-3,500 strategic nuclear warheads each.

Equally important, START II requires the total elimination of heavy, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles with multiple, independently targeted re-entry vehicles. Land-based MIRVed ballistic missiles on both sides have long been considered destabilizing. In a crisis, MIRVed ICBM launchers would be highly valuable targets, offering a powerful incentive to strike first. Elimination of MIRVed ICBMs on both sides would contribute substantially to the stability of our strategic relationship with Russia. Hence, I urge ratification and implementation of START II in the near future.

 The 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty has long served as an important foundation, both for the United States and Russia, for arms control agreements to limit and reduce substantially our respective strategic offensive forces. Any ballistic missile defenses should be developed in ways consistent with the ABM treaty so that we do not undermine the achievements in strategic nuclear arms control or the fundamental stability of the strategic relationship.

 Despite progress in reducing nuclear weapons, we remain keenly aware of the continued existence of a sizable, sophisticated and capable nuclear arsenal, both strategic and nonstrategic, on the territory of the former Soviet Union. The future is uncertain. The paths of reform are not preordained.

 In addition, other countries continue efforts to acquire or manufacture nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction as well as the means to deliver them. The United States, our forces deployed overseas and our allies could still be subject to attack using nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction. Hence, as the United States draws down forces to comply with arms control agreements, we must be prepared to respond to new threats and hedge against the possibility that our forces might need to be reconstituted.

 America's nuclear weapons remain blunt weapons of last resort. In important but intangible ways, they underwrite national influence and contribute to global and regional stability. They embody an extended deterrent guarantee to our allies, including those who might otherwise conclude that they need their own nuclear weapons to protect themselves. They deter aggression by posing unacceptable and incalculable risks to potential aggressors. To these ends, our nuclear weapons must remain ready, safe and under strict control.

Last year's Nuclear Posture Review reaffirmed not only the role of nuclear weapons in providing an effective deterrent for our nation, but also the importance of preserving the strategic Triad of land-based ICBMs, submarine-launched ballistic missiles and strategic bombers. Each leg of that Triad contributes unique characteristics to our overall force structure, producing a flexible, credible, safe, secure and effective deterrent.

 The NPR specified the START II-compliant strategic nuclear force structure for 2003. That force would consist of 14 Trident II ballistic missile submarines, each equipped with the D-5 missile; 450/500 Minuteman III ICBMS, each armed with a single warhead instead of the current three warheads; 20 B-2 bombers; and 66 B-52H bombers. This is an adequate but minimum force structure under START II limits, with sufficient flexibility to respond to future challenges. If START II is not ratified, however, the results of the NPR will have to be carefully re-examined.

 The NPR outcome also reflected the need to preserve a reconstitution capability as a hedge against unwelcome political or strategic developments. We cannot afford to degrade the survivability, responsiveness and flexibility necessary for a stable and credible deterrent. When START II is ratified, we will need to move toward the NPR-approved force structure in a prudent way. To avoid instability, we must take into account Russia's progress in drawing down forces and ensure that our steps are reciprocal. We have neither new missiles nor nuclear warheads in development. Thus, we should not be hasty in taking irreversible steps to eliminate strategic nuclear weapons platforms.

Our cost-effective, reliable ICBM force maintains a constant alert rate of approximately 98 percent. Under START II, the United States will retire its 50 Peacekeeper ICBMs and convert the Minuteman IIIs from three warheads per missile to single-warhead ICBMs. The NPR considered a variety of ICBM force options and recognized that the capabilities, dispersion and number of single-warhead ICBMs significantly enhance stability in a crisis. Because START II limits the number of SLBM warheads (1,750), any decrease in the Minuteman III force would shift a corresponding burden to the bomber force, potentially degrading the operational flexibility of a leg of the Triad which may be subject to competing demands to support conventional war-fighting needs.

 Transition to a START II-compliant ICBM force will require careful planning. Deactivation of the Peacekeeper, for example, should be keyed to corresponding Russian actions to deactivate their remaining SS-18s after compliance with START I. The Minuteman III force requires several actions to sustain the life of that system, including modernizing the guidance system, replacing the propulsion system and ensuring the highest safety standards on the warhead, as called for by the NPR.

 Our ballistic missile submarines provide the most survivable leg of the strategic Triad. Eight Trident I submarines equipped with the C-4 missile are based in the Pacific Ocean. In the Atlantic, six Trident II submarines equipped with the D-5 missiles are currently operational; another is in the certification process; and three more are under construction, to be deployed over the next three years.

Under the provisions of the NPR, four of the Trident I submarines will be backfit with the D-5 missile. The D-5 is significantly more capable, newer and ultimately more reliable than the C-4, which has been in service for some 15 years. The other four submarines would be eliminated or converted under START rules. With continued two-ocean and two-crew operations, we can keep a sufficient portion of our SSBN force at sea and on alert.

 This capable and flexible force will remain the backbone of our nations deterrent for years to come. As we transition to fewer submarines to meet the requirements of START II and the NPR, we will have to manage carefully how we time the backfit of the older Tridents and incorporate the new boats into the fleet.

 Strategic bombers provide important capabilities and added flexibility to the Triad. The NPR's recommendation of a total aircraft inventory of 20 B-2s and 66 B-52Hs is adequate within a START II framework, provided that force is maintained with a minimum primary aircraft available of 16 B-2s and 56 B-52Hs. The B-52H is the only bomber with a long-range, stand-off nuclear cruise missile capability, and we need to retain a full complement of cruise missiles. Until START II goes into effect, the current mix of B-52Hs and B-lBs fulfills near-term strategic requirements. The planned conversion of the B-lB to an all-conventional role will depend on integration of the B-2 into our war plans.

 Strategic bombers are valuable dual-capable assets, and they are in high demand, not just for their contributions to the nuclear force, but increasingly for their unique capabilities in support of conventional operations. No bombers are earmarked for purely nuclear operations. We are confident that if bombers are needed to augment the nuclear deterrent posture of the United States, they will be made available in a timely fashion. We need to ensure, however, that flying and support crews remain combat-capable in all aspects of their nuclear missions. In addition, as we plan for military contingencies, we need to provide for sufficient tankers and airlift to support generation and execution of bombers for the nuclear deterrent.

Command, control, communications, computers and intelligence are increasingly important to ensure high levels of readiness of smaller and more flexible forces. National leaders must always be assured of survivable connectivity to strategic forces throughout the spectrum of conflict to ensure positive control at all times. The command and control of our strategic forces is in good shape. Cost-effective improvements are under way that will upgrade our capabilities.

 USSTRATCOM is working closely within the Defense Department C4I community to ensure that programs serve not just the requirements of a single command, but those of the entire armed forces. The Defense Support Program, for example, is the nation's primary space-based missile warning system. As we transition to the Space-based Infrared System, we need to ensure an effective ballistic missile detection and warning capability that is sufficiently hardened against the effects of nuclear weapons.

 Similarly, Milstar (Military Strategic and Tactical Relay Satellite) provides survivable, two-way, extremely high frequency communications, not just in support of strategic force connectivity, but to provide warning, conferencing and war-fighting communications to military forces worldwide. The first Milstar satellite was launched this past year and has nearly completed testing. Current plans for deployment of a total of six Milstar satellites will provide 24-hour global coverage. As portable Milstar terminals become available in the l997-l998 time frame, we will be able to phase out the Ground Wave Emergency Network, which today is the only survivable link to ensure launch of ground-alert aircraft.

 We continue to devise economical ways to improve the command, control and communications infrastructure for our nuclear Triad. We have begun the process of consolidating the Air Force EC-135 and the Navy E-6 aircraft fleets onto one joint platform, the E-6. This will save tens of millions of dollars, while improving strategic force connectivity.

Modernization of the Fixed Submarine Broadcast System will allow a reduction in the number of ground stations required to support submarine communications. Both strategic and attack submarine commanders are making excellent operational use of extremely low frequency capabilities, and we continue to support the funding of both ELF sites.

 Manned, airborne assets such as the RC-l35 and U-2 aircraft play an important role in strategic reconnaissance. USSTRATCOM looks to these assets to fulfill certain wartime requirements, and these assets serve the entire armed forces on a daily basis. Both platforms and sensors need to be maintained and upgraded for continued effectiveness.

 After three years of significant drawdown and consolidation, we look forward to a degree of stability in our intelligence resources. The Joint Intelligence Center concept is working. Together with key support from national intelligence agencies, the JICs are well positioned to tailor their intelligence products to the needs of their respective unified commands. In the case of USSTRATCOM in particular, the collocation of state-of-the-art intelligence production, targeting and deliberate-planning functions enriches the quality of both the intelligence and planning products

 Within that intelligence infrastructure, we are transitioning the Intelligence Data Handling System from a large, costly mainframe computer to a more open architecture, with client-server systems. This will further enhance the flexibility and usability of the intelligence product in meeting the needs of the decision-maker, operator and planner at lower cost.

 The end of the Cold War has complicated, rather than simplified, war planning. Threats are not as focused as during the Cold War, increasing the number of contingencies which must be addressed. Moreover, the force structure available for employment has decreased substantially, and the requirements for force optimization have tightened commensurately. As theater resources have diminished, USSTRATCOM has also been tasked to support theater CinCs [commanders in chief] in nuclear planning.

 The planning process must therefore be capable of generating multiple options, adapting options to unforeseen circumstances in a relatively short time period and communicating those options effectively to National Command Authorities and to forces in the field. We are energetically pursuing improvements to our Strategic War Planning System to provide a timely and adaptable war planning capability against changing threat environments.

 Readiness is a key element of America's deterrent posture. This command is capable, on a day-to-day basis, of generating the required forces and executing appropriate plans upon direction of the president. Our forces provide a credible and effective strategic deterrent to ensure that we do not have to execute those plans.

 My concerns relate more to our ability to sustain our strategic systems for the long term. As noted before, we have no new strategic systems in development. The forces that remain after we comply with arms control agreements will constitute our strategic deterrent well into the next century. The NPR recognized this requirement and gave special attention to the need to sustain unique industrial capabilities in the areas of missile re-entry vehicles, guidance systems and propulsion. We need to continue our investments in these areas, not as an element of industrial policy, but as a necessary ingredient to ensure the continuing readiness of our strategic deterrent.

The United States must ensure that its nuclear stockpile remains safe, secure and reliable. As the nation's nuclear weapons complex shrinks, we need to retain necessary core competencies in key areas of research and development. We also need a comprehensive plan to support critical stockpile elements, especially limited life components. There are difficult issues involved. Nonetheless, that work must continue: This is not just a USSTRATCOM issue, but a national issue.

 Future threats to this nation will come from both familiar and unfamiliar places. As military technology evolves in many corners of the globe, these threats are likely to be more, rather than less, difficult to defeat. It may be that a revolution in military affairs will provide us with new weapons technologies as well as improved reconnaissance, target acquisition and information processing capabilities. Nonetheless, we expect nuclear weapons to remain an essential element to our national deterrent, and these capabilities can only complement and enhance that deterrent.

 This command will continue to face a vital challenge: to provide this nation with a flexible, credible, safe, secure and effective deterrent throughout an uncertain future. We are up to this challenge, but we must sustain current systems and adapt existing capabilities to meet changing threats.

 We continue to have an important responsibility to support our people. These are the people who operate, maintain and protect the forces which provide our national deterrent -- people who shepherd the resources which the citizens of this nation, through you, entrust to us.

 Our people understand the changing nature of our military and the evolving challenges to our nation. They have remained loyal and courageous through a difficult downsizing effort, coping with considerable anxiety and uncertainty.

They make substantial sacrifices. ICBM launch crews and support personnel sit on alert in remote locations. Submarine crews go on patrol for months at a time. Air crews deploy overseas, away from their families, on short notice, with reconnaissance crews typically deploying several months out of the year. Others sit on watch around the clock, ready to respond to indicators of the unexpected. Support personnel find themselves filling in at other commands to backfill others who have deployed to one or another contingency. These commitments have become normal parts of a military life. But they can also undermine morale and degrade readiness.

 Our people are, indeed, a national treasure. They and their families are our unsung heroes. We thank you, the Congress, for your strong support of our people over many years. They deserve the best that we can give them, not only in professional tools but also in quality of life and respect. They are the real deterrent. They embody the strength and character of the United States in this new and uncertain world filled with both danger and promise.

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