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U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Transcript

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Navy Adm. Michael Mullen, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu April 06, 2010

DOD News Briefing with Secretary Gates, Navy Adm. Mullen, Secretary Clinton, and Secretary Chu from the Pentagon

SEC. GATES: Thank you all for being with us today.

Today, the Department of Defense is releasing the Nuclear Posture Review, a report that outlines a balanced and comprehensive approach to dealing with the role of nuclear weapons in America's national security.

I'm pleased to have Secretary Clinton and Secretary Chu joining us to make this announcement. Their presence is indicative of the importance of the issues and the significant interagency cooperation that the review enjoyed. Both Secretaries Clinton and Chu as well as Admiral Mullen will make brief comments in a moment. And then we'll take three or four questions limited to the NPR and START.

The NPR provides a road map for implementing President Obama's agenda for reducing nuclear risks to the United States, our allies and partners and the international community. This review describes how the United States will reduce the role and numbers of nuclear weapons with a long-term goal of a nuclear-free world.

Driven by the changing nature of the security environment, the NPR focuses on five key objectives: first, preventing nuclear proliferation and terrorism; second, reducing the role of U.S. nuclear weapons in the U.S. national security strategy; third, maintaining strategic deterrence and stability at reduced nuclear force levels; fourth, strengthening regional deterrence and reassuring U.S. allies and partners; and finally, sustaining a safe, secure and effective nuclear arsenal.

To these ends, the NPR includes significant changes to the U.S. nuclear posture. New declaratory policies remove some of the calculated ambiguity in previous U.S. declaratory policy. If a non-nuclear-weapon state is in compliance with the nonproliferation treaty and its obligations, the U.S. pledges not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against it. If any state eligible for this assurance were to use chemical or biological weapons against the United States or its allies or partners, it would face the prospect of a devastating conventional military response.

Still, given the catastrophic potential of biological weapons and the rapid pace of biotechnology development, the United States reserves the right to make any adjustment to this policy that may be warranted by the evolution and proliferation of biological weapons.

The review rightly places the prevention of nuclear terrorism and proliferation at the top of the U.S. nuclear policy agenda.

Given al Qaeda's continued quest for nuclear weapons, Iran's ongoing nuclear efforts and North Korea's proliferation, this focus is appropriate and indeed essential, an essential change from previous reviews.

The NPR concluded that stable deterrence can be maintained while reducing U.S. strategic nuclear vehicles by approximately 50 percent from START I levels, a finding that drove negotiations for the new START treaty with Russia. The United States will pursue high-level bilateral dialogues on strategic stability with both Russia and China that are aimed at fostering more stable, resilient and transparent strategic relationships.

This NPR determined that the United States will not develop new nuclear warheads. Programs to extend the lives of warheads will use only nuclear components based on previously tested designs and will not support new military missions or provide for new military capabilities.

We will study options for ensuring the safety, security and reliability of nuclear warheads on a case-by-case basis. In any decision to proceed to engineering development, we will give strong preference to options for refurbishment or reuse. Replacement of any nuclear components, if absolutely necessary, would require specific presidential approval.

Correspondingly, the United States must make much-needed investments to rebuild our aging nuclear infrastructure, both facilities and personnel. I have asked for nearly $5 billion to be transferred from the Department of Defense to the Department of Energy over the next several years to improve our nuclear infrastructure and support a credible modernization program.

There are also areas of continuity in this report, among them:

First, the United States will continue to hold accountable any state, terrorist group or other non-state actor that supports or enables terrorist efforts to obtain or use weapons of mass destruction, whether by facilitating, financing, or providing expertise or safe haven for such efforts.

Second, we will maintain the nuclear triad of ICBMs [Intercontinental Ballistic Missile], nuclear-capable aircraft and ballistic-missile submarines. Third, we will continue to develop and improve non-nuclear capabilities, including regional missile defenses, to strengthen deterrence and reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our overall defense posture. And finally, the United States will continue abiding by its pledge not to conduct nuclear testing.

This NPR, while led by the Department of Defense, was from beginning to end an interagency effort. And I want to express my appreciation for the contributions from all departments, but especially the leadership of Secretary Clinton and Secretary Chu.

In closing, I'd like to thank the men and women at the Departments of Defense and Energy, including the national labs, who are critical to sustaining our nuclear arsenal. Their important work underwrites the security of the United States as well as that of our partners and allies.

Secretary Clinton.

SEC. CLINTON: Thank you very much, Secretary Gates. And let me begin by thanking you for your leadership in this effort and for the collaboration that persisted throughout it.

The Nuclear Posture Review we are releasing today represents a milestone in the transformation of our nuclear forces and the way in which we approach nuclear issues. We are recalibrating our priorities to prevent nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism, and we are reducing the role and number of weapons in our arsenal, while maintaining a safe, secure and effective deterrent to protect our nation, allies and partners.

This NPR provides a foundation on which we and our allies can build a more secure future. This review is important not only for what it says, but also the way in which it was conducted.

I believe it is the first unclassified NPR in its totality.

Secretary Gates is responsible for making this the most inclusive Nuclear Posture Review in history. Admiral Mullen, the Joint Chiefs, have been instrumental in working through a lot of the issues that have been raised. The Department of Energy has brought its expertise to the table and I'm very proud of the role that the State Department played in helping to set the policy, and we'll be working with our allies and partners to explain it and implement it.

So it truly was a collaborative effort in keeping with the agenda and goals set by President Obama. The consultations that supported this process included more than 30 of our allies and partners. For generations, the United States' nuclear deterrent has helped prevent proliferation by providing our non-nuclear allies in NATO, the Pacific and elsewhere with reassurance and security. The policies outlined in this review allow us to continue that stabilizing role.

This NPR also makes it clear we will cooperate with partners worldwide to prevent nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism.

Under President Obama's leadership, we work to advance that agenda beginning with last year's U.N. Security Council summit and the president's speech in Prague. Thursday, the president will be back in Prague to sign a historic new START treaty with Russia and next week, President Obama will host more than 40 heads of state and government to tackle the most dangerous threat we face today, the threat of nuclear terrorism.

This Nuclear Posture Review provides the strategic basis for all of these efforts, and it demonstrates our commitment to making progress toward disarmament under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT].

We are enforcing our commitment to the NPT by stating clearly, for the first time, that the United States will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states that are party to the NPT, and in compliance with their nonproliferation obligations.

We believe that this is an important step and it will help reinvigorate the global nonproliferation regime, especially as we approach the NPT review conference next month. So let me thank Secretary Gates, Secretary Chu and Admiral Mullen.

And also you'll be hearing from four of the experts who worked on this so hard: from the State Department, Undersecretary Ellen Tauscher; from the Energy Department, Tom D'Agostino; from the Defense Department, Jim Miller; and also from the Joint Chiefs, General Cartwright.

And I just want to thank everyone who helped work on this, because as Secretary Gates said, it took a lot of meetings, it took a lot of effort, but we believe that this represents the best interests for the United States, our partners and allies around the world.

SEC. CHU: Well, let me begin by first thanking Secretary Gates, Secretary Clinton and Admiral Mullen. As was said before, while the Defense Department led the effort, this was a truly multi-agency review that reflects the important expertise of the State Department, at the Energy Department, as well as the Department of Defense.

This report reflects the administration's understanding that the effort to reduce nuclear dangers will require an all-out government approach. It also reflects the president's commitment to addressing these issues in a way that improves security for the American people, our friends and allies around the world.

As the president said in Prague, we will sustain a safe, secure, effective nuclear arsenal as long as nuclear weapons exist. This Nuclear Posture Review reflects the commitment and puts the nation on a path to providing the resources required to make that possible.

It defines specific steps to strengthen the global nonproliferation regime and accelerate the securing of nuclear materials worldwide.

The NPR is based on several key principles that will guide U.S. -- future U.S. decisions on stockpile management.

First, the United States will not conduct nuclear testing and will seek ratification and entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

Second, we will not develop new nuclear weapons. Our laboratory directors and a host of other outside technical reviews have been very clear that our life-extension programs can maintain the safety, security and effectiveness of the stockpile without testing. To accomplish that goal, the NPR makes it clear the United States will study options for ensuring the safety, security and effectiveness of nuclear weapons on a case-by-case basis.

Consistent with congressionally mandated stockpile-management programs, the full range of life-(inaudible) programs -- life-extension programs approaches will be considered: refurbishment of existing warheads, reuse of nuclear components from different warheads, and the replacement of nuclear components. This NPR makes clear that the United States will only use nuclear components based on previously tested designs and will not support new nuclear missions or provide new nuclear capabilities.

Finally, in any decision to proceed to the engineering development for warhead life-extension programs, the United States will give strong preference to the options of refurbishment or reuse. This NPR makes clear that the replacement of nuclear components, as already said by Secretary Gates, would only be undertaken only if critical stockpile-management program goals cannot otherwise be met, and if specifically authorized by the president.

These are the principles that define how we intend to implement the president's strong commitment to maintain the safety, security and effectiveness of an aging stockpile. But this NPR does further than that.

It provides an outline of the resources we will need to get the job done.

The NPR calls for the modernization of nuclear weapons infrastructure and the sustainment of the science, technology and engineering base which is required to support the full range of nuclear security missions. This is reflected in the president's budget request, which includes a 13.4 percent increase in the funding for the NNSA [National Nuclear Security Administration].

This investment is critical to addressing our aging infrastructure, sustaining our deterrent and enhancing our efforts against nuclear proliferation and terrorism. It will also allow the U.S. to reduce many nondeployed warheads currently kept as a technical hedge.

The NPR notes the importance of recruiting and retaining the human capital needed in the DoD and DoE, for the nuclear mission, and proposes building on current efforts.

If we're going to succeed in our mission, we need to be able to recruit and retain the next generation of nuclear security professionals because at the department, our people are our greatest asset.

So I applaud the team that worked so hard over the last year, to complete this review, and look forward to working -- with Secretary Gates, Secretary Clinton, Admiral Mullen and, of course, the Congress -- to implement this in the coming years.

Thank you very much. And I turn it over to Admiral Mullen.

ADM. MULLEN: Thank you.

Thank you to Secretary Gates, Secretary Clinton and Secretary Chu for your leadership in this tremendous effort and also leading it in a way where the process was very collaborative and really a strength of the interagency, which produced a great product.

The chiefs and I fully support the findings of this nuclear posture review, because we believe it provides us and our field commanders the opportunity to better shape our nuclear weapons posture, policies and force structure to meet an ever-changing security environment. We appreciated the opportunity to inform it and, quite frankly, to be informed by it, as the process went forward.

Even while it reduces the role played by nuclear weapons -- a reduction I wholly endorse -- this Nuclear Posture Review reaffirms our commitment to defend the vital interests of the United States and those of our partners and allies with a more balanced mix of nuclear and non-nuclear means than we have at our disposal today.

Even while it retains the strategic triad of bombers, submarines and missiles that have served us so well, the review further strengthens us -- the United States command and control, works to prevent nuclear terrorism and proliferation, and suggests new dialogues through which to improve transparency with Russia and China. And even while it precludes nuclear testing and the development of new warheads, the review bolsters regional deterrence by fielding new missile defenses, improving counter-WMD [weapons of mass destruction] capabilities and revitalizing our nuclear support infrastructure.

As Secretary Gates made quite clear, we must invest more wisely and more generously to preserve the life span and the effectiveness of our existing arsenal. We must hold ourselves accountable to unimpeachably high standards of nuclear training, leadership and management. And we must recruit and then retain the scientific expertise to advance our technological edge in nuclear weaponry.

I'm encouraged to see these requirements so prominently addressed in the Nuclear Posture Review, but I'm also mindful of the challenge. Without such improvements, an aging nuclear force supported by a neglected infrastructure only invites enemy misbehavior and miscalculation.

Thank you.


Q Yes. Mr. Secretary, the review says that it's the administration's goal to create conditions for which -- in which the only purpose of nuclear weapons would be to deter nuclear attack, as opposed to other kinds of attacks.

What will it take to get to that state? And why can't you go there now?

If I may ask a question of Secretary Clinton also, would you comment on Secretary -- I mean, Minister Lavrov's statement today in Moscow that Russia would reserve the right to withdraw from the new START treaty if it felt that the U.S. missile defense became a strategic threat to the Russian deterrent? And will the U.S. also have a unilateral statement about the treaty?

SEC. GATES: First, the NPR is very explicit in referring to the fundamental role of nuclear weapons being for deterrence. I know that there was -- there's been a lot of speculation outside the government and there was a lot of discussion inside the government of how to -- how to frame that and how to describe it, whether it would be the sole purpose, whether we would forgo non-first -- forgo first use and so on. And I think that there was agreement within the administration that we didn't think we were far enough along the road toward getting control of nuclear weapons around the world to limit ourselves so explicitly. And so I think there was general agreement that the term "fundamental purpose" basically made clear -- and other language makes clear -- this is obviously a weapon of last resort, and we also are very explicit about that.

So I think -- I think we recognized we need to make progress moving in the direction that the president has set, but we also recognize the real world we continue to live in.

Secretary Clinton?

SEC. CLINTON: Well, Bob, I'm not aware of the statement, but it's no surprise that the Russians remain concerned about our missile defense program.

We have persistently sought to explain to them the purpose for missile defense, the role that we believe it can and should play in preventing proliferation and nuclear terrorism, and we have consistently offered the Russians the opportunity to cooperate with us.

The START treaty is not about missile defense, as you know. It is about cutting the size -- the respective sizes of our arsenals, our strategic offensive weapons. And we will continue our conversations with the Russians. We have made it clear that we look forward to the ratification of START and then another round of discussions with the Russians about further reductions in our arsenal. And we will also be working with them to try to find common ground around missile defense, which we are committed to pursuing.

Q Thank you. Mr. Secretary, tactical nuclear weapons have not yet been mentioned in your discussion today. What does the NPR say about American and allied tac nukes in Europe? What efforts are under way with the allies to reduce them? And what will be required of the Russians as part of this process?

SEC. GATES: Well, first of all, the NPR is very explicit that any decision with respect to NATO's nuclear capabilities will be handled within NATO according to the consensus principle and that as long as there are nuclear weapons that threaten NATO, NATO will need to maintain a nuclear capability. But this is clearly one of the issues that will be addressed in the strategic concept that NATO is undertaking, the revision of the strategic concept.

I would say -- and I would invite Secretary Clinton to comment -- but basically, I think what the NPR does is draw attention to the number of tactical nuclear weapons, and also to the number of non-deployed weapons that we're looking at; and that these clearly should be part of the arms-control agenda as we move forward.

SEC. CLINTON: Well, Bob is absolutely right. I mean, there is a section in the NPR, for those of you who haven't had a chance yet to review it -- including a picture, might I add, of Sergei Lavrov -- (laughter) -- yes, you'll -- I hope you'll look at that; it's in there -- yes, page 19. And in the chapter called "Strengthening Regional Deterrence and Reassuring U.S. Allies and Partners," we make it very clear that any changes in NATO's nuclear posture should only be taken after a thorough review within and decision by the alliance. And, you know, those conversations have begun in connection with the new strategic concept that is being worked on, that hopefully will be ready for consensus discussion at the NATO conference in Lisbon.

STAFF: Okay, we have time for another one -- (off mike).

Q I'd like to ask both you, Mr. Secretary, and Secretary Clinton about your concerns about Iran and what role those concerns played in formulating this review. The president very briefly said the other day he was concerned Iran was still on a track for nuclear capability. Your current assessment of the time frame, what that really means, what message you're sending to Iran with all of this?

SEC. GATES: Well, I think that the -- I actually think that the NPR has a very strong message for both Iran and North Korea, because whether it's in declaratory policy or in other elements of the NPR, we essentially carve out states like Iran and North Korea that are not in compliance with NPT.

And basically, all options are on the table when it comes to countries in that category, along with non-state actors who might acquire nuclear weapons.

So if there is a message for Iran and North Korea here, it is that if you're going to play by the rules, if you're going to join the international community, then we will undertake certain obligations to you, and that's covered in the NPR. But if you're not going to play by the rules, if you're going to be a proliferator, then all options are on the table in terms of how we deal with you.

Q Can I ask you a follow-up on that? Page 33 of the report talks about one of the goals of an enhanced regional architecture is to ensure that any attempts to attack U.S. forces or partners or allies will be blunted and their aims denied with an enhanced (inaudible) capability. Translate to the Middle East: Does that mean if Iran attacks Israel or the Gulf states with either conventional or nuclear weapons, the U.S. would attack to blunt their aims?

SEC. GATES: I'm not going to go down a hypothetical road with you on that.

Last question. Yeah.

Q Yeah, on the alert status, why does that remain unchanged if so many other things are changing under this NPR? And also, could you tell us a little bit more about how the presidential decision- making process also will be changed under the NPR?

SEC. GATES: Well, I think -- I think there are provisions -- and the experts can get into it with you -- but there are some changes that we've made in command and control that we think tighten things up and also give the president more time for the -- for a decision. I'm sorry, what was the first part of your question?

Q On the -- on the military alert -- trigger alert?

SEC. GATES: Oh, on the alert status. Well, frankly, we feel like the situation is pretty -- is a satisfactory one at the current time.

We have no armed bombers sitting at the end of runways any longer. We have -- as you'll read in the NPR, our ICBMs are all targeted right now on the oceans so that if, God forbid and for the first time in 60 years there were an accidental launch or a problem, the -- it would put -- it would put a missile right into the middle of the ocean rather than targeted on any -- on any country. So I think we've taken a number of steps to ensure, A, that the president has additional time for decision, but, B, that the forces on alert are not subject to some kind of disaster.

Thank you all very much.

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