Need Trumps Affordability

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said June 11 he sees the nuclear triad of bombers, ICBMs, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles as a continuing requirement, even if nuclear warhead inventory levels drop sharply in the START follow-on talks with Russia or the nuclear posture review. Asked if the whole triad would be maintainable at below 1,000 warheads, Schwartz said during his appearance at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., little would change. “Affordability is not the prime imperative here,” he said, adding, “My sense is, and certainly our recommendation is, that the Triad continues to serve the nation’s deterrent requirements.” Schwartz said he thinks that position is also shared by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He said “it’s important to appreciate” that warhead numbers are not the whole story. Rather, it’s “a question of weapons, and their safety, security, and reliability” and “whether the nation’s nuclear infrastructure is in a proper state of repair and has the capacity to do the work, so we don’t have to rely on all that superb engineering of 30-40-50 years ago.” Schwartz said “at some point we may get to zero” nuclear warheads, but “not anytime soon.” So the nation needs “a diverse force; a safe, secure, and reliable force” of top-flight platforms, weapons, and infrastructure, he asserted.