Spotlight Now on OSD

Yesterday’s call by the Schlesinger task force for the creation of a new assistant secretary of defense to oversee nuclear matters (see above) isn’t the first time the need for better Office of the Secretary of Defense nuclear oversight has arisen. However, maybe this time, OSD will choose to act. Last February the Defense Science Board permanent task force on nuclear weapons surety, a universally respected body, noted that the nuclear enterprise within OSD “has been dispersed and downgraded” and called for the creation of an assistant secretary of defense who would focus on nuclear matters. As far as we know, OSD did not act on this recommendation. Now the Schlesinger panel makes the case for something similar, this time urging that Defense Secretary Robert Gates establish an assistant secretary for deterrence within OSD’s policy shop with broad oversight, including funding execution for nuclear capabilities. Task force chair James Schlesinger told reporters yesterday during a Pentagon briefing that the panel had gotten no pushback from Gates on the recommendations—including the ASD proposal. “There is, I think, a willingness to create an ASD position,” he said, noting the task force’s appreciation of Gates’ continued attentiveness to nuclear issues. Later Schlesinger amplified this view, saying creation of the new office is “very likely to happen.” Gates was not present at the press briefing, but said in a statement that “the numerous trends” identified in the task force’s report “may warrant corrective actions.”