Thornberry Promises to Educate Congress on Nuclear Deterrence

The US nuclear deterrence forces and infrastructure are “atrophying,” while Russia is adding to its nuclear capabilities, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry said Tuesday during an appearance at the Atlantic Council. “Our nuclear defense needs more attention,” said Thornberry (R-Texas), who promised to hold a series of hearings to educate HASC members on the danger. As the Russian population and its oil revenues are shrinking, President Vladimir Putin “is putting much more emphasis on his nuclear forces. At the same time, ours are atrophying, … getting older and older, as are the people who built them,” he said. “Where we’re really lacking is in the weapons systems.” Air Force and Navy leaders are requesting modernization of the land- and sea-based strategic missiles, a new strategic bomber, and replacement for the Ohio-class ballistic missiles submarines. The Pentagon also is seeking funds to refurbish the key warheads in the nuclear arsenal, but the defense nuclear infrastructure, which handles the warheads, has become “so deteriorated” that the engineers are leaving, Thornberry said. “I don’t think many of my colleagues on the Hill understand” the problem, the chairman said. (Atlantic Council video of speech.)