Not that we need one, but last week offered another example of congressional dysfunction, this time on defense.
During a hearing on the fiscal 2014 Defense Department budget, Rep. Mike D. Rogers, R-Ala., chairman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, told Pentagon officials that his panel would not approve $75 million for next year to implement the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). That is, until it gets a report on what the makeup of the strategic nuclear forces will be in February 2018.
That’s when the deployed U.S. strategic nuclear force must be down to 1,550 warheads, from 2,200, and 700 delivery systems.
The Rogers subcommittee is set to mark up the fiscal 2014 defense authorization bill at 10:30 a.m. on May 22.
Madelyn R. Creedon, assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs, told Rogers the decision “on what exactly the New START force structure will look like will be made at the end of this calendar year” — months after Rogers and his subcommittee would normally have acted on the bill and the measure would have passed Congress.
Rogers told Creedon, “It’s difficult for this committee to evaluate whether or not that money (the $75 million) is needed, given that we’re still waiting on the report . . . on how New START will be implemented.”
He said some money being sought would pay for Air Force environmental-impact studies on closing ICBM sites to meet the new warhead levels.
Creedon said the Defense Department is reviewing various options and that requires the Air Force and other services “doing the whole range of studies that would allow them to implement the various decisions when there is a decision.”
She also noted that some of the $75 million is to be spent dismantling delivery systems that had been retired but that would be counted under START.
Another part would go to paying for the inspection regime set up by the pact, because the United States and Russia are undertaking the inspections, and, Creedon said, “funding these inspections is hugely important” for planning future U.S. deployment.
Rogers was not moved. “We appreciate your thoughtful preparation,” he said, but he added, “This committee is not going to authorize money until we get the report.”
Rogers said he would also hold up the $75 million if he did not get a “personal commitment” from President Obama that “he will not seek reductions that circumvent the treaty or the congressional authorization process.”
The hearing covered the future of this nation’s entire nuclear weapons enterprise.
• Are there going to be further reductions in nuclear weapons? That is being explored, Creedon said. “We believe that there is an opportunity for future reductions. Exactly the how and the numbers and the context is something that we still need to work on,” she said.
• Is there a rule of thumb for future numbers? Air Force Gen. C. Robert Kehler, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, told the Rogers panel, “We can accomplish our objectives with the New START force,” the 1,550 warheads and 700 delivery systems set for 2018. “Beyond that, I think Stratcom has been participating in a series of reviews to take a look at what a future arms control structure might look like based upon various strategic approaches.”