Deb Fischer

09/20/2022 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 09/21/2022 16:06

Fischer On New Threats Facing U.S. & Importance of Modernizing Nuclear Deterrence

WASHINGTON, DC. - Today U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the top Republican on the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, participated in the committee's hearing on U.S. nuclear strategy and policy.

The committee received testimony from the Hons. Madelyn Creedon, Rose Gottemoeller, Eric Edelman, and Franklin Miller. Sen. Fischer's questions to the witnesses focused on adversaries testing fractional orbital bombardment systems (FOBS), the security implications of these systems, and how that should inform our deterrence structures.

Click the image above to watch video of Sen. Fischer's remarks

An edited transcript of Senator Fischer's exchange with the witnesses is copied below.

Senator Fischer: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. First of all, I would like to thank the panel for being here today and to all of you, thank you for your very strong comments in support of nuclear modernization. And Ms. Creedon - I especially took note, when you said we also have to factor in inflation, when we look at what is needed in order to keep up on schedule with regards to nuclear modernization. So thank you for that.

Also, in looking at a nuclear arms race and looking at the New START Treaty and what's there - Mr. Miller, I liked to your comments about [how] Russia's not trustworthy and China is scornful. We all know that none of us want to see an arms race. But I would say to you that I think we're seeing one.

We're seeing it with our peer competitors. And that would be Russia and China. They are in a race with us in trying to outpace the capabilities that we have.

So I also appreciated many of the comments that we've heard so far with regard to that.

[…] Look at comments from members in the past - from Ash Carter for example, who said in the last 25 years, we've only made modest investments in basic sustainment and operations and we haven't built anything new in 25 years.

We are seeing tremendous advancements from the Russians and the Chinese with what they are building, what they are testing, and what they are capable of, or will soon be capable of.

Mr. Miller and Ambassador Edelman - I saw in your prepared statement that you refer to China's test of a fractional orbital bombardment system (FOBS) as an "extremely destabilizing development." And you go on to describe "a decapitation option that would also undermine many assumptions about deterrence and force governments to adopt very risky launch on warning postures."

We've heard similar testimony to that from Admiral Richard, but I don't remember us ever digging into this at any of our hearings. So I kind of wanted to go off on that today and have you explain this problem that we're facing. Give us a little more detail on that and walk us through why you feel that this system would be so destabilizing? Ambassador, would you like to start?

Amb. Edelman: […] So the basis of deterrence, which we discovered after long and hard efforts during the first 15 to 20 years of the Cold War, was for each side to be able to have an assured second-strike capability - a retaliatory capability - that would allow it to ride out a first strike, and then inflict unacceptable damage on its adversary.

In order to do that, you have to have robust nuclear command and control. And the danger that the FOBS test I think represents to us - the maximum danger is that it could be (because we don't really know why the Chinese did it), but it could be because of the path it takes, which evades our early warning systems and finishes, as Madeline pointed out, with a hypersonic glide vehicle, it could essentially be the basis of a no warning attack on the National Command Authority.

Sen. Fischer: It's a first strike use, and it's also a surprise attack where we wouldn't have that warning, correct?

Amb. Edelman: Correct. And that's the danger in it. Because the assumptions of stability are the ones that I articulated, that we have to maintain. But if I've misstated anything I know my colleagues will correct me.

Mr. Miller: Eric didn't misstate anything. We faced short warning threats in the past from Soviet cruise missile submarines off our coast way back in the old days with Yankee class ballistic missile submarines, but we would know about the launch of those weapons and we would be able to track them.

In this case, as Amb. Edelman has said, we would not have that kind of warning if this system deorbited and we wouldn't be able to tell where it was going. So, everything that you've said and that Ambassador Edelman said is correct, Senator.

Sen. Fischer: Do you believe that it is necessary for us to continue to look for other options that we could have in order to maintain a very strong deterrence, including being able to identify such surprise attacks so that we wouldn't see this decapitation happen to us and that would then be off the table?

Mr. Miller: Yes, ma'am. I think we need to do that. And I think we need to continue to build a strong and robust nuclear command and control system. We have allowed that system to wither after the Cold War ended.

The Department of Defense is now working to improve that. But that is an absolute priority as Madeline Creedon indicated, that's often forgotten. We talked about the triad, but command and control is at the heart of all of that.

Sen. Fischer: I don't forget it. NC3 (nuclear command, control and communications) is extremely important. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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