Camden plays important part in nuclear deterrence

July 26, 2013

There is a new organization in the country, the Nuclear Deterrent Coalition.

Its purpose is to connect the policy community of Washington, D.C., and others around the country with the people who man the missiles, bombers and submarines.

A defense contractor recommended me to become a part of the coalition, and I recently attended my first meeting as a member. There were six speakers addressing the 33 members representing 14 states. One of the members was a former astronaut. All other members had Air Force connections.

We are appreciative to ATK for hosting the meeting at their headquarters in D.C. and the Boeing Company for hosting the reception that evening.

Capt. Johnny Wolfe, technical director for strategic systems program (SSP) reviewed the organizational relationships and structure, strategic deterrence and the Air Force/Navy commonality. The D5 missile used on the Ohio class of submarines is the newest and most capable missile having 144 successful test fights and twice the service life of the C4, its predecessor.

SSP is working to increase the missile life to support the new ballistic missile submarine (SSBN). Current SSBNs have a life of 40-42 years.

“Our strategic submarines will support 70 percent of the nuclear triad under the New START Treaty,” Wolfe said. Wolfe also discussed the value of the Nuclear Triad to deterrence:

  • Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) provide prompt response and hard target defeat capability
  • SSBNs provide survivable force capable of conducting a second (at sea platforms are assumed survivable)
  • Bombers prove visible increase or decrease in posture and additional strike capability

Regarding the third comment above on visible increase or decrease in posture for the bombers, I was reminded of one of the values of our 90,000 tons of diplomacy — our aircraft carriers. There is no doubt our carriers make a huge impression simply by their arrival and the same can be said of our bombers flying over a rogue group in another country.

We should remember the full meaning of deterrent: to keep others from using nuclear weapons against us or our allies.

Over 31 American allies have joined with us and depended on us for the past 50 years to protect them and their citizens. America’s strength allows small countries to survive under our nuclear umbrella. Yes, our allies depend on the United States.

With the closure of many of our overseas military installations we likewise will depend on the support of our allies. If the U.S. were to reduce its nuclear deterrent to a point where it could not be extended to its allies or even to a point where it was perceived to be unable to protect the vital interest of our allies it could create instability.

Peter Huessy, a member of the coalition and president of GeoStrategic Analysis spoke at a recent event that was held in Minot, N.D., where participants toured the B-52 and Minuteman III facilities at Minot Air Force Base.

Mr. Huessy, organizer of the event, said the symposiums will be held as a community of people working together to promote, sustain and try to modernize the triad and to make a connection between the thousands of people who work on the base, who sustain the base and who are critical to our deterrent, and let them know that we remember them because they are there.

President Barack Obama is predicted to announce in the near future a new round of strategic nuclear warhead reductions as part of disarmament agenda that could reduce U.S. strategic warheads to as few as 1,000.

The New START Treaty created a balance in America’s strategic deterrent structure sufficient to deter our adversaries and assure our allies. The treaty promised to maintain a modern, safe, secure, reliable and stabilizing nuclear triad deterrent. America must not unilaterally reduce our strategic deterrent to less than agreed in our 2010 New START Treaty.

I was always a fan of the squadron 16 motto: “War ready to preserve peace.” I have no doubt our nuclear deterrents have deterred incidents with some of the major powers.

Adm. Richard Mies, U.S. Navy retired, a submariner and former commander of U.S. Strategic Command, very clearly pointed out that even with the horrific huge numbers of loss of life of our military members we saw in World War I with 15 million dead and 20 million wounded this loss was not a deterrent and was insufficient to prevent World War II. Nuclear power has moderated the behavior of the great powers toward one another.

Our current nuclear force of 14 submarines will be replaced by 12 Ohio-class replacement SSBNs, 420 to 450 ICBMs and 60 strategic bombers.

Our warheads are scheduled to reach 1,550 by the end of this decade compared to over 12,000 at the height of the Cold War and 2,200 under the 2002 Moscow Treaty between the U.S. and Russia.

Mr. Hussey’s response to those who say they don’t believe in nuclear weapons is: “We could ask North Korea, we could ask Pakistan, we could ask China to get rid of their nuclear weapons and they’ve already given us their answer.”

He said Kim Jong-il, the former leader of North Korea, when asked, “Are you going to give up your nuclear weapons?” said, “You first.”

The defense sequester and budget cuts means that more and more citizens will have to speak up and ask that our deterrents are maintained.

Franklin Miller in his paper “The Need for Strong U.S. Nuclear Deterrent in the 21st Century” summed it up: “One of the classic questions confronting defense analysts and military planners is how large is a nuclear stockpile required to be for an effect deterrent?

“... Given the world we live in, U.S. deterrence requirements are driven primarily by the need to deter a future Russian leadership, should it develop hostile intent towards us or our allies, and secondarily by the need to deter a future Chinese leadership in the same circumstances. While other deterrent requirements exist, from a force structure and force sizing standpoint, these can be treated as lesser cases.”

Citizens of Camden County have a powerful voice in the future of our nuclear deterrents. Many of you have already traveled to D.C. to speak to our legislators about the funding for the replacement of our Ohio class submarines — the Ohio replacement program also known as SSBN(X). This program has already been delayed by two years.

We must not fail to ensure the peace. We must maintain a modern nuclear deterrent.

We must stay engaged with not only our legislators but with other congressional legislators who are on committees dealing with these critical issues.

Sheila McNeill, President
The Camden Partnership