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National security requires modernized nuclear deterrence

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Joshua L. DeMotts
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs Command Information
The Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration stressed the importance of nuclear deterrence and the need for nuclear modernization July 21 at an Air Force Association breakfast at the Key Bridge Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Virginia.

Lt. Gen. Jack Weinstein argued the importance of developing new weapons systems and modernizing existing capabilities to nurture a strong and capable nuclear deterrent force capable of discouraging adversaries and building allies.

Weinstein commended Airmen, who shoulder the responsibility of two-thirds of the nation’s nuclear triad, for maintaining the safety, security and effectiveness of the Air Force’s nuclear enterprise while working around the clock in extreme temperatures at bases in Louisiana and North Dakota.

“At the heart of each weapon system is our Air Force’s most important element: the Airmen,” Weinstein said. “We could not do our mission without the dedication, determination and drive our Airmen give every day, and I cannot say enough about them or thank them adequately.”

Focusing on the need to modernize the nuclear enterprise, Weinstein reflected on the underlying reason for America’s nuclear deterrence posture, citing a number of historical statistics from both world wars and the advent of the nuclear age. Successfully supporting the idea that as long as nuclear weapons exist around the world, Weinstein said there will be no mission more important than maintaining the U.S.’s nuclear capability, not only for its security, but to assure the nation’s allies.

But, Weinstein argued, the nuclear enterprise has not been modernized since the 1980s. According to Weinstein, the Air Force currently spends around 3 percent of the Defense Department’s budget on the nuclear enterprise, and that number will only go up to 7 percent at the peak of modernization in the 2020s before returning to a normal level.

“Major powers have not fought each other in over 60 years,” Weinstein said. “Though we have fought small wars and regional conflicts, the percentage of the world’s population impacted by these conflicts pales in comparison from the turn of the 20th century until 1945. I contend nuclear deterrence is a factor in this refrain from massive conflicts.”

Weinstein said despite the nation’s current fiscal environment, a lot of difficult decisions must be made about budget priorities, and 21st century deterrence and assurance will demand persistent and focused efforts. Speaking rhetorically, Weinstein asked if the U.S. needed its nuclear weapons and if they needed to be modernized. The answer, he said, is a resounding “yes” to modernizing the nation’s nuclear enterprise.

“No one in this room knows what the future holds,” Weinstein said. “History has shown us that we will continue to face enemies and there will continue to be people who wish to do us harm.”