$20 bil­lion per year go­ing to nukes dur­ing Obama’s terms.

Trump stirs fears with im­prov­ing ‘nu­clear ca­pa­bil­ity’ tweet

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY ROWAN SCAR­BOR­OUGH ● David Sherfinski con­trib­uted to this re­port.

Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump has stirred up fears of a new arms race in a Twit­ter mes­sage on im­prov­ing “nu­clear ca­pa­bil­ity,” but Pres­i­dent Obama al­ready has com­mit­ted to spend­ing as much as $20 bil­lion a year to up­date the na­tion’s abil­ity to con­duct a nu­clear war.

Dur­ing his two terms, Mr. Obama has blessed the go-ahead for their new ma­jor weapon sys­tems: a strate­gic bomber, a ground-based in­tercon­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile (ICBM), and an air-launched, atomic-cruise mis­sile. He also funded a new more ac­cu­rate atomic bomb.

At a con­gres­sional hear­ing this sum­mer, a top Pen­tagon pol­i­cy­maker and two four-star gen­er­als laid out long-term modernization plans of up to $450 bil­lion over 20 years to stay ahead of China and Russia.

“Our ca­pa­bil­i­ties as a whole have lasted well be­yond their de­signed ser­vice life,” tes­ti­fied Navy Adm. Ce­cil D. Haney, who heads U.S. Strate­gic Com­mand. “It is cru­cial that we mod­ern­ize our strate­gic de­ter­rence ca­pa­bil­i­ties, which un­der­pin our na­tional and global se­cu­rity.”

“Strate­gic de­ter­rent” means ground-and sub­ma­rine-based ICBMs, and lon­grange bombers. The triad’s mis­sion is to strike any en­emy who dared to at­tack the United States with its nu­clear ar­se­nal. China and Russia have such a ca­pa­bil­ity. North Korea is mov­ing to ex­tend the ranges of its ar­se­nal.

Mr. Trump on Thurs­day tweeted his ob­jec­tive as com­man­der in chief: “The United States must greatly strengthen and ex­pand its nu­clear ca­pa­bil­ity un­til such time as the world comes to its senses re­gard­ing nukes.”

The words are some­what cryp­tic in that “ex­pand its nu­clear ca­pa­bil­ity” does not nec­es­sar­ily mean more war­heads. Re­gard­less, the U.S. now op­er­ates un­der an arms agree­ment with Moscow that lim­its war­head counts. The Amer­i­can ar­se­nal is 85 per­cent below its Cold War peak. The num­bers: 1,550 de­ployed war­heads and 700 de­ployed de­liv­ery sys­tems.

The U.S. has no such agree­ment with com­mu­nist China, which is rapidly ex­pand­ing its atomic ar­se­nal.

On Fri­day, Mr. Trump dou­bled down on his vow, telling an MSNBC host to “let it be an arms race” when asked to clar­ify the tweet he had sent.

“Let it be an arms race … we will out­match them at every pass and out­last them all,” Mr. Trump told host Mika Brzezin­ski, she re­ported on “Morn­ing Joe.”

Some might ar­gue that Mr. Obama al­ready had fol­lowed Mr. Trump. The pres­i­dent has ap­proved devel­op­ment of a new strate­gic bomber, the B-21, that would out­per­form the very old B-52. He also has ap­proved re­search into smaller-war­head nu­clear weapons.

It’s not just aging planes. The nu­cle­artipped Air Launched Cruise Mis­sile (ALCM), the strike weapon car­ried by the B-52, is 30 years old. It was de­signed to last 10 years.

“It’s hav­ing dif­fi­cul­ties main­tain­ing its re­li­a­bil­ity,” Gen. Robin Rand, head of Air Force Strike Com­mand, told a House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee panel last July. “But more im­por­tantly, the mis­sile will not be sur­viv­able in the ever-in­creas­ing A2AD en­vi­ron­ment.”

“A2AD” is a Pen­tagon acro­nym for the war plan­ning con­cept of “anti-ac­cess and area de­nial.” In this case, it means the en­emy has coun­ter­mea­sures to de­feat cruise mis­siles.

Gen. Rand, who over­sees all nu­clear bombers and ICBMs, asked the com­mit­tee to con­tinue fund­ing its re­place­ment, the LRSO, or long-range stand­off weapon.

“We need a new weapon sys­tem,” he said.

Robert Scher, as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of de­fense for strate­gic plans, put the modernization cost at up to $450 bil­lion over 20 years, or about $20 bil­lion a year. “To de­ter mas­sive nu­clear at­tack, the United States must main­tain a force that is in­vul­ner­a­ble to a dis­arm­ing first strike,” Mr. Scher said. “The need to sus­tain ef­fec­tive de­ter­rence and strate­gic sta­bil­ity drives the re­quire­ment to mod­ern­ize U.S. nu­clear forces,” he tes­ti­fied. “And we must make in­vest­ments now to have re­place­ments ready when needed. … Claims that U.S. modernization sig­nals a nu­clear arms buildup or a re­newed arms race do not fairly char­ac­ter­ize our ac­tiv­i­ties and those of other coun­tries.”

Adm. Haney, whose com­mand draws ups the spe­cific tar­get list for each coun­try deemed a pos­si­ble nuke threat, said Moscow is mod­ern­iz­ing vir­tu­ally every com­po­nent, in­clud­ing sub­marines, cruise mis­siles and ICBMs, both static and mo­bile.

Gen. Rand put in a pitch to fund the silo-based Ground Base Strate­gic De­ter­rence to re­place the 50-year-old Min­ute­man III mis­sile.

The Pen­tagon com­pleted tests in Oc­to­ber 2015 on a new ver­sion of the B61 se­ries of nu­clear bombs. The bombs, mi­nus nu­clear ca­pa­bil­ity, were tested at the Tonopah Test Range in Ne­vada, Global Se­cu­rity.org re­ported.

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