Venue: Senate Office Building, Washington D.C
KING: We were involved in a series of votes today so there'll be a lot of back and forth. They're supposedly 10-minute votes but I would advise the witnesses, if St. Peter ever says to you, you have 10 minutes to live, you should respond, I'd like it to be during a 10-minute Senate vote because that'll give you a lot more time.
Let me thank the witnesses for agreeing to appear today before our Strategic Forces Subcommittee. Thank you, all, for your service.
The purpose of today's hearing is to examine the processes and procedures of how the Nuclear Weapons Council coordinates Department of Defense requirements for nuclear weapons with the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration and their budgets.
We have as witnesses the principals of the Nuclear Weapons Council except for the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.
This hearing is a historic one, tracing its roots to actions that occurred 76 years ago and reflective of tensions that exist between the manufacture and utilization of nuclear weapons. The Nuclear Weapons Council once was called the Military Liaison Committee and it was established in the 1946 Atomic Energy Act after the Manhattan Project was disestablished.
The committee was a result of an amendment to the 1946 Act by Senator Vandenberg of Michigan, who after a much heated debate on the civilian versus military control of nuclear weapons, at that time consisted of nine such weapons, by the way, in our entire stockpile, Senator Vandenberg referred to this debate as a tempest in a teapot. I would note that Senator Vandenberg worked with President Truman to form NATO and the Marshall Plan and was quoted as stating that partisan politics should stop at the water's edge. Senator Vandenberg's portrait hangs in the reception room to our Senate chamber.
Section 2-C of the 1946 Act authorized the Military Liaison Committee to be staffed with representatives of the War Department and the Navy. It directed the civilian commissioners of the Atomic Energy Commission to advise and consult with the committee on all atomic energy matters which the committee deems to relate to the military applications in the manufacture or utilization of atomic weapons.
The provision then goes on to state that if the commitment at any time -- if the committee at any time concludes that any action, proposed action or failure to act of the commission on such matters is adverse to the responsibility of the Departments of War or Navy, the committee may refer such action or proposed action to the Secretaries of the War or Navy. If the Secretary concurs, they may refer such action to the President whose decision shall be final.
Amazingly, that debate which Senator Vandenberg referred to as a tempest in a teapot still occurs today. The Military Liaison Committee was renamed the Nuclear Weapons Council after the 1986 Blue Ribbon Task Force on Nuclear Weapons Management found that the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy should be coordinating more tightly on nuclear weapons programs and budgets.
I'm hopeful that today we can examine the relationship between the Departments of Defense and the NNSA and how requirements and budgets are coordinated. And we keep in mind that the debate that occurred in 1946 really revolves around the civil-military control of nuclear weapons. It is an important and healthy tension, but one we must respect as fundamental to our laws and Constitution.
We've just finished another Nuclear Posture Review. Russia is making reckless statements about nuclear use and the NNSA is executing its highest workloads since the 1980s as we rebuild our aging triad. Now more than ever, we need the Department of Defense and the NNSA to closely coordinate in a unified way their requirements and budgets so that our nuclear deterrent continues to be as Secretary Ash Carter described it, the backbone of every national security action we undertake today.
Again, let me thank today's witnesses for you all agreeing to appear. And after brief opening statements, we will have rounds of five-minute questions to the witnesses.
FISCHER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I will keep my statement short so that we can save time for more questions.
First of all, welcome to all of our witnesses. We appreciate the effort it took to align your schedules and appear before us today. I'm sorry that Secretary Kahl couldn't be with us, but Dr. Plumb, we're glad to have you here, thank you. I also wanted to thank the staff, John Epstein in particular for their effort to bring this hearing together.
We have before us today the most senior panel that I can recall ever appearing before this subcommittee. And we look forward to your testimony and about the Nuclear Weapons Council's work to ensure our deterrent remains safe, secure, effective, and credible as the geopolitical landscape becomes less stable and nuclear threats increase.
I remain concerned that we are not doing enough and that we continue accept greater risk in our policies, plans, and programs. Russia's increasingly overt nuclear threats should remind all of us of the importance of nuclear deterrence and the risk of deterrence failure. This is the Department of Defense's most important mission and we must ensure it has the capabilities and resources necessary to succeed.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
KING: Ms. Hruby, if you would begin.
HRUBY: Chairman Reed, Chairman King, Ranking Member Fischer, and members of the subcommittee, its' my pleasure to be here today with my colleagues from the Nuclear Weapons Council.
The Nuclear Weapons Council serves an indispensable coordination role between NNSA and DOD for the design, development, testing, and production of U.S. nuclear weapons and delivery systems. It also serves a critical role for anticipating future needs and managing priorities and risks.
The biggest challenge NNSA faces today is conducting five stockpile modernization programs while simultaneously revitalizing our infrastructure. NNSA is fully committed to executing programs as efficiently and quickly as possible while managing risks. However, the risk will persist until we complete the enterprise recapitalization efforts.
Steady progress is being made. The W88 Alt 370 and the B61-12 are on track to meet DOD operational schedule. NNSA is also developing the modernized W80-4, W87-1 and W93 in partnership with DOD.
I am proud of how well NNSA is working with the Navy, Air Force, US STRATCOM, and the Nuclear Weapons Council during this demanding time. The 2022 Nuclear Posture Review laid out some clear initiatives that impact the NNSA. We are committed to implementing production-based resilience and warhead science and technology innovation. We are also diligently working to recruit, develop, and retain our workforce.
Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't mention NNSA's equally strong commitment to our responsibilities to promote non-proliferation, reduce nuclear risk, and enhance counterterrorism and counter proliferation efforts. We appreciate your sustained bipartisan support. Thank you and I look forward to your questions.
KING: Adm. Richard?
RICHARD: Chairman Reed, Chairman King, Ranking Member Fischer, distinguished committee members, it's a pleasure to be here again as the Operational Commander responsible for our nation's nuclear forces and being able to testify beside my Nuclear Weapons Council colleagues.
Given Russia's ongoing war against Ukraine, I will have to limit my responses in this unclassified forum.
Let me begin with this observation, we are facing crisis deterrence dynamics right now that we have only seen a few times in our nation's history. When I testified to this committee in March, I expressed concern regarding three party deterrence dynamics that we face today.
The nation and our allies have not faced a crisis like Russia's invasion of Ukraine in over 30 years. President Putin simultaneously invaded a sovereign nation while using thinly veiled nuclear threats to deter U.S. and NATO intervention. The PRC is watching the war in Ukraine closely and will likely use nuclear coercion to their advantage in the future. Their intent is to achieve the military capability to reunify Taiwan by 2027 if not sooner.
STRATCOM has been preparing for this class of threat for years, developing theoretical deterrence concepts and putting them into action. Yet, my ability to maintain strategic deterrence is limited. I said it in my Fiscal Year 2023 unfunded priorities memo, the war in Ukraine and China's nuclear trajectory, their strategic breakout demonstrates that we have a deterrence and assurance gap against the threat of limited nuclear employment.
To help close this gap, pursuing a low yield, non-ballistic capability that does not require visible generation should be reexamined, in my opinion, in the near future along with other measures to address this. Weapons program delays have driven us past the point where it is possible to fully mitigate operational risk, in some cases, we're simply left to assess the damage to our deterrent.
Further programmatic delays, budget shortfalls or policy decisions to lower operational requirements to meet infrastructure capacity will result in operational consequences. However, the Nuclear Weapons Council, I believe, is well-positioned to assess and meet these challenges. I applaud my Secretary, Secretary Austin's integrated deterrence initiative to confront the three party deterrence dynamic, however, asked us not to forget that the foundation of the nation's integrated deterrent is the safe, secure, and effective nuclear enterprise. Without this foundation, integrated deterrence simply doesn't work. I look forward to your questions.
KING: Thank you.
LAPLANTE: Thank you, Chairman King and also Ranking Member Fischer and thanks to my colleagues here from the Nuclear Weapons Council for this really important subject. And it was very daunting to hear the history and the provenance of this very committee. Thank you, Senator.
Nuclear deterrence as has been said is the top priority and is the backbone of everything we have, backbone of every operational plan the Department of Defense has as was pointed out by others. And for over 60 years, the bedrock of that, of course, has been the triad and we need it to be with us for many decades to come.
And as the Admiral just said, we have pushed the modernization of those platforms and those capabilities as long as we can. So, in addition to having the five programs that the Administrator just talked about, the five programs of the stockpile that are being modernized, we are modernizing or recapitalizing three legs of the triad at the same time as you all know, Columbia-class SSBN, B-21 bomber and the GBSD ICBM replacement.
So, we're doing a lot right now because we have to in many ways because we've waited to do this as a country. So, if there ever was a need for a Nuclear Weapons Council, I would take it would be today and with these colleagues here.
As you know, they play a critical unique role in the deterrence mission and have all the purpose that the Chairman mentioned in his opening remarks. It is a joint DOD-NNSA forum and is designed to facilitate priorities to make sure we're going across these seams and understanding the interdependencies which are many between all these different pieces.
So, this is the time as much as anything else for this to happen. And I welcome the transparency and the strong commitment that colleagues at the Department of Energy as well as the Administrator Hruby have given us. We had our first -- at least for me, my first session I chaired yesterday and I could tell you, we are all on the same page. We are all on the same page.
So as was mentioned, the NPR is out. We now know what our guidance is to do. We have to get on and execute. And so, that's our challenge and a lot of this also the backdrop is reconstituting capabilities and a workforce that has atrophied.
These systems that are being modernized or recapitalized, the workforce we're using to do it is largely a workforce that was not there when their predecessor systems, what we have today, were built. So, we have -- this is really a big challenge for us.
And I look forward to engaging with this committee and with the Nuclear Weapons Council. So, thank you.
KING: Thank you for your chairmanship of the Council.
I just want to state for the record that this hearing was planned in January, before the invasion of Ukraine. And I don't want anyone to interpret this hearing as somehow nuclear saber-rattling on behalf of the United States. This is a hearing that this subcommittee felt was important, but it is not related to the events in Ukraine in any specific way. I think it's important to make that point.
Ms. Shyu, please.
SHYU: Sorry. Chairman King, can you hear me?
KING: Please get...
SHYU: Thank you. Okay. Chairman King, Ranking Member Fischer...
KING: Closer to mic.
SHYU: Chairman King, Ranking Member Fischer, and Subcommittee members, thank you for inviting us to provide testimony for the Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on the Nuclear Weapons Council's activities to sustain and modernize the U.S. nuclear deterrent.
I'm honored and proud to be seated beside my other distinguished Council members and to represent all of the incredible military, civilian, laboratory and contractor personnel that carry out the work of ensuring our nation sustains a safe, secure, reliable, and effective nuclear deterrent.
The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering is responsible for the Department of Defense's National Defense Science and Technology strategy including the Department's nuclear weapon modernization activities. We share the responsibility of ensuring an enduring scientific and technological advantage with the nation's nuclear enterprise with the National Nuclear Security Administration.
Together, we're tasked with creating innovative ways to ensure that modernization of the nuclear triad achieves strategic deterrence during a period of rapidly-evolving threats. A month ago, I testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities on how I am working to accelerate innovation for the warfighter.
This mission has never been more important than it is today, and it applies as much to our nuclear forces as it does to our conventional forces. Strategic competitors of the United States are rapidly developing their nuclear arsenal in new and novel ways with the clear intent of increasing their reliance on these weapons in their security strategies.
The United States must not allow ourselves to be taken by technological surprise and we must have the technological resilience to anticipate and rapidly respond to emerging threats. We have a solemn responsibility to ensure that we replace our nuclear delivery systems and platforms in both a timely and cost-effective manner.
My job is to make sure that we bring the best technological innovation to the nation has to offer. This includes leveraging emerging technologies and advanced manufacturing methods, making wise investments in the defense industrial base, ensuring the integrity of our supply chains and increasing focus on exquisite modeling and simulation, rapid prototyping and demonstration capabilities.
I have also set for the Department 14 critical technology areas vital to maintaining our military's technological advantage, some of which specifically applies to the nuclear enterprise such as areas surrounding microelectronics, advanced materials, quantum science, advanced computing and software, and integrated network systems assistance.
The Department of Defense is also committed to investing and retaining a highly skilled nuclear science and technology workforce. This is the enduring means by which we ensure the long-term viability of our nation's nuclear deterrent. These are the current ways my Office is contributing to the new Nuclear Weapons Council activities and will work towards implementing nuclear policy objectives including supporting the modernization of the nuclear triad.
Thank you for the invitation to testify before this committee. I look forward to your questions.
KING: Thank you. John Plumb, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy.
PLUMB: Thank you, Senator King. Chairman Reed, Chairman King, Ranking Member Fischer, members of the subcommittee, I am also honored to testify here today with my colleagues on the Nuclear Weapons Council where I'm proud to represent policy for most meetings.
In my role as Assistant Secretary of Defense, I am responsible for nuclear weapons policy and so I thought today, it'd be appropriate to use my brief time to discuss the 2022 Nuclear Posture Review.
The Department completed its review of nuclear posture earlier this year in close consultation with the interagency, outside experts, allies, and partners. The NPR represents a comprehensive, balanced approach to U.S. nuclear strategy policy, posture, and forces. And as Adm. Richard said, maintaining a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent as well as a strong and credible extended deterrence commitment remains the top priority for the Department.
And this top priority is further reinforced by Russia's invasion of and nuclear rhetoric regarding Ukraine and by China's rapid nuclear modernization and expansion. Committed to that priority, the President's FY 23 budget request includes $34.4 billion for the nuclear enterprise. This includes fully supporting the modernization of the triad, modernizing our nuclear security infrastructure, and investments in our NC3, nuclear command, control, and communications architecture.
Now, that $34.4 billion is nearly $7 billion more than the FY 22 request. It includes funding for the B-21 bomber and the LRSO for the air leg; GBSD for the ground leg; and the Columbia SSBN and the Trident II life extension for the sea leg. And at the same time and after considering all viewpoints, the NPR concluded the SLCM-N should be canceled and the B83-1 should be retired.
The NPR underscores the U.S. commitment to reducing the role of nuclear weapons and reestablishing our leadership in arms control. We will continue to emphasize strategic stability, seek to avoid costly arms races, and facilitate risk reduction and arms control arrangements where possible. Our nuclear forces remain the bedrock of our deterrence architecture. They are foundational to every defense priority established in the National Defense Strategy and they remain indispensable to our national security.
It's my honor to work for the Nuclear Weapons Council and the Congress and this committee on these issues.
Thank you and I look forward to your questions.
KING: Thank you, sir. The final witness, Adm. Christopher Grady, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Adm. Grady?
GRADY: Chairman Reed, Chairman King, Ranking Member, Fischer, and distinguished members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today with my colleagues.
For 78 years, since the end of World War II, democratic institutions and the rules-based order have prevented great power war. Since the advent of the nuclear age, our nuclear deterrent has served a vital purpose in the U.S. national security strategy and continues to be in an essential part of our strategy to preserve peace and stability by deterring aggression against the United States, our allies, and our partners.
However, today, we face a complex global threat environment, characterized by increasingly sophisticated and militarily capable strategic competitors who intend to fundamentally change the rules-based order.
And this, of course, is recently evidenced an unprovoked and unnecessary war, the aggression by Russia. Since the Manhattan project, the partnership between the national laboratories production facilities and our respective departments has provided us with the cornerstone of our security, the nuclear deterrent.
And these relationships are evolving and growing stronger as we transition from maintaining legacy systems to producing modern capabilities. This is why the 2022 National Defense Strategy and Nuclear Posture Review reinforces our commitment to modernize the triad.
As the subcommittee conducts its crucial oversight on this important topic there are three areas that I recommend require focused leadership. First, everything we do should start with the threat and the threat is moving fast. And the joint force requires capabilities that give us the ability to deter and respond at the time and place of our choosing. Next, we must accelerate how buy, develop, experiment and field modern capabilities, particularly how we manage the Phase X process.
Moving at the speed of relevance is not a nice to have. It is a must have, but many of our processes and our products are products of the industrial age. We also require timely and predictable funding to achieve modernization. And our activities are highly interdependent and funding gaps disrupt our ability to deliver. And I appreciate the support of the committee to that end.
In closing, I thank the subcommittee for its leadership and commitment to the nuclear deterrence mission and all of our service members. And I look forward to your questions. Thank you.
KING: Thank you, Admiral. Thanks to all of our witnesses.
We'll do five-minute rounds as per the committee's custom. Let me begin, Mr. LaPlante, you're the Chair. The most general question is how is it working -- we've had problems in the past. There have been, as you know, some controversy over the last several years. Do you feel that the budget process this year between NNSA and the Department of Defense worked as it should? And was it a vigorous but smooth?
LAPLANTE: Yes. Thanks for the question, Mr. Chairman. Yes, it's my understanding and I've done a lot of talking in my last couple of weeks and listening to a lot of my colleagues and including on this group that it was quite thorough and robust, the work of NWC in reviewing the budget.
And, in fact, it was chaired by my colleague who's actually here behind me, Honorable Rosenblum. And it was very thorough and complete and went through several months of it.
And seemed to end up in a place where, I think, people felt pretty comfortable that we had looked at things with a good degree of fidelity and, of course, concluded the adequacy of the -- of what we were trying to do but also made -- agreed with the NNSA conclusion about the -- getting to 80 pits per year by 2030 has not been -- at least as of today appears to be possible.
So it appears and again, I - as I mentioned in my opening remarks, I chaired my first meeting yesterday. And I could just say from that meeting what I -- who knows it was -- we all are on the same page I would say. I would say -- I mean we're also struck by the enormity of what we have to do.
I mean if, again, we don't have time to bicker. We don't have time to go into silos now. We just don't have the time and everything is so interdependent.
KING: Well, -- it's really a triad of modernization.
KING: It's the triad, the delivery. We're modernizing all three legs. We're modernizing the weapon systems but we're also modernizing the facilities themselves of NNSA, which have -- I've been to Los Alamos. And there are some -- I think there's some facilities that date back to the Manhattan project. So, it's a massive undertaking.
Adm. Richard, you touched on this, I think, in your testimony. And we're talking about deterrence. The budget defunds the sea-launched cruise missile. And my question is do we have a deterrent capability below the level of a massive response. And if not, isn't that a gap in our deterrent capacity?
RICHARD: We do have a deterrent capability and you're talking about a class of deterrence challenge that STRATCOM has been working on since 2015. How do you deter limited employment?
Nuclear Posture Review, very thorough review. I think as you all have seen this is an excellent strategy that has resulted. But I think it's incumbent upon us to learn lessons as we go along, as the threat changes, both China's strategic breakout and what we're learning in real time in the crisis inside Ukraine.
And so, not all of your triad is available all of the time. Day to day we have a dyad. And so the question becomes as we go forward, what changes, capability and capacity and posture do we need to have to better deter the threats we face.
And I do submit that that is a question we need to be looking at. And based on what we're learning from the Ukraine crisis, the deterrence and assurance gap, important not to leave that out. A non-ballistic, low yield, non-treaty accountable system that is available without visible generation would be very valuable.
KING: And we don't have that today. Is that correct?
RICHARD: That's correct.
KING: A different question on deterrence. One of the things that keeps me up at night is non-state actors getting a hold of nuclear weapons. And, Ms. Hruby, I know that part of your list of things to do is nonproliferation.
The problem with terrorist having a nuclear weapon is that deterrence doesn't work with them. They don't care too much about dying and they don't have a capital city to be worried about.
And I just commend to all of you and perhaps I can submit this question for the record, particularly you, Adm. Richard. I'd like some thinking about how we deter, how do we deal with the risk of a proliferation of nuclear weapons to a terrorist, to non-state actors for whom the normal -- the theory of deterrence of doesn't really apply.
Final question -- a quick question and Ms. Hruby, you may want to talk about this later. Savannah River, 80 pits a year. It doesn't look like we're going to make it. Is there a plan to accelerate that process and get a better handle on costs?
HRUBY: Yes. The Savannah River pit production facility would make 50 pits per year to allow us as a country with -- combined with the Los Alamos, 30 pits per year to make 80. We are moving as fast as we can on the Savannah River pit production facility design. That's the phase that we're in.
That design is occurring at about 75 percent of the time that a non-nuclear design of that same magnitude would take place. So, I feel like that's accelerated. When the design is complete, we'll begin construction. When the construction is complete, we'll begin trying to make pits at rate. So we have multiple steps. We will try to accelerate each of those steps. And, in fact, we are hoping to begin to do some pre-buys of long lead items to prepare for the construction phase now.
KING: Thank you. Senator Fischer?
FISCHER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Adm. Richard, I'd like to ask my first question of you and it's a repeat of what Chairman King asked. You reported to us last year in your prepared statement. You said without -- and speaking of SLCM, without this capability, adversaries may perceive an advantage at lower levels of conflict that may encourage limited nuclear use. Is that still your view?
RICHARD: Senator, it is.
FISCHER: And you believe that we have a deterrence and an assurance gap without SLCM, is that correct?
RICHARD: Senator, I do. And what I would add is that one of the takeaways, I think, from Ukraine is there are certain scenarios that were judged to be highly improbable that have now materialized in front of us in real life. And I think that requires us to go back and reassess some of the decisions we've made in the past.
FISCHER: Do you believe that the NPR that just came out recently from the administration, does that provide -- does that provide the Department to have conversations on the -- not just the threats that are out there, but also in the needs that this country must have to defend the homeland?
RICHARD: Senator, I think it does. The NPR has produced, in my opinion, a very good strategy. I think as we implement the NPR, what we have to do is take that strategy and then as threats change, right, and it would refer to China's strategic - we don't know where China is going to wind up in capability and capacity.
We're learning probabilities are different based on what we're seeing in Ukraine. And the NPR calls for that. The next step is to actually implement that process and ask ourselves what posture, what capability, what capacity do we need to execute that good strategy?
FISCHER: And do you feel confident that you and other members of the Department and the military will be able to express those views in very thoughtful manner...
RICHARD: Yes, Senator...
FISCHER: ... and the confidence in the administration and the possibilities of looking a change?
RICHARD: Senator, I'm certainly asking for that.
FISCHER: Thank you very much.
Adm. Grady, your predecessor, Gen. Hyten, testified in support of SLCM many times. He was quoted in one of his appearances before this -- the subcommittee. He said, "My job as a military officer is to look at the threat. Understand the threat and propose capabilities to this body to deliver to the military so that we can respond to any threat that exists. It's all about the threat." Have the threats changed, sir?
GRADY: Yes, ma'am. First of all,...
FISCHER: Would it be your best military advice to at least continue research and development on the capability that we have with SLCM?
GRADY: I'm aligned with the Chairman on this and have been consistent with my testimony and with his in that it's all about providing the President options against the broad series of contingencies. And in this respect then I am in favor of continuing to assess and evaluate the SLCM-N going forward.
FISCHER: Thank you, Sir.
Dr. Plumb, welcome. In Section 1641 of the FY22 Defense Authorization bill, there is a requirement that the Department submit the analysis of alternatives conducted for the sea-launched cruise missile. When will that be submitted?
LAPLANTE: Yes. Thank you for the question. My understanding is it's within a matter of days. I think they're putting together the cover letter and the rest to send that AOA over here.
FISCHER: Okay. The Nuclear Posture Review estimates a total cost for SLCM program. Can you provide us with a written breakdown of that cost estimate in the future, please?
LAPLANTE: Thank you. To the extent that it's available, again, I have not been briefed on the AOA, to the extent that it's available, absolutely.
FISCHER: OK. Thank you. Dr. PLUMB, maybe this is for you. Over the next eight years, China is expected to quadruple its stockpile and Russia's arsenal, which already exceeds our own, is also expected to grow further.
While this NPR recommends continuing the replacement of our aging delivery systems, this essentially recapitalizes a force that's sized and configured along the lines of the 2010 New START Treaty force structure.
Is this administration's view that all the developments we've seen, for example, China's crash nuclear build up, Russia's violation of INF Treaty that they don't have any real impact on U.S. nuclear posture and the modernization plan, initially conceived of in 2010 is sufficient?
PLUMB: Thanks, Senator. China's breakout, if you will, but certainly their advanced modernization of their ICBM's and their nuclear posture overall is a clearly concerning and as you well know, Russia's intent to include nuclear weapons throughout its forces almost at every level is also of concern.
I would just point out two things. One, the three-body problem we're about to face here or are facing even now is new and it's going to require serious consideration. And I don't think there is a single person in the administration on any side of this issue that doesn't realize that and think that this is a problem that's going to require a continued introspection and review.
And the second thing is not everyone values nuclear weapons at the same level. Each country has its own approach. I think we've seen Russia's conventional forces is even weaker than certainly they imagined -- than we imagined. And that explains further their overreliance on nuclear weapons.
I don't think we need to match them one for one or yield for yield to be able to deter each adversary.
FISCHER: The 2010 plan though, that didn't really consider China. China's buildup was after that. How would you respond to that?
PLUMB: Again, I'd say you are correct. China's acceleration here was maybe thought of but certainly not as direct of a threat to us right now. I think we are postured to deter both but all of these things require continued reevaluation of the threat and reevaluation of posture.
I will just -- the one thing to note, of course, and this council has been placed to address this as, we have a huge bow wave of modernization coming just for these things in the triad that we need, $34.4 billion is not the smallest or the -- is not the largest number. There are larger numbers coming.
And we have capacity issues with NNSA as well. And so, we have to take all of these realities into account as we look at this problem.
FISCHER: And the reality of the -- one last point, the reality of the Defense Department's budget is there is very small percentage that goes to our nuclear -- our nuclear weapons, isn't that true?
PLUMB: I believe it's 4.5 percent for the nuclear piece overall, the weapons piece obviously is smaller, Senator.
FISCHER: Thank you.
KING: Thanks Senator Fischer. Senator Reed?
REED: Thanks very much, Mr. Chairman. I had the opportunity to speak with Administrator Hruby yesterday and I'm trying to understand two messages that we've got. One, Administrator Hruby wrote to the committee on April 12th, indicating that this unfunded priority of $250 million to $500 million for pit production at the Savannah River site.
Then on April 22nd, the Nuclear Weapons Council wrote to the committee that additional funding would not be required. Indeed, the words were funding alone will not enable it to meet pit production requirements.
So at least in my mind there appears to be a discrepancy between what NNSA is saying and what the Nuclear Weapons Council is saying, let me begin with Secretary LaPlante and then ask Secretary, Administrator Hruby to comment.
LAPLANTE: Yes, thank you, Senator, for the question. I understand the question. The Nuclear Weapons Council stands by the assessment that was provided on -- that I signed on April 22nd of the adequacy of the budget as well as that no pits -- I'm sorry, no money -- additional money will get the pits to 80 per year.
It's my -- and I would say this, the Nuclear Weapons Council has been tracking since the fall this potential idea and concepts of additional, let's say early to -- early long lead items possibilities that might help bring the pit production to 80 per year by 2030 but just will be of assistance in leading forward.
We've been aware of this for some time. It was not really at a high degree of fidelity when we reviewed it, so we didn't consider it at the time. I think since then, particularly for the part and I would also defer to my colleagues in a moment that involved the $250 million that with the three items the glove boxes and the building facility as well as the training, it appears that it's -- we have enough fidelity here that it looks like it might be sensible to do.
However, we need to review it. And the plan right now is the Nuclear Weapons Council in the next few weeks, we're going to take a look at this at this proposal and we'll make our comments on it and make it available both to you and to this committee.
I would just say this, we really want to applaud leaning forward. So our bias is going to be leaning forward. If there are good ideas that'll continue to come up out of our colleagues at NNSA, we need to make sure we look at them and if they're solid, we need to implement them. This is going to be a continuous process, subject to questions, that's my answer.
REED: Thank you.
Ms. Administrator, your letter preceded the commission's letter. You're a member of the commission, do you concur with that or do you want further additional advice?
HRUBY: I concur but the -- Senator, if you would let me try to clarify. So the Nuclear Weapons Council letter made a comment that no additional amount of money will get 80 pits per year in 2030. That's a statement I completely agree with.
The request for additional money, the letter I signed out, was associated with trying to buy down risks and accelerate processes to get to pit, to get construction completed faster and to pit production faster, not to get to 2030. So this would still be post 2030, but it would allow us to have more confidence that we wouldn't have to stop or stall because we didn't have equipment when we were doing the construction project and to make sure that the people are ready to make pits when they can get in the building.
REED: Well, I would appreciate further advice and comment as you study this issue going forward. And one issue which we might not be appropriate for an open session is that we both agree that 2030 target is not achievable. As it goes back, we have to think about what effect it has on our nuclear deterrence, our ability to actually arm nuclear weapons. And I'm sure you are doing that and in our classified session, we can pursue that question. Thank you.
I have a brief bit of time, but both for the Vice Chairman, Admiral, the proposal for the submarine launched cruise missile would actually involve the attack submarines, am I correct?
GRADY: That's correct, sir.
REED: And was part of the analysis the effect on the operational requirements of attack submarines vis-a-vis strategic ballistic missile submarines? And did that factor in to the recommendation by Nuclear Posture Review?
GRADY: Sir, since my time as the Vice Chairman, I have not studied that issue, nor have I seen that study. That's not to say it did not happen. So I would like to go back and determine whether that did happen.
Now, the SLCM-N was validated through the JROC as a valid requirement, but as to the con op and how it might affect the...
REED: Adm. Richard, just very quick as my time is running. I'm over, but do you have a quick comment?
RICHARD: Adm. Grady's assessment was very accurate. And I will offer that there are a wide range of con ops that are available to the Navy for the employment of SLCM-N on a nuclear powered submarine, not necessarily the con op that we used for the old TYMN.
REED: Thank you very much. Let me recognize Senator Cotton, please. On behalf of Senator King.
COTTON: Thank you all for your appearance here today. It's good to see the entire Nuclear Weapons Council here with one exception. The Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl. Mr. Plumb, you are filling in for Mr. Kahl today. Do you know why he couldn't be here?
PLUMB: Senator, I don't have a specific, but I will say that on his behalf, I attend the Nuclear Weapon Council meetings. It's my responsibility as ASD space policy, nuclear weapons policy and so we've got a close working relationship. And I think from a panel standpoint, at least in my mind, sir.
COTTON: I'm glad you do that and I'm sure you do. Was he in the Pentagon today working? Does anybody know? Adm. Grady? Do you know if he was in the Pentagon working today?
GRADY: I do not know, sir.
COTTON: Is he in the Washington National Capital Region? Do you know that Mr. Plumb?
PLUMB: Sir, I do not.
COTTON: Mr. LaPlante, you're the Chair of the Council. Do you know where one of your council members is?
LAPLANTE: I don't know. Not right now, not today. Thank you.
COTTON: I just want to point out this seems to be a part of the continued pattern on behalf of the Chairman of the committee and the Chairman apparently of now this subcommittee of protecting Colin Kahl at all costs from appearing in public before this committee. And I think it's a pattern that should stop.
Adm. Richard, I know you've already touched briefly on this. I just want to make sure I understand your testimony. You said on your unfunded priorities list that you need, quote, "a low yield non ballistic capability to deter and respond without visible generation."
Let's put that in plain English, low yield non ballistic capability, that sounds a lot like a cruise missile, without visible generation, that sounds like something that's not on an airplane. So to me that sounds like a sea launched cruise missile with nuclear capabilities. Is that right?
RICHARD: Senator, sea launched cruise missile would fit those requirements.
COTTON: OK. So is it your best military advice that we continue developing this nuclear capable launch cruise missile?
RICHARD: Senator, yes.
COTTON: So you agree in that regard with Chairman Milley and Gen. Walters' testimony?
RICHARD: Yes, sir.
COTTON: OK. Adm. Grady, you just heard Adm. Richard's testimony. Is it your best military advice that we continue with the sea launched cruise missile with nuclear capabilities as well?
GRADY: Senator, it is.
COTTON: OK. Adm. Richard, given that Russia's arsenal already exceeds ours and that China's arsenal is rapidly growing, if we keep our plans exactly the same as they are today, will the STRATCOM commander who comes after you in eight years, 2030, have a force that is capable of deterring both Russia and China?
RICHARD: That is the number one question that we need to ask ourselves as this moves forward.
COTTON: That's why I asked you.
RICHARD: Right. What we have is the absolute minimum. It depends on the trajectory where this goes and we will not be able to do it with the same level of risk that we're carrying today if we don't ask that question.
COTTON: Churchill said in his Iron Curtain speech, that you should not engage in temptations of a trial of strength by merely exceeding your adversary by a small amount in military power. Do you agree with Churchill's recommendation that you don't encourage trials of strength?
RICHARD: I do. But I would also point out, look, it's not necessary to match your opponent weapon to weapon. We have good strategy. You have to have sufficient capability to execute that strategy as the threat changes. And that's the question that we're, triad is the minimum we're going to have to ask that question going into the future to execute the strategy.
COTTON: How many road mobile and rail mobile missiles does Russia have?
RICHARD: Senator, I need to give you that answer in a classified forum.
COTTON: Let me ask you this. Do they have road mobile and rail mobile missiles?
RICHARD: They have road mobile missiles, yes.
COTTON: OK. What about China?
RICHARD: China has a significant number of road mobile missiles.
COTTON: OK, how many road mobile and rail mobile missiles does the United States have?
RICHARD: We do not have any?
COTTON: Oh, we don't have any at all?
RICHARD: No, sir.
COTTON: So that's yet another capacity that we have refrained from developing over the years for justifiable reasons, I understand. My point is that we can't simply decide to disarm unilaterally on all these different domains, like a sea launched cruise missile or other non-strategic or tactical or battlefield weapons, however you want to phrase them.
Adm. Richard, one final question. So I'm pleased to see that once again, the force is in favor of modernizing our triad, which as you say, is the absolute minimum have succeeded against the efforts of the far left to defund them. I do worry about some potential single points of failure on these modernization programs though and the operational impacts that could occur from any delays. Could you share your thoughts on this risk and how to avoid it?
RICHARD: First, Senator, what I want to offer is three STRATCOM commanders in a row have come here and said we have no margin. We don't have any operational margin left. We used that operational margin to delay the recapitalization as long as we have. What is left inside your triad is its inherent ability to hedge between legs, inter-leg hedging. That capability is there for operational, technical and geopolitical risks.
It was not placed in our triad for programmatic convenience. I recommend that we maintain that hedge for the purpose it was designed for and we start asking the question, what's it going to take to get this recapitalization done on time? Because I have very little ability operationally to mitigate delays.
COTTON: All right. Thank you all for your very important work on the Nuclear Weapons Council.
REED: Thanks, Senator Cotton. Senator Rosen, you're recognized. And if Senator King does not appear at the conclusion of your comments, could you recognize Senator Rounds on behalf of the Chair? Thank you.
ROSEN: There we go. Thank you, Chairman. Thank you all for being here today and for all your work and your service to our country. I really appreciate it. I'm going to talk a little bit about the Nevada Test Site. I'm going to keep calling it the Nevada Test Site. It's a lot easier than the Nevada National Security Site, NNSS, it's a little easier to say that. It was ground zero for the majority of our country's explosive nuclear testing between 1945 and 1992 with 100, 100 atmospheric tests and 828 underground tests being conducted at the site.
As someone who lived in Nevada, when our nation conducted the last explosive testing that shook the ground, that whole ground would shake all around Las Vegas on those first Saturdays of the month when they would do them. I am strongly, more than strongly opposed to the resumption of explosive nuclear testing in our state.
So today, the site oversees the stockpile stewardship program principally, as we know it, the U1a facility and underground laboratory where scientists conduct subcritical experiments to verify the reliability and effectiveness of our nuclear stockpile.
So, Administrator Hruby, I know we've spoken about this just for the record. In your professional opinion, do you agree that there is not a current or foreseeable need for the United States to resume explosive nuclear testing that produces nuclear yields?
HRUBY: Yes, Senator Rosen, I do. And I would just go further to say our entire stockpile stewardship program is designed around the principle that we'll make sure we understand weapons enough so that we don't have to test.
ROSEN: Thank you. And I want to build a little bit again on our discussion last week about U1a advancements. And how would the U1a upgrades, the upgrades to the complex, improve the stockpile stewardship program so that honestly, we will never have to return to those days of explosive nuclear weapons testing?
HRUBY: Yes, thank you, Senator for the question. The U1a complex at the Nevada Test Site, I'll follow your lead.
HRUBY: Is the tunnel complex where we do subcritical tests to study the science. And we're investing significantly in upgrading the infrastructure in that tunnel complex as well as new experimental capabilities in the enhanced capabilities for subcritical experiment projects. And with that, when we were able to do those experiments, we'll be able to use weapon relevant geometries and materials to study the implosion of a pit that will allow us to have even better models and assess the stockpile so that we don't have to test.
ROSEN: Thank you. I'm going to ask one more question on this. Do you Administrator Hruby, the Nuclear Weapons Council is required to report regularly to the President regarding the safety and reliability of the US stockpile and to provide an annual recommendation on the need to resume underground nuclear explosive testing, like we're talking about to preserve the credibility of the US nuclear deterrent. And so I'm going to ask you, Administrator Hruby and Secretary LaPlante, what is the position of the Council on renewed explosive testing for the record?
LAPLANTE: Do you want to go first?
HRUBY: Sure. As you rightly state, the three NNSA lab directors are required by law to assess the safety and reliability and performance of our stockpile and to specifically address whether or not we need testing at this time. And to date, the statements have been clear that testing is not needed.
ROSEN: Thank you. Mr. LaPlante.
LAPLANTE: And I would just add that my understanding, again, the Nuclear Weapons Council agreed with that assessment and that testing at this time is not needed.
ROSEN: Thank you. I appreciate that. I'm just going to ask quickly about the FY '21 NDAA included a provision designed to ensure that the Nuclear Weapons Council has an opportunity to review the Test Site Budget early enough so it can determine whether the budget adequately supports DOD requirements, it requires the Secretary of Energy to submit the proposed budget to the Council prior to submitting it to OMB.
And so Administrator Hruby, last question, I'm sorry, well, if you can answer quickly, is this new review process had any impacts on the budget to modernize and recapitalize the test site infrastructure?
HRUBY: I do not believe so. I've only done the process once. And in this process, the Nuclear Weapons Council assessed that the DOD budget for the test site was adequate.
ROSEN: All right, well, maybe we can talk offline a little bit more about that. Thank you very much. And let's see, oh, Senator King. Oh, no, Senator Rounds, I believe.
REED: Senator Rounds is next.
ROSEN: Senator Rounds.
ROUNDS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Adm. Richard, well, first of all, let me just say thank you to all of you for your service to our country. And I think it is very special that the entire Council be here today. This is a very special opportunity for us.
Adm. Richard, in August of 2021 at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium, you described China's explosive growth and modernization of its nuclear and conventional forces as breathtaking. You went on to caution, make no mistake, China's strategic breakout is cause for action and that we need to understand what we are up against.
And I'd like to just have you share with us or to describe in plain and as simple English as we can get to, as I call it, third grade level here, as the US STRATCOM Commander, what it is that we're up against so that the American people clearly understand how grave this threat truly is and to assure that we continue to pace this growing threat with our own capabilities for ourselves and our allies. Could you also speak to how imperative it is that we do the threat to capability need reviews on a more continuing basis?
RICHARD: Sir, let me start by trying to characterize the speed this way. When I first testified two years ago, the great debate was whether China was going to double its stockpile by the end of the decade. That's already happened while I've been the commander of US Strategic Command.
Details of that you would like to have, the biggest and most visible one is the expansion from zero to at least 360 solid fueled intercontinental ballistic missile silos, significant growth. And this has occurred over the course of just a few years. Doubled number of road mobile missiles, China now has a true air leg nuclear capable with their H-6N bombers and an air launched ballistic missile.
They're now capable of continuous at sea determined patrols with their Jin-class submarines from a protected bastion in the South China Sea and more are coming. They have a true nuclear command and control system. They're building a warning system, they aspire to launch under warning launch under attack capability. They've raised the readiness of their forces. They have a substantial number of theater range systems, many of which are nuclear, which have no role in a true minimum deterrent, no first use policy. They're changing their command and control.
And this is before we even get into the novel weapons systems, the most public one of those was the fractional orbit bombardment system that has an unlimited range, can attack from any azimuth and comes down in a hypersonic glide vehicle with great performance. No nation in history has ever demonstrated that capability.
And Senator, the rest of the details are actually in my written posture statement. But that's why I describe this as this is easily the biggest expansion in China's history and rivals the biggest expansion of any nation in history, including us and the Soviet Union back in the early '60s.
ROUNDS: And just for the record, they are continuing to produce nuclear weapons to fill these expected weapons systems at an ongoing and very rapid rate. And I don't know whether we can talk about how quick it is, but it is at a very significant rate, correct?
RICHARD: Senator, yes. The bottom line, what I've directed my staff at STRATCOM to do and you're right, the details are classified, whatever the intelligence community tells you about what China's going to do, divide it by two in time and you'll probably be closer to what happens.
ROUNDS: Thank you, Admiral. Administrative Hruby, this is the lead in to the question that I would have for you with regarding our ability just to produce plutonium pits. Earlier, you mentioned that we're not going to make the 80 pits per year goal by 2030, which is what the statutory requirement is.
If we're not going to and recognizing just in terms of not even what all of our near peer competitors are doing, but just what China alone is doing, it would seem to me that if we're not even going to make this number, what's our plan B?
HRUBY: Yeah, thank you, Senator, for that question. The first thing that we're doing and we're actively working on this in the Nuclear Weapons Council right now is what can we do to have a safe, secure, reliable and effective stockpile in light of what we think we can practically do in terms of making pits? We'll look at that carefully.
There may be options, but we're in the middle of that study. I just want to remind you that we're concerned about -- we're making new pits because we're concerned about pit aging. We don't want to put old pits and new weapons. If we think in the in the 30 years, those weapons will be in the stockpile, they may have aging problems. But we don't know for sure that they will have aging problems because that's a science problem, that's very difficult and that we're studying at NNSA. So one option...
ROUNDS: So if I could, what you suggested that and I'm out of time, but I would just say, one of the options for plan B is that we either rejuvenate are we continue to use existing pits that we already have in inventory.
HRUBY: Right, we reuse pits.
ROUNDS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I'm out of time, so thank you.
KING: Thank you, Senator Rounds. Senator Warren.
WARREN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. So it's no secret that I think our nuclear modernization program is unsustainable and dangerous. I wanted to see significantly less emphasis on nuclear weapons and the national defense strategy, but the Biden administration made the right call in canceling the sea launched cruise missile, known as the SLCM are SLCM.
A low yield nuclear weapon launched from ships duplicates capabilities we already have and undermines the Navy's conventional mission. Even after eliminating this niche missile, however, our nuclear modernization program is still incredibly expensive. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that it would cost $1.7 trillion. And I suspect we're going to find out that that estimate, once again, is far too low.
But we've been hearing a tremendous amount today from my Republican colleagues who somehow think we are still spending too little on nuclear weapons and the process of producing them. So let's just see if we can clear something up.
Adm. Richard, we've discussed this before, but to confirm again, was Strategic Command fully consulted and able to fully participate in the Nuclear Posture Review process?
RICHARD: Senator as far as the process inside the Department of Defense, yes. And I'll also point out Ukraine and the crisis that we're in happened after the Nuclear Posture Review.
WARREN: All right, but you were part of this whole review, right.
RICHARD: I was, Senator.
WARREN: All right. And I know that we have to make tough calls, especially to make sure that nuclear weapon spending doesn't cannibalize our conventional capabilities. The Navy said that pursuing SLCM would be quote, unquote, "cost prohibitive." That's the description from the Navy.
Our nuclear weapons modernization plans include constructing new plutonium pits which produce the radioactive raw material we need for nuclear weapons. I remain concerned about the costs and the risks in the pit production program, which is already far behind schedule and far over budget.
So Administrator Hruby, both Adm. Richard and your deputy have told this committee that throwing more money at this problem isn't going to get us to our original goal of 80 pits per year by 2030. The Nuclear Weapon Council has also concluded that additional funding simply will not get us there.
So Administrator Hruby, despite the fact that more money won't solve the fundamental flaws in this program, your unfunded priorities list, the wish list that you submit to Congress on top of your $21.4 billion budget request includes an additional 500 million more dollars for pit productions. Is that correct?
HRUBY: It is.
WARREN: So Administrator Hruby, when you were before this committee last week, you couldn't even tell us how much the pit reduction program would cost. So why should taxpayers be throwing an extra $500 million on top of a program that you don't even have a cost estimate for?
HRUBY: Yes, Senator Warren, we are in the process of doing the design so that we can have a credible cost and schedule estimate, that design will be complete in early '24. We do know, however, based on other construction projects that we are currently doing that some items that will be needed in the pit production facility like nuclear qualified piping, and glove boxes are taking a very long time to buy. So the request for additional monies has to do with procuring the long-lead, some of the long-lead items that we'll need, so that when our design is complete we can do construction at the fastest possible pace.
WARREN: I just came to see -- it was your opening line there, when you've said yourself just now that you don't have a credible estimate, and that you are hoping to have a credible estimate at some point in the future, I got to say I'm really unhappy to have to tell taxpayers that you've got a half a billion dollars on something for which you don't have a credible estimate yet, on what you are going to need, because the credible estimate actually may guide whether or not we decide to do this program and how we do this program. So saying but going through an extra half a billion in right now just in case is troubling.
Now, look, I realize I am out of time.
Dr. LaPlante, I'm going to submit some questions for the record for you on where you see the most programmatic risk for the department in this. We can just go back and forth over that when we are -- when we are not on the clock. We are talking about spending trillions of dollars and the American people truly, they want to spend what it takes to keep us safe, but when you can't answer basic questions about these programs it does not inspire much confidence that this is the number that we should be supporting.
So, thank you, Mr. Chairman.
KING: Thank you, Senator.
We are going to have a short second round for those of us who are wishing to follow up.
Secretary LaPlante, give me an assessment of where the GBSD program is, are we on budget, on schedule? This is a big, new project and we don't want surprises, so how do you feel about where that -- where that project stands right now?
LAPLANTE: Senator, I will just start with the caveat that I haven't -- I'm doing a deep dive in the program probably in the next one to two weeks. The last time I did any bit of a deep dive I would say as a citizen, whatever I was, was about two years, so I was asked to look at it. So, every impression I'm going to give you is what I stand...
KING: When you -- when you finish that process I hope you'll inform the committee of your...
LAPLANTE: I will. I will. And what I will just say is they are somewhat early, one to two years and into engineering manufacturing development, trying to get to a first flight. I would say of the three legs and where they are in their EMD they are the earliest along, so that means there still is significant risk.
What are the risk areas, the risk areas are red, hard electronics. The risk areas are the infrastructure and all the rest of it, and I intend to look into it and I will give you that assessment of where that is. I'm going to do a deep dive on all three of the legs. I'm starting with GBSD.
KING: I appreciate having that as soon as soon as you have it available.
LAPLANTE: Yes, thank you.
As part of this securing I'd like to submit for the record a chart that has been prepared by staff that tracks the financial history of the nuclear enterprise. In 1962 the total triad expenses was 17 percent of the Defense budget. In 1984 it was 10 percent. Before the modernization program that started a few years ago it was about 2.7 percent of the Defense budget. And when you add the recapitalization of the triad and of the nuclear facilities that include the nuclear class submarines, the B-21 and the GBSD, you get to about 6.4 percent of the Defense budget. So I think it's important to keep these figures in perspective in terms of if this is the bedrock basis of our strategy to defend this country we are still way below what it was 50 years ago, way below what it was 40 years ago and a relatively modest percentage of the overall Defense budget. That doesn't mean it's still not a lot of money and I understand Senator Warren's questions that the taxpayers are being asked to pay this money and it's our responsibility to be sure that it's used -- that it's used well and effectively, but I think the recapitalization is sort of skewing this discussion. I refer to it as the pig in the budget python.
It's a very large expenditures that we are going to have to cover over a few years frankly in part because we put off that expenditure for a number of years and we are having to do all three legs of the triad at once. So I think that's a perspective to have on the record of this hearing.
A final question, and Administrator Hruby, I think this may be to you although if others have an answer, it's a little puzzling to me, apparently China is expressing no interest whatsoever in any arms control, non-proliferation, even discussing it, they are just raising towards a very significant and I suspect for them an expensive nuclear enterprise. Why is that? What can't we engage them in some mutual discussions that would assist both countries? And of course once we get through what's going now we engage with Russia on these issues, non-proliferation is in everyone's interest, it seems to me, and cutting the expense of these programs is what led to the agreement 20 years ago.
HRUBY: Yes, Senator King, your inclination on this is the same as mine. First, let me just say it's the primary responsibility of the State Department to engage in those dialogues. The NNSA bring to those discussions technical, potential for technical collaboration which worked in the with Russian scientists and potentially could work with the Chinese, and we certainly -- we certainly offer that we would -- we would be willing to engage in good, technical dialogue and discussion to the extent that can could help strategic stability.
KING: Thank you.
For the record could you give me your thoughts to the question that I asked Senator Richard about deterrence of the non-state actor because that's really a proliferation question. It may be that if deterrence doesn't work we have to fall back on keeping this material out of their hands in the first place, and I'd like your thoughts on that for the record for Ms...
HRUBY: I'd be happy to.
KING:...for Ms. Hruby. Thank you.
FISCHER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And I just want to thank all of you once again for being here today for this extremely important hearing that we are having.
Administrator Hruby, last year the Nuclear Weapons Council noted significant concern about the long-term funding profile of NNSA's budget in a letter that -- to this committee. And while this budget projects continued growth for next year after that it would level off and then it would decline which is exactly what the Nuclear Weapons Council warns against. Do you believe this level of funding is sufficient or will increase beyond what's projected in this budget be necessary in order to meet our modernization requirements?
HRUBY: Senator Fischer, thank you for that question. We will -- we will be looking at the FINSAP again in light of what we know now, what our requirements are, as well as what are our infrastructure needs are. And in fact we are just starting the FY '24 budget bill, so we'll be doing that in great detail.
FISCHER: Thank you.
Doctor LaPlante, does the Nuclear Weapons Council remain concerned about the out-year budget for NNSA and continue to believe that low or no growth, quote, "will not provide a sound foundation for the plant capabilities and capacities needed to meet current and future requirements." End quote.
LAPLANTE: Yes, Senator, thanks for the question. The Nuclear Weapons Council in my understanding, again, did the deep-dive review of the '23 budget, and that's the letter that I sent over on the 22nd. I believe -- as the 24 budget starts to be built we are going to be brought in and do the same thing again, and we will comment on whether we have concerns, just as we should as the law provides. Thank you.
FISCHER: Thank you very much. I understand that Senator Reed discussed the plutonium pit production and NNSA's request for additional funding. But Administrator Hruby, your unfunded priorities which have been referenced here, the letter indicates the request contains $500 million shortfall and funding for pit production. I appreciate you making the committee aware of this, and your clear testimony that these additional resources would help minimize any delay in achieving the target of 80 pits per year.
I'd like to add the rest of the panel their views on this. Do the members of the Nuclear Weapons Council agree these funds are necessary and believe it is critical to achieve full production as close to 2030 as possible?
Secretary LaPlante, let's start with you.
LAPLANTE: Yes. Thank you. First, just as a formality that as the Chair of the Nuclear Weapons Council we have not formally reviewed that and we will, I mean, we intend to do it in the next couple of weeks, and we will provide to you our assessment as a council.
Personal view from the little that I've seen and discussed with the Administrator it appears at least for the three items that she's identified and she talked about this earlier in this hearing of long-lead items it seemed very sensible and as we find, as the NNSA finds other things that are sensible to do I think we need to investigate them and not make it a static process. We should be asking for these ideas all the time. So I defer to my colleagues for the rest of their views.
FISCHER: Madam Secretary, did you have a comment on this?
SHYU: Yes. So we first heard about this in yesterday's Nuclear Weapons Council meeting...
FISCHER: A little closer to the mike.
FISCHER: We are a long ways away from the mike.
SHYU: Sorry. How about this?
FISCHER: Very good.
SHYU: OK. So we first heard about this detail yesterday at a Nuclear Weapons Council and certainly what Administrator Hruby talked about made a lot of sense. There's long-lead items you need to buy when you do construction so you don't stop the construction, and wait for the V-item. So we are eager to take a look at the details of this, this upcoming weeks, just as Dr. LaPlante mentioned.
FISCHER: Great. Thank you.
PLUMB: Yes, Senator. I will just echo the same comments Secretary LaPlante, and Shyu have made which is we are even leaning forward. We don't like to kind of look at it I think that now that NNSA has got some good fidelity and with that approach would be, I think we are all inclined to, yes. But I'd like to get back to you.
FISCHER: Do you agree with the goal of what - of what was presented or do you agree that you have to minimize the delay?
PLUMB: The goal as I think we are on the same page, the goal is to get to 80 pits per years and as close to 2030 as possible, and so, if we can find a way to do it and I think the argument that I understand it is some of these procurement items it's kind of that keeping the line going, so we want to keep the line going so we don't have to keep starting.
FISCHER: We keep moving forward.
PLUMB: Yes, ma'am.
FISCHER: So we keep moving forward and don't...
PLUMB: Yes, ma'am.
FISCHER: Don't shorten a big delay.
PLUMB: And don't add additional delay but not procuring.
PLUMB: I think is a specific concern to the acquisition community.
GRADY: Yes, ma'am, the military requirement is clear, 80 pits per year as soon as possible, if not, by 2030, and as soon as possible after that. Looking forward to reviewing the director's proposals and making, helping the Nuclear Weapons Council decide whether this is the right way forward, but the military requirement is absolutely clear.
FISCHER: Thank you.
Adm. Richard, anything to add?
RICHARD: I would just add STRATCOM supports any dis or any other measure that NNSA can execute, that minimizes the delay and ultimately reduces the operational risk that I'm going to have to carry because we can't meet the requirement.
FISCHER: And I would assume and the operational risk need to be discussed in classified?
RICHARD: They will and that in fact will be discussed as a part of the Nuclear Weapons Council deliberations.
FISCHER: Yes. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
KING: Senator Rounds?
ROUNDS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I think my colleague Senator Warren has asked a question but I'm not sure that we've had the opportunity for a good response. I'd like to go into this a little bit.
And Adm. Richard, I would begin with you, sir. Since you've been in the services I don't believe that you've ever served at a time in which we did not have a very strong and well-defined nuclear deterrent. Can you imagine a world today where the United States did not have a clearly recognized deterrent capability that helps to keep peace in the rest of the world?
RICHARD: Senator, I cannot. And I think it's worth a second to explain why I say that.
ROUNDS: I think so.
RICHARD: That the -- nuclear deterrence is foundational to integrated deterrence because no other capability to date or combination of capabilities gets anywhere close to the destructive potential of nuclear. So if you don't set the foundation of your integrated deterrent when you are in a competition with another nuclear capable opponent if you can't deter their vertical escalation everything else is useless to you.
The reverse is also true. If you set that strong foundation then using every military and other instrument of national power is actually very much to your benefit because it enables you to resolve conflict at the lowest possible level of violence. But there is a theoretical reason why we have to have a strong nuclear deterrent.
ROUNDS: See. I think sometimes because we live with it and we have always assumed that we are free because we are simply strong and economically powerful and the rest of the world simply doesn't have the desire to dominate us that somehow that means that we don't need the nuclear deterrent that we carry today. And because we have not had a threat to the homeland since really 9/11 and that was not a nuclear threat. I think there is a misunderstanding that somehow there is no need for this nuclear deterrent anymore, and I think the message that you are sharing, one that says the reason that we have been able to maintain our freedom is because we have had a clearly recognized global nuclear deterrent, but that also means generation after generation we have to improve it and we have to keep up with our competition.
If we had, and once again I would defer, Adm. Richard, to you but, Adm. Grady, you are most certainly welcome to respond to this as well. Our adversaries have become better and better at first of all trying to defeat some of our nuclear capabilities and to defend basically not only against the nuclear but some of our conventional capabilities as well. Would it be fair to say that if you simply said one nuclear bomb or one nuclear missile, or one nuclear long-ranged weapon drop from a B-52 bomber, since we could do that, our enemies would fear us. Clearly it would not be the case and clearly we have to have enough weapons and modernized enough to where we can get around or at least make them think we have the capabilities of getting around them in order to maintain that deterrent and that capability that they have is changing on a daily basis. Is that fair?
RICHARD: Senator, yes it is.
GRADY: Senator, I would comment that the number is interesting but the effect of that number generates and that is that it gives the President many, many options across a broad range of contingencies and that what drives the numbers. There are strong analyses and math behind that number, and that's what we need to have, that credible nuclear deterrent that you and Adm. Richard have been talking about.
ROUNDS: Adm. Grady, I think you need to lay that out in a little bit more explainable terms to the American public and to this committee. What do you mean by that when you say that when you have the deterrent or the Trident, that you have multiple options available for the President of the United States in order to keep peace, what do you mean by that?
GRADY: Chaz, I think I will defer to you on that one.
RICHARD: What you want to be able to do is offer the President any number of ways at which he might be able to create an effect that will change the opponent's decision calculus and get them to refrain or otherwise seek negotiation via continued hostility. So ballistic versus non-ballistic, do you want it visible, do you want it not visible, do you want it prompt, do you want it to come in a long period of time? Each of those is very situational specific. My recommendation on the SLCM-N is not an effort to re-litigate the Nuclear Posture Review, it is based on the conditions we find ourselves in today when I look at what I am able to offer to the President and ask myself what would do a better job, lower the risk, give us more confidence in our deterrent capability, that's where that recommendation comes from. It's a specific example of the broader, that's why you want a lot of options, Senator.
ROUNDS: And one last question, Adm. Grady, do you think Russia would have invaded Ukraine today if Ukraine was a nuclear capability, if they had a nuclear capability?
GRADY: I think they would have had many, many second thoughts about that as an option for them if they were facing a nuclear armed adversary.
ROUNDS: Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
KING: Thank you, Senator Rounds.
I want to thank each and every one of you for your dedication to the country, for your sober-minded approach for these very difficult issues, for the work that you put in on behalf of the public often in quiet and unsung ways, and I want you to know that we recognize what you are contributing to the defense of this country.
The irony of nuclear weapon is that the reason we have them is that we never want to use them. And the way, the best way to ensure that we never use them is to have them and to have those who would commit aggression understand that this is a -- this is something that has to be, as the Admiral said, part of their decision making calculus. Evil exists in the world and we have to be prepared to defend ourselves and our allies. And the work that you are doing is contributing mightily to that end. So I want to thank you again for your testimony today. Thank you for appearing before the committee.
Senator Fischer, would you have a closing statement you'd like to make?
KING: Again, thank you. And this hearing is adjourned.