Fischer Highlights Urgent Need to Update U.S. Strategic Posture

Today, U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, questioned Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Charles Q. Brown, Jr., about the failures of President Biden’s proposed defense budget and the need to update America’s strategic posture, including by modernizing its nuclear deterrent.

Senator Fischer discussed the importance of investing in America’s national security and stated that the President’s proposed 1% increase in defense spending is not sufficient — especially as China plans to increase its defense budget by 7.2%. 

Senator Fischer also cited a bipartisan, bicameral report which found that current U.S. strategy will not be not sufficient to effectively deter America’s two peer nuclear competitors, China and Russia in the decades to come. Senator Fischer stated she is working with her colleagues on legislation to address many of the recommendations from the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the U.S.


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On the Need to Update America’s Strategic Posture to Address Threats from China, Russia:

Senator Fischer: Six months ago, the Congressional Commission on Strategic Posture of the United States released their final report on America's strategic posture. This bipartisan, bicameral commission found that “our nation is on the cusp of having not one, but two nuclear peer adversaries, each with ambitions to change the international status quo, by force, if necessary: a situation which the United States did not anticipate and for which it is not prepared.”

These conclusions are not surprising. Our planned nuclear force posture was decided in 2010 when the United States considered Russia to be a partner and back before China's nuclear breakout, the scale and speed of which were called 
“breathtaking” by the Commander of U.S. STRATCOM before this committee just two months ago.

In order to ensure that we have a safe, reliable, effective, and credible nuclear deterrent as we look to the 2030s and beyond, we need to start laying the groundwork for significant changes now. I strongly encourage, Mr. Secretary, the department to take seriously the recommendations made in the Strategic Posture Commission Report. And I am also working with colleagues here to address many of these recommendations through upcoming legislation.

On the Failures of President Biden’s Budget Request:

Senator Fischer: A 1% increase in defense spending is not sufficient. So, let me say, it is difficult for Congress to budget, to pass appropriations bills, to meet those threats that this country faces when your department, Mr. Secretary, and this administration do not even acknowledge those threats in the President's budget request that he sends us.

Our adversaries, they don't constrain themselves like this. In fact, China has announced it would increase its defense budget by 7.2%. And this is despite significant challenges that the Chinese are now facing in their economy. 

I thank the chairman of this committee and the committee members for two years of going beyond what the budget was that you presented from President Biden to this committee. It is a responsibility of Congress; I agree with Senator Shaheen. I am also on the Appropriations Committee, and we — Senator Shaheen, Senator Reed, and I — advocate for what we need. But you also have to be an advocate there.

You also have to bring forward a sincere, a thoughtful, a reasonable budget from this administration that addresses the threats that this country faces. We hear it from you, from others within the department on those threats in classified briefings. This country needs to realize it as well.

On the Importance of Modernizing America’s Nuclear Deterrent:

Senator Fischer:
 Secretary Austin and Chairman Brown, do you agree with the commissioners’ statement that: "The nuclear force modernization programs of record are absolutely essential, although not sufficient, to meet the new threats posed by Russia and China, and that the elements of the program of record should be completed on time, expedited wherever possible, and expanded as needed"?

Secretary Austin: Thank you, Senator. And thanks for your sustained support for our efforts to modernize our nuclear triad. We agree with the Strategic Posture Commission that U.S. deterrence remain sound. And we've been taking a fresh look at the assumptions that are underlying our modernization program. 

And we also agree with the commission's assessment that the program of record is necessary but may not be sufficient. And, to the point that you made, we need to be looking forward and making sure that we have the agility to adjust our modernization program as we go forward, to make sure that we not only keep pace, but maintain a competitive edge.

Senator Fischer: Thank you. General Brown?

Chairman Brown: Thank you, Senator Fischer. I had the real pleasure to have the commission come to my office and sit down and brief me here about six weeks ago. And I do agree with their assessment that our nuclear modernization is necessary but not sufficient. One of the areas we did talk about, when it comes to deterrence, was not only our nuclear capability, but also our conventional capability. So it's all things we are doing to modernize our force that'll be important to support our nuclear portfolio but also our conventional portfolios as well.

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