Weekly Column

Dec 12 2022


Last Friday, I attended the change of command ceremony at U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base.

There, Admiral Charles “Chas” Richard transferred command to U.S. Air Force General Anthony J. Cotton. Admiral Richard will now embark on a long-deserved retirement after a lifetime of service to our country and three years in command of STRATCOM.

As the Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, I’ve gotten to know Admiral Richard well. My subcommittee has direct oversight over STRATCOM's mission areas. This includes everything from our strategic deterrence, nuclear and space operations, missile defense, and electromagnetic warfare. Given the importance of these operations, I’ve always felt it is critical that we work closely with STRATCOM leadership to ensure they have what they need to keep our nation safe.

In my capacity on the Committee, I can say with certainty that Admiral Richard has had a decisive impact on U.S. Strategic Command.

Over the last three years, Admiral Richard has led the effort to modernize our Nuclear Command, Control, and Communications (NC3) architecture. He has also spearheaded efforts to improve our strategic planning and revolutionize the combatant command’s electronic warfare capabilities. And finally, his clear-eyed, straightforward, and honest advice to the Senate Armed Services Committee has been critical as we work in Congress to ensure our nation can withstand the threats of the 21st century.

Just what are those threats? There is Russia’s unjust invasion of Ukraine; China’s alarming military buildup with an eye towards Taiwan; North Korea’s ongoing missile tests; Iran’s nuclear weapons program – the list goes on and on.

Tackling these challenges will be no easy feat. In fact, keeping the United States safe and secure requires us to make significant investments in our national defense.

That’s why I’ve worked hard to secure important provisions in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This is the annual legislation that sets our national security priorities, and authorizes funding for the Department of Defense as well as nuclear weapons programs at the Department of Energy.

I’m pleased to say that this year’s bipartisan NDAA is a rejection of the Biden administration’s efforts to shortchange our national security and cancel critical programs.

Thanks to our work, the NDAA authorizes funding levels that keep up with inflation and provides service members with a 4.6% pay raise.

In line with STRATCOM’s mission of “Peace Through Strength” – our bill does much to support the modernization of our nuclear forces. This includes my provision to authorize $45 million for the research and development of a nuclear-capable sea-launched cruise missile system (SLCM-N).

The NDAA also includes my language that limits the Department of Defense from retiring the B83 – a thermonuclear gravity bomb, which is designed to defeat hard and deeply buried targets – until a replacement can be identified.

For Nebraska broadly, we were able to secure $235 million for the ongoing rebuild of Offutt Air Force Base, which was hit hard by the 2019 floods.

This is just a small sample of the critical initiatives I was proud to work on for this year’s NDAA. I look forward to passing the bill here in the Senate in the coming days and sending this vital legislation to the President’s desk.

We live in an increasingly more dangerous world, with our adversaries threatening our global stability. Thankfully, there is still bipartisan consensus in Congress to support our military – including the men and women of STRATCOM – as they work day and night to keep us safe.

I thank Admiral Richard for his leadership at STRATCOM. I look forward to working with General Cotton over the next several years to ensure STRATCOM has what it needs to continue deterring our enemies and keeping the peace.

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.

Word Count: 639