According to Rebeccah Heinrichs, an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, President Obama’s fiscal year 2013 budget request reveals that “that the president has utterly failed to make good on his promises” on nuclear modernization and missile defense.
During the ratification debate on the New Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty (New START), President Obama promised to modernize the U.S. nuclear infrastructure, claiming that such investment is “essential to facilitating reductions while sustaining deterrence under New START and beyond.” However, the Administration failed to include in its budget the additional $4.1 billion that was promised for the nuclear weapons modernization program over the next five years. On top on this, the Administration did not even bother to submit a budget request that is consistent with its nuclear modernization pledge to the Senate for the next fiscal year. The actual request is $372 million bellow what the Administration agreed to, writes Heinrichs.
The President also stated during the New START debate that he was committed to U.S. missile defense, but his budget request reveals shortfalls in this regard as well. The Administration decided to transition the Sea-Based X-band radar to a “limited test support” status. This is a budget-driven decision. North Korea’s and Iran’s advancing long-range ballistic missile programs warrant maintaining the capability that provides data essential for protecting the U.S. homeland from this threat. The Administration is also scaling back a variety of programs for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense to the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense.
Despite these shortfalls, the Administration is nevertheless moving to further reduce U.S. nuclear forces. Rather than starting with a sound assessment of the current strategic environment, President Obama appears to be setting an arbitrary number for force reductions. Devaluing the contribution that U.S. nuclear weapons made to the peace and stability around the world since the end of the World War II, the President believes that if the U.S. gives up its nuclear weapons, other countries will follow. This is not going to happen, because countries’ desire to possess these powerful weapons is rooted in their perception of national interest, not what the U.S. does. Paradoxically, as the U.S. reduces its nuclear arsenal, it increases the value not only of its remaining weapons but also of nuclear weapons for U.S. adversaries.
Heritage research shows that a “protect and defend” strategy that would combine offensive, defensive, conventional, and nuclear weapons is the best response for the current multi-proliferated environment. Cutting the nuclear arsenal without considering other countries’ modernization programs can have devastating unintended consequences.