1997 Congressional Hearings
Special Weapons
Nuclear, Chemical, Biological and Missile


THE FUTURE OF NUCLEAR DETERRENCE



               TESTIMONY OF HON. WALTER B. SLOCOMBE,
               UNDER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR POLICY,
                       DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE


                                HEARING
                               before the
                SUBCOMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL SECURITY,
                  PROLIFERATION, AND FEDERAL SERVICES
                                 of the
                              COMMITTEE ON
                          GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS
                          UNITED STATES SENATE
                       ONE HUNDRED FIFTH CONGRESS
                              FIRST SESSION
                               __________

                           FEBRUARY 12, 1997



    Mr. Slocombe. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. As you said, you 
have my full statement. We noticed a couple of typographical 
errors overnight, and we have a final version of it, which I 
will submit. Let me summarize what it says.
    Nuclear deterrence has been the subject of much debate over 
the decades, and that debate has been resumed and sharpened 
after the end of the Cold War. Most recently, the question has 
been given special prominence by the respected individuals and 
committees who advocate a radical change, setting as a policy 
goal the complete abolition of nuclear weapons. And I cannot 
begin without acknowledging that General Goodpaster and General 
Butler are very distinguished military officers, and their 
views are always entitled to great respect, although in this 
case I disagree at least with an important element of what they 
are saying.
    These calls for reexamination of our nuclear deterrent 
policy underscore the continuing American and world interest in 
a deliberate process to further reduce and ultimately eliminate 
nuclear weapons. The United States has embraced this commitment 
for many years, and it is formally reflected in the Nuclear 
Nonproliferation Treaty signed in 1968, Article VI of which 
calls on the parties to undertake to ``pursue negotiations in 
good faith relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an 
early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on 
complete and general disarmament under strict and effective 
international control.''
    President Clinton in his speech to the United Nations this 
past September said he looks forward to a new century in which 
the roles and risks of nuclear weapons can be further reduced 
and ultimately eliminated. The United States has made 
remarkable progress in fulfilling our NPT Article VI 
commitment. Indeed, in an important sense, the nuclear arms 
race in the sense we understood it during the Cold War has been 
halted. The United States and indeed Russia have been reducing 
nuclear stockpiles, both by unilateral and bilateral 
initiatives.
    Over the past 4 years, the Clinton administration has 
worked hard on this process. We have secured the detargeting of 
U.S. and Russian strategic missiles, the entry into force of 
the START I Treaty, the complete denuclearization of Ukraine, 
Belarus and Kazakstan, the indefinite extension of the Nuclear 
Nonproliferation Treaty, United States ratification of the 
START II Treaty, and work with the Russian government to 
promote Duma ratification of that treaty, and successful 
negotiation of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
    We have also made clear that once START II enters into 
force, we are prepared to work on further reductions in 
strategic nuclear arms as well as on limiting and monitoring 
nuclear warheads and materials. Those are important 
accomplishments and there is much more to do, but we are not by 
any means yet at the point where we can eliminate our nuclear 
weapons. For the foreseeable future, we will continue to need a 
reliable and flexible nuclear deterrent, survivable against the 
most aggressive attack, under highly confident constitutional 
command and control, and assured in its safety against both 
accident and unauthorized use.
    We need such a force because nuclear deterrence, far from 
being made wholly obsolete, remains an essential ultimate 
assurance against the gravest of threats. A key conclusion of 
the administration's national security strategy released just a 
year ago is that ``The United States will retain a triad of 
strategic nuclear forces sufficient to deter any future hostile 
foreign leadership with access to strategic nuclear forces from 
acting against our vital interests and to convince it that 
seeking a nuclear advantage would be futile. Therefore, we will 
continue to maintain nuclear forces of sufficient size and 
capability to hold at risk a broad range of assets valued by 
such political and military leaders.''
    To summarize the argument I will develop in more detail in 
my statement, we have already made dramatic steps in reducing 
U.S., Russian and indeed other nuclear arsenals and potentials. 
We have also taken important steps to ensure the safety, 
security, and non-diversion of remaining nuclear weapons.
    Second, we can and should do more on both the reduction and 
the safety and security fronts. Third, nonetheless, nuclear 
weapons remain essential to deter against the gravest threats, 
actual and foreseeable. Fourth, abolition of nuclear weapons, 
if understood as a near-term goal rather than, as President 
Clinton has stated, an ultimate aspiration, is not a wise and 
surely not a feasible focus for current policy efforts. And 
finally, assuring the reliability of our nuclear forces and the 
nuclear stockpile, therefore, remains a high national security 
priority.
    In my statement, I summarize briefly the Cold War 
experience with nuclear weapons. Some argued even during the 
Cold War that the danger of nuclear holocaust, which is 
unimaginable in its scope, was so great that the risk of 
possessing these weapons far outweighed their benefits. I do 
not agree, and I do not think the historical record supports 
that position.
    Nuclear deterrence helped us buy time, time for internal 
forces of upheaval and decay to rend the Soviet Union and the 
Warsaw Pact and bring about the end of the Cold War. But the 
Cold War is over, and it is important to recognize the degree 
to which our nuclear deterrent and indeed that of Russia has 
been transformed even during the relatively short period of 
time since the wall came down. The role of nuclear weapons in 
our defense posture has diminished dramatically. We in the 
Department of Defense welcome this trend and expect it will 
continue in the future. In the sincerest of currency, U.S. 
spending on strategic forces, the emphasis has declined 
dramatically. In the mid-1960's, we were spending about a 
quarter of our defense budget on strategic nuclear forces. We 
now spend something like 3 percent.
    We have no major procurement programs for next generation 
systems. We do have programs designed to sustain the 
effectiveness, safety and reliability of the remaining forces, 
and to ensure the continued high quality of the people who man 
them.
    Russian spending on strategic forces has also declined 
substantially. The Russian Federation does have some strategic 
systems under development, for example, a new single warhead 
ICBM, the SS-X-27, and a new strategic ballistic missile 
submarine, but these programs are far fewer in number, and 
their development and deployment pace far slower than during 
the Cold War period.
    Stabilizing agreed reductions in nuclear forces have been 
and continue to be a primary objective of the United States. 
The United States and Russia have taken great strides in this 
regard in recent years. START I will reduce each side's 
deployed strategic weapons from well over 10,000 to 6,000 
accountable weapons. Russia, like the U.S., is actually 
somewhat ahead of schedule in meeting the START I reduction 
requirements. START II, when it is ratified by the Russian Duma 
and enters into force, will further reduce to 3,000 to 3,500 
each side's weapons. Following START II's entry into force, we 
are prepared to engage in negotiations further reducing 
strategic nuclear forces.
    Meanwhile, the United States has unilaterally reduced its 
non-strategic nuclear weapons to one-tenth--I say again one-
tenth--of Cold War levels. Russia pledged in 1991 to make 
significant unilateral cuts itself in its non-strategic forces, 
and it has reduced its operational non-strategic force 
substantially. It has made far less progress on this score than 
the United States, and the Russian non-strategic arsenal 
deployed and stockpiled is probably about 10 times as large as 
ours.
    In addition to START reductions, there have been 
qualitative changes in our nuclear arsenal. There used to be 
nuclear land-mines, nuclear artillery, nuclear infantry 
weapons, tactical nuclear surface-to-surface weapons, nuclear 
surface-to-air weapons, nuclear air-to-air weapons, nuclear 
depth-charges, and nuclear torpedoes. All these have gone. In 
1991 and 1992, the United States unilaterally stopped several 
nuclear weapons programs like Lance and SRAM-A. We halted a 
number of planned or ongoing development programs, which had 
been the focus of passionate controversy during the 1980's, 
like the Small ICBM, the Peacekeeper Rail Garrison and the 
Lance Follow-On Theater Missile. We took nuclear bombers off 
strip alert and removed from alert as well, well ahead of the 
required schedule, those ICBMs and strategic missile submarines 
planned for elimination under START II. We made dramatic cuts 
in our tactical nuclear forces. In 1994, further reflecting the 
changed international situation, the United States and Russia 
agreed to no longer target their ballistic missiles against 
each other on a day-to-day basis.
    In parallel with this, we have been pressing the 
proliferation question. Clearly, there are serious problems, 
but the picture is not all bleak. No nation has openly joined 
the nuclear club since China in 1964. There are only three 
unacknowledged nuclear powers. South Africa abandoned its 
nuclear capability, as Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakstan did 
theirs. Argentina and Brazil have renounced the option, as 
Sweden and Canada did long ago. North Korea's program is 
effectively frozen. Iraq is under a special and highly 
intrusive United Nations inspection regime. The vast majority 
of the countries in the world support a permanent nuclear 
nonproliferation treaty, which is mostly a benefit which the 
non-nuclear countries confer upon each other in the world and 
not a favor they do for the nuclear powers. And we have 
negotiated an end to nuclear testing.
    With all this, the question, however, is rightly asked: 
Granted all these reductions with the end of the Cold War, why 
do we need to continue to maintain a nuclear deterrent at all? 
In September 1994, the Clinton administration answered this 
question in its Nuclear Posture Review, the first comprehensive 
post-Cold War review of nuclear policy. The NPR recognized that 
with the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and other dramatic 
changes, the strategic environment had been transformed. 
Conventional forces, therefore, could and should and would 
assume a far larger share of the deterrent role. The 
administration concluded nonetheless that nuclear weapons 
continue to play a critical role in deterring aggression 
against the United States, its overseas forces, its allies and 
friends.
    That conclusion is entirely consistent with NATO's 
Strategic Concept, adopted in 1991 after the end of the Cold 
War, which states that ``The fundamental purpose of NATO's 
nuclear force is to preserve peace and prevent coercion and any 
kind of war and that nuclear weapons make a unique contribution 
in rendering the risks of aggression incalculable and 
unacceptable.''
    Why did we and why did NATO reach these conclusions? Most 
importantly, because the positive changes in the international 
environment are far from irreversible, and we can foresee new 
dangers. There are broadly two classes of threat against which 
nuclear weapons remain important as a deterrent. First, Russia. 
Russia has made great progress, and we do not regard it as a 
potential military threat under its present or indeed any 
reasonably foreseeable government. The United States wisely 
invests substantially in the Cooperative Threat Reduction 
program, in future arms control, and in political efforts to 
maintain good relations. We share with the current Russian 
leadership and indeed with most of their opponents a 
determination not to let our relations ever return to the state 
of hostility in which the weapons each country possesses would 
be a threat to the other.
    All that said, Russia continues to possess substantial 
strategic nuclear forces and an even larger stockpile of 
tactical nuclear weapons. And because of deterioration in its 
conventional military capabilities, Russian spokesmen have 
indicated that they may place even more reliance on nuclear 
forces on the future. We cannot be so certain of future Russian 
politics and policies as to ignore the possibility that we 
would again need to deter this Russian nuclear force.
    Accordingly, with respect to Russia, our nuclear policy is 
what Secretary Perry called ``lead and hedge,'' leading toward 
further reductions and increased weapons safety and improved 
relations and hedging against the possibility of reversal of 
reform in Russia. We do not believe that reversal is likely, 
but we are working to manage the risk. Nonetheless, we feel it 
is prudent to provide a hedge against its happening.
    Second, even if we could ignore the Russian nuclear arsenal 
entirely, there are unfortunately a range of other potential 
threats to which nuclear weapons are needed as a deterrent. One 
cannot survey the list of rogue states with potential WMD 
programs and conclude otherwise. Indeed, the knowledge that the 
United States has a powerful and ready nuclear capability is, I 
believe, a significant deterrent to proliferators who even 
contemplate the use of weapons of mass destruction. That this 
is so, I think, will be clear if one thinks about the 
proliferation incentives that would be presented to the 
Kaddafis and Kim-Chong-Ils of the world if the United States 
did not have a reliable and flexible nuclear capability.
    Of course, nuclear weapons are only a part of the broad 
range of capabilities by which we seek to prevent, deter and if 
necessary defend against threats from weapons of mass 
destruction. Passive defenses, improved intelligence, 
diplomatic efforts, active air, cruise missile and ballistic 
missile defense, and powerful and precise conventional 
capabilities, each have key roles to play, but nuclear weapons 
also play a part.
    In view of this, it is our conclusion that it would be 
irresponsible to dismantle the well-established and much-
reduced system of nuclear deterrence before new and reliable 
systems or substitute systems for preserving stability are in 
place.
    What about the argument that our weapons promote 
proliferation? The more compelling case seems to me that 
proliferant states acquire nuclear weapons not because we have 
them but for reasons of their own: to counter regional 
adversaries, to further regional ambitions, and to enhance 
their status among their neighbors and in the world. And 
insofar as our nuclear capability is an issue, if a successful 
proliferator knew he would not face the nuclear potential of 
the United States, that would scarcely reduce incentives to 
acquire a WMD capability. The incentives to proliferate would 
increase dramatically if a rogue state would through a 
successful nuclear weapons program acquire a nuclear monopoly 
and not just a token capability facing far stronger forces 
possessed by the United States and other world powers.
    Some people claim that once proliferation does occur, U.S. 
nuclear forces lack any utility in deterring rogue leaders from 
using those weapons because those leaders would not regard the 
costs even of nuclear retaliation as sufficiently great. Of 
course, their calculations of risk and rewards undoubtedly 
differ from our own, and we must take that into account. But 
experience suggests that few dictators are, in fact, 
indifferent to the preservation of key instruments of their 
State control or to the survival of their own regimes or indeed 
their own persons and associates. Thus, I believe the reverse 
is true. Our nuclear capabilities are more likely to give pause 
to potential rogue proliferants than to encourage them.
    Another important role of U.S. nuclear capability in 
preventing the spread of nuclear weapons should not go 
unnoticed. The extension of a credible U.S. nuclear deterrent 
to allies and friends has been an important nonproliferation 
tool. It has removed incentives for key allies in a still 
dangerous world to develop and deploy their own nuclear forces, 
as many are quite capable of doing from a technical point of 
view. Indeed, our strong security relationships have probably 
played as great a role in nonproliferation over the past 40 
years as the NPT or any other single factor.
    Let me address the argument that nuclear weapons should be 
eliminated because they are dangerous and unsafe. Of course, 
nuclear weapons are dangerous. Quite apart from their potential 
to cause incalculable destruction if they are used, they 
contain high explosives and fissile material. But they are not 
unsafe in the sense that they are susceptible to accidental 
detonation or unauthorized use. Our nuclear weapons meet the 
highest standards of safety, security, and responsible 
custodianship. Moreover, we place high priority on maintaining 
and improving stockpile safety as well as reliability. Our 
nuclear safety record is extraordinary. Although a few 
accidents involving nuclear weapons have occurred, no such 
accident has ever resulted in a nuclear detonation or a nuclear 
yield, and the last accident of any kind was almost 20 years 
ago.
    We believe the likelihood of accidents has been 
dramatically reduced since the end of the Cold War, and I 
detail the statements which we have made to that end in the 
statement. In addition, nuclear weapons security in Russia has 
been a key element of the Department of Defense's Cooperative 
Threat Reduction program with Russia, better known as the Nunn-
Lugar program, from the beginning. It is clear that Russian's 
military and civilian leaders themselves, and for their own 
reasons, place a high priority on preserving effective control 
over their nuclear arsenal. It is every bit in our interest 
that they should do so. $100 million in CTR assistance has been 
made available for projects to enhance security of nuclear 
weapons under Ministry of Defense control in Russia.
    On balance, the safety risks of maintaining a smaller 
nuclear arsenal are far outweighed by the security and non-
proliferation benefits that we continue to derive from nuclear 
deterrence.
    With respect to the general argument for abolition, I would 
summarize the case for retaining nuclear weapons for the 
foreseeable future as follows. First, whatever would be 
desirable, there is, in fact, no reasonable prospect that all 
the declared and de facto nuclear powers will agree in the near 
term to give up all their nuclear weapons. But as long as one 
such State refuses to do so, it will be necessary for us to 
retain a nuclear force of our own.
    Second, if the nuclear powers were somehow to agree to 
accept abolition, that acceptance would require Congress, the 
public--the U.S. Government would rightly demand--a 
verification regime of extraordinary rigor and intrusiveness. 
This would have to go far beyond any currently in existence or 
even under contemplation, and it would have to include not 
merely a system of verification, but what the International 
Generals Statement calls, ``an agreed procedure for forcible 
international intervention and interruption of covert efforts 
in a certain and timely fashion.''
    The difficulties with setting up such a system under 
current world conditions are obvious. Such a regime would have 
to continue to be effective in the midst of prolonged and grave 
crisis between potentially nuclear-capable powers even during a 
war between such powers, for in such a crisis, in an abolition 
regime, the first question for all involved would be that of 
whether or when to start a clandestine nuclear program so as to 
avoid another beating them to the goal, for the knowledge of 
how to build nuclear weapons cannot be abolished.
    Finally, we who are charged with responsibility for 
national security and national defense, both in the executive 
branch and in Congress, must recall that we are not only 
seeking to avert a nuclear war. We are seeking to avert major 
conventional war as well. As I indicated earlier, during the 
Cold War, nuclear weapons played a stabilizing role in that 
they made the resort to military force less likely. The world 
is still heavily armed with advanced conventional weapons and 
will increasingly be so armed with weapons of mass destruction. 
The existence of nuclear weapons continues to serve as a damper 
on resort to the use of force.
    Because nuclear deterrence is to remain a part of our 
national security policy for the foreseeable future, the United 
States nuclear deterrent has to remain credible. Weapon systems 
must be effective and their warheads safe and reliable. 
Quality, reliability and effectiveness of the forces 
themselves, including the communication and command systems 
which are essential to their functioning, and the people who 
operate them, are among our top priorities in the Department of 
Defense. With respect to the nuclear devices themselves, DOE, 
which has the responsibility, has an aggressive, well-funded 
program designed to ensure that our weapons remain safe and 
reliable in the absence of nuclear testing.
    The Department of Defense fully supports this program. We 
also strongly support the principle that if for some reason the 
Department of Defense and the Department of Energy could not 
certify the reliability of a critical element of our deterrent 
without nuclear testing, the United States would have to give 
the most serious consideration to exercising its right under 
the Test Ban Treaty to withdraw from the treaty under the 
supreme national interest clause for the purpose of conducting 
necessary tests. We regard that possibility as very remote 
given a properly supported and executed stewardship program.
    In short, today and for the future, assuming that program 
is carried out, we have high confidence in the safety and 
reliability of our nuclear deterrent force. The Stockpile 
Stewardship and Management Program is designed to provide the 
tools to assure this in the future.
    Our objective is a safe, stable world. We must develop our 
national security policy with the understanding that nuclear 
weapons and the underlying technical knowledge cannot be 
disinvented. In this connection, the United States will 
continue to lead the way to a safer world through deep 
reductions in nuclear forces undertaken in START and through 
the Cooperative Threat Reduction program and other actions. At 
the same time, we will maintain a smaller nuclear force as a 
hedge against a future that is uncertain and in a world which 
substantial nuclear arsenals remain.
    Successive U.S. administrations have embraced the objective 
of nuclear disarmament as our ultimate goal. What is clear is 
that this ultimate goal can be reached, if at all, only through 
realistic moves forward as genuine security permits, with each 
step building on those before it. We will continue to strive to 
make the world a safer place for our children and grandchildren 
and successor generations. In this regard, we are committed to 
the ultimate objective of elimination of nuclear weapons in the 
context of complete and general disarmament. Until these 
conditions are realized, however, I believe that nuclear 
weapons will continue to fulfil an essential role in meeting 
our deterrence requirements and assuring our non-proliferation 
objectives. I thank you for the Subcommittee's attention.