If you ever needed proof that the extremely liberal Arms Control Association is downright destructive and its proposals, were they to be implemented (God forbid), would be extremely dangerous for national security, here’s the proof. On July 18th, the ACA’s Daryl G. Kimball, a well-known anti-defense hack whom I’ve already utterly disproven once, wrote an utterly ridiculous “issue brief” (which was actually a litany of blatant lies) wherein he made a number of false claims and four destructive proposals. And his lies and fantasy liberal beliefs that he provides as a rationale for these proposals reveal how delusional ACA folks are.
Kimball complains that the US and Russia still retain thousands of nuclear warheads, including many hundreds strategically deployed, 20 years after the end of the Cold War, but the Cold War’s end does NOT mean that America’s need for nuclear weapons has shrunk. On the contrary, it has grown, because the US has to deter not only Russia (which is growing, not shrinking, its nuclear arsenal and is allowed to do so by the New START) but also China, North Korea, and Iran.
Deterring these countries (and China has far more than the 40-50 warheads Kimball claims it has on ICBMs – China has far more than that, plus many hundreds of warheads deployed on SLBMs and bombers) is a far more complex and demanding task than deterring just the Soviet Union during the Cold War. This requires a very large nuclear arsenal. A small arsenal will not do. Especially given that the US is responsible for providing a nuclear umbrella not only to itself, but also to over 30 allies, who will doubt this umbrella if it is cut further – especially on the scale that Kimball demands.
Yet, Kimball believes that America’s current nuclear modernization efforts are unaffordable and should be cancelled or dramatically scaled back, and he calls for deep cuts to America’s existing nuclear arsenal. This would be unilateral disarmament by atrophy, over time, combined with deep, fast cuts in the existing arsenal.
Specifically, Kimball calls for:
1) Cutting the current ballistic missile submarine fleet from 14 to just “8 or fewer”, and building only 8, not 12, next generation SSBNs. But this would be a dramatic cut in America’s deterrent force and a dramatic reduction of its survivability. Kimball’s proposal to change existing launch requirements and missile and warhead loads resolves nothing. 8 (let alone fewer) submarines would be far easier for the enemy to find and sink than 14. With 8 SSBNs, only a few of these boats would be on patrol at any given time, while the rest would be in refit.
Kimball complains about the next-gen SSBN class’s cost – he claims it would be $357 bn and that the DOD has requested a total of $565 bn for it – but even if these numbers were true (which I doubt), this problem could be solved easily by building an existing submarine class (e.g. the Virginia or Ohio class). 12 SSBN-variant models of the SSBN class would cost only $28 bn.
2) Foregoing the development of a next-gen bomber by a decade. Kimball falsely claims it is not needed, but it is, because B-52 bombers (build in the 1950s) have huge radar signatures and cannot penetrate enemy airspace, thus rendering them useless for nuclear deterrence purposes. Only stealthy B-2 bombers can do that, and there are only 20 of them (and their stealth technology is 1980s’ vintage, meaning they will lose their penetrating capability within a few decades). The next gen bomber is also urgently needed for a wide range of conventional missions (as demonstrated here, here, and here), and the requirement for it was validated by two successive Quadrennial Defense Reviews (of 2006 and 2010), by Secretaries Rumsfeld, Gates, and Panetta, by successive USAF Chiefs of Staff and SECAFs (including incumbent ones), and by independent think-tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and the CSBA. The NGB is an absolute must, not a luxury, as confirmed by the current CSAF. His “saving” of $18 bn over a decade (i.e. just $1.8 bn per year) would be puny, as would be the first-year saving ($292 mn).
Yet, if America doesn’t field a new bomber by the early 2020s, the nuclear triad will effectively lose its aerial component.
As Jamestown’s Dr Carlo Kopp writes:
“China’s air defense system is maturing into the largest, most capable and technically advanced in Asia, and will be capable of inflicting very heavy attrition on any aircraft other than upper tier U.S. stealth systems. Until the U.S. deploys its planned “New Generation Bomber” post-2020, the United States will have only 180 F-22 Raptors and 20 B-2A Spirit bombers capable of penetrating the PLA’s defensive shield. This may not be enough to act as a credible non-nuclear strategic deterrent.”
That B-52s have decades of service lives remaining is irrelevant, as they are unsurvivable in any contested airspace, easy to shoot down even for legacy Soviet SAM systems like the SA-2, SA-3, SA-5 and SA-6, and therefore utterly useless. Furthermore, projections of them serving until the 2040s are based on peacetime usage rates, not the wartime rates seen in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. Even then, keeping these bombers in service, especially until 2045, will require costly upgrades.
But while fiercely opposing any modernization of America’s bomber fleet, Kimball and the ACA have no problems with Russia’s development of a next generation bomber, the PAK DA.
3) Cutting the USAF’s ICBM fleet from 420 to 300 (one squadron at each ICBM base) and foregoing the development or deployment of any replacement ICBMs. This, by itself, would be destructive, but combined with the previous proposals and #4 is even more destructive and dangerous. Kimball proposes to do so unilaterally, while Russia and China are steadily growing their nuclear and ICBM arsenals (and China is MIRVing its DF-5A and DF-31 ICBMs and deploying MIRVable DF-41 ICBMs) and increasing their survivability. See here, for example.
Such reduction – by 120 ICBMs and 360 of their associated warheads – would also cut America’s arsenal below Russia’s size (America’s 1377 vs Russia’s 1492), thus giving Russia strategic nuclear superiority over America. 300 ICBMs would also be much fewer than Russia has (over 400, possibly up to 469). This belies his claim that even after his cuts, “the US would still have more than enough megatonnage” to deter its enemies.
Yet, by his own admission, this deep cut in the ICBM fleet would save only $360 million in FY2013. That’s meagre. In fact, maintaining the entire ICBM fleet costs the USAF only $1.1 bn per year, a rounding error in the USAF’s (let alone the DOD’s) budget.
Maintaining BOTH Air Force legs of the nuclear triad costs taxpayers only $3.6 bn per year, again only a rounding error in the USAF’s budget, and a bargain price to keep the nation safe.
But Kimball’s stupidity doen’t stop with that. He also wrongly and delusionally claims that:
“Prudent U.S. strategic nuclear force reductions could also induce Russia to further reduce its deployed strategic nuclear arsenal, which is already 200 warheads fewer than the United States, and prompt Moscow to delay or cancel some of its own costly plans for modernizing its strategic nuclear delivery systems.”
Thus, they believe and falsely claim that unilateral deep cuts in America’s arsenal would somehow induce Russia to reduce its own arsenal. But the contrary is the truth: Russia (which is already growing, not cutting, its nuclear arsenal, contrary to Kimball’s often-repeated lies), would take such unilateral American reductions as a sign of weakness (which it would be) and increase its arsenal even further to strengthen the nuclear superiority it would over the US, since Washington would be giving Moscow the opportunity to do so. Nor would Russia cancel its nuclear modernization plans: unilateral American cuts would only encourage it to accelerate its nuclear weapon and delivery system modernization.
(If your opponent unilaterally handed you such an advantage, would you exploit it or give it away? The answer is obvious: of course you’d exploit his unilateral disarmament mercilessly. Especially if you’re a KGB thug.)
And if Russia increased its nuclear and delivery system arsenal beyond current plans (which call for building up to New START limits), OR if Kimball’s cuts proposals of cutting America’s arsenal below New START limits are implemented, that would give Moscow nuclear superiority over the US and hold the US at risk, hostage to Russian blackmail and coercion.
Moreover, the cuts that Kimball and the ACA propose would not be “prudent”. They would be imprudent, suicidal, dangerous, and foolish, exposing America and all of its allies to nuclear blackmail by Russia.
4) Kimball also proposes not investing any more money in the GBI system or the European Phased Adaptive Approach. He falsely claims that:
“The United States already has two GMD sites on the west coast, with 30 interceptors deployed in California and Alaska, to counter a potential, limited long-range ballistic missile volley from a rogue state. Neither Iran nor North Korea has yet deployed long-range missiles that could reach the United States.”
He also falsely claims that the GBI can’t work in any real-world situations. He falsely claims in the first paragraph that the US plans to spend money on “a missile defense system that doesn’t work against a threat that doesn’t exist.” But those claims are blatant lies.
North Korea already has ICBMs capable of targeting the US – the Taepodong-2 (which can reach Alaska, Hawaii, and with a reduced payload, the US) and the KN08, the latter displayed during a parade earlier this year in Pyongyang, on a Chinese TEL. Iran does not yet have an ICBM, but the DOD and the US intelligence community say that it will have such missiles by 2015, so the US has less than 3 years to procure and deploy ICBMs on the East Coast (or in Europe) to protect itself against ICBMs that the USIC says Iran will have less than 3 years from now. Given that Iran has proven its ability to launch satellites into orbit, it won’t be very long before it deploys a working ICBM. The purpose of a strong defense is to be AHEAD of the threat, not playing catch-up with it, so an East Coast ICBM base is needed NOW, as validated recently by the National Research Council (which recommended building a missile defense system based on the GBI, calling it “Evolved GMD”). Again, an East Coast GBI base is a necessity, not a luxury.
Kimball complains about the GBI’s two failed tests in 2010, but these only tested a new-generation kill vehicle which the GBI does not yet use. Currently, first-generation Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicles are deployed on GBIs, and these have been tested and proven to work. Besides, the problems with EKV-2 have been corrected by now.
Kimball’s and ACA’s claim that the nuclear deterrent and its delivery systems are siphoning money away from higher defense priorities is also a blatant lie. Firstly, there is NO higher priority than nuclear deterrence, which protects America and its allies against the most catastrophic threats. Secondly, as demonstrated above, 450 ICBMs and ~90 nuclear bombers combined cost only $3.6 bn per year to maintain, a tiny rounding error in the DOD’s $531 bn annual base budget. Maintaining nuclear warheads costs only $7.589 bn per year, again a rounding error in America’s total defense budget (which includes the DOE’s defense programs, including warhead maintenance).
No, the nuclear deterrent is not siphoning dollars away from anything – it is other DOD programs, especially the egregiously expensive F-35 program, that are consuming money that could otherwise be invested in overdue modernization of the nuclear deterrent.
Don’t be fooled by the ACA’s claims. They don’t care about America’s defense or about defense priorities; all they want is America’s unilateral disarmament. Falsely claiming that the nuclear deterrent somehow siphons money away from other defense programs is just their latest excuse.
In the beginning of his screed, Kimball also challenges the Congress: that if they are serious about deficit reduction, they will cut America’s nuclear arsenal and forego plans for developing new bombers or ICBMs. But gutting America’s defense is the worst possible way to reduce the budget deficit, as it would jeopardize national security; and the cuts he proposes would not make even a small dent in the deficit. The bomber programs’ FY2013 budget is just $300 mn; the bomber and ICBM legs of the triad cost only $3.6 bn per year to maintain; and by his own admission, eliminating 120 ICBMs would save only $360 mn dollars, a drop in the bucket.
Such cuts would be penny-wise and pound-foolish. They’d save taxpayers almost nothing, but they would gravely jeopardize national security.
Daryl Kimball’s claims are all patently false. They are all lies. And his proposals would be destructive and dangerous for America’s national security – and the free world’s. The Congress and the Executive Branch should, and I’m confident, will reject his lunatic proposals.
Kimball’s claims are all false. America can afford and does need the strategic systems he opposes.