Tag Archives: nuclear triad

Rebuttal of Benjamin Cooper’s attack on the nuclear deterrent


The (until recently very respected) Proceedings magazine, run by the US Naval Institute (a private association) has recently published an utterly ridiculous, leftist garbage article by Benjamin Cooper, a contractor working for missile defense companies, which argues for deep further cuts in America’s nuclear deterrent and for completely phasing out the ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) fleet – by the most survivable leg of America’s nuclear triad.

Cooper bases his call on utterly false arguments, namely, that:

1) America doesn’t need SSBNs and a second-strike capability* at all, Russia is a friendly partner, relations with Moscow have improved significantly in recent years and there’s no reason to expect them to deteriorate, and China has only a few hundred warheads;

2) SSBNs are too expensive to develop and build.

What is wrong with his article?

To start with, EVERYTHING.

All of his claims are utterly false, and there are numerous reasons to utterly reject his proposal – and any other proposal to cut the US nuclear deterent any further, for that matter. Here’s why.

1) Contrary to Cooper’s, the Obama administration’s, and the NPR’s lies, Russo-American relations have NOT improved at all under Vladimir Putin, and in the last several years, they have deteriorated significantly, despite, or arguably BECAUSE OF, Obama’s “reset” (read: appeasement) policy. Russia continues to staunchly oppose the US on a very wide range of key issues, such as BMD, Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, Edward Snowden, Russia’s repeated violations of human rights, and more. Russia continues to support America’s enemies around the world – Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, China – with diplomatic protection, economic aid, and except Cuba (which can’t afford them) modern weapons. It has, on numerous occassions since 2012, flown nuclear-armed bombers close to American and INTO Japanese airspace. It continues to provide nuclear fuel for Iran’s nuclear program. In the last 6 years, it has repeatedly threatened to target or even use nuclear weapons against US allies. Not only that, but Vladimir Putin openly pokes the US time after time and never misses an opportunity to humiliate Obama.

Russia, judged by its behavior as well as by its anti-American rhetoric, IS an adversary of the US by every definition of the word. If a country behaving in such a manner is not an adversary, then this word has no meaning.

And the ignorant Mr Cooper doesn’t even know that BMD is – especially according to Russia – one of the BIGGEST sources of tension between Washington and Moscow.

“the United States has a minimum of 14 years to continue improving relations with Russia to the point where a guaranteed second-strike capability is no longer required” – What a joke! Relations with Russia have steadily DETERIORATED under Putin, especially during the last 5 years, and will, in all likelihood, worsen even further as Russia exploits America’s weakness and Obama’s appeasement mentality.

2) Russia is not a partner at all, much less in reducing nuclear arsenals. Under New START, Russia is not obliged to cut ANYTHING, and indeed, has not cut even one warhead or delivery system. On the contrary, since New START’s entry into force, Russia has significantly INCREASED its nuclear arsenal – exactly as its leaders said it would do – and intends to increase it further, as confirmed by both Russian officials and Russian (as well as American) analysts. Moreover, it has repeatedly VIOLATED the INF treaty by testing IRBMs (prohibited by INF), which means treaties signed with Russia are worthless pieces of paper.

Throughout the ENTIRE Obama administration tenure, the US has been the ONLY country cutting its nuclear arsenal. Russia and China have been steadily GROWING theirs.

But Russia goes even further and openly calls its nuclear arsenal “sacred” and, in its military doctrine, reserves to itself the right to use nuclear weapons first – against nuclear- and non-nuclear states alike, to win a war quickly.

3) China, contrary to the author’s lies, has between 1,600 (per General Viktor Yesin) and 3,000 (per Professor Philip Karber) nuclear warheads (deployed and nondeployed), NOT the few hundred that Cooper claims. It does not yet have a first-strike capability vs the US, but it DOES have a large arsenal and a credible second-strike capability. It IS a near-peer nuclear opponent.

Its 36 DF-5 heavy ICBMs can carry up to 10 warheads each; its fleet of over 30 DF-31/31A ICBMs, 3-4 warheads per missile; its submarine-launched JL-2 missiles, also 3-4 warheads each; and its newest ICBM, the DF-41, can carry 10 warheads per missile.

36*10 = 30*3 + 10 = 460 warheads deliverable to the US. More than enough to destroy all 450 US ICBMs, if one Chinese warhead is attributed to each US ICBM. And that’s without involving any of China’s SLBMs.

Moreover, China is currently developing a stealthy intercontinental bomber that will also be able to deliver nuclear weapons to the CONUS.

4) Despite the author’s claims that a Russo-American rivalry like the Cold War or a similar Sino-American rivalry are unlikely, the fact is that his claims have already been disproven by reality: both Moscow and Beiing have large nuclear arsenals and are hostile to the US.

5) On top of Russia and China, the US must also deter North Korea and Iran simoultaneously, and must provide a nuclear umbrella to OVER 30 allies and partners. Meanwhile, Russia and China are threats to many but protectors to nobody. America’s allies around the world have already warned the US over cutting its nuclear arsenal further, and if the US proceeds with further cuts anyway, they will very likely develop their own nuclear arsenals. Japan has facilities that could produce 3,600 warheads in a matter of 6 months if need be. Saudi Arabia is already preparing to “go nuclear” if need be.

Thus, contrary to the author’s blatant lies, a second-strike capability – and thus, the SSBNX program – is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. Moreover, the 2010 NPR, which the author loves to quote (selectively), REAFFIRMED the nuclear triad. And while the author cites a few leftist studies arguing for a dyad, there are many other, much more credible, studies calling for the retention of the nuclear triad, such as those by the Heritage Foundation, the CSBA, CSIS,  and CNAS.

6) Despite the author’s claim that the SSBNX is unaffordable, it actually is quite affordable – its unit cost of $3.6 bn is not much more than the Virginia class’s $2.4 bn per boat cost or the Arleigh Burke’s $2 bn per ship cost. Once the SSBNX class goes into production, its cost will stabilize. And it could be reduced even further, to no more than $2.4 bn per boat, if the USN were to build a Virginia-class derivative instead of an entirely new class.

And the Missile Defense Agency’s budget – $9-10 bn per year – is not much value for taxpayers’ money. For that kind of money, I could buy at least 2 SSBNs per year, and build the entire required fleet of 12 boats in 6 years. If the cost of a single SSBNX were brought down to $2.4 bn, I could build the entire replacement fleet of 12 boats in 3 years!

Moreover, submarines – including SSBNs – sail underwater and are very stealthy – especially the US Navy’s SSBNs. They are not affected by the dangers that surface ships face (other than naval mines, which they can detect easily); they just can’t let the enemy to detect them acoustically – which, again, the US Navy’s SSBNs have successfully been doing for decades, and you can expect the next-gen SSBNX class to be even quieter.

Meanwhile, surface ships, including and especially the Burke class DDGs that the author hails as alternatives to the SSBNX, face a myriad of deadly threats against which they’re ill-equipped and ill-defended: anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles, submarines, naval mines, suicide boats, and fast attack craft.

A suicide boat nearly sank the Burke-class destroyer USS Cole in 2000. The USN is ill-equipped (and Burkes are not equipped at all) to fight naval mines – the USN has only 14 aging minesweepers (the French Navy alone has almost that much, at 11). As for ballistic and cruise missiles, the Aegis combat system cannot intercept more than 4 missiles at once, and is hopelessly ineffective against fast, sea-skimming cruise missiles like the SS-N-27 Sizzler (possessed by Russia, China, and Iran among others). Heck, the Navy cannot even replicate the Sizzler – or China’s DF-21D ballistic missile – as a target!

Moreover, according to Winslow Wheeler, when he worked for the GAO in 1980s, the Aegis system performed poorly even against moderately difficult to intercept missiles; against those flying lower and faster, it was hopelessly ineffective.

Again, submarines face none of these threats, other than naval mines.

7) BMD, which the author claims is “the future of strategic deterrence”, is not a credible replacement for SSBNs at all. BMD is still a developmental technology in its infancy. BMD systems have shot down ballistic missiles only in carefully-scripted and timed exercises with advance information, and questions about their reliability abound. Moreover, the USN does not have dedicated, single-purpose BMD ships – it has DDGs and CGs which carry interceptor missiles as well as others – and their magazines of missiles can be easily and quickly exhausted. Indeed, any adversary, even NK and Iran, can always build more offensive missiles than the US can build interceptors, and interceptors are far more expensive than offensive missiles.

8) There is also another problem, namely that land-based ICBMs (or rather, their launch control systems, and for that matter all electrical devices in the US) could be instantly disabled by one EMP strike on the CONUS – for example, by detonating a single nuclear warhead – at a high altitude above the central US (e.g. Nebraska). This would disable all US ICBMs and instantly set the US back to the Stone Age. China (and probably Russia as well) is currently developing EMP weapons to do exactly that. Yet, the US is completely unprepared for the EMP threat.

By contrast, those SSBNs that would be at sea would not be affected at all, as they’d be submerged AND far away from the US. There’s a reason why the SSBN fleet is by far the most survivable leg of the nuclear triad.

In short, Benjamin Cooper’s article is completely wrong and utterly ridiculous. America’s nuclear arsenal and its SSBN fleet are NOT anachronisms, but vital instruments of deterrence in the 21st century; Russia and China both are hostile to the US and have large nuclear arsenals; missile defense is not, and can never be, a replacement for the nuclear deterrent; its effectiveness (and affordability) are dubious; and on top of that, the US has to provide a large nuclear umbrella to over 30 allies who rely on it for their very survival – and who will have to go nuclear themselves if the US cuts its arsenal further.

Cooper’s screed is arguably the dumbest and the worst article ever published in Proceedings, and the editors should be ashamed of themselves for publishing such a pathetic screed.

Cooper’s screed is cretinous and ridiculous. Shame on Proceedings for publishing it.

Postscriptum: I would be remiss if I also didn’t add that the South Korean Defense Ministry has now confirmed what I’ve been saying for many months: that North Korea IS capable of mating nuclear warheads to missiles and HAS mastered the requisite technology. See here.

Rebuttal of the 6 most popular myths about nuclear weapons

megoizzy (CC)

As it continues to campaign for deep cuts in America’s defenses, the Left has particularly aimed its arrows at the US nuclear deterrent, which protect America and over 30 of its allies against the most catastrophic threats: a nuclear, chemical, or biological attack; a large-scale conventional attack; and nuclear proliferation. It is the most effective nonproliferation program ever enacted.

It is falsely claimed that:

1)      Nuclear weapons are irrelevant in the 21st century security environment. They are relics of the Cold War.

2)      A “world without nuclear weapons” is both realistically attainable and desirable.

3)      The nuclear triad is too expensive and not worth the cost.

4)      The entire nuclear arsenal is too expensive and siphons money away from other defense programs.

5)      Conventional weapons, missile defense systems, and cyberweapons can replace nuclear weapons in a very wide range of missions and scenarios and against the vast majority of targets.

6)      The fewer nuclear weapons the US has, the better; cutting America’s nuclear deterrent makes America safer.

Let’s deal with these myths one after another.

Myth #1: Nuclear weapons are irrelevant in the 21st century security environment. They are relics of the Cold War.

The facts: Nuclear weapons are HIGHLY RELEVANT in the 21st century security environment. They protect America and all of its allies against the following three, potentially catastrophic, security threats: a nuclear/chemical/biological attack, a large-scale conventional attack, and nuclear proliferation.

megoizzy (CC)

megoizzy (CC)

The US nuclear arsenal is the most effective counter-proliferation program ever created. It has discouraged all of America’s allies except Britain and France from developing nuclear weapons, reassuring them that they don’t need to do so because the US provides a powerful nuclear umbrella to them. Such an umbrella is ESPECIALLY needed now – more than ever – given the nuclear threats posed by Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran.

Russia has 2,800 strategic nuclear warheads (including 1,550 deployed) and up to 4,000 tactical warheads – and the means to deliver all 6,800 if need be. Its 434 ICBMs can collectively deliver 1,684 warheads to the CONUS; its 14 ballistic missile submarines can deliver over 2,200 warheads to the CONUS (while sitting in their ports); and each of its 251 strategic bombers can carry up to 7 warheads (1 freefall bomb and 6 nuclear-tipped cruise missiles). Its Tu-95 bomber fleet alone can deliver over 700 warheads to the middle of America.

China has at least 1,800, and up to 3,000, nuclear warheads, and the means to deliver 1,274 of them. Among these are almost 70 ICBMs, 120-140 MRBMs, over 1,600 SRBMs, dozens of land-attack cruise missiles, six ballistic missile submarines, and 440 nuclear-capable aircraft. While the vast majority of its SRBMs and cruise missiles are reportedly conventionally-armed at present, they could be armed with nuclear weapons anytime, which is called “breakout capability.”

Then there’s North Korea with its nuclear arsenal (which it has announced it will grow) and ICBMs capable of reaching the US, and Iran, which is coming closer to achieving nuclear weapon status everyday.

Besides deterring nuclear attack, nuclear weapons also protect America’s treaty allies against a large-scale conventional attack – ensuring that it has never happened so far.

Myth #2: A “world without nuclear weapons” is both realistically attainable and desirable. 

The facts: A world without nuclear weapons (“Global Zero”) is neither achievable nor desirable. Not achievable, because no other country in the world is following America’s disarmament “example” (and foreign countries don’t care about America’s “examples”; they care only about their self-interest). No other country is following the US on the road to “Global Zero”. Accordingly, there will NEVER be a world without nuclear weapons.

Russia has recently declared it will not cut its nuclear arsenal nor enter into any negotiations to that end. It is actually building UP its arsenal (as allowed to do so by the New START) and modernizing it. China, which has up to 3,000 nuclear warheads, is also rapidly building up and modernizing its arsenal, and refusing to even disclose its size or enter into any talks – let alone formal treaty negotiations – about it. Likewise, India and Pakistan refuse to join the Nonproliferation Treaty, disclose the size of their arsenals, or enter into any talks – let alone arms control treaties – pertaining to these arsenals. Ditto North Korea, which has recently announced it will NEVER give up its nuclear arsenal and that, if anything, it will INCREASE its size and restart the Yongboyng reactor to harvest plutonium from spent fuel rods.

So NO nuclear power wants to join the West in its suicidal nuclear disarmament quest. None whatsoever. Not Russia, not China, not India and Pakistan, not North Korea. And, of course, Iran is racing towards nuclear power status.

Even Bruce Blair, a supporter of America’s nuclear disarmament, testified recently before the House Armed Services Committee on March 19th that even if America cut its nuclear arsenal deeply, e.g. along the lines of what his organization (Global Zero) proposes, NOBODY would reciprocate. (1:04:41)

Which is true – Russia, China, North Korea, India, Pakistan, etc., are all refusing to even cut, let alone eliminate, their nuclear arsenals. Obama has NO followers on the road to his totally unrealistic goal of “global zero”. There will never be a “global zero.”

Nuclear weaponry is a genie that cannot be put back into the bottle. It cannot be “un-invented” or banished from the face of the Earth, contrary to the unrealistic dreams of several US Presidents, including Ronald Reagan (this shows that, alas, Reagan wasn’t perfect and had some flaws).

Nor would a “nuclear-free world” be safer and more peaceful than it is now, contrary to Obama’s false claims that the US should “seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” On the contrary, it would be less peaceful and secure.

Humanity lived through “Global Zero” – in a world without nukes – for almost its entire history from its dawn to 1945. During that time, there were numerous and horribly destructive wars between the great powers of the time, each one leading to huge casualties among combatants and civilians and to great destruction. Examples included the Peloponesian war, Rome’s wars of conquest, the Hundred Years War, the Wars of Religion, the Thirty Years War, the Seven Years’ War, the Napoleonic Wars, and of course, the two World Wars. Not to mention the numerous bloody civil wars such as those in the US (1861-1865) and Russia (1918-1923).

5 million people, including 1 million Frenchmen, died in the Napoleonic Wars. Proportionally to the populations of today, that would be 50 million Europeans, including 10 million Frenchmen. French casualties in these wars were 14% higher than in WW1. In that war alone, about 10 million people died; in World War 2, over 60 million, and its perpetrators attempted the extermination of entire nations (peoples) and even races. The sheer barbarity and murder witnessed during that war is unmatched by any conflict before or after that war.

Since 1945, however – the advent of nuclear weapons – there has been NO war between the great powers. And it is mostly, if not entirely, because of nuclear weapons, which have moderated their behavior and forced them to accept coexistence with each other even if they have diametrically opposed ideologies. Nuclear weapons have taught them that even the most difficult compromise is better than a nuclear exchange.

Nuclear weapons have not ended war completely – no invention will ever do that – but they have eliminated great power wars. All wars since 1945 have been either between smaller, non-world-power countries (e.g. conflicts between Israel and its Arab neighbors), or between a world power and a weaker country (e.g. Iraq, Vietnam), or between a country and an insurgency (e.g. the US vs the Taleban).

Such conflicts have a much smaller scale, body count, and destructive power than great power wars. Since WW2, there hasn’t been a conflict even approaching the sheer barbarity and destruction of WW2, and it is mostly, if not entirely, due to nuclear weapons.

Instead of seeking their scrapping, we should all learn to love them.

Myth #3: The nuclear triad is too expensive and not worth the cost.

The facts: The nuclear triad is NOT too expensive and is well worth the cost. The ICBM leg of the nuclear triad – the cheapest, most ready, most responsive, and most dispersed leg – costs only $1.1 bn per year to maintain; the bomber leg, only $2.5 bn per year. The entire nuclear arsenal, including all the warheads, missiles, bombers, submarines, supporting facilities, and personnel costs only $32-38 bn per year to maintain, which is only 6.3% of the entire military budget ($611 bn in FY2013, pre-sequestration).

For that low cost, taxpayers get a large, diverse, survivable nuclear triad capable of surviving even a large-scale first strike and of striking anywhere in the world with any needed measure of power. A triad that gives the President huge flexibility in where, when, and how to strike; a triad that keeps the enemy guessing as to how the US would retaliate.

As Robert Kaplan says, “Don’t give your enemy too few problems to solve because if you do, he’ll solve them.”

Without the ICBM leg, the enemy would have to destroy only 2 submarine bases, 3 bomber bases, and any SSBNs that would be on patrol. WITH the ICBM leg still existing, the enemy would also have to make sure he destroys every single USAF ICBM silo; there are 450, and the USAF may have built decoy siloes.

Numbers don’t lie. Liberals do.

Without a triad, the nuclear deterrent would’ve been much less survivable than it is. This will be even MORE important as the arsenal is cut to even lower, post-New-START, levels.

A nuclear triad is the most survivable and most flexible nuclear arsenal arrangement ever invented, which is why the US, Russia, China, and Israel all have it, and why India is developing it. The Air Force is also considering the development of a rail-mobile ICBM, which could be hidden in innocently-looking, civilian-style railroad cars.

Myth #4: The entire nuclear arsenal is too expensive and siphons money away from other defense programs.

The facts: According to the Stimson Center, maintaining the US nuclear deterrent costs ca. $32–36 bn per year, including all the warheads, delivery systems, support facilities, personnel, and nuclear-related intelligence. This is a paltry 5.872% of the FY2013 military budget ($613 bn per the FY2013 NDAA). Modernizing the nuclear arsenal will, according to Stimson, cost up to $390 bn over the next decade, i.e. $39 bn per year on average. This is 6.4% of the FY2013 military budget. These are microscoping percentages.

So the US provides a large nuclear umbrella to itself and to over 30 allies at a cost of only 6% of its total military budget.

Furthermore, even if the ENTIRE nuclear arsenal were scrapped IMMEDIATELY and UNILATERALLY today, that would “save” a paltry $36 bn per year and thus fail to come even close to paying for sequestration, let alone balancing the federal budget.

No, the US nuclear arsenal is not siphoning money away from anything. As usual, it’s a scapegoat for liberals.

It is, in fact, other, more costly defense programs that are siphoning money away from nuclear deterrence and other defense priorities. For example, the development and acquisition of 2,400 short-range, understealthed, slow, sluggish F-35 strike jets will cost $400 bn. A single aircraft carrier costs $15 bn, yet is tragically vulnerable to ballistic and cruise missiles, submarines, and naval mines. Yet, the biggest cost drivers in the defense budget are personnel programs (pay, benefits, healthcare, retirement, etc.), which, unless seriously reformed, will consume the ENTIRE defense budget by no later than FY2039. That means no money for nuclear deterrence or for weapons of any kind.

And while F-35s and aircraft carriers are increasingly and prohibitively expensive, they’re also increasingly vulnerable and useless for the threat environments the US military will have to operate in. Meanwhile, the next generation bomber will be able to strike from well over the horizon – even the CONUS – and submarines have always been stealthy. USAF ICBMs sit in hardened siloes, can strike any place on the planet, and may be replaced by rail-mobile ones (see above).

Myth #5: Conventional weapons, missile defense systems, and cyberweapons can replace nuclear weapons in a very wide range of missions and scenarios and against the vast majority of targets.

The facts: Such claims are preposterous. None of these weapons have anything even close to the destructive, crippling power of atomic weapons.

Conventional weapons utterly lack such power. Even the most powerful conventional bombs – MOABs and the now-retired Daisy Cutters – have the explosive power approaching only that of the lowest-yield nuclear warheads, and MOAB is not even designed to penetrate anything.

Cyberweapons can shut down computer networks, but only temporarily, and can’t physically destroy anything. Buildings, vehicles, warships, aircraft, and humans will still exist. Cyberweapons can only complement other types of arms, but never replace them.

Nor can missile defense ever replace nuclear weapons. It has long been an article of faith among conservatives, including conservative think-tank analysts, that it can, but the truth is that it can’t. This truth will be uncomfortable for them, but my job as defense analysts is to tell people the truth, not what they want to hear.

Missile defense technology is still in its infancy. Moreover, one needs several interceptors to shoot down one missile. For example, to shoot down one Russian ICBM would take 7 ground-based interceptors of the type deployed in AK and CA. US missile defense systems (except the PATRIOT) have never been tested in massive missile barrages – the type of missile attacks the US will actually have to counter.

Furthermore, BMD systems’ ability to distinguish real warheads from decoys is yet unclear, and there are no systems available for boost-phase interception. But worst of all, BMD interceptors are far more expensive than the ballistic missiles they’re designed to intercept. A THAAD missile costs $9-10 mn; an SM-3, $10 mn; a ground-based interceptor, $70 mn. It is far cheaper to build and launch ballistic missiles than to intercept them. Furthermore, America’s enemies already have such huge inventories of BMs of all types – measured in thousands – that they are and will always be able to overwhelm American BMD systems through sheer numbers.

The best way to protect against missiles of any kind is to kill the archer, not the arrow. Only “offensive” systems – strike systems – can do that. This includes ICBMs, SLBMs, cruise missiles, bombers, and theater strike aircraft.

Myth #6: The fewer nuclear weapons the US has, the better; cutting America’s nuclear deterrent makes America safer.

The facts: These claims are also completely false. No nation in history has become more secure by disarming itself – whether uni-, bi-, or multilaterally. No nation in history has increased its security by indulging in arms reduction and disarmament – such policies have only weakened, and reduced the security of, the  nations practicing them.

Myth #6 is, in fact, an utter rejection of any principle or notion of deterrence or of peace through strength; it turns these principles upside down. Myth #6 is essentially a claim that weakness is good and leads to peace and security; that weakening one’s own military (and that’s what cutting its arsenals of weapons does – it weakens the military) makes one more secure and the world more peaceful.

Many variations of this myth have been uttered by the Left. For example, during the forementioned HASC Strategic Forces Subcommitteee hearing, its ranking member, Democrat Jim Cooper of Tennessee, an ardent enemy of nuclear weapons, claimed that the biggest cut in America’s nuclear deterrent – made by the elder President Bush in the early 1990s – was “a good thing”, that it made America and the world more secure and peaceful, and that this is supposedly shared by the “mainstream” of American opinion. Another strident leftist, John Garamendi (D-CA), claimed that “whatever we can do to cut nuclear arsenals – here, in North Korea, around the world”  is a good thing.

Their claims are blatant lies, of course. As I’ve already stated, no nation in history has become more secure by disarming itself, and America won’t be the first. President Bush’s deep unilateral cut in America’s deterrent is a textbook example of that. He cut the arsenal by almost half, withdrew US nuclear weapons from Korea and from surface warships unilaterally, terminated MX ICBM production and B-2 bomber production at just 21 aircraft, terminated the Midgetman SRBM, and terminated warhead production and testing.

Yet, no one else has reciprocated. Since then, China has dramatically increased its nuclear arsenal – to at least 1,800 and up to 3,000 warheads – while North Korea and Pakistan joined the nuclear club, India and these two countries have conducted nuclear tests, and Iran has made dramatic progress towards nuclear weapon capability. Russia has begun rebuilding and modernizing its arsenal.

So Bush’s deep nuclear cuts only weakened America’s deterrent (and confidence in it) while utterly failing to discourage others from developing or increasing their own arsenals. Two new states have joined the nuclear club, others have conducted tests, and Iran is well on its way there.

That’s because cutting America’s nuclear deterrent DOES NOTHING to prevent or even slow down nuclear proliferation or encourage others to disarm themselves. It is perceived (correctly) as a sign of American weakness and appeasement. It only emboldens America’s enemies while leading America’s allies to doubt the US umbrella. It does NOTHING, and will never do anything, to eliminate or even reduce the arsenals of other powers.

Other nuclear (and aspiring) powers don’t care about America’s “example” or observance of arms control treaties; they care only about their own military strength and see nuclear weapons as a key element of that. America has NO followers on the road to “Global Zero” – which other nuclear powers simply DON’T want to travel. Even Bruce Blair has admitted at 1:04:41 that even if the US totally disarmed itself, NO ONE would follow suit.

Thus, we have refuted all of the 6 most popular leftist lies about nuclear weapons. It is impossible (and not even necessary) to refute all myths that have been made about these crucial instruments of deterrence; and the vast majority of the lies about them fall under one of these 6 categories.

Nuclear weapons are NOT a threat to America’s or the world’s security; on the contrary, they are key to preserving it far into the future. They are irreplaceable instruments of peace and deterrence.

Rebuttal of Sen. Coburn’s defense cuts proposals

Among the deepest, and most destructive, proposals of defense cuts made in recent years are those made by Sen. Tom Coburn in his “Back to Black” pamphlet, which he advertises in his newest book as necessary.

If implemented (God forbid), his proposals would cut over $1 trillion out of the defense budget over the next decade (i.e. over 100 bn every year), and defense would take by far the biggest share of the hits under his plan. All other federal agencies and programs, including the Big Three entitlement programs, would see only small budget cuts by comparison – nothing even comparable to the massacre that Coburn wants to inflict on the military.

While some of his proposals would target and eliminate truly wasteful programs, the majority of his proposals, including those with the biggest budgetary consequences, pertain to crucial, absolutely needed weapon programs and force structures, cuts to which would dramatically weaken, if not outright gut, the US military and its ability to protect America. And that’s not an exaggeration.

Specifically, he proposes to:

To take a few examples:
1) Cut spending on the nuclear arsenal and the arsenal of means of delivery by $7.9 bn per year, i.e. $79 bn over a decade, for purely budgetary reasons, by:
a) cutting the nuclear stockpile down to the inadequate levels allowed by the disastrous New START treaty (former SECDEF James Schlesinger deems them “barely adequate”);
b) cutting the ICBM fleet from 450 to 300 missiles (i.e. by a whopping 200 missiles);
c) cutting the SSBN fleet from from 14 to 11 subs;
d) delaying, again, for purely budgetary reasons, the Next Generation Bomber program until the mid-2020s when it hasn’t even been allowed to begin; and
e) maintaining a reserve stockpile of just 1,100 warheads;
f) cutting the strategic bomber fleet to just 40 aircraft compared to the current 96 nuclear-capable B-2s and B-52s and 66 non-nuclear-capable B-1s.
This is the worst of all his proposals by far. The disastrous New START treaty, which does not cover tactical nuclear weapons (in which Russia has overwhelming advantage), ordered the US to cut its nuclear arsenal to already-inadequate levels, so that Russia could quickly reach strategic nuclear parity with the US while retaining its lead in tactical weapons. Cutting the US nuclear arsenal down to levels authorized by this treaty is a mistake; cutting it further would be an ever bigger mistake; cutting it by a whopping 200 ICBMs, 3 SSBNs, and hundreds of warheads would be an egregious blunder which would make America much less safe and invite a Russian nuclear first strike, as the US would have far fewer ICBMs than Russia has (at least 369, and probably up to 469).
Coburn also proposes to forego any modernization of the deterrent until the mid-2020s, including the dual-role nuclear/conventional strike bomber fleet. A requirement for a Next Generation Bomber  is real and was officially acknowledged by the DOD 5 years ago, in 2006, in that year’s Quadrennial Defense Review. It was later confirmed by the 2010 QDR. It was subsequently acknowledged by DOD leadership, including Secretary Gates, and by the DOD’s 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance.
Also in 2010, the CSBA – which Coburn likes to cite as a source – released a report (authored by retired USAF Colonel Mark Gunzinger, who has participated in all defense reviews to date) stating that an NGB is an urgent requirement which must be met by 2018 at the latest and that consequently, the NGB program must not be delayed any longer.[1] Another CSBA analyst’s report reached the same conclusion in 2009.[2] Successive SECDEFs from Rumsfeld to Panetta have said the same, as have the current CSAF and SECAF, their predecessors, their colleague Adm. Greenert, former LTG David Deptulanumerous former Air Force Secretaries, Chiefs of Staff, Generals, and other officials, and numerous outside experts from the CSBA[1][2][3], Air Power Australia, and the Heritage Foundation. (Please read their studies; they explain very well why the NGB is absolutely needed.) This requirement has also been validated bySecretary Gates, who started the NGB program and said that China’s A2/AD weapons will put a premium on America’s ability to strike from the horizon and require a family of long range strike systems. As Gates rightly said in January 2011:

“It is important that we begin this project now to ensure that a new bomber can be ready before the current aging fleet goes out of service.  The follow on bomber represents a key component of a joint portfolio of conventional deep-strike capabilities – an area that should be a high priority for future defense investment given the anti-access challenges our military faces.”

Delaying/cancelling the NGB would emasculate the USAF, making it (except its small B-2 fleet) unable to operate in anything than very benign, permissive environments where opponents lack meaningful SAM systems, and thus make China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela sanctuaries for America’s enemies, allowing them to husband their assets from harm. It would send a signal to America’s enemies that Washington won’t be able to bomb them.

Delaying, or even worse, cancelling the development of the Next Generation Bomber would cause the Air Force to completely lose its already small (due to the small size of the B-2 fleet) long-range penetrating capability by the time B-2s lose that capability. This, in turn, would cause the USAF to be unable to strike any targets protected by modern IADS and/or fighters, thus creating huge sanctuaries for America’s enemies – a scenario that America cannot accept.

It is therefore imperative to begin the NGB’s development NOW – not a year from today, not in 2023, not in 2024, but NOW – and to complete it BEFORE the B-2 loses its penetrating capability. Especially since it’s the centerpiece of the AirSea Battle strategy of defeating China if need be.

If procured, the NGB will frequently be called into action, as have been the three existing bomber types, which have seen extensive action in the First Gulf War, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. It won’t spend much time in hangar. The demand for USAF bombers vastly outstrips the supply.

AirPowerAustralia’s peer-reviewed analysis shows that:

“Advanced Russian technology exports present a major strategic risk for the US, whether operated by China, or smaller players like Iran or Venezuela. These systems will deny access to most US ISR and combat aircraft, with only the B-2A, the “2018 bomber” and the F-22A designed to penetrate such defences. With its compromised X-band optimised stealth, the F-35 JSF will simply not be survivable in this environment.

The fallback position of standoff bombardment with cruise missiles is not viable. Only a fraction will reach their targets through such defences, and the economics of trading $500k cruise missiles for $100k interceptors, or hundreds of dollars of laser propellant, favour the defender. Time of flight is problematic given the high mobility of air defence targets, and targeting the cruise missiles no less problematic given denial of ISR coverage. (…) Current planning for 180 F-22As and the legacy fleet of 20 B-2As is simply not credible given the diversity of roles and missions, and sheer sortie count required to deal with anything above a trivial opponent.”

Likewise, CSBA expert Thomas Erhard warned in 2009 that without a Next Gen Bomber:

“The proliferation of sophisticated Russian air defense systems means the only US systems that can reliably penetrate and maintain a high survivability rate in the presence of integrated air defenses populated by SA-20B and SA-21 surface-to-air systems and modern Russian or Russian derivative (e.g., Su-35BM) fighters will be the F-22 and the B-2.” [2]

In short, the NGB is absolutely necessary, and the nuclear triad is the last part of the military that should be cut. And for all of these draconian cuts, Coburn would “save” only $7.9 bn per year, whereas my proposals of cutting the DOD’s administration spending alone would save taxpayers well over $10 bn per year. In fact, his proposals would likely not save anything close to what he promises: the entire ICBM leg of the nuclear triad costs only $1.1 bn per year, and the entire bomber leg only $2.5 bn per year, to maintain.
2) Ending the purchases of V-22 Ospreys at no more than 288 aircraft, thus allowing some Marine H-46s to retire unreplaced, and not having the V-22 Osprey as an option for the USAF’s CSARX competition. Buying MH-60s instead. The savings: a meagre $0.6 bn a year, or $6 bn over a decade.
This proposal is just as dumb as the first one. Barring the USAF’s bombers (B-52s, B-1s, and B-2s), there isn’t a single weapon type in America’s inventory that is as combat-proven and as battle-tested as the V-22, which has been widely used in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. It is more survivable, and can fly much farther and faster, than any other rotorcraft in history, and can fly to places where other rotorcraft cannot. When an F-15E was downed in Libya earlier this year, it was a V-22 that rescued its crew. The V-22 is a must-have aircraft type. Orders for it should be increased, not cut. And contrary to Coburn’s claim, it costs only a little more than an MH-60: $67 mn for a V-22 vs at least $44 mn for an MH-60.
Not only are they inferior to it (in terms of speed, range, and survivability), the H-60 is too small, too slow, and too light to do the V-22′s tasks (which include CSAR). These 2 designs represent 2 completely different weight and duty classes of VTOL aircraft and are meant for different duties. Only a totally ignorant person would equate them and suggest they are interchangeable.
The V-22 is an excellent VTOL plane capable of flying twice faster and twice farther than any helicopter. It has served extensively in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. It has amassed over 150,000 flight hours. It is also much more survivable than helicopters – if you crash, you’ll likely survive. Its problems have been solved long ago.

The V-22 is an excellent, unmatched aircraft, as validated unanimously by all USMC leaders past and present, including the current Commandant, who is a Naval Aviator by trade. He, the expert, should be listened to – not anti-defense POGO hacks. It has proven itself in three wars in three different countries – Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. (When an F-15E crashed in Libya, it was a pair of V-22s that rescued the pilots.) It underwent its baptism of fire in Iraq in 2007, during the fiercest fighting there. POGO’s claim that it is “neither cost- nor operationally-effective” is a blatant lie.

And as defense expert Dr. Robbin Laird writes:

“The beauty of the speed of the Osprey is that you can get the Special Operations forces where they need to be and to augment what the conventional forces were doing and thereby take pressure off of the conventional forces. And with the SAME assets, you could make multiple trips or make multiple hits, which allowed us to shape what the Taliban was trying to do.

“The Taliban has a very rudimentary but effective early warning system for counter-air. They spaced guys around their area of interest, their headquarters, etc. Then they would call in on cell or satellite phones to chat or track. It was very easy for them to track. They had names for our aircraft, like the CH-53s, which they called ‘Fat Cows.’

“But they did not talk much about the Osprey because they were so quick and lethal. And because of its speed and range, you did not have to come on the axis that would expect. You could go around, or behind them and then zip in.”

As Dr. Laird rightly writes, the V-22 isn’t just a great performer, it has revolutionized warfare and the way Marines think about it. (Please read his entire article.)

3) Canceling the Marine (STOVL) and Navy (CATOBAR) variants of the F-35, buying F/A-18E/F Super Hornets instead. The saving: a paltry $700 mn per year, i.e. $7 bn per decade.
This proposal, frequently stated by those who wish to cut the defense budget deeply, is fundamentally flawed, because it’s based on two wrong assumptions: a) a Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing variant is not needed; b) the Super Bug is interchangeable with the F-35.
There is clearly a requirement for a STOVL variant, as confirmed by USMC Commandant Gen. James Amos, who is himself a Naval Aviator. He knows the F-35B better than anyone. Coburn’s assumption that a STOVL variant won’t be needed is based on wishful thinking. As for the second assumption: no, the Super Bug is not an alternative to, nor even substitute for, the F-35. It’s basically a redo of the F/A-18 Hornet, a plane that first flew in the 1970s. It can operate only in benign, uncontested airspace.

Super Bug has no such capabilities. Not turning capability, not thrust, not TTW ratio, not speed, not range and combat radius, not stealthiness (and thus survivability), and not weapons possible for integration (the F-35 can, for example, be fitted with Meteor A2A missiles; the Super Bug cannot). And the Super Bug’s combat radius (350 nmi) is DECISIVELY inferior to that of the F-35B (450-500 nmi) and F-35C (650 nmi, making the F-35C the longest-ranged of the 3 F-35 models). Range and endurance are absolutely vital for strike aircraft, as is stealthiness, because it determines survivability, which is key to winning ANY war. If a plane is not survivable, it’s worthless – and that’s exactly true of the Super Bug. And as stated above, stealthiness is necessary for any aircraft due to the proliferation and sophistication of enemy air defense systems.

The “proven” Super Bug, like B-1s and B-52s, has “proven itself” only in permissive environments (Afghanistan and Iraq) where the only opponent is an insurgency unable to contest control of the air. It is useless for any war theaters in which the enemy is a country with advanced IADS and/or fighters. It’s not even fit for any real A2A combat (and has not partaken in any), because it’s not a real fighter, but rather an attack jet, and is decisively inferior against current and projected enemy fighters by all criteria.

And it doesn’t have the STOVL capability required to take off from and land on amphib ships and primitive airfields, which is an absolute non-negotiable USMC requirement, as confirmed by USMC Commandant Gen. Amos. Without the F-35B, the Marines won’t have their own air cover when disembarking from ships and the Nation will lose 50% of its carrier-based strike aircraft fleet when the Harrier retires. Furthermore, cancelling the F-35 would relegate Marine and Naval Aviation solely to COIN environments, emasculating these services and barring them from any contested airspace – the kind of environment American servicemen will face in the future.

Put simply, the Super Bug is not an alternative to, or even a substitute for, the F-35. It’s a facelifted model of an attack jet that first flew in the 1970s. The F-35 is a 21st century strike fighter. Both are strike aircraft with jet engines… and that’s where the similarities end.

4) Retiring the USS George Washington early, cutting the carrier fleet permanently to 10 and cutting the number of carrier air wings from 10 to 9. This would save a paltry $600 mn per year, i.e. $6 bn over a decade, at a large cost to America’s defense.
This would also be reckless. Contrary to Coburn’s claim, during the Cold War, the USN needed – and always had – at least 15 carriers. Throughout the Cold War, the Navy had no fewer than 15 carriers. The flattop fleet was not cut until after the Cold War. In 2007, the Congress reluctantly agreed to cut the carrier fleet from 12 to 11, while simoultaneously writing a well-grounded requirement for at least 11 carriers into law. Last year, the Congress again reluctantly agreed to waive that requirement – but only for two years, from 2013 to 2015, until the USS Gerald R. Ford is commissioned. As studies by the Heritage Foundation have repeatedly shown, the Navy needs no fewer than 11 carriers at any one time. Cutting the carrier fleet and the number of CAWs would be reckless.

With 11 carriers, 7 are operational and 4 are in drydock or in homeport at any one time. 7 is barely enough to provide enough carrier strike groups where they’re needed. CENTCOM’s commander has requested a third carrier group (to deter Iran), which leaves just four for use elsewhere, e.g. in the WestPac.

But if the carrier fleet is cut to 10 (and they’ve suggested cutting it to just 9, by retiring the George Washington and foregoing CVN-80′s construction), no more than 6 carriers will be available for duty at any given time. Assuming that CENTCOM will get the 3 carriers it says it needs, that leaves 3 flattops for duty elsewhere, e.g. in the WestPac. Now, suppose that China starts a war over the oil/gas fields in the South China Sea at the same time that CENTCOM needs to deter (and possibly strike) Iran? That ain’t a farfetched scenario – China is close to provoking a war right now, and the time for eliminating Iran’s nuclear program is running out. [2] Yet, if Coburn gets his way, the Navy would have only 3 carriers to deploy to the WestPac to deter/defeat China… unless you deny CENTCOM the 3 carriers it needs.

Carriers have participated prominently in every war the US has partaken in since WW2: Korea, Vietnam, Operation Eldorado Canyon, the two Gulf Wars, the Afghan War, Bosnia, Kosovo, and the bombing of Libya. There’s a huge demand for them. Without carrier air wings and intercontinental bombers, the US wouldn’t have been able to strike Afghanistan after 9/11.

In short, it would be a deep cut in America’s military strength and capability to defend itself. It epitomizes Coburn’s destructive proposals.

5) Cancelling the Precision Tracking Space Satellite (PTSS) program of the Missile Defense Agency.
This program is necessary to create a constellation of 6 dedicated satellites tracking ballistic missiles, a capability that none of America’s current satellites offer, and only the Army’s AN/APY-2 radars can, which Coburn does not propose to procure.
6) Cutting the total number of troops deployed in Europe and Asia to just 45,000.
While Europe can certainly defend itself on its own, having only one plausible enemy (Russia), this cannot be said of America’s Asian allies. The US can afford to withdraw troops from Europe but not Asia, where any American drawdown would be viewed as a sign of weakness and disengagement, which Sec. Panetta and President Obama have both recently tried to prevent, trying to assure America’s Asian allies that this will not happen. Furthermore, withdrawing units from Asia would deprive them of in-theater bases needed to respond to contingencies (including aggression) such as possible Chinese aggression against its neighbors. Bases and units stationed in Europe are also needed to project power into other theaters. When a Marine unit was dispatched to reinforce the Marines at the US consulate in Benghazi, it came from NS Rota, Spain (which is just a few hours of flight away from Benghazi), NOT from the CONUS.

As Heritage Foundation’s Luke Coffey rightly writes:

“forward basing U.S. troops in Europe is just as important today as it was during the Cold War, albeit for different reasons. U.S. military bases in Europe provide American leaders with increased flexibility, resilience, and options in a dangerous world. The garrisons of American service personnel in Europe are no longer the fortresses of the Cold War, but the forward operating bases of the 21st century.

The U.S. military presence in Europe deters American adversaries, strengthens allies, and protects U.S. interests—the U.S. reduces the number of these troops at its peril. U.S. can project power and react to the unexpected because of its forward-based military capabilities in Europe. Reducing these capabilities will only weaken America on the world stage.”

So Coburn’s proposals would, if implemented, “only weaken America on the world stage.”

7) Using the $100 bn savings that Secretary Gates for deficit reduction, not for military modernization as Sec. Gates wanted and the Services – which worked hard to find these savings – were promised by Gates, President Obama, and the Congress.
These savings were to be used for a number of military modernization programs, including purchases of additional ships, modernization of the Army’s combat vehicles, and the forementioned Next Generation Bomber program. Taking that money away from them and using it to pay the bills for a deficit caused exclusively by runaway civilian spending would not just be dumb, it would be an act of heinous betrayal.
(8) Delay the Ground Combat Vehicle for purely budgetary reasons. The saving: a paltry $700 mn per year, i.e. $7 bn per decade.
For purely budgetary reasons. Do I need to say more?
9) End the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program without replacement, not with a replacement as Sec. Gates proposed.
The decision of Sec. Gates (whom Coburn quotes selectively) to cancel the over-budget, delayed Marine amphibious truck vehicle known as the EFV was the right one. However, as a replacement, Gates proposed starting a new, less complex, less costly amphib program that is scheduled to produce the first amphibious trucks in 2014, so that Gen. Amos can ride in them before he retires in late 2014. As both Gates and Amos have stated, there is a clear requirement for such a vehicle. The USMC’s obsolete, Vietnam War era AAVs must be replaced. Coburn proposes not to replace them.
1o) Cutting DOD weapon RnD spending by 10% in FY2012, then by another 10% in FY2013, and then freezing it for a further 8 fiscal years.
Again, this is motivated purely by budgetary concerns, not military ones. Coburn claims that from FY1981 to FY1988, the DOD received, in constant dollars, $407 bn, and he claims that is only $51 bn per year. He’s wrong, and apparently can’t do simple math. $407 bn divided by seven is $58.142857 bn, i.e. ca. $58.143 bn. He proposes to cut RnD spending to a paltry $58.0 bn and keep it there, even though that is LESS than what was invested during the Reagan era.
On top of that, Coburn proposes to eliminate or cut many expenditures that are outright wasteful or excessive, but rather than reinvest at least a part of them in military modernization, he proposes to use them to pay for a deficit caused exclusively by runaway civilian spending.
In short, Sen. Coburn’s defense cuts proposals, totalling over $1 trillion per decade and $100 bn per year on average, would gut the US military and thus jeopardize national security. For that reason alone, they are absolutely unacceptable.

[1] Mark Gunzinger, Sustaining America’s Advantage in Long Range Strike, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Washington DC, 2010. Available online here.

[2] Thomas Erhard, An Air Force Strategy For the Long Haul, CSBA, Washington DC, 2009, pg. 83.

[3] Robert Haffa and Michael Isherwood, Long Range Conventional Strike: A Joint Family of Systems, Joint Force Quarterly issue #60, 1st quarter of 2011, National Defense University, Washington DC, 2011, available online here.

[4] According to retired LTG David Deptula, the need for a next-gen bomber was validated as early as the 2001 QDR, pointing to anti-access/access-denial threats and to contested airspace in particular. See here.