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House Armed Services Committee Republicans slammed the Biden administration for its inaction on America’s aging nuclear stockpile as China and Russia build up their own arsenals.
Ranking member Mike Rogers (R., Ala.) and 22 other Republicans pushed President Joe Biden in a Tuesday letter to retain and upgrade key pieces of America’s nuclear weapons technology, saying that failing to do so would mark a “fatal” mistake for America’s national security.
“[Nuclear weapon advancement] is the bedrock of our national defense and our allies and partners rely on our nuclear deterrent to maintain peace and order,” the letter reads. “It would be a fatal and strategic mistake for us to lose or degrade that capability.”
The letter comes as House Republicans organize a new effort to maintain high levels of defense spending enacted under the Trump administration. The left flank of the Democratic caucus has called for major cuts to the defense budget by the Biden administration in favor of an ambitious domestic spending agenda. Democrats are advocating cuts even as China and Russia press on with plans to beat out the United States in high-tech nuclear weapons.
The push from House Republicans is also receiving support from Senate colleagues. Senate Armed Services Committee member Sen. Deb Fischer (R., Neb.) echoed concerns from her colleagues that nuclear advancement should be a top priority for the Biden administration.
“After decades of deferment we cannot afford to delay modernizing our nuclear forces any further,” Fischer told the Washington Free Beacon. “The investments are necessary to prevent our systems from aging to the point where they are unable to function. Russia and China are also investing heavily in their nuclear forces, and it is vital that our deterrent remains credible and effective in the face of these growing threats.”
Some estimates show that China could double its own stockpile of nuclear warheads in the next decade. Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) said in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in March that China could soon reach “nuclear overmatch” with the United States.
Russia also shows no signs in slowing down its nuclear ambitions. The Biden administration’s New START arms-control treaty failed to curb Russia’s ability to produce tactical nuclear weapons, and Moscow continues to grow its nuclear program apace.
As a senator, Biden often underplayed America’s need for a strong nuclear posture. In 2001, Biden led a chorus of critics against President George W. Bush’s nuclear plans and called for curbing the expansion of America’s nuclear stockpile on the campaign trail.
In office, Biden’s early record appears little different on the issue. His Interim National Security Strategic Guidance from March guides the Pentagon to “reduce” the role of nuclear weapons in America’s national security strategy and engage in dialogue with Russia and China on the issue.
When asked about the guidance’s aim to deemphasize the role of nuclear weapons, a senior administration official told the Free Beacon that Biden’s agenda “places more emphasis on creating a more stable and secure environment through arms control, treaties, partnerships and leadership rather than through military power alone” but “does not diminish the importance of a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent.”
Tim Morrison, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and former arms-control adviser for the National Security Council, said the Biden administration should not buck the bipartisan consensus that America needs better nuclear firepower.
“There is a bipartisan consensus for the Obama-Trump plan to modernize the U.S. nuclear deterrent,” Morrison told the Free Beacon. “Our military and civilian national security leadership have been clear and consistent: There is no margin for delay left. A Biden Administration that has set out to be unifying should embrace that bipartisan national security plan.”
The Pentagon did not immediately return a request for comment.