News and Analysis:
Anti-nuclear policymakers in the Biden administration have drawn bipartisan condemnation as Congress voted to reverse the Pentagon’s plan to eliminate nuclear warheads and launch cruise missiles at sea.
The Senate Armed Services Committee last week approved $25 million for the cruise missile, known as the SLCM-N, which will be cancelled under the Pentagon’s most recent nuclear posture review. The House Armed Services Committee met Wednesday to mark its version of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2023, approving $45 million for new cruise missiles.
Rep. Jim Cooper, a Tennessee Democrat and chairman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, said the funds are needed to “keep the program warm” and give the military the option to build missiles in the future. The funding discrepancy will be resolved in a future House and Senate meeting.
Navy officials had previously announced plans to scrap the SLCM-N because of the cost and the time it would take to build and deploy it. Killing the missiles would save about $200 million this year and $2.1 billion over five years, administration officials said.
However, Mr Cooper said Admiral Michael Gill, chief of naval operations, now supports keeping the SLCM-N.
A new cruise missile with a low-yield nuclear warhead will replace the nuclear-armed Tomahawk cruise missile that was rejected during the Obama administration.
A 2019 Pentagon study concluded that SLCM-N is needed to counter rapidly expanding Chinese and Russian militaries that could use less powerful nuclear weapons to undermine regional deterrence.
The study says SLCM-N will be “capable of proportional, differentiated responses based on survivable, regionally present platforms with the necessary range, penetration, and effectiveness to put key adversary targets at risk. middle.”
Proponents argue the missile would “give an adversary pause” in a crisis and provide the president with broader options for deterring a nuclear conflict. The missile will also enhance deterrence against U.S. allies.
Congressional efforts to protect SLCM-N have the strong support of Gen. Charles Richard, Commander of Strategic Command, and Gen. Christopher Grady, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. At a Senate hearing on May 4, the admirals testified that the Pentagon’s Joint Requirements Oversight Committee confirmed the need for SLCM-N.
Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, said cruise missiles would help maintain deterrence “below the level of mass response.”
“A non-ballistic, low-yield, non-treaty accountability system, available without visible power generation, would be very valuable,” said Adm. Richard, referring to the SLCM-N deployed on attack submarines.
Admiral Richard said that missiles are one of his priorities for which he does not have funding as part of the multi-billion dollar modernization of the nuclear force currently underway. Both he and Admiral Grady said continuing to build cruise missiles was their best military advice.
“There are various [concept of operations] The Navy could use the SLCM-N on nuclear-powered submarines,” Admiral Richard said. The missile would also provide the president with another tool to dissuade adversaries from using nuclear weapons, he said.
“My recommendation for SLCM-N, for example, is not to restart the nuclear posture review,” Admiral Richard said. “It’s based on the conditions we’re in today.”
Undersecretary of Defense for Space Policy John Plum told the Senate panel that the nuclear posture review called for the cancellation of the SLCM-N as well as an air-delivered nuclear bomb called the B83-1. The cuts are based on an executive policy of “reducing the role of nuclear weapons and re-establishing our leadership in arms control.”
“We will continue to emphasize strategic stability, seek to avoid a costly arms race and, where possible, promote de-risking arms control arrangements,” he said.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, said she favors killing SLCM-N. “Low-yield nuclear weapons launched from ships replicate the capabilities we already have and disrupt the Navy’s conventional missions,” she said.
Pentagon spokesman Oscar P. Seara said it would be inappropriate for the Defense Department to comment on pending legislation. But he said the current budget request for the nuclear force showed the government’s support for modernizing the force “to ensure a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent”.
Sino-Russian warships near Japan before RIMPAC exercise
Chinese and Russian warships have stepped up their activities in the western Pacific as U.S. and allied naval forces prepare for the world’s largest naval war exercise, Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC).
The latest biannual exercise will include naval forces from all four “quad” nations – the United States, Japan, India and Australia – as well as many countries that have territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea.
A total of 26 navies will participate in exercises near Hawaii and Southern California from June 29 to August 4. According to the Navy, the exercise will include 38 surface ships, four submarines, ground forces from nine countries, more than 170 aircraft and 25,000 troops.
Japan’s Defense Ministry announced last week that it had detected and tracked Russian and Chinese warships passing near Japan. Seven Russian navy ships sailed off the Izu Islands, south of Tokyo, last week, the ministry said in a statement, with Japanese troops on alert for increased Russian and Chinese activity near its territory.
Two Chinese guided-missile destroyers were also spotted in the Sea of Japan after passing through the Tsushima Strait off the island of Kyushu. The ships sailed through the Soya Strait into the Sea of Okhotsk.
The Russian Navy has identified two destroyers and warships, Marshal Shaposhnikov and Admiral Panteleyev. State media said the ships carried out operations involving air defense, anti-submarine warfare and cooperation with aircraft from Russia’s Pacific Fleet.
Japanese officials identified the Chinese warships as the Lhasa and Chengdu, as well as the supply ship Dongpinghu. A Chinese navy reconnaissance ship, a Dongdiao-class ship, was also found near other warships, according to the Japanese Defense Ministry.
The strengthening of naval activities by China and Russia comes as U.S. Navy and regional allied warships sail from Guam to Hawaii on their way to the Pacific Rim.
China has sent spy ships near Hawaii to monitor naval exercises in the past and is expected to do so during the latest Rim of the Pacific exercise.
The theme of this year’s RIMPAC is “capable, adaptable partners,” the Navy said.
“Participating nations and forces will exercise a wide range of capabilities and demonstrate the inherent flexibility of maritime forces,” the statement said. “These capabilities range from disaster relief and maritime security operations to maritime control and complex operations.”
China mass surveillance details
Chinese police and security forces are expanding mass, high-tech surveillance of the country’s 1.4 billion people, internal documents obtained by The New York Times show.
According to the newspaper, more than 100,000 tender documents obtained by online group ChinaFile show that Beijing plans to collect large amounts of population data, including male DNA samples that can be used to control the population.
The report also revealed how the Ministry of Public Security, the political police agency, installed cellphone surveillance devices across the country that could intercept and gain access to the personal information of millions of cellphone users.
“Chinese police analyze human behavior to ensure facial recognition cameras capture as much activity as possible,” the report said, adding that “more than half of the world’s nearly 1 billion surveillance cameras are in China.”
In addition to DNA sample collection and phone espionage, China uses cameras and software to recognize facial recognition as people walk on public streets. Up to 2.5 billion face images are stored in the database.
The cameras are located on streets and inside buildings, including U.S.-owned hotels, and provide police with personal information online.
“The cameras also feed data into powerful analytics software that can tell someone’s race, gender, and whether they’re wearing glasses or a mask,” the report said. “All of this data is aggregated and stored on government servers.”
Other tools include collecting DNA, iris scan samples and voiceprints “collected indiscriminately from people not related to the crime,” the report said.
The documents show that the Ministry of Public Security is working to better analyze the vast amount of data collected by the system.
— Connect with Bill Gertz on Twitter at @BillGertz.