DOD Official Outlines U.S. Nuclear Deterrence Strategy

There is broad, bipartisan support for the modernization of the nuclear triad, which includes bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarines and the systems that control them, a Defense Department expert said.

There is broad, bipartisan support for the modernization of the nuclear triad, which includes bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarines and the systems that control them, a Defense Department expert said.

Robert Soofer, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy, also said support is more divided for the creation of W76-2, which is a class of low-yield, tactical nuclear warhead that is different from those in the nuclear triad. An example would be a submarine-launched ballistic missile nuclear warhead.

To understand the divide over support for W76-2, one must have an understanding of the two schools of thought on the best approach to nuclear deterrence, Soofer told the Air Force Association Mitchell Institute’s Nuclear Deterrence Forum today.

Each school of thought has its advocates, including members of Congress, interest groups and think tanks, he noted.

The first school of thought is known as simple nuclear deterrence, sometimes referred to as minimum deterrence. The thought is that deterrence is best achieved with a limited number of nuclear weapons that, for example, could destroy a certain number of an adversary’s cities, Soofer said. The viability of the deterrence is created by an adversary’s fear of uncontrolled nuclear escalation.

The second school of thought is known as complex nuclear deterrence. This recognizes that nuclear deterrence can be more complicated, requiring an understanding of the adversary and various scenarios that could play out, he said. This strategy also pays close attention to the nuclear balance and places a premium on ensuring the survivability of nuclear forces that can threaten the adversary. 

The complex nuclear deterrence approach has been the basis of U.S. nuclear policy since about the 1960s, and it rests on presenting the president with a number of options and capabilities — particularly in a regional conflict — that would deter Russia’s nuclear use in any scenario, he said.

This is particularly important since Russia has expanded its nuclear capability, and has espoused a doctrine of limited first use, meaning the use of low-yield tactical nuclear warheads, Soofer said.

Having W76-2 capability demonstrates to Russia that the U.S. has taken practical steps to ensure that adversaries can derive no benefit from even limited nuclear use, he said.

There is a very high bar that must be met before the president, who is the only one who can order the use of nuclear weapons, will contemplate the use of W76-2 warhead, or any other nuclear weapon for that matter, Soofer said.

Having a range of nuclear weapons capabilities not only deters nuclear attacks, but it also deters large-scale conventional and biological and chemical attacks and reassures allies and partners, he said.

That is why the U.S. has not adopted a “no use first” policy when it comes to using nuclear weapons, he said, adding that circumstance for first use would have to be extreme, meaning to defend the vital interest of the U.S., allies and partners.

The objectives of the U.S. nuclear strategy are two-fold, he said. “First and foremost is to deter war, both conventional and nuclear; second, should nuclear deterrence fail, [is] to deter further nuclear use and hopefully bring the war to an end before the worst imaginable nuclear catastrophe unfolds.”

Therefore, the U.S. nuclear strategy doesn’t rely solely on massive and immediate attacks against an adversary, he said, though the U.S. maintains this capability to deter adversaries from contemplating a first strike against the United States. “Massive attacks would represent the failure of our nuclear strategy. Rather, our nuclear strategy as articulated in the [2018] Nuclear Posture Review calls for tailored deterrence with flexible capabilities, including an appropriate mix of nuclear capability and limited, graduated response options — something administrations over the last six decades have valued,” Soofer said.

In sum, U.S. nuclear strategy is one of resolve and restraint, he said. “Our limited use of nuclear weapons in response to a Russian or Chinese attack is intended to demonstrate resolve, convincing the adversary that it has really miscalculated when it contemplated the use of nuclear weapons.”

The strategy also communicates restraint, sending a message to the adversary that it has much more to lose if it continues down the path of nuclear escalation, he said.

Blogs to Follow: (September 2020)  DOD Official Outlines U.S. Nuclear Deterrence Strategy

DOD Proposes Removing More than 11,000 Troops From Germany

The United States will bring some American service members home from their forward stationed assignments in Germany, while other service members will move to other locations in Europe to improve the commitment to NATO and the defense of Europe, Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said, adding that the proposed changes are firmly in line with the National Defense Strategy.

The United States will bring some American service members home from their forward stationed assignments in Germany, while other service members will move to other locations in Europe to improve  the commitment to NATO and the defense of Europe, Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said, adding that  the proposed changes are firmly in line with the National Defense Strategy.

The plan is for U.S. European Command to reposition 11,900 personnel who are currently stationed in Germany to other locations, Esper said during a news conference today at the Pentagon. The move will reduce the number of U.S. military personnel in Germany from about 36,000 to 24,000. Repositioning could begin in weeks, he said, adding that with 24,000 American service members, Germany would still host the highest number of U.S. troops of any nation in NATO.

About 5,600 service members being moved out of Germany will stay within Europe. They will be moved to other NATO nations, Esper said. An additional 6,400 personnel will return to the United States, though Esper said this will not mean less support of NATO allies, because instead of having permanently stationed forces in Germany, other military units will begin rotational deployments farther east on the continent in more strategic locations, such as near the Black Sea region.

”Our aim is to implement these moves as expeditiously as possible consistent with the principles I set forth from the beginning, particularly being fair to, and taking care of our service members and their families,” the secretary said. ”We could see some moves begin within weeks. Others will take longer. As anyone can see, the repositioning of our forces in Europe constitutes a major strategic and positive shift, wholly in line with the NDS and consistent with other adjustments the United States has made within NATO in previous times.”

Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters, commander of U.S. European Command and NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe, spelled out some of the specific movements planned for forces in Europe.

The Eucom headquarters and the associated U.S. Special Operations Command-Europe headquarters, for example, would move from Germany to Mons, Belgium, where they would be located with Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe.

”This will improve the speed and clarity of our decision-making and promote greater operational alignment,” Wolters said, adding that a similar relocation could happen for U.S. Africa Command headquarters and the associated U.S. Special Operations Command-Africa, though no new location has been determined.

Wolters also said Eucom intends to reposition three brigade-sized headquarters, an air defense artillery battalion, and an engineering battalion to Belgium from Germany, as well as move two smaller support and contracting organizations to Italy. He said the 52nd Civil Engineering Squadron, an Air Force unit, could be one of the first to move. The plan is to put that unit in Italy.

Eucom also proposes relocating an F-16 fighter squadron and elements of a fighter wing to Italy. Esper said the move will put those units closer to the Black Sea region, better enabling them to support NATO in the southeast.

”The proposal to reposition forces back to [the United States], … with respect to the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, will allow those units to regain maximum U.S. at-home-station readiness and more effectively support global contingencies while still maintaining a keen focus on Europe,” Wolters said.

There are also plans to rotate forward the lead element of the Army’s 5th Corps headquarters to Poland, Esper said, contingent on Warsaw signing a defense cooperation agreement. There may also be other opportunities to move additional forces into Poland and the Baltics, the general said.

”This rebalance, consistent with the NDS, will align NATO and Eucom capabilities, better distribute forces across Europe and increase the use of rotational forces, thus bolstering our commitment to Europe,” said Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. ”It enhances deterrence and improves operational flexibility. Repositioning our forces and making consolidations will provide General Wolters, as the commander, increased ability to dynamically employ his force. This effort will increase opportunities to partner with and strengthen our bond with allies and partners in the region. It will also require additional planning and consultation with our allies.”

Blogs to Follow: (July 2020) DOD Proposes Removing More than 11,000 Troops From Germany

Defense Officials Express Agreement With President’s Warning to Iran

Defense Department officials are in full agreement with President Donald J. Trump’s warning to the Iranian regime on Twitter, senior Pentagon officials said on Wednesday.

The Iranian regime has a history of harassing U.S. vessels operating in the Persian Gulf. In the past, small, quick Iranian boats have charged at U.S. ships in international waters.

The president tweeted, “I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea.”

“The president issued an important warning to the Iranians,” Deputy Defense Secretary David L. Norquist said during a Pentagon news conference today. “What he was emphasizing is all of our ships retain the right of self-defense, and people need to be very careful in their interactions to understand the inherent right of self-defense.” 

The president’s tweet does not signal a new policy, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, as U.S. forces in any environment retain the right to defend themselves. “Every ship that deploys in harm’s way has the inherent right of self-defense,” Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten told reporters. “What that means is if we see a hostile act, if we see hostile intent, we have the right to respond, up to and including lethal force.”

Hyten warned Iran that, if threatened, U.S. commanders “will respond with overwhelming lethal force.” 

Norquist said Trump was responding to Iran’s poor behavior. “He is emphasizing and warning them about the challenges of what they will create,” the deputy secretary said. “I think it was a very useful thing that he put out, and I think it’s an important thing for other people to understand and take very seriously.”

Hyten emphasized that he thinks it is a good thing that the president warned an adversary. He said that if the Iranians want to go down that path, “we will come, and we will come large.” (April 2020)Defense Officials Express Agreement With President’s Warning to Iran

DOD partners with defense industry to mitigate impacts from COVID-19, Contractor dies

Lt. Col. Mike Andrews, Department of Defense spokesman said on Sunday, “The Department continues to aggressively partner with the defense industry to mitigate impacts from COVID-19.”

Under Secretary of Defense Ellen Lord’s Acquisition and Sustainment leaders in Industrial Policy, Defense Pricing and Contracting, Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), and the Defense Contracting Management Agency (DCMA) have made significant progress this week in addressing specific concerns outlined by defense industry leaders.

During the 4 daily COVID-19 update calls with defense industry associations leaders this week, led by Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Policy Ms. Jennifer Santos, several key concerns identified by industry included 1) critical defense contractor workforce ability to continue working; 2) ensuring cash flow to the defense industrial base; and 3) getting standardized guidance out to industry.

On Friday the Department issued two memos that address all three concerns.

After working closely with the Hill and the Department of Homeland Security, Under Secretary Lord issued a Defense Industrial Base Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce memo that defined essentiality in the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) workforce, ensuring the defense industrial base’s critical employees can continue working.

The memo also reiterated her commitment to the safety of the workforce and support of the national security mission.

In addition, on Friday Mr. Kim Herrington, Director of Defense Pricing and Contracting, issued a Deviation on Progress Payments memo, which stated that once in contracts, the progress payment rate that contracts can get paid for will increase from 80% of cost to 90% for large businesses and from 90% to 95% for small businesses.

This is an important avenue where industry cash flow can be improved.

DCMA will work on mass modifications to contracts where applicable (vs one by one) using DCMA authorities. In addition, the Department is accelerating payments through several means to prime contracts and directing prime contracts to expedite payments to subcontractors.

Vice Admiral David Lewis, DCMA Director, has worked closely with the contracting workforce and the Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) to ensure that invoices are continuing to be paid in a timely manner.

On Friday, the Acquisition and Sustainment Small Business Office reached out to defense industry small businesses, and is working with the Small Business Administration and their small business emergency loan program to help protect these companies.

The Department is fully engaged with the inter-agency to leverage the Defense Production Act to help reinforce critical elements of the DIB. It is especially important to understand that during this crisis the DIB is vulnerable to adversarial capital, we need to ensure companies stay in business without losing their technology. The Department will be discussing this in more detail next week.

Under Secretary Lord remains grateful for the productive discussions with the defense industry associations, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Hill and State leaders. She’s especially proud of the incredible efforts of Department leaders and contracting officers across the nation who are helping ensure a secure, reliable and resilient Defense Industrial Base.”

In related news, the Department of Defense sadly reported that a Crystal City-based contractor, who worked at the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, passed away on March 21, 2020.

The individual had tested positive for COVID-19 and had been under medical treatment at a local hospital. Our condolences go out to his family, friends and co-workers and we thank the medical professionals who worked to save his life in the face of this virus.

The spaces in DSCA where the individual worked have been cleaned in accordance with CDC guidance when he tested positive and the person’s co-workers have been teleworking.

The Department remains committed to protecting our service members, their families, and our civilian co-workers. (March 2020) Partnering With the U.S. Defense Industrial Base to Combat COVID-19; DOD Announces Death of Contractor

DOD Officials Explain New Coronavirus Domestic Travel Restrictions

Defense officials announced restrictions on domestic travel yesterday for service members, Defense Department employees and family members in response to the new coronavirus, or COVID-19.

Deputy Defense Secretary David L. Norquist signed a memorandum halting all domestic travel, to include permanent changes of station and temporary duty travel. The ban is in effect from March 16 to May 11, 2020.

Officials speaking on background said the new memo said that service members will only be authorized local leave only.

The ban is in addition to restrictions on all DOD military and civilian personnel and their families traveling to, from, or through areas for which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued a Level 3 Travel Health Notice. That policy also stops PCS and TDY travel through May.

There are exceptions for hardship, mission essential and humanitarian travel, but those exceptions must be approved. Domestic travel for medical treatment is excluded from the ban. 

There are 10 service members who have tested positive for COVID-19. One DOD civilian and two DOD contractors have the virus, as do eight family members, officials said. There are 13 DOD laboratories that can test samples for the virus.

The officials said the new policy is aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus. Each day tens of thousands of service members and DOD civilians are traveling. This ”strategic pause” is ”the best and safest route” to slowing the spread of the virus, they said.

The Pentagon reservation is also taking actions and raised the health protection condition in the building and associated properties to Bravo. This means all tours of the building are cancelled. Starting March 16, offices in the building will go on minimum manning, with vast numbers of employees teleworking.

Offices in the building will have rotating staffs and ”red and blue” teams. Those employees who require access to classified information to do their mission-essential tasks will work from the building, officials said.

The Pentagon will restrict access to employees with swipe card access, and will restrict international visitors. ”We are also restricting access of Pentagon officials who have been overseas in one of the CDC-defined Level 3 or 2 countries,” officials said on background. 

As of today, the Level 3 countries are: China, Iran, South Korea, Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City.

Personnel who return from these countries will be required to self-isolate for 14 days before being allowed back to work, officials said.

Pentagon officials are also closing employee fitness centers and said they are looking at other measures to lessen the chances of transmission. (March, 2020) DOD Officials Explain New Coronavirus Domestic Travel Restrictions