Jens Stoltenberg and John Hyten (copy)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, left, speaks with U.S. Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, on the missile deck in front of StratCom headquarters in 2018. During his visit, Stoltenberg toured the command's global operations center and participated in discussions with Hyten and others on the U.S. commitment to NATO.

The writer, president and CEO of Omaha Public Power District, is active with the Strategic Command Consultation Committee, the Offutt Advisory Council and the Nebraska Military Support Committee. He was appointed to the U.S. Air Force Civic Leaders Program by the Air Force chief of staff in 2018.

China is modernizing and adding to its nuclear arsenal. In recent years, Russia has prioritized modernizing its nuclear weapons, increasing range, accuracy and the number of delivery systems. North Korea is advancing its nuclear weapon capabilities and its long-range missiles. All are aimed at the United States or our allies.

Let us be realistic and see the world as it is. We are behind in nuclear modernization.

For 25 years, the United States has delayed modernizing the three legs of its nuclear deterrent. It is essential we modernize our air, land and sea nuclear forces to guarantee our safety and security by regaining technological superiority over China and Russia. Nuclear deterrence is the foundation of our national defense.

We can no longer kick the can down the road. The United States has extended our current nuclear weapons, strategic platforms, nuclear command and control systems and supporting infrastructure, well beyond their intended service life. But we must replace them with modernized systems now.

In our backyard, the new $1.3 billion U.S. Strategic Command facility is critical to the nuclear command, control and communications operations of our nuclear triad and national defense. This new facility, scheduled to become operational this fall, is more than a new building. It is a strategic weapons system that will provide Offutt Air Force Base and U.S. Strategic Command with the capability to maintain and improve our nuclear triad superiority. Additionally, the recent March floods resulted in the need for more than $420 million in supplemental funding to repair damage to this strategically important joint base.

The bottom line is: Nuclear deterrence works.

Nuclear weapons and our triad delivery system of bombers, ballistic missile submarines and intercontinental ballistic missiles remain the bedrock of deterrence. How do we know deterrence works? No one has used a nuclear weapon in 75 years.

If deterrence should ever fail, we must maintain a nuclear force that is modern, ready, reliable, responsive and large enough to withstand an enemy nuclear attack. And we must retain enough surviving nuclear force to deliver a decisive response that eliminates an enemy’s ability to strike again. Credible nuclear deterrence communicates to our adversaries that their losses would be so devastating that it outweighs the risk of attacking us.

This is about protecting our homeland, our allies and our way of life. To help prevent nuclear proliferation, the United States provides “nuclear umbrella” protection to over 30 allied countries with whom we have treaties, including NATO members Japan, South Korea and Australia. As a global leader, we help protect the free world from dangerous adversaries.

Can we afford to modernize? A Congressional Budget Office report, “Projected Costs of U.S. Nuclear Forces from 2019 to 2028,” estimates the Department of Defense needs to invest $326 billion annually over the next 10 years to modernize the nuclear triad. That is a lot of money. But it is only 6.4% of the defense budget at its peak, 3% for most defense budgetary years and less than 1% of our total federal budget.

Effective strategic deterrence that ensures the defense of our nation and our allies is, in fact, affordable. We need to let our senators and representatives in Congress know nuclear modernization is vitally important to our country.

We need our nuclear force to be safe, secure, ready and reliable. We need to modernize it now to reduce vulnerability to nuclear war, while maximizing adversary vulnerability. With strong, credible nuclear deterrence, we can continue to secure our nation, protect our allies and prevent the world’s most destructive weapons from ever being used again.

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