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U.S. Conventional Prompt Global Strike: Issues for 2008 and Beyond B Letter from Senators Inouye and Stevens
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U.S. Conventional Prompt Global Strike: Issues for 2008 and Beyond February 16, 2007 Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone President National Academy of Sciences 500 Fifth Street Room NAS 215 Washington DC 20001 Dear Dr. Cicerone: We appreciate that the Academy of Sciences is proceeding to examine the conventional Trident missile in response to the funding and guidance included in the FY 2007 Defense Appropriations Act. In its deliberation on the bill, the Senate eliminated the budget request for research and development of the conventional Trident program. While proponents of the program sought to restore funding for the program, they were defeated on a vote of 67-31. We would like to share our views on the reasons why the Senate took this position, and the ultimate conference outcome. The Administration recommended funding to establish a conventional Trident program to afford the President an option to attack targets quickly without resorting to nuclear weapons. We understand the Trident option was selected because the Administration placed a self imposed requirement to deploy this capability within 24 months. While we agree finding alternatives to resorting to nuclear weapons is a worthy goal, the congress has not specifically endorsed the mission of prompt global strike – and certainly not with a timeline of 24 months. We were advised by several current and former military leaders who questioned whether prompt global strike was a valid concept given the actual state of our targeting capability and intelligence resources. Moreover some bristled at the notion that the Trident submarine would be the preferred platform for a prompt global strike if the mission were approved.
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U.S. Conventional Prompt Global Strike: Issues for 2008 and Beyond As we discussed this with our Senate colleagues it became apparent that there was widespread, but not universal, agreement that the Congress should not proceed with the conventional Trident program. Some of our colleagues opposed any program, while others believed that a land based alternative, or perhaps an air based option, would be preferable to the Trident. Critical to the opposition was a belief that the Trident option proposed the most difficult challenges of ambiguity. The proponents argued that a Trident missile could be easily retrofitted to provide a very quick strike option. However, the fact that one would not be able to differentiate between a conventional missile launch and a nuclear missile launch from a Trident submarine was viewed with particular concern by those of us who opposed the program. Moreover, while the Defense Department had reviewed the matter internally and had directed reviews by others, we believed the Congress needed a truly independent study to examine the manifold issues involved in the decision to proceed with the prompt global strike mission and in particular the conventional Trident missile option. We recommended the National Academy of Sciences conduct such a study because of our belief that the Academy could provide a review completely independent of the views and desires of the Defense Department. The conference agreement on the FY 2007 Defense Appropriations bill ratified most of the recommendations of the Senate. The conferees agreed that questions remain about the conventional Trident missile and that and independent study would be advisable. In a change from the Senate position, the conferees agreed that $20 million should be made available to continue to study – and develop – technologies which might be used in a prompt global strike mission, to the extent that the Congress ultimately decides to approve such a plan. However, the conferees insisted that the funds should not be used to develop projects which were only for the Trident option.
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U.S. Conventional Prompt Global Strike: Issues for 2008 and Beyond We hope the information that we have provided here is helpful to the Academy in framing the issue. We look forward to working with you as you proceed. Please let us know if there is additional information we could provide to you on this matter. Sincerely,