WASHINGTON — Two key House Armed Services Committee Democrats are saying President Donald Trump’s newly drafted nuclear weapons strategy will feed an international arms race and increase the risk of a catastrophic nuclear war.
HASC ranking member Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., said Wednesday the strategy would add to the “completely unreasonable” $1.2 trillion price tag for modernizing the nation’s nuclear arsenal.
“A nuclear posture that implements the President’s view that his nuclear button is ‘bigger and more powerful’ is short-sighted and ill-advised,” Smith said in a statement. “How President Trump plans to pay for these programs remains a mystery.”
Smith’s remark is a play on Trump’s recent Twitter boast in the war of words between the president and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The Pentagon’s Nuclear Posture Review is expected to be released next week. But a leaked draft called for investments in low-yield, tactical nuclear weapons, and lawmakers received a classified briefing Tuesday.
Smith said the strategy would draw scarce resources from conventional war-fighting needs.
“The administration’s recommendations will not increase our security — they will instead feed a nuclear arms race, undermine strategic stability by lowering the threshold for nuclear use, and increase the risk of miscalculation that could precipitate a nuclear war,” Smith said.
California Democratic Rep. John Garamendi, a consistent voice for nuclear restraint on the HASC, saw the nuclear strategy, coupled with the recent National Defense Strategy, as goading Russia and China into a new level of nuclear arms race.
Reconciling costly nuclear modernization efforts with a Republican-led tax cut estimated to cost $1.5 trillion in revenue, Garamendi said, would create “serious competition for money within the Department of Defense — and between the department, the State Department and [the Department of] Homeland Security.”
“Tax cuts were more important,” Garamendi told Defense News on Wednesday.
The better alternative, said Garamendi, would be to strengthen America’s alliances, its economy, international trade and diplomacy with Russia and China. He also questioned the National Defense Strategy’s de-emphasis of counterterrorism.
“To take our eyes off of terrorism is a mistake,” Garamendi said.
Joe Gould is the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He served previously as Congress reporter.