Representative Weldon, Pentagon Spar over Proposed Nuclear Strategy Commission in DOD Bill
Kucia, Christine, Arms Control Today
THE PENTAGON IS seeking to block an effort by Representative Curt Weldon (R-PA) to form a Commission on Nuclear Strategy, which would offer recommendations on nuclear policy and military requirements to the secretary of defense as well as to both congressional armed services committees. In August, Weldon, the second-ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, lashed out at the Pentagon's decision to oppose his idea and suggested that the Pentagon's action might affect his future support for Department of Defense (DOD) proposals in Congress.
In passing its version of the fiscal year 2004 National Defense Authorization Act, the House of Representatives included a provision for forming the commission. Under the House bill, which was approved May 22, the secretary of defense must appoint 12 members-spanning a range of political, military, and technical expertise in nuclear strategy-in consultation with congressional armed services committee leaders. The group would review nuclear policy, assess a range of nuclear strategies that the United States could pursue in the coming decades, focus on strengthening relations with Russia, and discuss deterrence and military requirements for the nuclear arsenal. The commission analysis would also address the issues of missile defense, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and nuclear weapons development in other countries.
The Senate counterpart, however, contains no such provision, and members from both houses are meeting in a conference committee to reconcile the differences in legislation. The Pentagon informed conference committee members of its opposition on July 23 and pushed for the provision to be dropped from the bill. The stance was part of the "appeals package," in which DOD outlines its positions on various aspects of the authorization bill.
Pentagon officials pointed to the expansive assessment of nuclear strategy and policy that comprised the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which was released in January 2002, and noted that the study took into account all of the requirements that the commission would evaluate. (See ACT, January/February 2002.) In addition, the NPR called for periodic assessments by officials from the Departments of Defense and Energy and the military, the first of which will begin this year. In light of the broad range of research and development programs in the coming decade that the NPR initiated, DOD wrote, "A new review of Nuclear Strategy would therefore be both disruptive and redundant."
The Pentagon's opposition caught Weldon off guard, as shown by an August 14 letter he wrote to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. …