Defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel claimed Thursday he is “committed to modernizing our nuclear arsenal” in his Senate confirmation hearing opening remarks, the first of several direct contradictions to his nuclear weapons record.
Hagel was one of the five members of the Global Zero Nuclear Policy Commission, which advocated eliminating all nuclear weapons and making unilateral strategic arms cuts.
“The position of Global Zero–my position,” Hagel said later in response to a question posed by Sen. James Inhofe (R., Okla.), “has never been unilateral disarmament ever. Never.”
But Global Zero called on the U.S. to cut its nuclear warhead supply to 900 strategic weapons by 2022 and eliminate all land-based ICBMs.
Global Zero also termed the modernization of nuclear “costly” and said that process could be “restructured and downsized.”
Under a portion of the Global Zero report entitled, “Key Implications and 10-Year Implementing Strategy,” the group argues:
As a consequence, thousands of warheads in the lEP pipeline could be retired instead of refurbished. Also, the costly modernization of the nuclear complex currently underway – particularly the PF-4 and the CMRR-NF plutonium facilities at los Alamos and the UPF uranium facility at Y-12 Oak Ridge – can be restructured and downsized, depending on the balance of warhead refurbishment, reuse and/or replacement that emerges from a future review by the National Nuclear Security Agency (NNSA) and the U.S. Strategic Command. These agencies would need to consider eighty (80) percent cuts in the stockpile and determine an optimal strategy for improving surety, reliability, adaptability and maintenance at greatly reduced numbers of weapons.
Hagel insisted “nothing was ever suggested on a unilateral basis to take down our arsenal,” responding to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.), who challenged Hagel at length on the group’s report.
The report actually recommends the possibility of unilateral and unreciprocated U.S. deep force reductions to minimum deterrence levels.
To counter Hagel’s claim, Sessions then read statements made on the first page of the report.
“These steps could be taken with Russia in unison through reciprocal presidential directives, negotiated in another round of bilateral arms reduction talks, or implemented unilaterally,” Sessions read.