The top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee is pressuring the Biden administration to limit upgrades to the nuclear arsenal that military brass and experts consider vital.
Armed Services chairman Adam Smith (Wash.) on Monday sent a letter to the White House that asks President Biden to reduce the United States' nuclear arsenal as he considers the 2023 defense budget.
"When asked about the requirements for all of these systems, the Department of Defense quickly points to Russian and Chinese investment in nuclear weapons, which I fear leads us down the path to a newly invigorated and very dangerous arms race," Smith wrote. "The last decade has taught us, painfully, that we cannot afford to continue adding new requirements, capabilities, and platforms, and expect that they will be delivered on time and within budget."
While Smith has said he will not oppose upgrades to Vietnam-era ground-based nuclear missiles, he has consistently advocated for defense cuts. Smith's letter gives support to far-left Democrats who aim to curb the United States' nuclear arsenal, even as China and Russia grow their stockpiles at rapid speeds. The Washington Free Beacon reported in July that a cadre of Senate Democrats led by Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Jeff Merkley (Ore.) are lobbying the White House to reverse course on upgrades to land-based missiles that experts consider crucial.
Smith also called for the president to consider a "no first use" policy, a commitment that the United States will refrain from a nuclear strike on an adversary unless the adversary has already deployed that weapon. Whether adversaries will abide by such a policy appears to be an open question. Chinese propaganda videos disseminated in July threaten that Beijing will end its "no first use" policy and launch a nuclear strike on Japan if the country comes to the aid of Taiwan.
The letter comes in an increasingly unstable security environment. Commercial satellite images released this year show that China constructed two separate fields that together hold more than 200 nuclear missiles. Russia, meanwhile, is developing a massive nuclear arsenal, with the world's heaviest ballistic missile slated for service by 2022.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R., Ala.), the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, thinks reducing the nuclear arsenal is a mistake.
"We must continue to take the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party seriously," Armed Services Republicans tweeted. "We need a defense budget to meet this rising threat & we need to abandon consideration of a Sole Purpose or No First Use doctrine, that will cause allies to question our extended deterrent."