Kennedy, Hoeven, colleagues introduce legislation to prevent Biden from cutting nuclear forces

MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) joined Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and colleagues in introducing an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would prevent the Biden administration from making unilateral cuts to U.S. nuclear forces.

“America can’t afford to be passive when China is being extremely aggressive in growing its nuclear arsenal, including missiles that could penetrate our defenses. Effective nuclear deterrence depends on maintaining and modernizing America’s nuclear capabilities. Our enemies must understand that threatening the United States is never a risk worth taking,” said Kennedy.

“Just this week, the Pentagon reported that China is expanding its nuclear capabilities more quickly than expected. Reports of a rapid Chinese nuclear build up underscore the importance of continuing to modernize our nuclear triad and strengthen our deterrent. Clearly the administration should not consider any unilateral cuts as part of its ongoing NPR, and my legislation would ensure no such cuts could occur,” said Hoeven.

The senators introduced this amendment following reports that China is expanding its nuclear arsenal more rapidly than anticipated. The Biden administration expects to complete its Nuclear Posture Review early next year, which includes recommendations on America’s nuclear force levels.

This summer, China tested a new nuclear-capable hypersonic missile that can evade U.S. defenses, and China could potentially possess 1,000 nuclear warheads by the end of this decade.

Unilateral cuts to nuclear forces would weaken America’s ability to deter rivals from increasing the size and capabilities of their arsenals. Cuts would also undermine the U.S.’s negotiating position in any future effort to reach an arms control agreement with China.

Louisiana’s Barksdale Air Force Base provides a significant part of the U.S. nuclear deterrent force. It is home to the Air Force Global Strike Command, which is responsible for hundreds of ballistic missiles and planes.

The amendment would stop unilateral reductions to America’s nuclear forces between fiscal year 2022 and fiscal year 2027, with the following exceptions:

  • Reductions necessary to ensure the safety, security and reliability of strategic warheads and their delivery systems,
  • Temporary reductions necessary to field modernized replacement warheads and delivery systems,
  • Reductions of warheads that are retired or slated for dismantlement as of Jan. 1, 2021, and
  • Reductions made pursuant to a treaty ratified by the U.S. Senate.

The amendment would also preserve at current numbers America’s B-52 and B-2 aircraft.

Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) also cosponsored the legislation.

Text of the amendment is available here.

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