Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (1st District of Nebraska)
When I was growing up, the prospect of nuclear war and nuclear confrontation were an ongoing consideration in society and among U.S. policymakers, particularly at the height of the Cold War. Movies, TV shows, and the nightly news regularly and ominously referenced the nuclear threat.
When the Berlin Wall fell and we went through a transition period with the Russians, the probability of a nuclear exchange, we believed, had significantly diminished. We moved on and hoped for normalized relations. Russia has not. Now China wants in. They have actively engaged in modernizing their nuclear weapons and systems.
Here’s our challenge: some of our technology is “vintage.” In a lighter symbolic moment, as I was visiting with some of our military personnel on a very advanced platform, I saw a roll of duct tape sitting there. I looked at the officer and said, “Even here? The handyman’s secret weapon?” He replied, “Even here.”
Don’t get me wrong. Our nation is safe. We have extraordinary personnel and systems, particularly deployed at our nation’s nuclear nerve center, U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), where we have a new facility and outstanding leadership that is on top of this situation, right here in Nebraska. You will soon hear more about the NC3 Enterprise Center (NEC), a separate organization from STRATCOM, which is the de facto “conductor of a large orchestra” across hundreds of systems, the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy, and invaluable private sector and academic contributors, to ensure our nation’s strategic nuclear deterrence. When these officials collectively and individually tell me that there is a clear need to advance our nuclear command, control, and communications infrastructure, I believe them.
It’s important to remember that the purpose of nuclear weapons is to prevent their use through robust deterrence. To achieve that goal, we need the highest technical capability, combined with the latest and best communications equipment, to ensure the rapid flow of precise information to key decision-makers at any time, under any circumstance, anywhere in the world, so they are never left wondering whether a nuclear event is a mistake, and are given enough time and flexibility to respond in case it is not.
In Congress, I co-chair the bipartisan Congressional Nuclear Security Working Group, which is committed to keeping us safe, smartly and strategically. Our work is to lower the probability as close to zero as possible for any mistake in the nuclear enterprise. We are in regular dialogue with our military command structure on these points.
It’s good that Nebraska is leading the way.