Hoeven: Nuclear Defenses, Global Hawk Systems Essential to America's National Security

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today urged his U.S. Senate colleagues to support two key amendments he introduced to the Defense Authorization bill that seek to ensure the nation’s military strength.

Hoeven authored S.Amdt. 1279, which reaffirms the importance of a robust nuclear defense through sustaining the “nuclear triad,” which includes land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and nuclear-capable heavy bomber jets. He also authored S.Amdt. 1358, which calls for continued investments in the Global Hawk unmanned aerial system program, in accordance with a Pentagon review that found the Global Hawk to be cost effective and essential to national security.

Securing the “Nuclear Triad”

S.Amdt. 1279 declares that it is the sense of the Senate that the United States should maintain a nuclear triad, and that the President should budget for the modernization of these systems and the weapons they carry. Hoeven’s amendment has bipartisan support.

“Given the threats we face and the responsibilities we have to the American people and to our allies, we must retain the nuclear triad,” Hoeven said. “We should retain, modernize and enhance our nuclear arsenal. The triad provides us with a safe, credible and reliable nuclear deterrent, and that is necessary for the threats we face today and into the future.”

The triad developed out of a need to counter an immense threat from the Soviet Union. Today, it gives the United States the flexibility to adapt to an ever-changing international security environment. Updating and maintaining the triad’s weapons would not take up a large percentage of the defense budget and is very cost-effective, particularly relative to the triad’s security advantages, Hoeven said, speaking on the Senate floor.

“The United States needs to retain a safe, reliable, credible, and overwhelming nuclear force, and I hope that the Pentagon and the Administration will recognize this fact and propose a budget next year that supports the triad well into the future,” Hoeven said.

Senators Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), David Vitter (R-La.); Mary Landrieu (R-La.) and co-sponsored the amendment.

Investing in the Global Hawk Program

S.Amdt. 1358 states that it is the sense of Congress that the Secretary of the Air Force should continue the RQ-4 Global Hawk program as outlined in an Acquisition Decision Memorandum issued by the Office of the Secretary of Defense. The June 14, 2011, memorandum was released following a review of the Global Hawk program and concludes that “the continuation of the program is essential to national security.” The report also states “there are no alternatives to the program which will provide acceptable capability to meet the joint military requirement at less cost.”

“Grand Forks Air Force Base is home to the Global Hawk and Predator B unmanned aerial systems, which provide vital intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data,” said Hoeven.  “These technologies represent a new era in military aviation and provide essential capabilities that make our nation more secure and our communities safer. In a time when the defense budget is shrinking, unmanned aircrafts provide invaluable information for our nation’s military in a cost-effective way. America needs to continue investing in these systems, so that we remain a world leader in these cutting-edge technologies.” 

The RQ-4 Global Hawk program calls for 31 Block 30 Global Hawks and 11 Block 40 Global Hawks. Some of these systems have already flown a wide variety of missions, including operations throughout the Middle East and South Central Asia, humanitarian relief efforts in Japan and Haiti, and operations in Libya. Hoeven’s amendment stresses the importance of investing in additional Global Hawks in accordance with the current program.

The U.S. Senate is expected to act on the Defense Authorization bill this evening.