FAS | Government Secrecy | January 2001 News ||| Index | Search | Join FAS



JANUARY 11,2001


LEVIN: Thank you very much. Senator Landrieu is next.


LANDRIEU: Mr. Secretary, congratulations on your nomination. I look forward to working with you through these hearings. And I just want to say that Senator Durbin and Senator Fitzgerald's comments go a long way with me. They're a ringing endorsement of my own personal knowledge of your good work.

I just have a few questions. The first two have to deal with the nuclear policies of our nation. And in your opening statement, you made an excellent point about our need to invest more money and more resources in our defense. I couldn't agree with you more, and have a voting record to support that. We need to make sure our money is spent wisely and well, but the need to make new investments to shore up our defenses and to modernize them, I think, are crucial. So I want to commend you for that.

One of the ways though, that we'll be able to do that -- there are really only two ways: to either identify new monies or to redirect some of the monies that we're spending now in new ways to make that goal that you've stated actually come to pass.

And, of course, one of the big cost drivers is our nuclear strategic defenses. Given that, and you are aware because you've served in this position before, that we are prohibited by law from falling below our START II levels, but we're coming upon several crucial and costly -- and I underline costly -- decision points, particularly regarding our Peacekeeper missile system which the Defense Department has recommended that we move past, if you will -- I believe that our nation -- it would make sense for us to establish a cost-effective and appropriate deterrent, independent of anything Russia may do, because they have already, sort of, provisionally ratified the levels indicated by START II, but it doesn't comport with our law, as you know.

So my question is, do you believe that we need to hold to some artificially mandated level of nuclear weapons, or in light of our great need to find resources within our budget as well as add to them, that there's some potential here for not only strategic thinking, but some good cost savings that could be applied in other ways? And would you be willing to explore, to comment today about some of your thoughts regarding that?

RUMSFELD: Well, I certainly agree with you that we're going to have to do both. We're going to have to find new dollars in non- trivial amounts, and we also have to see that the defense establishment functions in as cost-effective a way as is humanly possible and that we find savings. And, third, we're going to have to undoubtedly not do some things we've been doing because the nature of our world has changed and we're going to have to do some other things. And it certainly is at least logical, although I can't tell you what that is, it's logical that we ought to be able to not keep on doing some of the things we have been doing.

With respect to the numbers of weapons, it is not a subject that I have engaged since the announcement a week or so ago. The president-elect has commented on the subject of numbers of weapons.

We know that the Russian systems are very likely to be declining in some numbers -- apart from negotiations, apart from agreements -- simply because of their economic circumstance.

We also know that Russia is not the only nation in the world that one needs to be attentive to. The Chinese are increasing their very modest nuclear capability at the present time. But they are increasing their budget in double digits. They do have at least a publicly pronounced desire to be a factor in strategic nuclear weaponry.

I don't know whether we can reduce or not. I suspect that that will be part of the review and in what numbers. I'm afraid that the likelihood is that any reductions -- there is a minimum below which you can [not] go and maintain the kind of target list that rational people think is appropriate.

My guess is that there are very likely not a lot of savings in that. But I don't know that.

LANDRIEU: Well, I look forward to working with you on that. I think to be open to evaluate these questions from the bottom up, because it brings me actually to my next point which is our targeting plan, which is our Single Integrated Operational Plan, our SIOP plan, which actually lays out the nuclear targets and for obvious reasons is one of the most carefully guarded secrets of our nation.

And I raise this issue to you today, because one of our most distinguished departing members, Senator Bob Kerrey, who served for many years on the Intelligence Committee, has been very frustrated and publicly and privately, and many times publicly on the floor of the Senate and other places, has expressed his great concern.

And I wanted to express it for him as if he were here today that this particular plan of targeting our nuclear weapons has been unavailable to be reviewed by the leadership of our committee, either Republican or Democrat, or even to the highest level of congressional Intelligence Committee members.

And while it's claimed under our law or rules that it's -- as reason to know, he, as the highest ranking member, was not given the information in order to make rational decisions -- exactly what you said about not only what can we afford but what is an effective deterrent, what we need to do to maintain the safety of our citizens.

So my question would be, if you wanted to make a comment about it today, but at least could you assure this committee that you would be willing to work with appropriate members of Congress -- and not all members would be on equal footing here -- but the leadership of our committee and the Intelligence members, particularly, to jointly review that because it has a direct bearing on the strategic posture that we either, you know, take or not take -- is driven really by the targets?

So could you make a comment, please, for the record?

RUMSFELD: Yes, for the record, those are decisions that I think are the president's, and it's not for me to opine as to what extent, if at all, the current procedures ought to be changed.

I do know that the U.S. plans are reviewed, admittedly, by a very small number of people in the executive branch, the national command authorities. They are reviewed regularly. They are changed as circumstances change in the world. As you suggested, they are highly classified. And that's about all I can say.


FAS | Government Secrecy | January 2001 News ||| Index | Search | Join FAS