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News Briefing on the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review

DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE PATRICK M. SHANAHAN:  Good afternoon, everybody. How we doing? Good.

Welcome to the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review rollout, or as we refer to it here at the Pentagon, the NPR.

To the American people: This administration's highest priority is your safety and security. One year ago, we began a focused and comprehensive look at what was needed to meet this fundamental responsibility. It started with President Trump's National Security Strategy, and in support, Secretary Mattis led the development of the National Defense Strategy. Both state the need for a safe, secure, effective nuclear deterrent.

At the president's direction, the Departments of State, Energy and Defense worked together on a daily basis for this past year for the coordinated whole-of-government analysis of our nuclear deterrent. We leveraged centuries of combined expertise from across the government and the nonproliferation community for a strategy to keep America safe in this century with a deterrent that is modern and credible. This NPR is the result.

Today, I'm joined by Under Secretary of State Shannon and Deputy Secretary of Energy Brouillette. This reflects the team effort.

To Under Secretary Shannon: Every day, we in the Department of Defense ask ourselves, "How can we give our diplomats leverage, so they always speak from a position of strength?" The National Defense Strategy, directly supported by the 2018 NPR, is our answer. 

So, now, to the NPR itself. This review is consistent with U.S. nuclear policies since the end of the Cold War. It reaffirms that the fundamental role of U.S. nuclear policy is deterrence and continues our clear commitment to non-proliferation and arms control. 

Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has worked to reduce the number and role of nuclear weapons. But the world looks different since the last NPR in 2010. A challenging and dynamic security environment requires steady action to strengthen deterrence. 

This NPR responds to today's security needs with a tailored nuclear deterrent strategy and flexible capabilities for effective deterrence. A "one size fits all" approach has its limits. This NPR ensures we can deter any potential adversary, because they are not all alike. 

We must keep America's deterrent credible by making it modern. The 2018 NPR calls for modernizing the nuclear triad and command and control system, which is necessary, affordable and long overdue. Our nuclear triad has kept us safe for over 70 years. We cannot afford to let it become obsolete. 

The NPR also makes recommendations to keep our deterrent effective for our world today: namely, lowering the yield of some existing submarine-launched ballistic missile warheads and bringing back nuclear sea-based -- launched cruise missiles, a capability our nation had for decades. 

Neither recommendation requires developing new nuclear warheads. Neither will increase the size of our nuclear stockpile. They break no treaty. They align with our non-proliferation commitments. They strengthen American deterrence. 

Some will say any additional capability, no matter how measured, increases the chance of using one of these weapons. On the contrary, it is the exact opposite. The NPR states, and I quote, "the United States would only consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme -- in extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States, its allies and partners."

The NPR clarifies long-standing policy that extreme circumstances could include significant nonnuclear strategic attacks. This clarification is stabilizing. It lowers the risk of nuclear use by anyone. The United States does not want to use nuclear weapons. We do want to maintain an effective deterrent to keep Americans and our allies and partners safe and secure. 

Under Secretary Shannon will speak to our NPR engagement with allies and partners, but before he does, I want to thank the men and women of our nuclear forces. Your dedication keeps America safe. 

We look forward to working with Congress as we implement these recommendations, and for ongoing support for nuclear modernization. We also look forward to working with our allies, partners to reduce the chances that these weapons will ever be used.

Now, Under Secretary of State Shannon.

THOMAS SHANNON, UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS:  Thank you very much, Deputy Secretary Shanahan. I'm glad to be here today with you and Deputy Secretary Brouillette. 

As Deputy Secretary Shanahan noted, the Nuclear Posture Review is a whole-of-government effort. It is an important document that identifies the nuclear policies, strategy and corresponding capabilities needed to protect us in an increasingly complex threat environment. 

Over the past decade, the United States has reduced the number and salience of our nuclear weapons by more than 85 percent since its Cold War peak. 

While Russia has joined us in strategic reductions, including ongoing implementation of the New START treaty, Moscow retains a large stockpile of non-strategic nuclear weapons and continues to modernize those, as well as its strategic systems. China is also modernizing and expanding its nuclear forces. Both countries are challenging the free and open international order. 

We know that other unfriendly regimes and enemies of our country put our lives at risk by pursuing nuclear weapons. North Korea continues its illicit nuclear weapons program and missile capabilities. Iran retains the technological capability to develop a nuclear weapon within one year of deciding to do so. 

The potential threat of non-state actors getting their hands on a nuclear weapon remains at the front of all of our minds. Nuclear terrorism is still a major threat in this century, and one we must work to mitigate at every opportunity. 

Because of the dangerous world we live in and our unwavering commitment to our allies, the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review focuses on strengthening extended deterrence. The United States has formal extended deterrence commitments that assure European, Asian and Pacific allies of our commitment to use nuclear force to protect them, if necessary. 

Ongoing, close collaboration with allies and partners is essential to deterring or defeating the common threats we face. This collaboration includes sustained dialogues and joint military exercises. 

But we also realize that every ally and partner faces a different threat environment. We will continue to work with them to tailor our assurance strategies in ways that are most effective for their specific situation.

But let me be clear: The United States is committed to our allies under the U.S. nuclear umbrella. Our extended deterrence commitments are unwavering. We have the ability and will to fulfill them. Potential adversaries should not doubt our resolve.

In addition, as the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review makes clear, the United States will hold accountable any state or non-state actor that supports terrorist efforts to obtain or employ a nuclear weapon. 

Important to this deterrence is maintaining our capabilities so that the United States can respond decisively across the full spectrum of potential nuclear and non-nuclear scenarios. But, as this NPR makes clear, the United States will only consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States, its allies and partners.

The NPR also states that, and I quote, "the United States will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the NPT and in compliance with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations."

The United States is committed to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, an essential cornerstone of nuclear nonproliferation. Effective nuclear nonproliferation and weapons control measures like the NPT support U.S., allied and partner security.

These measures control the spread of nuclear materials and technology, place limits on the production, stockpiling and deployment of nuclear weapons, decrease misperception and miscalculation and help avoid destabilizing nuclear weapons competition.

Finally, this review also affirms that the United States will not resume nuclear explosive testing unless we find it necessary to ensure the stability and effectiveness of our nuclear arsenal. We call on all states possessing nuclear weapons to declare or to maintain a moratorium on nuclear testing.

Going forward, we are also eager to increase transparency and predictability to avoid miscalculation among nuclear weapon states and other possessor states. That includes reestablishing the conditions necessary for greater trust with Russia and improved transparency with China, as it expands and modernizes its nuclear forces.

The 2018 NPR highlights the Trump administration's commitment to both the long-term goal of eliminating nuclear weapons, and the requirement that the United States have modern, flexible and resilient nuclear capabilities.

Until nuclear weapons can be eliminated from the world, we must continue to ensure the security of our people and that of our allies and partners. Thank you very much.

DAN BROUILLETTE, UNITED STATES DEPUTY SECRETARY OF ENERGY:  Good afternoon, everyone. Let me begin by thanking Deputy Secretary Shanahan and Under Secretary Shannon, my colleagues from Defense and State, respectively.

As the secretaries just pointed out and just mentioned a few moments ago, this NPR is the culmination of nearly a year of briefings with Congress, consultations with our allies and partners and collaboration with experts from all three of our departments.

The 2018 NPR reflects the president's priority to put America first, advancing our national interest by protecting our country and our allies and partners from those who would intend to do us harm.

To that end, this year's NPR reflects a clear-eyed approach to modernizing our aged Cold War nuclear arsenal as we confront the challenging geopolitical demands of the 21st century.

As with previous NPRs, this review reflects both continuity and change. In its robust support for the triad and its reaffirming commitment to nonproliferation, counter-proliferation and counterterrorism, the review endorses our basic nuclear policies of the past quarter century. 

However, the review also supports change in the specific area of nuclear weapons reduction. Over the past decade, while the United States has led the world in these reductions, every one of our potential nuclear adversaries has been pursuing the exact opposite strategy. 

These powers are increasing the numbers and types of nuclear weapons in their arsenal, with some -- which -- with some of them establishing doctrines of limited and coercive nuclear use. These moves, which are identified in the administration's recently released National Security and National Defense Strategies, represent a change in the contemporary security environment.

The United States needs to respond by achieving a new and effective balance in our deterrent capabilities. As for my agency, the Department of Energy, it is clear that our national laboratories, plants and production sites play a vital role in ensuring that the NPR priorities are met.

In order to support the U.S. nuclear deterrent for the next several decades, DOE needs to maintain capabilities that are modern, flexible and resilient. And, consequently, this NPR recognizes that -- the national imperative of recapitalizing DOE's infrastructure. 

We will be updating aging facilities, some buildings that are nearly 50 years old, and recapitalizing facilities that are needed to produce the strategic material so critical to maintaining our arsenal.

We will also continue our successful execution of programs that are designed to extend warhead life, and we will continue to meet the nation's deterrent requirement through our department's unique and highly technical capabilities. These programs and capabilities are the basis of our nuclear triad and the bedrock of our nation's deterrent. 

Supporting the NPR's goals of preventing terrorism and reducing global nuclear dangers, the Department of Energy will continue to focus on nonproliferation, counter-proliferation and counterterrorism. Together with our allies and partners, we have enjoyed great, great success in these areas.

Finally, it is important to note that none of our modernization efforts are possible without people. This review recognizes the need for a highly skilled nuclear security workforce and its vital work to maintain a credible deterrent into the future. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Next, we're going to have Under Secretary of Defense for Policy John Rood; Anita Freidt, acting assistant secretary of state; and Steve Erhart from -- assistant -- act -- acting under secretary of energy for nuclear security, and the administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration. 

We'll start with Bob Burns from the Associated Press.

Q: Thank you. Hello. Questions regarding the low-yield submarine-launched ballistic missile that's mentioned as one of the supplements to the deterrent that's spelled out in the -- in the -- in the review: How much will it cost both the Defense Department and Energy Department to make -- to make that conversion of the warhead? And when will it be fielded, do you estimate?

JOHN ROOD, UNDER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR POLICY:  Well, thank you for the question. Of course, in the Nuclear Posture Review, we talk about the change in the security environment, which has led to some of the adjustments that we are making going forward. 

You'll see mostly, in the Nuclear Posture Review, a lot of continuity with past policy with respect to the role of nuclear weapons to provide deterrence overall -- that that is the primary objective of our nuclear force, as well as to assure allies, to hedge against uncertainty and, if necessary, to provide a credible response option.

One of things in that security environment that is discussed in the report that we're concerned about: some of the adjustments in potential adversaries' thinking about nuclear weapons. With a greater reliance on nuclear weapons, a featuring of them, in some cases -- for example, in the Russian nuclear doctrine, called "Escalating to De-escalate".

And so, with this greater reliance on nuclear weapons and a need to maintain a flexible approach so that our deterrent can be credible, we have, as mentioned in the report, said that we would pursue some supplementary capabilities, one of which is submarine-launched ballistic missile, armed with a low-yield nuclear weapon. 

We're going to be coming forward, of course, later this month, the president will submit his budget request to Congress, including for the Defense Department. This will be one of the things that will be contained in that part.

One of your questions was the funding for that. Obviously, that'll have to await the release of the president's budget later this month.

Q: Do you have a ballpark number?

SEC. ROOD: Yeah, it's a modest amount, because what we're talking about is we have an existing submarine force armed with existing submarine-launched ballistic missiles. This is a supplementary capability that would make some modifications to our existing force -- does not involve production of new nuclear warheads. 

It does not involve production of new ballistic missiles or submarines, except for as part of our Columbia class modernization, of course, that predates this NPR.

Q: What about the timeline of when you would expect it would be fielded?

SEC. ROOD: That -- that's something that remains to be determined, but certainly, in the near term. This is one of the near-term enhancements that we would like to pursue.

Q: This year, next year?

SEC. ROOD: I think I'll leave it as, in the near term, we're planning to pursue this.

MODERATOR: (inaudible) from Agence France-Presse.

Q: Hello. 

The NPR mentions that nuclear threats from Russia against the allies. Can you give me -- give us some examples of those threats?

SEC. ROOD: Sure. I'll start, and perhaps others would like to add.

Certainly, we've seen in the recent past some statements, where there's -- from Russian officials in the public domain, talking about threats to use nuclear weapons. There is a published doctrine that the Russian government has put forward. In addition to some of these statements, of course, we've also seen exercises involving some of these capabilities.

And so the combination of statements, exercises and capability changes, in addition to doctrinal changes combine to cause some concern for the United States and their allies. 

Anita Freidt is here from State Department -- I don't know if you'd like to add.


No, I mean, as John has pointed out, there are definitely some increased threats. Russia's also -- Russia has increased its reliance on nuclear weapons and its capabilities, and it's -- as we've pointed out, it's building a large and diverse nuclear arsenal.

That said, we do not want to consider Russia an adversary, as Under Secretary Shannon and others have mentioned. We continue to successfully implement the New START treaty and look forward to meeting the central treaty limits on Monday, as a matter of fact, on February 5th. And we seek stable relations. 

But we also have an issue with Russia in terms of treaty compliance. Russia has violated treaties -- we've -- and agreements. We are -- we seek to discuss that, and we have an ongoing conversation about it. But we certainly look forward to -- we do not want to regard Russia as an adversary.

Q: Do they threat (sic) a specific country?

SEC. ROOD: There have been some statements that we've found concerning, as you recall, by Russian officials, in the past, towards specific areas of NATO and the like.

MODERATOR: Michael Gordon from the Wall Street Journal.

Q: For -- a question for the DOD and DOE reps: The report is very explicit that you would contemplate the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances, which could include significant non-nuclear strategic attack. 

This is stated, and the section reports made very explicit -- and also that you would contemplate the use of weapons, if there was a terrorist nuclear attack, against those that enabled it.

The way this is being read is that the U.S. is prepared to use nuclear weapons if there's a cyber attack that would affect the population or do great damage to the infrastructure of our allies or of the United States. Is that the message you intended to send? Because that's how everyone's interpreting it.

And could you please also give us the projected total dollar amount of this modernization for DOD and DOE? There are a lot of figures in here, but the dollar amount for this modernization isn't included.

SEC. ROOD: With respect to U.S. nuclear declaratory policy of the United States, as articulated in this Nuclear Posture Review, is constant with that of the past. Again, it is that the United States would employ nuclear weapons only in extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States, allies and partners.

Now the part of the declaratory policy that you are referring to is the circumstances under which the United States would contemplate the use of nuclear weapons, or what constituted extreme circumstances. And I think in that area, the context of an attack that does not involve nuclear weapons initially would be very important to take into account.

It's been long-standing U.S. policy to maintain some ambiguity around the circumstances under which we would consider the use of nuclear weapons in response to a strategic, non-nuclear attack on the United States, and this NPR is explicit in saying, it is in our interests, it is part of reinforcing deterrence to maintain some ambiguity in those circumstances.

With respect to cyber or other forms of attack, I think the context in which an attack occurred against the United States or allies would be very important. As we sit here today, it's easy to dissect one action being disconnected from that in other fields, other domains.

Whether that be air, sea, on land, or whether you would contemplate a hypothetical situation involving deployment of other forms of weapons of mass destruction, which are not nuclear weapons, such as biological weapons.

And so I think what this NPR strives to do is to say, in the context of a non-nuclear attack on the United States or our allies that was strategic in nature, that imposed substantial impacts to our infrastructure, to our people, then we would consider that context in evaluating the appropriate response, perhaps to include nuclear weapons.

Q: Again, the dollar amount of the program for DOD? And also DOE, because that's very important to -- to, you know, the plutonium and modernizing these facilities. 

SEC. ROOD: Right. We have a chart that -- that shows some of the expenditure levels. 

Maybe we can bring that up here on the screen. 

That's correct. 

And here you see the DOD nuclear enterprise funding that would occur over the period of the recapitalization of the U.S. nuclear triad. Nuclear triad of course consisting of ICBMs, or intercontinental range ballistic missiles on land, a sea-based nuclear deterrent with submarine-launched ballistic missiles, as well as an air leg for bombers, armored cruise missiles.

And you see here, at the 2.7 percent of the DOD budget that we stand today, sustaining the current triad, the current infrastructure that we have in the DOD would involve 2.7 percent of our budget. 

Now, as we project forward -- and you'll notice this projection goes through the year 2040 on the chart -- you see in the dark blue, the recapitalization costs. And those will, under the current plans, the programs, the record that the Defense Department has, grow to include an additional 3.7 percent of the DOD budget at its peak in 2029.

Now, prior to that time as shown on the chart, it's substantially less than that level, and in no worthy sense after that peak, of course it declines. And so that is the total amount for the Defense Department that we would see for a recapitalization of our enterprise funding.

And then the -- the chart helpfully provides some historical examples, showing that that percent is less than during previous recapitalizations that occurred in the 60's and 80's. 

I don't know if you want to speak to the DOE portion?

STEVE ERHART, ACTING UNDER SECRETARY FOR NUCLEAR SECURITY AND NNSA ADMINISTRATOR: Sure, thank you for the question. And before I do, I'd like to -- to -- make the following statement. Given recent reporting on nuclear testing, I want to make it clear to you that all our testing posture -- make it clear to all of you that our testing posture has not changed with this NPR.

The United States remains committed to a moratorium on nuclear testing, and we encourage other states to adopt and maintain similar moratorium, just as you heard earlier. 

To the cost of infrastructure, so I -- I'm pleased to be here representing the folks in NNSA.

And I'm pleased that the NPR also points out the -- as my deputy secretary said, the national imperative to improve, modernize our -- our aging infrastructure, as well as continuing the work that we're doing on modernizing the stockpile itself.

The -- this has been -- this has been mentioned in previous NPRs. It's -- but the -- the resources available hves not kept pace with the need to modernize, to ensure that we always have the facilities that are necessary to -- to maintain that safe, reliable and effective stockpile.

So without -- I don't have the final number, because we're -- we're working on the complete infrastructure plan. But I will tell you because of that -- that delay and that -- that lack of funding that's come over time, it will be significant.

And it -- it will need to be sustained investment over the next decade.

MODERATOR: Idrees Ali from Reuters?

Q: On diplomacy very quickly, it's clearly Russia-centric, the NPR. How do you expect the Russians to respond and react? Have you briefed your counterparts on it? 

And secondly, your NATO allies are -- some of them -- or many of them are less enthusiastic about nuclear weapons than the United States. How do you expect them to -- take this?

SEC. FREIDT: First of all, I would not call this Russia-centric NPR. I mean, Russia is one of the countries we've mentioned, but we've mentioned China. We've certainly mentioned DPRK. We mentioned Iran. Russia -- it's not the sole focus of this NPR by any means. That's one thing.

We did in fact brief the Russians on this, on the rollout of the NPR. And we -- we remain -- I mean, there seems to be -- sometimes there's the impression that we don't talk to the Russians. We talk to the Russians a lot. In fact, we are in the process of trying to work out another strategic-stability discussion.

We have ongoing discussions, as I mentioned. We are successfully implementing the New START treaty, and we remain open to potential arms control, as we briefed here, in the future. But what we need is the right security conditions, and we also need a willing partner, which has been lacking.

But we certainly -- on Russia, Russia is not an obstacle, necessarily, or -- for the point of this NPR. 

In terms of allies, we've had a very good discussion with allies here, of consultations I would say throughout the process. And we began this with the 2010 NPR, where I was also involved.

So that has been a very fruitful discussion with the allies. During the consultation, our allies uniformly commented on the worsened global security environment. And that is in comparison to the last NPR in 2010. There's no question that there's a worse security environment. But there is agreement on that. And we look forward to deepening our engagement with allies and partners.

They did stress -- now this one thing they are certainly interested in pointing out, the importance of adherence to the NPT - the nuclear non-proliferation treaty - the importance of pursuing arms control. As we pointed out in the NPR that we certainly reiterate, the importance of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, our ongoing commitment to it, and our willingness to pursue, as I mentioned, arms control, disarmament, when the conditions -- security conditions are right.

Q: At what level did that conversation with the Russian take? And when did you brief them?

SEC. FREIDT: Well, we've talked about it on and off, but I actually just briefed them this morning.

Q: The embassy?

SEC. FREIDT: We also did it in Moscow.

SEC. ROOD: You know, one other thing to add to that is, when you asked about NATO allies, as -- we have had a -- and I hope it was noted in the statements by the deputy secretaries, that we've had an ongoing dialogue throughout this process, over the last year, with allies. That is unusual for this Nuclear Posture Review.

And we've briefed the North Atlantic Council and NATO as recently as yesterday on the Nuclear Posture Review -- so there are consultations with allies in advance of any public release.

MODERATOR: The gentleman in the third row, here.

Q: Tony Bertuca from Inside Defense. 

Going to the nuclear sea-launched cruise missile, could you talk a little bit about the rationale for bringing that program back, how much that will cost, when that's expected to come online and what -- again, the rationale for bringing the program back?

SEC. ROOD: In the security environment that's discussed in the Nuclear Posture Review, one of the things that has been concerning is that, over the last 20 years, we've seen the growth of the role of nuclear weapons in some potential adversaries' doctrine, as well as growth in capabilities and planned growth over that time period.

And so what was discussed in terms of the rationale in the NPR is that its overriding purpose -- the overriding purpose of our nuclear arsenal is deterrence and to assure allies and, as I mentioned, to hedge against uncertainty and, if necessary, provide a credible response capability.

Within that, we've become concerned that we need a more flexible set of capabilities to -- in order to have tailored deterrence. There's no one-size-fits-all approach to deterrence, as you know, and we're not deterring a single person in a single circumstance.

And so, therefore, a more flexible set of capabilities that is survivable, that is credible and can be tailored to the circumstances to maintain deterrence is the rationale behind looking at that capability.

Now, as mentioned, there are two supplementary capabilities that the NPR discusses. One, we've already discussed -- the submarine-launched ballistic missile. You're talking about a submarine-launched cruise missile.

In that regard, what the NPR talks about is that we will begin a study of the appropriate way to pursue that and the specifics around the program in that area. And so, at this time, I can't quote you a specific time frame and dollar figure, because of the stage of that activity.

But it's one of the supplementary capabilities that we think is very important to pursue, both due to the survivability of submarine-launched cruise missiles, the flexibility that that type of platform provides.

And again, here, this would involve use of low-yield nuclear weapons. Low-yield nuclear weapons have been in the U.S. arsenal for decades. The difference here would be -- and, as you pointed out, they -- we formerly, in the United States, had the capability to fire cruise missiles from submarines armed with nuclear weapons. This would be to look at that capability again.

MODERATOR: In the blue jacket, there.

Q: Thanks. Patrick Tucker with Defense One. 

So the question of what constitutes extreme circumstances is, I think, what has some folks hung up, especially in the context of a cyber-physical attack on U.S. infrastructure.

The National Academies has published a study on the possible effects of a cyber-physical attack on U.S. infrastructure, and the worst case scenario that they've come up with is a service disruption possibly lasting weeks.

So the question is, is that sort of eventuality -- a limited service disruption possibly lasting weeks -- is that the sort of extreme circumstance that might possibly provoke a nuclear response? And, if not, if you're working with a different worst case scenario for a cyber-physical attack on U.S. infrastructure, potentially much greater than that, can you -- can you speak to that a little bit?

SEC. ROOD: Sure. 

You know, starting at the top, the declaratory policy of the United States that we would consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances -- the language on that that you will find in this Nuclear Posture Review is identical to what you will have found: that the United States would employ nuclear weapons only in extreme circumstances, to defend the vital interests of the United States, allies and partners. 

That -- those words that I just spoke are the same as that appeared in the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review released by President Obama's administration. So, in that sense, there is no difference in the declaratory policy. 

With respect to what constitutes extreme circumstances and the provision of other things, again, I think the context in which that occurs is important, and hypothetical examples of a cyber attack or biological weapons attack -- I think what's very important is there's no automaticity in this policy as to how the United States would respond. 

We would consider the circumstances under which that occurred. We would consider the context around that and the effects on the United States and our allies before determining what the appropriate response would be, whether that involved nuclear weapons, or purely non-nuclear weapons.

And so the difficulty with answering hypothetical questions is it's very hard to know what the circumstances surrounding that would be. For example, in the hypotheticals you cited, would that also involve the employment of biological weapons against the U.S. population or allies?

Would it involve the use of chemical weapons against our people? Would it involve a conventional attack in other parts of the world? The context in which an attack occurred on the United States or allies would be how we would evaluate the appropriate response.

But I want to point -- make one additional point that I forgot. I think it's very important, implied in your question, to address one thing. There is no lowering of the nuclear threshold in this Nuclear Posture Review. That threshold remains at an incredibly high level. There has been no diminution to that.

And this document is explicit in stating there is nothing in this approach that is -- that will lower the nuclear threshold. Indeed, the capabilities and the type of approach that we're pursuing is intended to raise the nuclear threshold by making the type of punishment that we could employ against an attack on the United States so high that it would not be countenanced by an adversary.

MODERATOR: Jeff Schogol 

Q: Thank you. 

On that theme, you had mentioned the Russian dogma of "escalate to de-escalate." They seem to feel that they can escape nuclear retaliation if they use low-yield nuclear weapons.

I just want to make clear, is it -- is U.S. policy that, if the United States or if one of its allies is attacked by a nuclear weapon, regardless of the yield, there will be a nuclear response?

SEC. ROOD: There -- U.S. nuclear doctrine has never involved automaticity in terms of response, and there is no automaticity in this current document. Our declaratory policy would be that we would consider the use of nuclear weapons only in extreme circumstances.

Obviously, one of the circumstances under which you would consider that would be a nuclear attack against the United States, of whatever yield that might be.

Q: Well, I'm -- I'm speaking -- what about in -- against a NATO ally? If Russia exploded a low-yield nuclear weapon against a NATO ally, would that guarantee a nuclear response from the United States?

SEC. ROOD: There is -- there's no automaticity in this approach, whether a nuclear use or non-nuclear use against the United States or our allies. Now, obviously, I would highly discourage any nation from considering such an attack on the United States or our allies. That would not be in your interest to do so, to state the obvious.

But, with respect to the declaratory policy, there -- it is not a -- an automaticity in terms of response. There is always a consideration about the context in which an attack occurred and the impact on either the United States or our allies. 

And we have these discussions, as well, at NATO. And we take very seriously our Article 5 commitments and commitment to NATO, which is a nuclear alliance with capabilities also provided not by the United States, but by our other allies. 

So, certainly, this would be, you know, something that would meet the criteria of an extreme circumstance in which you would consider your response.

MODERATOR: (inaudible)


Q: Yeah. I just wanted to ask if we've heard an increase in what some would call nuclear saber-rattling and rhetoric coming from the president in recent months with mentions of threatening fire and fury like the world has never seen towards North Korea and mentions of a big, red button. 

And I'm wondering if you have any concerns that that kind of rhetoric is reducing support for the triad among the American population -- that, at some point, Americans might think we don't want to spend $1.2 trillion or $1 trillion, or however you calculate it, on weapons that can be used by, you know, a single person's choice alone.

SEC. ROOD: Maintaining a safe, credible and effective nuclear deterrent is something that's been a bipartisan activity for many decades in this country -- since the dawn of the nuclear age. And I think that support continues. 

Bear in mind that, in that chart that we're showing there -- remember the program is to re-capitalize the nuclear triad, where it began during the previous administration. And so, in that sense, you've seen a bipartisan effort to re-capitalize that nuclear triad.

Funding has been requested in past years, and appropriated and authorized by the Congress of the United States in that regard. And so I think the basic point that there is support amongst the elected representatives of the American people in both parties for the role of nuclear weapons for the nuclear triad -- I think, is present.

Certainly, the other factor that I think affects public opinion is the world has become a more dangerous place, and certainly, our people are very concerned about what they hear emanating from North Korea about the growth in the capabilities that the regime possesses. 

I think all of us are concerned about some of the changes in the Russian approach to nuclear weapons, the growth of capabilities in China, the potential for other countries to acquire nuclear weapons.

So I think there's been a growth amongst not only the American public, but certainly allied publics about what do those security changes mean for us and the priority that must be placed on our nuclear enterprise to deter the most catastrophic potential attacks against the United States is our allies.

And so I think that kind of support will continue, going forward, and while we're going to work very hard to reduce the threats facing the United States and our allies through efforts like nonproliferation and arms control, these are still very substantial threats that we're going to face, and we need a robust, credible nuclear capability in order to deter that -- those threats and to assure our allies.

Q: So you have no concerns about the president's rhetoric?

As I mentioned, I think, in that security environment and dealing with that sort of threat that's growing to the United States, there is, I think, a bipartisan support for the nuclear triad and maintaining credible, robust capabilities.

MODERATOR: Aaron Mehta from Defense News.

Q: Thanks. 

John, because you mentioned that the SLBM is going to be in the '19 budget request, I wanted to how much of what's being discussed here is being pushed forward in the '19, versus '20 budget. And I ask that because Secretary Shanahan said it specifically, a couple months ago, to us, '19 is going to have a few things, but all these reviews are going to really come out in 2020 budget, just because of the time.

So how much for DOD, how much for State? And then, specifically, I'd like to hear about DOE, because we've heard for years about the backlog of infrastructure, some of the challenges there, and it's become pretty clear that it's not something that can wait all that much longer before it becomes catastrophic, so I'd like to hear about that.

SEC. ROOD: Certainly. 

In the FY '19 budget request, the things that you see on the chart behind you for the recapitalization of the triad -- those are programs of record. You should expect to see those programs again -- have a request behind them from the president, to the Congress, to fund them. I mentioned that -- the sea-launched ballistic missile and that supplementary capability that you'll see, also, in there.

And the reality is that all of our activities at the defense department, including what we're doing right now, in some way, track to a budget request to the Congress. 

And so our new budget will be coming out shortly. We plan releases later this month, and so the specifics will be there. But this Nuclear Posture Review will be reflected in the budget request to the Congress in terms of the capabilities that we need and the standard explanations that would accompany this will be provided.


Q: ... for the administrator, please.

SEC. ERHART: OK. Thank you. 

First of all, the F.Y. '19 budget, as you know, is not released yet by the president. But -- talk a little bit about our process that happens after the NPR -- and -- now that the NPR is out. 

The basic process: The interagency created the NPR. Now, the interagency meets, through the Nuclear Weapons Council, to define the requirements, and then we have the standard process for -- in each of our organizations for creating the plans -- the implementation plans. 

On the -- on the DOD side, the military characteristics are defined, and on our side, all the technical characteristics are defined. Those are agreed upon in the -- in the -- through the Nuclear Weapons Council, and then -- and then the resource loading of that occurs through the normal budgetary process. 

So, given the timing, as expected, you would -- you would see, probably, more of the -- of the fidelity of those plans take place over this year, and probably more fidelity in the budget request in the following year, FY '20.

MODERATOR: Zach Biggs from Newsweek.

Q: Thanks. 

One of the major shifts from the last NPR seems to be this emphasis on flexibility, low-yield nuclear weapons, et cetera. Do you believe that having those low-yield weapons, which, by definition, have lesser consequences for their use, increases the likelihood that nuclear weapons might be used in a conflict?

In particular, I want to point to the cruise missiles -- nuclear cruise missiles. Former Secretary of Defense Perry has warned about nuclear-tipped cruise missiles increasing the likelihood of nuclear war because of confusion that might occur about whether a cruise missile is nuclear or not. 

So do you think that these weapons, both the lower yield and the cruise missile, increase the odds of a nuclear conflict?

SEC. ROOD: The short answer to your question is no. The longer answer would be that, in this NPR, you'll see that there is a discussion of maintaining deterrence, and this concept that "one size fits all" does not work for deterrence. These are very different countries -- say North Korea, versus the concerns we have about Russia or China.

These are different countries, there are different circumstances and -- that we need a more flexible set of capabilities in order to have tailored deterrence. And I think you've correctly picked up on one area of emphasis in this NPR, which is greater than in the past, which is a greater focus on tailored deterrence -- tailoring our effects, tailoring our approach to the particular circumstances in -- which we face with a given adversary. 

The context is very important, again, in which you're trying to effect deterrence in that specific circumstance, and so, therefore, some of the flexibility, the attributes of a submarine-launched ballistic missile and a submarine-launched cruise missile -- survivability, hard -- difficulty of detection, the flexibility and the range of circumstances that you have to employ such a capability, where you place it, how you fly it, when you fly it -- the fact that you can have some flexibility in terms of whether you signal its presence or you don't, the flexibility in basing options, given that most of the world's surface is water -- all of these things help provide flexible options for tailored deterrence.

In terms of the nuclear threshold, as I mentioned earlier, there is no lowering of the nuclear threshold. In fact, this approach is intended to raise the nuclear threshold and keep it at a very high level.

Q: (off mic) the use of lower yield, or the development of lower-yield weapons -- how does that increase deterrence, when a larger weapon could be even more devastating to an enemy? How does the lower yield help?

SEC. ROOD: When we look at some of the activities, statements, capabilities that adversaries or potential adversaries have pursued, one of the things that we want to make sure that we maintain is a flexible set of capabilities, so that they not come to the mistaken impression that there would be some ranges of situations where they might employ nuclear weapons -- whether they be low-yield or so-called battlefield nuclear weapons, things of that nature -- in a way that we would feel that we did not have credible response options in order to preserve deterrence.

As mentioned earlier, the United States has had low-yield nuclear weapons in our arsenal for decades. This would not be a new addition or a new type, and it does not involve production of new nuclear weapons.

So, certainly, I think, we're not increasing -- we are not proposing an increase in the size of the U.S. nuclear stockpile. Again, the purpose of these activities is a flexible set of capabilities to provide tailored deterrence.

MODERATOR: Ryan Browne from CNN.

Q: Thank you. Just two quick ones: First, on North Korea, is the last one was in 2010 -- obviously, North Korea's made a lot of strides in its nuclear program, and you list 11 fielded or in-development nuclear delivery systems for North Korea. 

What, in this review, is kind of specifically tailored to North Korea, or focused on the North Korean threat? And I know we -- you've mentioned briefing Russia on this. Was China also briefed on this review?

SEC. ROOD: With respect to North Korea, the capabilities in the nuclear triad that exist today, as well as the recapitalization that's discussed in the report, and some of these supplementary capabilities -- all of those things, in various circumstances, would have applicability in the type of hypothetical scenarios that we worry about with North Korea. 

Unfortunately, some of the -- our concerns that we used to have a few years ago have become, quite frankly, not so hypothetical anymore, in terms of the threat that we face.

And so I think, whether it's with North Korea and demonstrating that we have a range of options, that we have flexible options, that these are credible and can be employed, when necessary, I think, is very important to reinforcing deterrence. Certainly wouldn't want that regime or others to wrongly conclude that there's a lack of resolve on our part, should they threaten the use of nuclear weapons or use nuclear weapons against the United States.

So I think, in this circumstance, having this more flexible set of capabilities that we can tailor to the circumstances, whether it be with North Korea or another, to reinforce that deterrence -- and this is a much more challenging activity than 20 years ago or more -- we've really got to watch out for that. And it's not just with North Korea. Others are similarly concerning to us.

SEC. FREIDT: And we did brief China.


SEC. ROOD:  Yes. Go ahead and take that.

SEC. FREIDT: And we did -- we did brief China.

Q: Also today, or...

SEC. FREIDT: No, and with China, I would say we've long sought to have dialog with China to -- specifically to discuss and enhance our understanding of nuclear weapon issues, to help manage the risk of miscalculation, misperceptions. So, yep, we briefed them this morning.

MODERATOR: (inaudible)

Q: Yeah, yeah. Thank you very much. 

On North Korea nuclear issues, recently, in North Korea, Kim Jong-un said that the nuclear button is on his table, toward the United States. What is the United States doing to prevent North Korea's nuclear attack? And what is the U.S.'s final destination of all this?

SEC. ROOD: Well, certainly, the Nuclear Posture Review talks about one of its aims, deterring North Korean nuclear attack. And, on that, we're very explicit that, clearly, these capabilities are intended to deter North Korea from a nuclear attack in the United States or our allies.

Another element of our deterrent posture with North Korea is the ballistic missile defense system that the United States employs. One of the things that it does is it reduces the likelihood that North Korea would contemplate or use a ballistic missile to attack the United States, knowing that we have a capability to defeat that. 

And, if North Korea would, in a hypothetical, launch a ballistic missile tipped with a nuclear weapon at the United States, that we intercepted, it's not the sort of thing that we would say, "Well, that's the end of the story. Let's go back to the way things were before." That kind of attack on the United States or our allies that we defeated is something that we would regard extremely seriously, for obvious reasons. 

And so ballistic missile defenses that are credible and effective are very important as part of our deterrent equation, both for the United States, as well as for our friends and allies around the world. And that's why you've seen us, over the years, in the United States Defense Department, not only deploy some of these capabilities on the home territory of our allies, where they host them, but also have our forces that are deployed there increasingly have those capabilities. 

Because the connection between our allies' security in an attack with shorter-range missiles, and that against the United States homeland, are increasingly being driven together. And we have to have an integrated set of capabilities, which is what we're pursuing, and we've requested money from the Congress both last year -- you will see that again in our budget proposal this year to the Congress -- for substantial funds for our ballistic missile defense system.

Our nuclear capabilities are also very important in that deterrence equation: how we message, how we talk about the circumstances is also part of our messaging to North Korea. And you'll see some passages in the NPR speak directly to North Korea about our thinking in that regard.

MODERATOR: (off mic) We'll go next, then, to Luis Martinez, ABC News.

Q: Hi. 

President Trump, during the campaign trail, made a promise to increase and strengthen the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Does this NPR -- is that a result of that influence? Did that come into play at all?

And, secondly, there's also been some immediate criticism from the Hill already that this new low-yield capability is an unnecessary capability. What is your response to that?

And thirdly -- and my apologies on this -- the 2010 NPR eliminated the already existing sub-launched cruise missile capability. If that had been allowed to continue, would that have not necessitated the current request?

SEC. ROOD: I think, first of all, the Nuclear Posture Review was something that the president instructed us at the Defense Department, the Energy Department, State Department and others to construct. And so, certainly, in -- at its most basic level, it's a response to instruction from the president that we do this type of review. And so it clearly reflects the priorities of his administration that have -- that have come forward. And we were given certain criteria under which to look.

I do think, though, the review and its adjustments in how we approach nuclear weapons and -- and the delivery systems, is really driven by the threat environment, which continues to evolve in very concerning ways. 

You mentioned the congressional reaction. I think one of the things that I've heard, when I've been up with senators and congressmen, is increasing concern across the political spectrum about what's going on in that environment. About the change in the security threats facing the United States and our allies. 

A lot of concern about what -- the direction in Russia and the type of capabilities and doctrine that the Russian government is pursuing. And, indeed, some of its behavior, as you know, against its -- its near-abroad, and against other countries. 

Certainly, China is also an area that's -- you mentioned the Congress has shown a lot of concern there, about its increasing capabilities. And North Korea. 

So I think that security environment is, really, what's informing and driving some of the changes here. Again, for a more flexible set of capabilities, for tailored deterrence so that there's no one-size-fits-all approach to every circumstance in to how we're going to deter an -- deter adversaries and assure allies. 

Your other question, about low-yield nuclear weapons -- again, low-yield nuclear weapons have been in the U.S. arsenal for decades, and the -- the obvious point behind that is, in both Republican and Democratic administrations, they've been present. 

And what is contemplated here, for the recapitalization of the nuclear triad, I would point out, many of those programs were begun on the request of the Congress in the last administration. 

And so I do think there is -- there is a bipartisanship around the need for a strong, effective nuclear triad. And I'm optimistic the -- that the Congress will, again, support the kind of budget request that the president will come forward with shortly, in accordance with his statements that he made before, about wanting a robust defense budget for the United States. 

I guess the last question you had related to the submarine-launched cruise missile -- compliment you on the proliferation of questions, there -- with the submarine-launched cruise missile, you know, again, it -- it's a capability the United States possessed for decades, after its introduction before. That system was later in its service life. 

I won't speak for the -- the previous administration in terms of their decision-making, but I will speak for what the Nuclear Posture Review calls for, which is studying the appropriate way to move forward for a reintroduction of a submarine-launched cruise missile with the appropriate attributes. That we can have flexible, credible low-yield nuclear options in order to reinforce this idea of tailored deterrence. 

Q: Colin Clark, Breaking Defense. It's been a long time since the senior leadership in the United States has paid such close attention to nuclear matters in depth. Have you, in this room, or others taken personal part in wargames to improve your understanding of the decision-making matrices, the command-and-control intricacies, and/or do you plan to soon? 

SEC. ROOD: The type of planning that you're referring to, that -- I should back up and say: Planning for various contingencies, performing exercises and thought explorations about various circumstances is one of the tools we routinely use at the Defense Department, in -- in a whole range of circumstances. Those are not unique to the nuclear weapons enterprise. 

Certainly, in the nuclear weapons enterprise, the stakes are dramatically higher. But, yes, that is the kind of discussion, the type of planning we do. It's not the only thing, but it's one of the tools that we use, and I have personally participated in the type of planning and exercises. 

And that's not unusual, by the way. I would note, I served in the Pentagon before, in the Defense Department. I similarly, you know, participated in planning and exercises at that time. So it's not a new innovation of the present administration.

Q: But do you see the increased depth of interest in nuclear issues has elevated your participation to any degree, or what?

SEC. ROOD: I think that the security environment in the world has elevated the level of attention to this area, whether it's in the Defense Department, the Energy Department, the State Department. I won't speak for my colleagues, but -- in the Congress, as well. 

Certainly, the various organs of the United States government -- and I think there's no question people are more concerned about this. And how can you not be? Kim Jong-un brings it to your -- front of your radar screen in the morning, many times, based on what he's saying or doing.

SEC. ERHART: Can I add to that?

SEC. ROOD: Yes, please do.

SEC. ERHART: Yeah. So the national level -- I want to talk about the national-level interest, and the fact that this is a policy that's, you know -- was created by the interagency, reviewed and approved by the president of the United States, reasserting our commitment to maintaining and securing and modernizing our nuclear stockpile and our infrastructure.

So that, to me, is very good news for the -- for the country, for the people of the United States, for the people I represent here today, given that we've -- we have people that have devoted their adult lives to this endeavor; they believe in it. 

I really appreciated the deputy secretary of defense calling out the men and women that work in this area. I'll do the same for ours that are not in uniform, but have strong beliefs that what they do every day is strengthening national security.

So to have the national-level support for that, I think, is very good and will definitely help us, moving forward, to -- with all the work that we have going on, and will continue to do. So I just wanted to add that. 

If you want to add anything... 

SEC. FREIDT: Yeah, thanks. 

I agree, from a security perspective -- from the diplomatic perspective, it's -- the worsening security situation is something that we certainly take note of at the State Department. And, as I mentioned, our allies and partners have -- certainly are aware of it, and also see the increased danger.

MODERATOR: And I apologize. With that, we're out of time. I know there's a number of you we weren't able to get to, but we did promise to let these three get out of here on time. We've gone over an hour. 

But thank you very much, and thank you, ladies and gentlemen. If you have follow-ups, I know Tom Crosson is here. I know he will -- is eager to answer all your unanswered questions, so find him. Thanks.