Thursday, March 20, 2008

Appointees Announced for Strategic Posture Commission

The House Armed Services Committee just announced the appointees to the bipartisan U.S. Strategic Posture Commission established in the FY 2008 Defense Authorization bill. Assigned to "look at the strategic posture of the United States in the broadest sense," the commission should submit a report by December 1, 2008 that includes a detailed review of nuclear weapons policy and strategy and an examination of non-nuclear alternatives to nuclear weapons.

Appointees nominated by the House Armed Services Committee are:

  • William Perry, Chairman, former Secretary of Defense
  • John Foster, Director Emeritus of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
  • Lee Hamilton, former Congressman and Vice Chair of the 9/11 Commission
  • Keith Payne, CEO and President, National Institute for Public Policy
  • Ellen Williams, University of Maryland Distinguished Professor
  • Harry Cartland, former physicist, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
And nominees from the Senate Armed Services Committee:
  • James Schlesinger, Commission Vice Chairman, former Secretary of Energy and Secretary of Defense
  • John Glenn, former Senator and NASA astronaut
  • Fred Ikle, former Director, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency
  • Morton Halperin, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs
  • James Woolsey, former Director, Central Intelligence Agency
  • Bruce Tarter, former Director, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Though some are skeptical, the panel overall offers some reasons for cautious optimism. Former Secretary of Defense William Perry as chairman is one good indication. His joint op-ed calling for a "world free of nuclear weapons" with Henry Kissinger, George Schultz, and Sam Nunn has revitalized the conversation to abolish nuclear weapons, and is part of the very motivation to establish this commission.

Glenn has been active on nuclear non-proliferation issues throughout his political career, favoring multilateral arms control agreements and helping to push through an amendment that restricts foreign aid to states that test nuclear weapons. Two other great signs are Halperin, now at the Center for American Progress, and Hamilton, chair of the Iraq Study Group and strong supporter of the CTBT.

Slightly left of center, we have Ikle, former Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, who has been a longtime advocate for the arms control agenda. His most recent work has focused on the danger of nuclear terrorism and the danger of lax security within our nuclear infrastructure. Halperin, a leading scholar on nuclear deterrence theory, opposes the need for nuclear weapons and has written several articles on the subject of conducting a more comprehensive nuclear posture review.

A few notable progressives certainly don't go unbalanced. The nomination of Cold Warriors Payne and Woolsey will make arms control advocates cringe. Payne was the study director of a 2001 report that strongly promoted the development of theatre based tactical nuclear weapons that failed to find support in Congress and was cut from the budget in 2004. Subsequently he has been in and out of government promoting the necessity and importance of the U.S. nuclear deterrent and the need to refurbish what he considers to be an aging nuclear stockpile. Woolsey has been quite hawkish in his approach to dealing with Iran, a continuation of his previous nuclear weapon fear-mongering used to support the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Notably, Payne, Woolsey, and Schlesinger are all members of the State Department's increasingly conservative International Security Advisory Board, headed by Wolfowitz.

Also bringing in the right, we have Foster who previously led a congressionally appointed panel that pushed for new nuclear weapons production. He was part of a later study from AAAS that critiqued the administration's RRW program, which he then distanced himself from, stating, "The report fails to recognize the urgency of initiating the RRW program to reduce risks in the stockpile."

One surprising note on the list is a shortage of former military personnel. The commission disappointingly also lacks representation from the non-profit community - one such choice could have been former Senator Gary Hart, now at the University of Colorado and Chair of Council for a Livable World, who has led a distinguished career in national security in government, the private sector, and the non-profit community. Hart co-chaired the U.S. Commission on National Security for the 21st Century, which performed the most comprehensive review of national security since 1947.

On the whole, a pretty solid panel of scientists and experts - not a lot of political bomb-throwers in the crowd. On one side of the debate, we could say it was predictable--a few token liberals, a few token conservatives, and a group on the whole that may just say what their appointers wanted them to and preserve the status quo.

But others are optimistic enough to hope for something a bit bolder - for a non-politicized debate that can redirect the focus of our nuclear policy away from the nuclear advocates who have directed it for far too long. With the right vision, the commission can steer nuclear policy to help to reduce current stockpiles, pay renewed attention to arms control treaties - particularly the soon-to-expire START I, and continue to cut funding for the Reliable Replacement Warhead and new nuclear programs.


Eli Lewine said...

I just want to say that John Glenn is a pretty awesome guy and that this has nothing to do with the fact that we are both from Ohio.

Jeffrey Lewis said...

As Director of US Advocacy for the Open Society Institute, I think Mort Halperin counts as representing the "non profit" community.

Mort has been a strong voice for a much more progressive national security policy, a principled stand that caused him no end of trouble with Nixon (who wiretapped him) and during the Clinton Administration, when his confirmation hearing got a little rough.

Katie Mounts said...

Thanks for the comment - You're definitely correct to point out Halperin's representation for and committment to the non-profit community. That should have read "much representation" from the non-profit community.

Still - and certainly not unbiased - with such representation for the government and labs, I would have liked to have seen a few additional familiar names we knew would offer some more unconventional and outside the Cold-War-box perspectives.

Anonymous said...

Looks like a good panel with views from across the political spectrum.

The continued need for a modern nuclear deterrent and modernized delivery systems should be a priority.

Smaller number of weapons with a smaller, yet responsive, infrastructure sure, but safe, modern and relaible absolutely.