WASHINGTON, Sept. 27, 2016 — The American nuclear mission is vital to the nation’s security, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told troops at the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico, today.
The secretary is traveling across North Dakota, New Mexico, California and Hawaii through Oct. 1 to focus on the U.S. nuclear enterprise.
While at Kirtland -- home of critical operational, testing, storage and development units -- Carter toured its underground munitions maintenance storage complex and met with senior leaders charged with maintaining and securing a key part of the nation’s nuclear arsenal.
Later in a troop-talk forum, the secretary told Kirtland service members that the nuclear mission is the bedrock of American security. “We understand that every day,” Carter said. “It is what everything else rests upon.”
He also emphasized the importance of working with Energy Department leaders, because the U.S. nuclear enterprise must continue to operate with both departments.
Nuclear Deterrent: America’s Strength
The secretary told the troops they must make a deterrent so strong, effective, reliable, secure and safe that no one can doubt the American deterrent’s strength against an either an attack on the nation or on its allies.
But it’s becoming a more complicated task in today’s world than it was in decades past, he said, noting that the type and variety of nuclear use the nation is called upon for deterrence is more varied today than it was during the Cold War.
Catching Up On Underinvestment
The nuclear program is “something we underinvested in for some time,” the secretary said.
“So the honest truth is we not only have to pay attention to the era in which we live,” he added, ”but catch up a little bit on the underinvestment we have made.”
The military must and will get on with carrying out its nuclear programs, he emphasized, telling the troops, “You are an essential part of that, so I commend you.”
The secretary said he wanted the Kirtland troops to take with them the Defense Department’s commitment to the nuclear enterprise.
Because it is the basis of American security, “Its excellence is not something I take for granted,” he said. “It’s something I’m proud of and thankful for every day.”
And while America’s citizens likely just know the nuclear program exists to keep them safe and protected, the secretary said, “they’re expecting that level of professionalism and performance from us, and I know we will get it from you for years, and as far into the future as I can see.”(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)