US Task Force on Nuclear Weapons Management report, 8 January 2009
“I want to thank the review panel, led by James R. Schlesinger, for their very thorough and detailed report on the ‘Secretary of Defense’s Task Force on Nuclear Weapons Management,’” said Secretary of Defense Robert Gates today. “I really appreciate the tremendous effort that went into the phase two review of the DoD nuclear mission and commend all of the task force members on the thoughtful recommendations made with respect to these complex and serious issues.”
“The U.S. nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure and reliable; no one should doubt our capabilities or our resolve to defend U.S. and allies’ interests by deterring aggression. The report identified numerous trends, both recent and long-term, that may warrant corrective actions. The Department will continue to review the panel’s recommendations while ensuring the long-term credibility of the U.S. nuclear deterrent forces and sustaining allied confidence in U.S. security commitments well into the future,” said Gates.
For a copy of the report of the Secretary of Defense Task Force on DoD Nuclear Weapons Management Part II go to: http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/pdfs/PhaseIIReportFinal.pdf .
Source: US Department of Defense, www.defenselink.mil.
DoD Press Briefing with the Secretary's Task Force on Nuclear Weapons Management, US Department of Defence News Transcript, 8 January 2009
BRYAN WHITMAN (deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Public Affairs): Well, good morning. And let me just go ahead and do a brief introduction here.
I think that most of you were here in September for the initial work of the task force, but I'm pleased today to have with us the members of the secretary of Defense's Task Force on Nuclear Weapons Management. It was in June that Secretary Gates appointed the task force to recommend improvements and measures to enhance deterrence and international confidence in U.S. nuclear -- in the U.S. nuclear deterrent. The task force was appointed as a subcommittee of the Defense Policy Board and chaired by Dr. James Schlesinger here.
The task force was asked by the secretary to report in two phases. The first phase was to deal with the matters related to the Department of the Air Force, and they published that report, as you will recall, last September. Today, the task force is here to discuss the second phase, which was an examination of the nuclear matters in DOD as a whole.
And today, Dr. Schlesinger has with him the other panel members. Most of them, I think, are known to all of you, but they are Dr. Jacques Gansler; retired Admiral G, as we fondly refer to him; retired General Michael Carns; Mr. Christopher Williams; and Mr. Frank Miller.
So with that, Dr. Schlesinger is going to give you an overview of their findings and then, as necessary, call on some of his subject matter experts here.
So, Dr. Schlesinger, thank you again, and thank you for -- on behalf of the department for the work that the task force did on this.
MR. SCHLESINGER: Well, thank you.
The task force has immensely enjoyed the work that it has done.
And we are grateful to the secretary for having appointed this task force. We expressed that gratitude to him when we presented him with the second-phase report, which I believe you have a copy of.
The secretary sent a letter of thanks to the members of the commission. I want to read only one sentence from it. "The U.S. nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure and reliable. No one should doubt our capabilities or our resolve to defend U.S. and allied interests by deterring aggression."
Deterrence, as all of you know, is as old as human conflict. What the Israelis are doing at the present time in the Gaza Strip is to re-create a deterrent. Deterrence during the Cold War became identified with nuclear weapons to a large extent, perhaps an excessive extent. But deterrence is quite separate.
Nuclear deterrence is different. It is different in two respects. One is the enormous power, destructiveness, of nuclear weapons. The second is that nuclear weapons are basically created in -- in the desire to avoid the actual use of those weapons in combat. It is, therefore, a different kind of deterrent.
Conventional forces likely will be used in combat. Nuclear forces, we hope, will not have to be used. And therefore it creates a kind of divergence with respect to the capabilities that one has in one's nuclear force.
On the one hand, there is a concept of a second-strike force, that even under attack we'll be able to destroy the designated targets on the other side. But the larger role, and the one that we feel has been neglected to some extent, within the DOD at large as well as previously, with the Air Force, is that role of deterring any use of nuclear weapons against American soil, against American interests, against America's allies.
And consequently, the -- this larger purpose of our nuclear forces, our nuclear deterrent, has sometimes been neglected within the Department of Defense as a whole, in the same way that the Air Force came to neglect it, as recounted in the phase one report.
The services, as we discovered, have tended to understate the unique aspects of deterrence, and the principal question is to some extent that they have failed to fully recognize the psychological and political consequences of our deterrent forces. This has many illustrations, some of which you will read about when you go through the report; but most of these illustrations reflect a focus on the military aspects rather than on the psychological aspects, remembering that deterrence is in the eye of the beholder.
The strength of the American deterrent will be evaluated in Moscow, Beijing, Warsaw, Tokyo and other such places; that is, amongst potential -- potential -- opponents and amongst the allies whom we are committed to protect.
I remind you of what we stated in the first report: that the United States is obligated to provide a nuclear umbrella for 30-plus nations, and that number may increase. Thus, those 30 nations must retain confidence in the U.S. nuclear umbrella. If they fail to do so, some five or six of those nations are quite capable of beginning to produce nuclear weapons on their own, and the consequence is to add to proliferation. The strength of the U.S. nuclear umbrella, the credibility of that umbrella, is a principal barrier to proliferation.
As I mentioned earlier, some of the problems that we saw in the case of the Air Force are replicated in the DOD at large. There has been a dispersal of office and personnel. There has been a downgrading and dilution of authority. There has been no training and no teaching of the doctrine of deterrence and an absence of an understanding of the unique role that nuclear weapons must play, irrespective of how large their domain happens to be. As you know, since the Cold War, the domain of nuclear weapons has substantially shrunk, but whatever the size of that domain, others must see that the forces that we have are quite capable of carrying out their responsibilities.
We emphasize that deterrence must start from the top, that the services, indeed, have picked up clues over the years since the end of the Cold War that the interest in deterrence at the highest levels of DOD has diminished. And if deterrence is in the eye of the beholder, it is a political statement that must come from the very highest offices of the government, not only here in the DOD but from the White House, from the Department of State and the like.
We, generally speaking, found one aspect of our deterrent posture to be quite impressive, and that is the Navy. The Navy is a -- SSP within the Navy is isolated and it performs its functions quite well.
Admiral Giambastiani, referred to earlier as Admiral G, may have something to say on that subject.
But we were quite satisfied, generally, with the Navy's performance. Morale is high, by contrast to some of the indications of lower morale in the Air Force in the nuclear establishment when we visited them earlier.
We make some recommendations for change. Within the OSD, we urge the establishment of an assistant secretary of Defense; within the policy shop, an assistant secretary of Defense for deterrence, who will have within him -- within his authorities over other elements in the OSD.
We urge that the Nuclear Weapons Council be expanded to cover the full range of nuclear capabilities. To this point, the Nuclear Weapons Council has been focused primarily on the nuclear weapons themselves, in association with the Department of Energy, which has the responsibility for making and maintaining those weapons.
We urge that the missions assigned to STRATCOM be reviewed because STRATCOM has multiple and diverse missions, and we believe that STRATCOM is overloaded. We urge that the STRATCOM and JFCC capabilities be reviewed to see that they have adequate resources because the -- I mentioned there has been some downgrading and shrinkage of the resources available in this mission. Repeat, no matter how circumscribed this mission becomes in the postwar -- -Cold War era, there must be adequate resources, so that nobody doubts its capabilities.
And finally, we have recommended that the Joint Staff capabilities for oversight and direction, which have eroded, be restored and placed under a general officer.
One should bear in mind that we are interested in the future. We are not just interested in what the capabilities are today. We are concerned, as we look out five, 10 years, that to the extent that we need a nuclear deterrent -- and the Commission on Strategic Posture appointed by the Congress states that we will need a nuclear deterrent for the indefinite future -- that there be no doubt in the minds of any observers in foreign capitals as to the strength, the credibility -- indeed, the impressiveness -- of the nuclear deterrent of the United States.
As we look to the future, we must look to sustain our forces. We must look in certain respects to modernize our forces. Some aspects of our nuclear forces will begin to fade from the scene about the year 2013, so we will have to have plans to sustain our forces.
And at that point, I'm going to turn this over for any further comments from our task force members. What have I left out?
GEN. CARNS: Mr. Secretary, you might mention the role of the Air Force has turned -- (off mike).
MR. SCHLESINGER: General Carns suggests that, as we mentioned in the study -- and we have commended both directly and indirectly the Air Force -- that the Air Force has really turned, too. They have been immensely responsive to the phase one report. They are putting the additional resources necessary into strengthening those forces. And it has established a separate command which will be focused on the Air Force's element of the nuclear mission.
MR. MILLER: You might also mention how impressed we are with the interest Secretary Gates has shown in this since he has taken office.
MR. SCHLESINGER: Franklin suggested how impressed we are with the continued interest of Secretary Gates in this problem, as reflected in his letters.
He has gone through the material, without endorsing every element of it. We have a general approval. And I think that as long as he is around, this ex-SAC officer will continue to see to it that the services are attentive to the nuclear mission.
Q Mr. Secretary, what's your assessment of the damage that's been done to international confidence in the U.S. deterrent because of the shortcomings that your report points out?
MR. SCHLESINGER: I think that it has created a concern and that the concern reached -- I hope, reached its peak and passed its peak at the time of the two episodes, Minot and the forward end of the Minuteman missiles going to Taiwan. It showed that we were -- that we had been less than attentive to the details of the nuclear mission.
I think that it has been undermined by -- for some extent -- by some extent with the usual talk within a democracy whether we can get rid of nuclear weapons ultimately or whether we need to have a nuclear mission at all. This is kind of perpetual. Many of you who are old enough to remember will recall the nuclear freeze. You will recall the nuclear build-down. You will recall the questioning of the deployment of Pershing Missiles to Europe. Each and every time, within our democratic framework, questions have been raised. And to a large extent, those conversations are treated by babble -- as babble in foreign countries, but sometimes if they seem to be serious enough there is an expression of concern.
I think we have had some direct expressions of concern from some of those who are under American protection. I think that, given the actions that Secretary Gates has under way, given the attitude within the Air Force, which has, on this issue, turned around entirely, that those concerns will fade, if they have not already done so.
Q Can you say in which countries the concerns have been greatest?
MR. SCHLESINGER: I think that there has been public expression of concern in Japan by senior officers, and that there has been what I'll call private expressions of concern.
Some of the nations in Europe, most notably, those in Eastern Europe, have -- who were eager to come under the umbrella by becoming part of NATO have, particularly in the light of activities in Georgia, had to be reassured once again. But I think that we are progressing in -- to the extent that there was a loss of confidence, that that confidence is restored.
This task force, as you may recall, was established by Secretary Gates to ensure the credibility of the continued U.S. nuclear mission.
Q This is probably answered in the report, but I guess -- I don't know if you're aware, we were not provided copies of the report before the briefing, so we're kind of flying blind here.
MR. SCHLESINGER: That's just to increase your eagerness to read -- (laughter) -- subsequent to the meeting.
Q We'll let you know if that worked or not. (Laughter.) The assistant -- or the --
MR. SCHLESINGER: I'm disappointed in the dedication of journalists if there is no such activity.
Q The -- your recommendation to assign a -- an assistant secretary of Defense for policy --
MR. SCHLESINGER: Assistant secretary of Defense for deterrence, who will be part of the policy shop.
Q Has that been -- has the timeline been set for when that position will be created? It's -- I'm assuming that's something Secretary Gates has approved or signed off on.
MR. SCHLESINGER: I don't think that anyone would suggest there's a timeline. There is, I think, a willingness to create an ASD position. There will -- we recommend that it be in the policy shop, but there may be turf concerns on the part of other elements of the Pentagon. And where it will ultimately rest is not dependent on the specific views of this task force.
Q To what do you account the differences you discovered between how the Air Force and the Navy are handling their missions?
MR. SCHLESINGER: I mentioned one of them, which is a difference in morale.
The Navy mission is encapsulated. The Air Force mission was spread over the Air Force. After the dissolution of SAC in 1991, the assets of SAC were distributed throughout the Air Force.
And as a result, the bombers went off to the Mobility Command.
MR (off mike): Air Combat Command, sir.
MR. SCHLESINGER: I'm sorry. Did I say the bombers?
The tankers went off to the Mobility Command. The bombers went to the Combat Command. Initially the missiles were assigned to the Air Combat Command then were shifted to Space Command, where they were renamed not missile wings but renamed space wings, which may sound unimportant to outsiders but were important to the people in it.
As a result, by and large, the people in the Air Force mission and particularly in the bomber wing of that mission did not believe that there was any seriousness taken at higher levels.
In the case of the Navy, it is encapsulated within the SSP. We point out that there is some fraying at the edges, even with the Navy, particularly with long-run personnel problems and with regard to the TLAM problem, the land attack missile, nuclear. And we expressed some concern about that.
But the central submarine mission has remained a high morale mission. They are like the Air Force people. They notice that there is less interest at the highest levels in what they are doing. And basically they do not care.
They say, we know what our mission is. We are good at -- we know that it's valuable to the country. So the fact that it's encapsulated and consequently has high morale has protected the Navy mission from some of the -- many of the ills that are associated with the Air Force.
ADM. GIAMBASTIANI: Sir, the only thing I would add to that, in this question is, is if you look -- Secretary Schlesinger explained to you about the complexity and the diversity of the organizations within the Air Force.
And certainly General Carns can address that. But since the mission was spread over so many locations, it is very different than, as Secretary Schlesinger described to you, having this very tight group.
I'm a submarine officer, myself, as many of you know. And this -- these units have remained integral throughout the Cold War and through today. We did find some changing, though, of the staff levels within the Navy. And if you look at our report you'll see that we recommend that both the Atlantic and Pacific sides of the submarine force have group commanders. Right now there's a single one who shares a staff -- actually, a reduced-size staff.
So as we went through the Air Force and looked at the Air Force very carefully, we looked at the Navy and said, what long-term goals? We also looked at the Strategic System Project Office, and even though it's a very well run, tight organization, we thought some additional responsibilities ought to go to them and that we want to increase the rank of the commander of that unit.
But you have to look at the report in some detail to see these organizational changes. But Secretary Schlesinger covered the main piece.
MR. SCHLESINGER: Thank you. General Carns, would you like to --
GEN. CARNS: As you're well aware, in the early '90s, the Air Force downsized considerably, reorganized and focused primarily on the conventional mission. As the secretary has pointed out, the bombers were put into the ACC, which combined Tactical Air Command and the other strategic assets. The tankers were migrated off and so were missiles. Along with that, the ISR assets were also dispersed.
With the emphasis on the conventional mission and the Drell report, which suggested we no longer have bombers on alert, the nuclear mission was sharply degraded in importance and those that were in those systems, responsible for that, felt as though it was not an important mission. Following that, of course, we have used the B-52, later the B-1 and even the B-2 in the conventional mission. And therefore, the sense was this was not an important mission.
Moreover, when the missiles were moved over to Space Command, the Space Command overwhelmed the missile responsibility in terms of people, in terms of budget, in terms of emphasis, and therefore it sort of got lost over there as well.
This decision by the chief and the secretary, which we strongly endorse, brings the three missile wings and the three nuclear-capable bomb wings into a single organization with no other responsibilities -- no ISR, no cyber, none of the other things that were in 8th Air Force and other units -- to put focus and commitment on that mission, to bring it up to strength and create a professional force once again that's focused on the nuclear mission.
We laud these moves. Of the 33 recommendations in phase one, 30 are all under way and the other three are being taken on. So we believe this has been a wonderful joint undertaking in carrying this out.
Q Could I ask a question?
MR. : (Inaudible.)
MR. MILLER: Just to keep with the theme, as you'll see in the report, this dissolution of authority and focus not only occurred within the Air Force, it occurred in this building, as well. And as we note, there are something like 40 different offices in OSD that deal with nuclear deterrence or weapons of mass destruction. And so what needs to occur, in our judgment -- and you'll see that in our recommendations -- is again the same kind of single focus that we have talked about with respect to the Air Force and which we do find in the Navy. And that extends to the Joint Staff as well. So there is a consistent theme in what we're recommending.
MR. SCHLESINGER: One other point, if I may mention, and I hope it's not redundant, but it is, I think, important. The Navy submarines are out there all the time. The mission, particularly for the Air Force bombers, has not been exercised in -- what is it -- 10 years or so? Unless you have continued exercising of these missions, they tend to seem unimportant.
We are about to have the thousandth mission of the Ohio Class submarine. We have urged that -- partly as to demonstrate the high- level attentiveness to what the Navy is doing and continues to do -- that senior figures go down to visit at King's Bay for that thousandth mission.
Q I want to ask you both. For seven years, we've been hearing about transformation of the military under the Rumsfeld regime here, focused largely on conventional forces.
Is it a fair and accurate review -- reading of your report that that overemphasis on conventional didn't account -- it didn't take into the importance of -- didn't transform our understanding of the importance of maintaining the nuclear mission in terms of doctrine, training and funding?
MR. SCHLESINGER: I think that that's a fair interpretation. I think that there was a view that the nuclear mission was sizable, that, in a sense, it could take care of itself, and that the new focus should be on building up certain conventional forces that seemed to be more relevant to what we --
Q Was that a mistake, though, in retrospect, to assume that this could go on kind of by rote, without proper maintenance of doctrine and funding?
MR. SCHLESINGER: I think that it's always an error to assume that the esprit of military units will be sustained because they have been high-esprit units in the past, if there is as long as a decade of just relying on them to do their thing.
Q Sir, you mentioned that STRATCOM is overloaded. I was wondering if there were any current missions of STRATCOM in particular that you identified as being best assigned to another command.
MR. SCHLESINGER: We were, I think, somewhat delicate about that. We emphasized the three missions that should stay with the command, which were nuclear --
MR. (off mike): Global strike.
MR. SCHLESINGER: Global strike, yes.
MR. (off mike): And space.
MR. (off mike): And the space mission.
MR. SCHLESINGER: The space mission.
Q In the view of the task force, how important is modernization to enhancing deterrent? And also, does the sort of weakened deterrent preclude much deeper reductions in the U.S. nuclear arsenal?
MR. SCHLESINGER: It certainly does not preclude them. Let me rephrase that -- or modify that.
It certainly does not preclude further reductions. Whether deeper reductions are possible is, I think, beyond the purview of this task force, but in my own personal judgment, we should be very cautious about that.
One of the things that tends to be forgotten in this period is that the Russians are sitting out there with 8,000 nuclear weapons, and that to the extent that we can reduce -- both of us can reduce weapons -- as we are urged by other members of the international community -- this must be done, in my judgment, on a bilateral basis, which means further negotiations on START and SALT. But if the Russians come down, we can come down further.
It is important for all of us to bear in mind something that the Russians repeatedly tell us: that the important issue is not numbers; the important issue is stability, and that to the extent that one focuses only on numbers and neglects the issue of stability, one could endanger not only the United States and Russia, but also international peace.
So, no, it's not precluded. I think that there is in mind the possibility of further significant reductions. I don't want to call them deep reductions -- significant reductions. That should be a result of negotiations with the Russians, who have been slower than we have to come down.
Q And on modernization?
MR. SCHLESINGER: Oh, I'm sorry. On modernization, there are two questions, or at least two questions. One is the continued refurbishment of elements of the force. If the force is allowed to decay, obviously it is not capable of doing what we would like it to do.
And particularly it will be noticed sooner or later by other nations, for whom the credibility of the U.S. nuclear deterrent is critical.
Refurbishment refers, as you will read, to elements of the force like -- ALCM-- the TLAM-N. Some of these will disappear as capabilities, in the years ahead, unless they are refurbished.
Then there is the longer-run question: Bombers, ICBMs, SLBMs. There are plans within the Department of Defense to handle all of these. I don't really regard that either as modernization, although there may be elements of modernization.
Modernization, I think, refers to adjustments that turn -- alter the character of the force. And on that, the task force has been silent. We have been more focused upon the weakening, the dispersal of attention, in a sense, the degradation of the force, not in upward changes in the character of the force.
You may be referring to the RRW, which Secretary Gates has spoken eloquently about. I think that it is plain that the stockpile is aging and that one way or another, we are going to have to pay attention, over time, to the aging of the stockpile and whether or not we can have the same degree of confidence, in the stockpile, that we have had in the past.
To this point, the stockpile stewardship program has been remarkably successful in that it has served, as Bill Perry has observed, far beyond our wildest expectations, in terms of sustaining confidence in the stockpile. Yet there are still uncertainties. Over time, those uncertainties will grow. And we will have to deal with them.
Q One thing about the capability review you mentioned for the JFCC and STRATCOM to sort of identify how --
MR. SCHLESINGER: I'm not sure -- I can't hear you.
Q Sorry. One of the points you mentioned earlier was the capability review for STRATCOM and JFCC --
MR. SCHLESINGER: Right.
Q -- to identify possible inadequacies in resources. Did the task force see any signs of where that may go? I know the review's not complete yet, but what are some of the preliminary thoughts on where some those inadequacies may lie in those organizations?
MR. SCHLESINGER: Admiral?
ADM. GIAMBASTIANI: There's a couple of areas here that specifically we talked about within the department. First of all, you're referring to the JCIDS process or the joint capability improvement process that takes place on a routine basis between the services, the combatant commands and the joint staff.
Many of the functions that were -- and you'll see this in the report in detail -- many of the functions that used to occur in the nuclear deterrent area, the nuclear weapons area, were eliminated, reduced in size, reduced in scope, the ranks were reduced and the focus and attention, for example, inside the joint staff and also the focus and attention, as described earlier, within OSD were proliferated amongst a large number of staffs.
And essentially what we're trying to do is recommend consolidations and a better focus and day-to-day attention. What we're looking for are staffs -- people, most importantly, and senior folks who get up every morning and worry about the nuclear deterrence mission and the nuclear weapons mission in a way that does not detract from that overall mission and attention.
For example, a question earlier on STRATCOM: It's not that STRATCOM is not a very capable combatant command; the problem is, is we've proliferated the number of missions up to nine major areas over the last number of years. And we've recommended a consolidation and a reduction and better focusing to allow the commander and his staff to conduct the kind of oversight they need. So that's the type of things we're talking about. And I'd just take a look at the report for those very detailed pieces.
MR. SCHLESINGER: Sir.
Q Dr. Schlesinger, how does your model for an assistant secretary of defense for deterrence differ from the model that General Welch's Defense Science Board task force recommended in February?
He called for the creation of an assistant secretary of Defense for the nuclear enterprise. I'm just wondering how your models differed, if you used --
MR. SCHLESINGER: Well, ours is -- ours is somewhat broader. I don't remember where General Welch assigned it. We recommended that it be a part of the policy shop. The question of nuclear deterrence is to a great extent a policy matter.
Where did Larry put his?
MR. (off mike): I do not recall, sir.
MR. SCHLESINGER: I think that it was sort of generic. We are more specific where to put it.
MR. (off mike): I've actually got a -- (off mike).
MR. SCHLESINGER: And it's a broader responsibility: assistant secretary of Defense for deterrence.
MR. (off mike): The deputy is to be a person from that division.
MR. SCHLESINGER: The deputy should be somebody from the AT&L.
Q Did your report or your research give any indication that North Korea over the last decade has become emboldened in both its long-range missile programs and its nuclear enrichment programs by a perception that the U.S. nuclear deterrent has degraded, diffused authority, no longer is seen as significant?
MR. SCHLESINGER: I don't think that Pyongyang has the exquisite vision, you know, to examine any small adjustments of the U.S. nuclear deterrent.
As a general proposition, I think that Pyongyang years ago might have had a higher probability estimate of a nuclear move against North Korea, but as the decades have gone on and as we have not reacted in the way they might have anticipated to their development of nuclear capabilities, they might have been encouraged to believe that they were reasonably safe from a nuclear response.
Q Okay, but for a follow-up, does that carry through to today or is that -- I'm not understanding you clearly here. Do you think that's today's situation, or that was a more historic view?
MR. SCHLESINGER: I think that that probably is today's situation, that they have developed confidence -- perhaps misplaced confidence -- that the United States, if it were to go after their nuclear capabilities, likely would do so with conventional forces.
Q Versus nuclear forces?
MR. SCHLESINGER: I'm sorry, not --
Q Versus nuclear forces? That they think that the U.S. would go after their nuclear capability with conventional forces --
MR. SCHLESINGER: Right. Right.
Q -- versus U.S. nuclear forces?
MR. SCHLESINGER: That we would not use nuclear forces, right.
Q Thank you, sir.
MR. SCHLESINGER: Sir.
Q Same question. Does Iran feel the same way?
MR. SCHLESINGER: If so, it would reflect, in my personal judgment, which may be shared an undue confidence on the part of the leaders in Tehran.
Q Are you saying -- (off mike) -- weapons against Iran?
MR. SCHLESINGER: I'm saying that they would regard that as a much more likely development.
As you may recall, in the recent Democratic primaries, Mrs. Clinton observed that we can obliterate you. Mrs. Clinton will be the secretary of State. And I don't think that remark will be forgotten in Tehran, even if it has been forgotten in this country.
MR. (off mike): Remember, the point is the deterrent, not the actual use of the weapons. The weapons are used every day as a deterrent. And that was the central focus of our group.
MR. SCHLESINGER: Sir.
Q In the briefing with Dr. Gates, what recommendation or what part of your recommendation did you get the most pushback from him? What recommendations weren't as warmly embraced as the others?
For example, when you briefed us in September, I believe, Dr. Schlesinger, you said that in talking to the Air Force, you got the most pushback from them about the idea of moving all bombers, under Air Force Space Command, under your Air Force Strategic Command construct.
So along those same lines, again, where was the pushback most from Dr. Gates with your Phase II recommendations?
MR. SCHLESINGER: The secretary of Defense takes a broad overview of the department. Within the department, he has no, quote, "special interests." Within the Air Force, there is turf protection, special interests. So one might expect a higher level of pushback. So far we have gotten no pushback from the secretary.
Q So this idea of creating an assistant secretary for Deterrence; do you think that's going to happen? Or do you think it's --
MR. SCHLESINGER: I think that that is very likely to happen and that there will be a concentration of authority in that office. Moreover I think that you will find that the work of the Nuclear Weapons Council will be expanded.
And I think that the Joint Chiefs are carefully listening and that there will be -- that the Joint Staff will be more responsive on this issue and we will see a general officer put in charge.
MR. WHITMAN: I'd like to once again thank all of you for your work. It's not often that we get quite a group of distinguished individuals like this at the lectern here and at the podium. So thank you or your work.
Secretary Gates, as you can tell, was unable to join us today. But as you pick up your report, we do have a statement from him, that I encourage you to take along, thanking the task force for their work and commenting on it.
MR. SCHLESINGER: Thank you.
MR. WHITMAN: Thank you.
MR. SCHLESINGER: And remember, careful studies of the document. (Laughter.)
Source: US Department of Defense, www.defenselink.mil.