Modernization of US nuclear weapons is a must, energy secretary says at White House

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test April 26, 2017, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ian Dudley)

The continued modernization of the nation’s nuclear weapons is a necessity, Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm told reporters Thursday afternoon at the White House.

“We have to modernize the nation’s nuclear arsenal,” Granholm said in response to a question in the briefing room. “We have to keep and maintain the stockpile to make sure that it is safe and effective, and we will continue to do that to ensure that we can deter nuclear aggression from other countries.”

A sizable chunk of the Energy Department’s budget is dedicated to U.S. nuclear weapons — a force capable of immense destruction. The department’s fiscal year 2021 budget request totaled $35.4 billion, and almost $20 billion was earmarked for the weapons- and nonproliferation-focused National Nuclear Security Administration.

“So, our nuclear deterrent is important and it is embedded in the values of that stockpile,” Granholm said Thursday. “And we’ll make sure that our people are safe.”

President Joe Biden’s fiscal year 2022 budget blueprint is expected soon.

Since taking the reins at the DOE, Granholm has publicly focused on clean energy, related infrastructure, and jobs and the economy. Her official Twitter profile has cleaved closely to the Biden administration’s latest priorities and initiatives.

Granholm earlier this year told a Senate energy and natural resources panel she would focus on three missions, including “the security of America through the National Nuclear Security Administration,” which stewards the nuclear arsenal, “and clean-up of our Cold War legacy, ensuring that we can protect our nation.”

Savannah River Site Watch Director Tom Clements in January anticipated Granholm would “make tough decisions reshaping U.S. nuclear weapons policy in a way that increases our collective security while reducing financial costs and reducing reliance on nuclear weapons.”

Other observers have predicted greater scrutiny under a Biden administration, compared to the Trump administration. Both Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks have said they support a review of ongoing nuclear modernization efforts.


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