America’s aging nuclear weapons come under scrutiny as Russia and China build up their arsenals

·14 min read

CHINA’S MASSIVE MISSILE FIELDS: Using commercial satellite imagery, the Federation of American Scientists has documented an ambitious program by China to dramatically expand its ability to launch hundreds of nuclear weapons, identifying two fields of missile silos under construction which would accommodate roughly 230 ICBMs.

The group calls the silo construction “the most significant expansion of the Chinese nuclear arsenal ever.” For decades, China has maintained about 20 silos for liquid-fuel DF-5 ICBMs under its so-called “minimum credible deterrent” strategy and was believed to have an arsenal of around 300 nuclear warheads.

By adding 120 silos to a site at Yumen, another 110 silos at Hami, and counting expansion of an existing site, China appears headed toward a total of 250 new silos under construction — more than ten times the number of ICBM silos in operation today.

“The 250 new silos under construction are in addition to the force of approximately 100 road-mobile ICBM launchers that PLARF [People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force] deploys at more than a dozen bases,” the group says. By comparison, the United States has about 450 silos for its ground-based nuclear missiles.

“The number of new Chinese silos under construction exceeds the number of silo-based ICBMs operated by Russia, and constitutes more than half of the size of the entire U.S. ICBM force,” the group says. “The Chinese missile silo program constitutes the most extensive silo construction since the U.S. and Soviet missile silo construction during the Cold War.”

ALARM BELLS: “We have known that China has been undergoing a crash nuclear build-up for some time and now it has been laid bare for all the world to see. These are not the actions of a country with a ‘no first use’ policy and seeking only a ‘minimum credible deterrent,’” said Alabama Republican Rep. Mike Rogers in a statement. “It is abundantly clear that we must also rapidly modernize our nuclear infrastructure and bring our deterrent into the 21st century.”

Rogers, ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, called on the Biden administration to ensure its Nuclear Posture Review looks at ways to deter both China and Russia “in different ways and with different mixes of delivery systems.”

“We need to have a serious discussion about what it truly means to have to deter two near-peer nuclear adversaries at the same time,” Rogers said.

RISKY BUSINESS: Rogers and his Senate counterpart, Oklahoma’s Jim Inhofe, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, disclosed a letter they say they received from the Nuclear Weapons Council, which is tasked with overseeing the maintenance and modernization of America’s nuclear arsenal.

Rogers and Inhofe say the letter warns that the Biden budget request for the National Nuclear Security Administration, which comes under the Energy Department, “injects risks” into plans to modernize all three legs of America’s nuclear triad.

“NWC members also believe that this budget injects risk into the longer term schedule required to ensure modernization of the U.S. nuclear deterrent,” the letter states. “NWC members express unanimous and grave concern that accepting increased programmatic risk within DOE/NNSA’s nuclear weapons activities will further increase operational risk at a time when both Departments are executing the nuclear modernization program of record.”

“The letter we received yesterday from the Nuclear Weapons Council highlights what we’ve been saying for months: National security spending that does not keep up with inflation is insufficient to safeguard this nation,” Rogers and Inhofe said in a statement. “For the first time in our nation’s history, we face the prospect of having to deter two near-peer nuclear competitors in Russia and China — both of which are massively expanding their nuclear arsenals. It’s irresponsible that this White House doesn’t seem to realize that, and put forward a budget that puts our nation in such a dangerous position.”


Good Wednesday morning and welcome to Jamie McIntyre’s Daily on Defense, written and compiled by Washington Examiner National Security Senior Writer Jamie McIntyre (@jamiejmcintyre) and edited by Victor I. Nava. Email here with tips, suggestions, calendar items, and anything else. Sign up or read current and back issues at If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email and we’ll add you to our list. And be sure to follow us on Twitter: @dailyondefense.


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HAPPENING TODAY: Subcommittees of the House Armed Services Committee get down to the business of marking up the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act today, with open hearings in 2118 Rayburn that begin this morning. All the markup sessions will be streamed live on the committee’s website.

Here’s the schedule:

10 a.m. — Cyber, Innovative Technologies, and Information Systems Subcommittee, mark available here

12 p.m. — Strategic Forces Subcommittee, mark available here

2 p.m. — Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, mark available here

3:30 p.m. — Military Personnel Subcommittee, mark available here

FUNDING FOR GUARD, CAPITOL SECURITY: The Senate has agreed to a $2.1 billion package that reimburses the National Guard for the $521 million it spent deploying troops to guard the U.S. Capitol after Jan. 6, just as the Guard is about to run out of money for the year.

The bipartisan bill, announced by Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, would also address expenses incurred on the Capitol complex as a result of the COVID pandemic and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

“We have the responsibility to take care of the Capitol Police in the wake of their incredible service on January 6th, and to reimburse our National Guard for costs incurred protecting the Capitol,” Leahy said in a statement. “We have the responsibility to pay for costs we have already incurred as a result of the pandemic. And we have the moral responsibility to stand with our Afghan partners who stood with us through two decades of war.”


BIDEN CONSIDERS MANDATORY VACCINES: On Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs became the first federal agency to require vaccinations. The requirement was for health workers only, but President Joe Biden confirmed yesterday he’s considering requiring all 4.2 million federal workers, including those in the military, to get a COVID vaccine or face regular testing.

Workers who decline the vaccine would be required to submit to regular testing and wear a mask to protect against the highly infectious delta variant of the coronavirus.

Biden was asked about his plans at an event yesterday at the Office of Director of National Intelligence. “Will you require federal employees to get vaccinated?” one worker asked.

“That's under consideration right now,” Biden replied. “But if you're not vaccinated, you're not nearly as smart as I thought you were.”

Asked if the CDC's mask guidance, which keeps changing, could sow confusion, Biden said, “We have a pandemic because of the unvaccinated, and they're sowing enormous confusion.”

“The more we learn about this virus and the delta variation, the more we have to be worried and concerned. And only one thing we know for sure: If those other hundred million people got vaccinated, we'd be in a very different world.”


AUSTIN TO CHINA: ‘WE WILL NOT FLINCH’: In a speech in Singapore yesterday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin delivered a warning to China about America’s resolve to push back against Beijing's expensive claims in the South China Sea and what he called “coercion against the people of Taiwan.”

Austin called out what he called “Beijing’s unwillingness to resolve disputes peacefully” and it’s lack of respect for “the rule of law.”

“We have also seen aggression against India, destabilizing military activity and other forms of coercion against the people of Taiwan, and genocide and crimes against humanity against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang,” Austin said. “We will not flinch when our interests are threatened. Yet we do not seek confrontation.”

“So let me be clear: As secretary, I am committed to pursuing a constructive, stable relationship with China,” he said. “These differences and disputes are real. But the way that you manage them counts.”


The Rundown

Washington Examiner: White House officials seek $1 billion in emergency funding for Afghan visa efforts

Washington Examiner: Bipartisan group of senators demand 'thorough review' of US funding for Chinese gain-of-function research

Washington Examiner: Lloyd Austin issues warning to China over Taiwan

Washington Examiner: Cybersecurity officials call on Congress to force private companies to disclose ransomware attacks

Washington Examiner: Former analyst who leaked sensitive drone details sentenced to nearly four years in prison

Washington Examiner: Justice Department says former Trump officials can testify in Jan. 6 committee investigations: Report

Washington Examiner: House reimposes mask mandate after CDC issues new guidance

Washington Examiner: House unanimously passes bill to create DC monument celebrating medal of honor recipients

Washington Examiner: Senate confirms Air Force secretary after hiccups

The Hill: Senate Panel Advances Navy Secretary Nominee

Defense News: House Bill Would Allow Navy To Retire Cruisers Early, Adds Funds To Build Second Destroyer

Newsweek: U.K. Warship Enters South China Sea Despite Beijing Warnings

Yonhap: U.S. Approach Toward N. Korea Leaves Doors Open To Dialogue: Austin

Reuters: Biden: If U.S. Has 'Real Shooting War' It Could Be Result Of Cyber Attacks

Wall Street Journal: U.S., Russia to Hold Arms Control Talks

The Hill: Shocking Spike In Suicides Among U.S. Troops

Bloomberg: McCain’s Legacy Initiative On Pentagon Waste Is At Risk

Air Force Magazine: Dickinson: Space Command and Cyber Command ‘Inseparable’

Air Force Magazine: USAF to Increase Arctic Investment as Strategy, Wargames Outline Needs in the Region

Business Insider: Russia's Risky Flybys May Be Attempts At 'Baiting Us Into Shooting First,' Top U.S. Admiral Says This is How the U.S. Army Wants to Kill Enemy Drone Swarms

Marine Corps Times: Marines Finally Getting A Realistic Force-On-Force Shooter For Combat Training Why China's Aircraft Carrier Fleet Should Worry the U.S. Navy Russia's New Checkmate Stealth Fighter: A Mini F-35? Is the British Army's Troubled Ajax Armored Fighting Vehicle Doomed?

Washington Examiner: Opinion: Decoding China's new list of demands to the US

Forbes: Opinion: How The Air Force’s LRSO Missile Could Prevent A Crisis From Escalating To Nuclear Annihilation



9 a.m. — House Armed Services Committee bipartisan staff members hold conference call briefings on background for Capitol Hill credentialed media only to discuss subcommittee markups for the FY2022 National Defense Authorization Act. 9 a.m., Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee; 11 a.m., Readiness Subcommittee; 1 p.m., Intelligence and Special Operations Subcommittee. RSVP at

9:15 a.m. Pentagon Briefing Room 2D972 — Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander of U.S. Northern Command, briefs reporters on "how North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command, in collaboration with all 11 U.S. combatant commands, have executed the third in a series of Global Information Dominance Experiments."

10 a.m. — Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies virtual Spacepower Forum, with Gen. David “DT” Thompson, vice chief of space operations. Video posted afterward at

11 a.m. — Institute for Defense and Government Advancement virtual Homeland Security Conference, with remarks on "Coordinating Responses to Emerging Homeland Security Threats,” by William Bratton, chairman of the Homeland Security Advisory Council.

12 p.m. — Center for the National Interest virtual forum, “How Stable is North Korea?” with Bruce Bennett, adjunct international/defense researcher, RAND Corporation; Jessica Lee, senior research fellow in the East Asia Program, Quincy Institute; Frank Aum senior expert on Northeast Asia, U.S. Institute of Peace; Harry Kazianis, senior director of Korean Studies at the Center for the National Interest.

12 p.m. — Hudson Institute virtual discussion: “Iran's Record of Smuggling, Kidnapping and Extortion,” with David Albright, founder and president of the Institute for Science and International Security; Olli Heinonen, fellow at the Stimson Center; Kenneth MacDonald, former special agent at the U.S. Customs Service; and Joshua Block, adjunct fellow at Hudson.

12 p.m. 1310 Longworth — House Administration Committee hearing on "Election Subversion: A Growing Threat to Electoral Integrity,” with Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md.; Rep. Nikema Williams, D-Ga.; Gowri Ramachandran, senior counsel at New York University's Brennan Center for Justice; Adrian Fontes, former county recorder for Maricopa County, Ariz.; Janice Winfrey, city clerk for Detroit, Mich.; former Acting Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Kenneth Cuccinelli, chairman of the Election Transparency Initiative and former Virginia attorney general. Livestream at

1:30 p.m. — United States Institute of Peace virtual discussion: “Nuclear Security Policy in an Era of Strategic Competition,” with Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb.; Rep. Bill Foster, D-Ill.; and USIP President and CEO Lise Grande.

3 p.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies “Smart Women, Smart Power” event: “U.S. National Security Policy in the Indo-Pacific: A Conversation with Sen. Tammy Duckworth.”


9 a.m. — George Washington University Project for Media and National Security Defense Writers Group conversation with Mr. John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (SIGAR).

10 a.m. 1789 Massachusetts Ave. N.W. — American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research in-person event: “America’s ever-shrinking fighting force,” with Mackenzie Eaglen, senior fellow, AEI; Arnold Punaro, former staff director of the Senate Armed Services Committee and CEO, Punaro Group; and former Sen. Jim Talent, senior fellow, Bipartisan Policy Center.

3:30 p.m. — Washington Post Live virtual discussion: “Securing Cyberspace,” former Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Chris Krebs, partner at the Krebs Stamos Group.


8:30 a.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual 11th annual South China Sea Conference, with Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va.; Zack Cooper, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute; and Nguyen Nam Duong, deputy director-general of the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam's East Sea Institute.


8 a.m. — The virtual Aspen Security Forum, Day 1, with Michele Flournoy, former undersecretary of defense for policy; Zalmay Khalilzad, special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation; retired Gen. David Petraeus, former director, Central Intelligence Agency; Roya Rahmani, Afghan Ambassador to the U.S.; Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.; and more. See full agenda and register at

9:15 a.m. — Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies virtual Spacepower Forum: “The SASC version of the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, particularly its implications for the Space Force, with South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds, and Matt Donovan, director of the Mitchell Institute Spacepower Advantage Research Center. Video posted afterward at

12 p.m. — Association of the U.S. Army Noon Report webinar: “Army Climate Change Initiatives,” with Jack Surash, performing the duties of the assistant Army secretary for installations, energy and environment; and Amy Borman, deputy assistant Army secretary for environment, safety and occupational health.


8 a.m. — The virtual Aspen Security Forum, Day 2, with Anne Neuberger, deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technologies; Victoria Nuland, undersecretary of state for political affairs; Adm. John Aquilino, commander, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command; Stephen Biegun, former deputy secretary of state; Matt Pottinger, former deputy national security adviser; Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska; and more. See full agenda and register at


“I'm a law enforcement officer. And I do my best to keep politics out of my job, but in this circumstance, I responded. 'Well, I voted for Joe Biden. Does my vote not count, am I nobody?' That prompted a torrent of racial epithets, one woman in a pink MAGA shirt yelled, 'You hear that, guys? This n***** voted for Joe Biden.' Then the crowd, perhaps around 20 people, joined in screaming, boo, f*****g n*****. No one had ever, ever called me a n***** while wearing the uniform of a Capitol Police officer.”

Officer Harry Dunn, U.S. Capitol Police.

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Original Author: Jamie McIntyre

Original Location: America’s aging nuclear weapons come under scrutiny as Russia and China build up their arsenals

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