WASHINGTON – In a Senate Armed Service Committee hearing held on Thursday to review U.S. nuclear posture, U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., pressed Obama Administration officials on whether the use of military force remains an option for preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
In response to a statement made Wednesday by Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy, who said military force is “off the table in the near term,” Sen. Wicker asked witnesses for clarification on the administration’s policy. He also called on Undersecretary Flournoy to publicly retract her statement.
Dr. James N. Miller, Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy testified that “the use of military force should be a last resort, but this administration has also made it clear that it is on the table.”
Dr. Miller’s statement was reiterated by Ellen Tauscher, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, who said the military option is “certainly on the table when it comes to Iran.”
Sen. Wicker also asked the panel whether the administration was exploring opportunities for the United States and Russia to partner in a missile defense program. Dr. Miller and Undersecretary Tauscher each assured Sen. Wicker that cooperative nuclear defense efforts are being discussed with the Russian Federation, both within the Department of Defense and the State Department.
On a Russian partnership, Sen. Wicker said, “This is a concept that goes back all the way to President Ronald Reagan, who very famously and publicly announced, if we can learn a way to defend ourselves against a missile attack by a rogue nation, we would certainly be willing to share that and let others defend themselves. So I am encouraged by this, and I hope we could get further reports.”
Also testifying at the hearing was General Kevin P. Chilton, U.S. Air Force Commander, U.S. Strategic Command, and Administrator Thomas P. D’Agostino, National Nuclear Security Administration, Department of Energy.