Wicker Leads Hearing on Space, Nuclear Threats from China and Russia

Armed Services Leader: U.S. Must “Commit Today to a Program of Sustained Innovation and Investment”

March 9, 2023

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today participated in a full committee hearing discussing the posture for U.S. Space Command (SPACECOM) and U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM). 

In his remarks, Wicker focused on the large and growing threats from Chinese and Russian nuclear and space assets to American deterrence. The Mississippi senator suggested that the Biden Administration needs to shift its understanding of space to viewing it as a warfighting domain, while also charging his congressional colleagues with the task of building a nuclear arsenal that keeps pace with our adversaries. 

“I can think of no issue that demands this committee’s attention more than the nuclear threat posed by China and Russia,” Wicker said. 

U.S. Air Force Gen. Anthony Cotton, commander of STRATCOM, and U.S. Space Force General James Dickinson, commander of SPACECOM, appeared before the committee for testimony. 

Read Wicker’s opening statement as delivered below or watch here. 

Thank you, Chairman Reed, and thank you to our witnesses. 

I can think of no issue that demands this committee’s attention more than the nuclear threat posed by China and Russia. 

Despite its significant setbacks in Ukraine, Russia remains a major nuclear threat to the United States. Moscow possesses a larger and more modern nuclear arsenal than we do. It can also build numerous additional nuclear weapons in short order. 

Russia has developed new nuclear weapons unlike anything in the United States inventory, including nuclear-powered, trans-oceanic, autonomous torpedoes, and intercontinental cruise missiles. These are weapons for which we have no defense. 

The story out of China is also very troubling. Beijing is modernizing and expanding its nuclear forces at breakneck speed. It will likely outpace the U.S. in the early 2030s. 

The past 18-month period has given us a good idea of China’s remarkable growth. Over that time, China’s nuclear arsenal has doubled in size. The Chinese have flown a missile that can drop nuclear warheads from orbit anywhere on earth, with virtually no notice. And China has become the third country to develop a strategic triad of nuclear missiles, bombers, and submarines. 

General Cotton recently notified Congress that China now possesses more ICBM launchers than the United States. Just last week, news reports exposed Beijing’s purchase of 28 tons of Russian uranium, which could be used to further its weapons production. 

In the space domain, China and Russia are openly developing and testing counter-space capabilities. Each country has dangerously taken out satellites in orbit, creating thousands of pieces of debris and space junk, endangering hundreds of other satellites. 

And frankly, those brazen and irresponsible acts of aggression only scratch the surface of their real capabilities. 

Given these threat conditions, one would expect a sense of urgency on the part of our government – a fundamental reassessment of our assumptions and realignment of our resources. 

Instead, the Departments of Defense and Energy repeatedly delay programs to modernize our nuclear deterrents and restore the basic industrial capabilities we use to produce nuclear weapons. 

The Administration downplays the reality that space is a warfighting domain. Space contains real threats and adversaries, and it needs military solutions. Refusing to acknowledge and prepare affects our country’s ability to be ready for a future war that would extend into space. 

This Administration needs plans and postures to account for the worsening security system. 

If we are to prevail in long-term competition with China and Russia, we need to commit – today – to a program of sustained innovation and investment. 

This morning, we will begin to receive budget summaries, including the President’s budget request. This request, once again, is likely not to keep pace with inflation, and we already know of several significant shortfalls in naval shipbuilding, munitions, and key investments in the western Pacific, for example, to name a few. I would look forward to working with my colleagues here in Congress, on both sides of the aisle, to build a bipartisan, adequate, strategy-based budget for the coming year.  

About this sense of urgency, I would like to hear from our witnesses about how this committee can help create a sense of urgency to act, to accelerate the modernization of our strategic arsenal, and adapt our forces. 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.