America’s Strategic Posture
Released October 2023
By: The Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States
The vision of a world without nuclear weapons, aspirational even in 2009, is more improbable now than ever. The new global environment is fundamentally different than anything experienced in the past, even in the darkest days of the Cold War.
The United States faces a strategic challenge requiring urgent action. Given current threat trajectories, our nation will soon encounter a fundamentally different global setting than it has ever experienced: we will face a world where two nations possess nuclear arsenals on par with our own. In addition, the risk of conflict with these two nuclear peers is increasing. It is an existential challenge for which the United States is ill-prepared, unless its leaders make decisions now to adjust the U.S. strategic posture.
The Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States was established by the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and concludes that America’s defense strategy and strategic posture must change in order to properly defend its vital interests and improve strategic stability with China and Russia. Decisions need to be made now in order for the nation to be prepared to address the threats from these two nuclear-armed adversaries arising during the 2027-2035 timeframe. Moreover, these threats are such that the United States and its Allies and partners must be ready to deter and defeat both adversaries simultaneously.
We arrive at these conclusions following a comprehensive year-long review of the threats America faces and its strategy and planned capabilities to address those threats. The evidence demonstrates that the U.S.-led international order and the values it upholds are at risk from the Chinese and Russian authoritarian regimes. The risk of military conflict with those major powers has grown and carries the potential for nuclear war. Therefore, the Commission reached the unanimous, non-partisan conclusion that today’s strategic outlook requires an urgent national focus and a series of concerted actions not currently planned. In sum, we find that the United States lacks a comprehensive strategy to address the looming two nuclear-peer threat environment and lacks the force structure such a strategy will require.
In reaching that overall conclusion, we make clear that the fundamentals of America’s deterrence strategy remain sound, but the application of that strategy must change to
address the 2027-2035 threat environment. Those changes drive necessary adjustments to the posture of U.S. nuclear capabilities – in size and/or composition. A full spectrum of
non-nuclear capabilities is also essential to the nation’s strategic posture. Such adjustments, in turn, drive the need to strengthen and expand the capacity of the infrastructure required to sustain and enhance U.S. strategic capabilities. In addition, Allies and partners are central to our findings regarding strategy and posture. We also emphasize the need for robust risk reduction efforts as fundamental to the U.S. approach in the new threat environment.
Adhering to the stipulations of our mandate, the report that follows delineates 131 findings and makes 81 recommendations. Those findings and recommendations are found at the beginning and end, respectively, of each chapter that follows; a complete list is also included following the report’s conclusion.