With North Korea dramatically accelerating its nuclear arms program and missile development, Sen. Deb Fischer said Wednesday it's time for the United States to urgently modernize its aging nuclear forces.
"The threat of nuclear attack, something long pushed to the margins of our national security conversation, is once again front page news," Fischer said.
"Our defense against this growing threat relies first and foremost on the capability of our own nuclear deterrent," she said.
Fischer is positioned in a leadership role on the issue as chair of the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces.
Together with Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, the ranking Democratic member of the subcommittee, Nebraska's Republican senator made the case for action in a policy statement submitted to Defense News, a global website that focuses on the politics, business and technology of defense.
"Truth be told, our nuclear deterrent is aging and in need of modernization," the senators wrote, noting that a review of the current U.S. nuclear posture will be completed by the end of the year.
"Unfortunately, changes in global nuclear threats are not confined to the Korean Peninsula," the senators said. "Russia's nuclear policies are also particularly worrisome.
"The Russians have embarked on an ambitious modernization program of their nuclear forces," they said, and Moscow has combined development and deployment of new nuclear weapons with aggressive policy statements.
China also is engaged in a significant nuclear modernization effort, Fischer and Donnelly said.
"After 25 years of near-neglect for all of our nuclear systems, the need for modernizing every leg of the nuclear triad is pressing," they said.
That includes intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarines, bombers and air-launched cruise missiles.
Modernization would increase the nuclear weapons' share of the defense budget from about 3.5 percent to about 6 percent for about 10 to 15 years, the senators said.