Lead civilian official within the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) was responsible for drafting the Nuclear Posture Review

Washington (September 24, 2021) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today wrote to President Joseph R. Biden to express concern about organizational changes at the Department of Defense in the midst of drafting the administration’s Nuclear Posture Review. On September 21, 2021 the Department of Defense announced that it removed the lead civilian official within the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) responsible for drafting the Nuclear Posture Review, part of the Administration’s Integrated National Security Strategy. 

“The Department of Defense stated that it eliminated the position of the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy, held by Leonor Tomero, as part of a reorganization within the Department.  But according to press reports, Department officials may have driven Ms. Tomero from her position for challenging traditional views on the role of U.S. nuclear weapons. 

“Congress needs to understand whether ideology played any role in Ms. Tomero’s dismissal. I am also concerned that the sudden departure of a top appointee, charged with presenting you options on the future of the U.S. nuclear weapons enterprise, will result in a draft Nuclear Posture Review that reflects the Cold War era’s overreliance on nuclear weapons, rather than your lifetime of work championing policies that reduce nuclear weapons risks.” 

A copy of this letter can be found HERE.

In his letter, Senator Markey requests responses to the following questions:

1.     Why did the Defense Department eliminate the top civilian position in OSD responsible for the Nuclear Posture Review? Why was the position eliminated in the midst of that Review, as opposed to before it began or when it is completed?

2.     Ms. Tomero’s demonstrated expertise in nuclear deterrence policy, arms control, and missile defense made her well-suited to lead and contribute substantively to the Nuclear Posture Review process. Why, given Ms. Tomero’s specific expertise on nuclear policy, was she removed from the Nuclear Posture Review process or why was she not reassigned to a position under the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy, who will be taking over responsibility for nuclear policy?

3.     When did the Department of Defense inform Ms. Tomero that it had eliminated her position as a result of a reorganization? Which Department officials communicated with Ms. Tomero about her dismissal and when? I am particularly interested in any communications that occurred between or among Ms. Tomero, her then-boss Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans, and Capabilities, Melissa Dalton, and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl. After Ms. Tomero’s dismissal, did any senior Department leader communicate with her about the reason(s) for her dismissal?

4.     The Defense Department stated that the decision to eliminate the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy was part of a reorganization within OSD Policy. How will the reorganization change the current OSD Policy office structure? Which officials will take over the duties previously performed by the former Deputy Assistant Secretary position?  

5.     On September 22, 2021, Defense Department Spokesperson John Kirby said that “we have a wide-ranging team of experts working” on the Nuclear Posture Review. Please identify the individuals and organizations consulting on the Nuclear Posture Review, including paid contractors.

6.     Mr. Kirby also said: “We’re going to continue to consider and include a wide range of viewpoints in the Nuclear Posture Review, including those from Administration Officials, of military leaders, academics and all others.” How will the Department ensure that the advice of individuals who do not support the default military reliance on nuclear weapons is included in this process?

7.     The President’s 2021 Interim National Security Guidance stated that the Administration will “re-establish [its] credibility as a leader in arms control” and “take steps to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in [U.S.] national security strategy. How will you ensure that your guidance is reflected in the options the Department of Defense puts forth?  

8.     I understand that the Department of Defense expects that by 2022 an independent review will be completed to evaluate the technical feasibility of extending the life of the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). To what extent will that independent review impact the options presented to you in connection with the Nuclear Posture Review and your Fiscal Year 2023 budget request?

In July, Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-Ore.) and Representatives Don Beyer (VA-08) and John Garamendi (CA-03), co-chairs of the Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control Working Group, led 18 of their colleagues in a letter calling on President Biden to actively guide the formation of the Department of Defense-led Nuclear Posture Review.  The lawmakers urged the Administration to consider a series of bold actions that would fulfill the President’s pledge to reduce the role of “nuclear weapons in our national security strategy”.