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October 24, 2019

King Questions Top Military Official on Need for “Deterrence 2.0”

King points to new threats posed by non-state actors, emphasizes importance of intelligence gathering

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) pressed U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Charles Richard, nominee to be Admiral and Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, on the challenge of using deterrence against non-state actors. Senator King’s questioning came during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee considering Vice Admiral Richard’s nomination; at other points of the hearing, Senator King questioned the nominee on the military’s capability to respond to attacks if communications systems are struck down or hacked, as well as the proper length of tours of duty to maximize both the skills of military personnel and taxpayer dollars.


“Deterrence has worked as a strategy for 70 years, but it’s based upon a principle of a kind of mutual rationality in the fact that neither side wants to incinerate its country and its countrymen,” said Senator King. “What worries me is: the theory of deterrence doesn’t work if non-state actors get a hold of nuclear weapons.…What happens if, (A) it’s not a country and (B) the people don’t care about dying? …I think we need deterrence 2.0. To be thinking about that eventuality because I see that not as a probability, but at least a possibility, and a very frightening one…It seems to me that part of the key in that scenario is intelligence. We have to know if such a threat is imminent and possible, and how to deal with it in a different way than the traditional deterrence because obviously to somebody who is willing to give up their life instantaneously that is not an effective control."

As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Senator King is recognized as a thoughtful voice on national security and foreign policy issues in the Senate. In April, he took part in a bipartisan delegation to Iraq, and in September he traveled on a bipartisan delegation to Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Oman; on both trips, he met with American servicemembers and officials and regional leaders to discuss America’s security interests. This summer, when questioning Secretary of the Army Mark Esper during his nomination hearing, he reminded the nominee of the importance of America’s alliances, emphasized the dangers of miscalculations leading to military action with Iran, and urged Esper to monitor any collaborative effort by Russia and China to undermine American interests abroad. In addition to his committee work, Senator King serves on the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, the Senate North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Observer Group, and the Cyberspace Solarium Commission

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