At a hearing on Wednesday, Air Force Generals Paul J. Selva and John Hyten, who serves as the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, testified before a House panel that nuclear deterrents need to top the priority list for modernization and recapitalization efforts in the U.S. military.

According to Selva, modernization of America’s nuclear force has been back-burnered in recent years in favor of addressing “more urgent needs” in support of ongoing combat operations around the globe.

“But in making those decisions we have squeezed about all the life we can out of the systems we currently possess,” the general claimed, “so that places an extra premium on a very deliberate long-term investment strategy to replace those systems as existing systems age out of the inventory.”

As a result, Selva suggested, the United States is facing a “crossroads” in terms of our nuclear capabilities and ability to deter nuclear attacks.  As far as he’s concerned, nuclear modernization “can no longer be deferred.”

“We are now at a point where we must concurrently recapitalize each component of our nuclear deterrent,” he said, “the nuclear weapons themselves, the triad of strategic delivery platforms, the indication-and-warning systems to support our decision processes, the command-and-control networks that connect the president to our field forces, and our dual-capable tactical aircraft that can be equipped with nonstrategic nuclear weapons.”

He went on to claim that “Any disruption of the current program of record for future acquisition plans will introduce significant risk to our deterrent.”

According to the general’s statements, other nations throughout the world have continued to modernize their nuclear capabilities over recent decades while the United States has permitted nearly every element of our own weapon stockpile, delivery systems and operational infrastructure to live on well past their designed service lives would allow.

“Maintaining strategic deterrence, assurance and escalation control capabilities requires a multifaceted long-term investment approach and a sustained commitment to maintaining a credible nuclear deterrent,” the general said, “[and] that nuclear deterrent is only as effective as the command and control that enables it to function.”