INDIANAPOLIS — The top Democrat serving on the U.S. House panel responsible for defense spending is condemning President Donald Trump's "loose and imprecise language" concerning nuclear weapons.
U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, took issue Thursday with the Republican's claim, made via Twitter at 6:56 a.m Wednesday, that his "first order as president was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal."
"It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before," Trump tweeted.
The 17-term congressman, who also serves on the House subcommittee that oversees nuclear weapons development, said there's actually been no meaningful steps taken to improve the nation's nuclear capabilities during the Trump administration.
"Actions to design, build, maintain and modify our nuclear weapons system take not months, but decades to implement," Visclosky said.
He acknowledged that Trump did request in January that the Pentagon review the nation's nuclear posture — just as other presidents have done roughly every eight years.
But the Jan. 27 memorandum was not the first action taken by President Trump. He signed more than a dozen executive orders and other directives in the week following his Jan. 20 inauguration, according to the White House website.
Visclosky said the Department of Defense began its analysis of America's nuclear capabilities in April. It is due to present its report to the president by the end of the year.
The congressman also noted that while Trump proposed increasing spending on nuclear weapons activities in his 2018 budget, the appropriations legislation necessary to fund those programs has not been approved by the Republican-controlled Congress.
Moreover, he observed that Trump's budget plan cut spending on nuclear infrastructure and nonproliferation programs.
Visclosky said those programs play "an essential role in preventing the spread of fissile and radiological materials and stopping nuclear weapons from being obtained by those who may wish to cause us harm."
The president doubled down on his nuclear tough talk Thursday by suggesting his recent pledge — that North Korea would face "fire and fury like the world has never seen" if it didn't stop threatening the United States — could have been stronger.
"They've been doing this to our country for a long time, for many years," Trump said. "It's about time that somebody stuck up for the people of this country and for the people of other countries. So if anything, that statement wasn't tough enough."
Visclosky did not directly address Trump's latest remarks, but made clear that he believes any discussion of nuclear weapons by the nation's leaders should be cautious and calculated.
"The president's loose and imprecise language is in stark contrast to the consummate professionalism of the men and women of our nuclear forces, who stand watch in defense of our country with the utmost gravity every minute of every day," he said.
Visclosky vowed to continue working with Democratic and Republican members of Congress to make thoughtful funding decisions about how best to modernize America's nuclear arsenal and promote nonproliferation — "to keep every resident of our country safe and secure."