The Arms Control Association and The Lugar Center have partnered to establish the Bipartisan Nuclear Policy Dialogue Project to help foster bipartisan discussion on timely security issues. The program does not seek any policy outcome or enactment of any legislation. Our mission is to provide a forum where senior national security staff across committee jurisdictions and party affiliations can establish relationships and a basis for working together more effectively, as well as increase the overall knowledge base and awareness of WMD risks and risk reduction strategies.
Established in November 2013, the Project organizes a series of private dinners and congressional briefings on specific topics of interest to Republican and Democratic congressional staff. These events emphasize constructive dialogue and provide a forum for staff to engage high profile speakers. Topics will include:
For more information, please contact Kingston Reif at [email protected]
The project is made possible with support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
The Missile Defense Review and the Role of Congress
March 7, 2019
On March 7, the Arms Control Association and The Lugar Center hosted a private dinner discussion on the Trump administration’s 2019 Missile Defense Review and the role of Congress in implementing the review’s proposals. After nearly a year of delays, the Trump administration’s 2019 Missile Defense Review (formerly the Ballistic Missile Defense Review) was released in January. The planned released of the fiscal year 2020 budget request in mid-March will provide further clarity on the administration’s missile defense plans.
The speakers addressed how the Trump administration’s 2019 review differs from the Obama administration’s 2010 Ballistic Missile Defense Review, and whether the review’s proposals to expand missile defense effectively reduce the missile threats identified in the review. They also discussed steps that Congress should take to oversee the implementation of the review and the political, technical, and financial challenges of implementing the review’s proposals. Speaking from their experience in international security and missile defense, the speakers also shared their thoughts on how the Missile Defense Review impacts strategic nuclear relationships with Russia and China.
Nuclear Policy Issues Facing the New Congress:
Nuclear Arms Control, Arsenals, and Diplomacy
January 22, 2019
U.S.-Russian Arms Control on the Brink:
The Breakdown of the INF Treaty and the Future of New START
November 13, 2018
On November 13, the Arms Control Association and The Lugar Center hosted a public lunch discussion on U.S.-Russian arms control “on the brink,” following President Trump’s Oct. 20 announcement of his intention to withdraw from the INF Treaty, which follows a years-long dispute about whether Russia is in violation of the agreement. This has raised concerns about exacerbating military and political tensions with Russia—and possibly China—and the future of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). The lunch took place ahead of Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s potential meeting at the G20 meeting in Argentina next month to discuss arms control and other issues.
The speakers discussed some of the following questions: What would the military and strategic impacts be of a U.S. withdrawal from the INF Treaty? Have the United States and Russia exhausted all diplomatic options to attempt to resolve the compliance dispute? What other arms control options might there be to address the missile systems banned by the treaty? Does the United States need to field intermediate-range missiles systems in Europe or East Asia? What are the benefits and risks of doing so? What would the military and strategic impacts be of a U.S. withdrawal from or failure to extend New START by up to five years as allowed by the treaty? What role does Congress have in overseeing the U.S. implementation of arms control treaties and promoting a stable U.S.-Russian nuclear relationship? What options does Congress have to influence administration policy on the future of the INF Treaty and New START?
Overcoming the Impasse on U.S. and Russian Arms Control
August 23, 2018
On August 23, the Arms Control Association and The Lugar Center hosted a private dinner discussion on the July 16 summit meeting held in Helsinki between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin and the future of U.S.- Russian arms control and strategic stability discussions. In Helsinki, Putin presented the Trump administration with several proposals “to work together further to interact on the disarmament agenda, military, and technical cooperation.” Following the summit, Trump stated that “[p]erhaps the most important issue we discussed at our meeting...was the reduction of nuclear weapons throughout the world.” But no specific agreements were reached on arms control in Helsinki and the future of both the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) and the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty remains in question. The speakers addressed the arms control implications of the Helsinki summit, and the key issues and considerations regarding an extension of New START and salvaging the INF Treaty. They also discussed the role of Congress in promoting a stable U.S.-Russian nuclear relationship.
Nuclear Diplomacy with North Korea and the Role of Congress: What Now?
June 7, 2018
On June 7, the Arms Control Association and The Lugar Center hosted a luncheon discussion on nuclear diplomacy with North Korea and the role of Congress. On June 1st, President Trump announced that the planned summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would take place as scheduled, reversing a decision he made the previous week to cancel the June 12 meeting. Regardless of what happens on June 12, nuclear diplomacy with North Korea is likely to be a long-term, complex process. The speakers addressed questions on: what can realistically be accomplished at the June 12 summit; what pitfalls from past U.S.-North Korean experiences must be avoided so that we do not sink back into a cycle of escalation; and, what role Congress should play in overseeing and ensuring successful implementation of a possible agreement with North Korea and sustained diplomatic process.
Civilian Nuclear Cooperation with Saudi Arabia and the Role of Congress
April 5, 2018
On April 5, the Arms Control Association and The Lugar Center hosted a dinner discussion on the subject of a possible civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia and the role of Congress. The United States and Saudi Arabia have begun negotiating a nuclear cooperation agreement. The prospect of such an agreement has already sparked a debate about Saudi Arabia’s nuclear intentions, the potential commercial benefits of a deal, and the implications for U.S. nonproliferation objectives. The speakers addressed questions on: the benefits and risks of engaging in nuclear cooperation with Saudi Arabia, what nonproliferation safeguards a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia should include, and what role Congress can and should play in reducing the incentive of Saudi Arabia and other future possible U.S. nuclear trade partners to pursue enrichment and reprocessing.
The Trump Administration’s Nuclear Posture Review
February 26, 2018
On February 26, the Arms Control Association and The Lugar Center hosted a luncheon discussion on the Trump administration's 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) and its implications for deterrence, extended deterrence, and arms control/nonproliferation. The speakers addressed questions on: how the NPR differs from the 2010 NPR conducted by the Obama administration; if the NPR accurately characterizes Russia’s nuclear doctrine; if the new nuclear weapon capabilities and additional contingencies for the possible first use of nuclear weapons proposed by the NPR are necessary to enhance our deterrence of adversaries and assure allies in the current security environment; and also addressed how the NPR will impact U.S. nonproliferation policies and global standing.
Pathways to a Diplomatic Resolution on North Korea
December 13, 2017
On December 13, the Arms Control Association and The Lugar Center hosted a private dinner discussion about diplomatic options for dealing with the current North Korea challenge. The discussion came two weeks after North Korea tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) allegedly capable of reaching any part of the continental United States and amid increasing calls for dialogue between the two sides. The speakers addressed topics that included whether diplomacy has worked in the past to curtail North Korea's nuclear development; the efficacy to date of the Trump administration's strategy of pressure and engagement; whether the North Korean leadership, given its objectives, might be interested in negotiations on their nuclear program and/or tension reduction and under what terms; what the United States might have to put on the table in order to secure, at the very least, a halt in North Korea’s nuclear and missile testing; and how the two sides might begin a sustained dialogue on nuclear and missile restraint and their respective security concerns.
The Future of the Iran Nuclear Deal: Assessing the Options in the Aftermath of Trump’s Decertification Decision November 1, 2017
On November 1, the Arms Control Association and The Lugar Center hosted a private lunch discussion about the future of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in the aftermath of President Donald Trump's decision to withhold a certification tied to the nuclear deal. The event discussed the future of the Iran deal given Trump's decertification decision. At this lunch, the speakers discussed the Trump announcement and the suggestion that Congress “fix” the JCPOA, the legislative “fix” that Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) are reportedly contemplating, and perspectives on what should and should not be done to curtail and roll back Iran’s nuclear program.
Considerations for the Nuclear Posture Review
June 29, 2017
On June 29, the Arms Control Association and The Lugar Center hosted an afternoon discussion on U.S. nuclear weapons policy and programs, as well as considerations for the Trump administration’s nuclear posture review. The Defense Department announced in April that it had begun a review of U.S. nuclear weapons policy and strategy. The review comes amid concerns about the behavior of other nuclear-armed states, worries from allies about their security environment and the U.S. commitment to their security, dynamic and uncertain advances in technology, and the growing U.S. domestic debate about what U.S. nuclear capabilities are necessary for deterrence and assurance and how much should be spent on them. At this afternoon discussion, the speakers discussed the current status of U.S. nuclear weapons programs, especially modernization of the current U.S. nuclear arsenal, how the review should be conducted and communicated, and key considerations for the eventual outcome of the Trump administration’s nuclear posture review.
Considerations for the Ballistic Missile Defense Review
May 22, 2017
On May 22, the Arms Control Association and The Lugar Center hosted a private off-the-record dinner discussion on U.S. missile defense policy and programs and considerations for the Trump administration’s ballistic missile defense review and in light of North Korea's advancing nuclear and missile programs. The Defense Department announced earlier this month that it had begun a Congressionally mandated review of U.S. missile defense policy and strategy. The review comes as North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs continue to advance unconstrained, the Missile Defense Agency is planning to conduct a major test of the ground-based midcourse defense system later this month, and some members of Congress are urging an expansion of the U.S. homeland missile defense footprint. At this dinner, the speakers discussed both the sometimes criticized efficiency of the ballistic missile defense system—including the frequent failed tests and the costs associated with the system and the tests—as well discussing the different threats the ballisitic missile defense system addresses and what the regional implications are for a missile defense system.
Can the United States and Russia Avert Renewed Nuclear Tensions?
March 22, 2017
On March 22, the Arms Control Association and The Lugar Center hosted a private off-the-record dinner discussion featuring speakers from the German-Russian-U.S. Deep Cuts Commission. Relations between Russia and the West have fallen to a historic low. Disagreements over Ukraine, Syria, Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty compliance, and missile defense are making even selective cooperation difficult. This event focused on how the United States and Russia can address the most acute security concerns in Europe and improve relations between the two states.
The North Korean Nuclear Challenge: A New Approach?
February 14, 2017
On February 14th, 2017 the Arms Control Association and The Lugar Center hosted a lunch discussion on the topic of North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, which continue to advance at an alarming rate and present the new Trump administration and Congress with a key challenge. The White House recently announced that it has undertaken a review of U.S. policy toward Pyongyang. At this lunch, speakers discussed the following questions: Do the advances made by North Korea over the past year demand a shift in the U.S. diplomatic strategy of “strategic patience” to stem the growing North Korean nuclear threat? Is the U.S. defense posture in the region adequate to protect against the growing DPRK threat? Are additional measures or actions needed to strengthen deterrence, assurance, and military preparedness in the region? How should U.S. strategy address the role of China in dealing with North Korea? What steps can Congress take or promote to combat the North Korean nuclear threat, reduce the proliferation risk posed by the program, and encourage Pyongyang to return to the negotiating table?
Global Nuclear Weapons Test Monitoring
December 1, 2016
On December 1, 2016 the Arms Control Association and The Lugar Center, on behalf of the Bipartisan Policy Dialogue Project, hosted an off-the-record breakfast event to discuss the technical advances in nuclear test-monitoring and the role of the national laboratories in support of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization’s International Monitoring System and International Data Center.
2016 been an important year for the issue of nuclear testing, including: marking the 20th anniversary since the opening for signature of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT); the passage of the first-ever UN Security Council resolution reinforcing the CTBT and encouraging continued support for the CTBTO; a hearing held by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the proposed UN resolution before it had been adopted, bringing the issue of CTBT back to Capitol Hill for the first time in years; action and responses from Senators and Representatives on the issue of nuclear testing and the CTBT; but also two nuclear test explosions conducted by North Korea, which were jointly detected by both the international verification system hosted by the CTBTO as well as by U.S. national technical means.
Evaluating Nuclear Risk Reduction Options
October 31, 2016
On October 31, 2016 the Arms Control Association and The Lugar Center, on behalf of the Bipartisan Policy Dialogue Project, hosted an off-the-record luncheon discussion to discuss the choices the president is reportedly weighing and exchange views on the benefits and costs of potential changes to U.S. nuclear declaratory policy, force numbers, and force modernization plans, as well as how to address the deteriorating U.S.-Russia nuclear relationship.
The Future of U.S. Missile Defense
August 31, 2016
On August 31, 2016 the Arms Control Association and The Lugar Center, on behalf of the Bipartisan Policy Dialogue Project, hosted an off-the-record dinner discussion to address the future of U.S. missile defense.
The discussion was centered on trends in the ballistic and cruise missile threat landscape, the Defense Department’s efforts to improve and evolve U.S. national and regional defenses, and the cost of and challenges to successfully implementing ongoing and planned defense efforts. While the Defense Department seeks to increase the capability of existing U.S. national and regional missile defense systems to ensure the U.S. stays ahead of foreign missile threats, high-ranking military officials voice that the current U.S. strategy to defeat adversary ballistic missiles is “unsustainable.”
An Exchange of Views on the Need for a New Nuclear Air-Launched Cruise Missile
June 30, 2016
On June 30, 2016, the Arms Control Association and The Lugar Center hosted a public lunch discussion on U.S. plans to build a new fleet of nuclear air-launched cruise missiles (also known as the LRSO).
The discussion was centered on the debate about the necessity and affordability of the Obama administration’s plans to modernize the nuclear triad of land-based missiles, submarine-launched missiles, and long-range bombers–and their associated warheads and supporting infrastructure. One of the most controversial pieces of this approach is the Air Force’s proposal to build a new fleet of roughly 1,000 new long-range standoff cruise missiles and refurbish the warhead for the weapon.
Russia’s Nuclear Policy and U.S.-NATO Reactions
May 26, 2016
On May 26, 2016 the Arms Control Association and The Lugar Center hosted a private, off-the-record dinner discussion on concerns about the direction of Russian nuclear policy and how the United States and NATO are responding and should respond to this behavior.
Some questions posed to the speakers to initiate the discussion included: What concerns the United States and NATO about Russia's nuclear posture and doctrine? Are there recent actions Russia has taken that have heightened those concerns? What steps have the United States and its alliance partners taken to date to respond to changes in Russian nuclear policy? Are additional measures/actions needed to strengthen deterrence, assurance, and nuclear preparedness in the region? What steps should Congress take, or refrain from taking, to strengthen strategic stability with Russia and reduce the Russian nuclear threat?
The Last Nuclear Security Summit: What it is, What to Expect, and What’s Next
March 15, 2016
On March 15, 2016 the Arms Control Association and The Lugar Center hosted a bipartisan off-the-record luncheon for members of Congress to discuss the upcoming fourth and final Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C on March 31-April 1. Representatives Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), Bill Foster (D-Ill.), Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) joined the discussion along with other congressional colleagues to discuss these important issues.
Some questions posed to the speakers to begin the discussion included: What has the Nuclear Security Summit process accomplished? What can be expected at the fourth and final summit? What are some steps Congress might take to ensure a continued high-level, bipartisan U.S. commitment to nuclear security and address current and emerging nuclear security challenges?
On Jan. 27, 2016 the Arms Control Association and The Lugar Center hosted a private off-the-record dinner discussion on North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs and options to reduce the risks posed by the North Korean nuclear threat. Some of the following questions were discussed:
Pakistan and the Nuclear Dilemma in South Asia
November 19, 2015
On November 19, 2015, the Arms Control Association and The Lugar Center hosted a lunch briefing to discuss Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and options for U.S. policy to reduce the risks posed by the program. Some questions posed to the panel to begin the discussion included: What is the status of Pakistani and Indian nuclear arsenals and delivery systems? Why is Pakistan hesitant to accept limits on its nuclear weapons capabilities and fissile material production? What policy options should the United States pursue to reduce the risk posed by Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and the potential use of nuclear weapons in South Asia?
Hans Kristensen, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Nuclear Information Project, began the discussion by summarizing the status of Pakistan and India’s nuclear forces. Pakistan is now unofficially the 6th largest nuclear power. The rate at which Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile increases will likely be based on two factors: how many nuclear-capable launchers Islamabad plans to deploy, and how much the Indian nuclear stockpile grows. In regards to India, Kristensen noted that India’s nuclear posture is generally more focused on China than it is Pakistan. While like Pakistan India initially relied heavily on fighter-bombers as its preferred means of nuclear delivery, India has progressed in developing both long-range land-based ballistic missiles as well as a nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine deterrent.
Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Stimson Center, began his remarks with the observation that the South Asian nuclear issue is an active triangular competition between China, India, and Pakistan, and should be viewed in this context. Unlike in India, where nuclear weapons are controlled by elected political leaders who see them as a political tool, Pakistan’s program is controlled by the military, which views nuclear weapons as militarily useful tools that provide both security and status. Krepon noted that the U.S. ability to convince Pakistan to constrain its nuclear weapons capabilities is fairly limited. Pakistan is quick to balk at any U.S. proposal on limiting Islamabad’s nuclear program that does not include suggested limits on India’s program. These are proposals Pakistan considers “discriminatory” and therefore a non-starter. Krepon noted that a potentially more effective way to encourage Pakistan to limit their nuclear programs would be to encourage an Indian-Pakistani dialogue. Currently India only wants to talk to Pakistan about terrorism, but the United States can encourage India to see the benefit in engaging Pakistan in issues of trade, Kashmir, and nuclear weapons.
Options for Strengthening Nonproliferation After the Iran Nuclear Deal
October 19, 2015
On October 19, 2015, the Arms Control Association and The Lugar Center hosted a private, off-the-record dinner discussion on possible next steps for the Executive Branch and Congress to strengthen nonproliferation after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Arms Control Association Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball kicked off the discussion by presenting a set of options to build upon the nonproliferation value of the JCPOA, as summarized in an Arms Control Association Issue Brief. Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation Thomas Countryman and Philip Solondz Distinguished Fellow Ambassador James Jeffrey of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy took turns responding to the Arms Control Association’s proposals.
Thomas Countryman began the discussion by thanking the Arms Control Association for its thoughtful brief that touched on many aspects of a robust nonproliferation regime. He noted that many of the recommendations are generally aligned with U.S. policy. He noted that timely payments to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of the United States’ regular budget assessments would go a long way toward maintaining our credibility as a staunch supporter of the IAEA. He also suggested that U.S. policy be focused on region-wide adoption of, and adherence to, IAEA additional protocols, including encouraging Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria to conclude an additional protocol with the IAEA.
James Jeffrey began his remarks by noting that he does not believe that the JCPOA will be a “transformational” agreement that meaningfully reshapes the entire region or Iran’s behavior. He believes the JCPOA will be more like U.S. arms control agreements with the Soviet Union, which were primarily technical agreements that didn’t change the underlying nature of the relationship. Jeffrey noted however that going forward, the administration and Congress should keep in mind that the agreement is not just about technical adherence to the JCPOA on the part of Iran, but that there are political issues that need to be worked through to keep the agreement from falling apart. Jeffrey concludes that if the Iranians adhere to all aspects of the agreement and behave responsibly then there is a basis to be hopeful about additional cooperative initiatives with Iran in the future.
The P5+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal:
Implementation of IAEA Monitoring and Sanctions Relief
July 16, 2015
On July 16, 2015 the Arms Control Association and The Lugar Center hosted a private, off-the-record dinner discussion to review aspects of the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom) and Iran comprehensive nuclear agreement. At this dinner, speakers Richard Nephew, former principal deputy coordinator for sanctions policy at the Department of State, and Thomas E. Shea, former twenty-four year veteran of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’s Department of Safeguards, discussed the implementation of IAEA monitoring and sanctions relief under the deal.
Shea began the discussion by talking about some of the key verification terms Iran had agreed to in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Shea identified five main domains of interest for IAEA verification. First, clandestine facilities or undeclared nuclear material that may support nuclear weapon related activities. Second, confirmation that declared peaceful nuclear facilities are used solely for peaceful activities. Third, confirmation that declared nuclear materials are not diverted for the manufacture of nuclear weapons. Fourth, confirmation that Iran does not import equipment or material except as provided in the agreement. And finally, confirmation that the terms of the July 14th agreement are not breached.
Nephew continued the discussion by laying out the timeline that the P5+1 and Iran agreed to in terms of sanctions relief. Nephew discussed some of the key milestones laid out in the agreement. From there, Nephew listed the different kinds of sanctions which are going to be modified—UN sanctions, EU sanctions, and U.S. sanctions—as well as the time frame anticipated for these sanctions to be lifted. He closed his address by discussing how sanctions would be snapped back into place should Iran violate the terms of the JCPOA.
Speakers and Resources:
U.S. Policy Regarding Section 123 Agreements
May 28, 2015
On May 28, 2015 the Arms Control Association and The Lugar Center hosted a private off-the-record dinner discussion with congressional staffers and experts in the nonproliferation community to review U.S. policy regarding civil nuclear cooperation and section 123 agreements. Assistant Secretary for International Security and Nonproliferation Thomas Countryman and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Professional Staff Member and Legislative Assistant to Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) Stacie Oliver, discussed their viewpoints on some of the following questions.
Below you can find resources from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s recent hearing “The Civil Nuclear Agreement with China: Balancing the Potential Risks and Rewards,” including the testimony from Countryman and opening statement of Corker. Furthermore, the Congressional Research Service recently provided a comprehensive overview of civil nuclear cooperation agreements, also provided below for further reading.
Speakers and Resources:
The Role of Nuclear Weapons in the U.S.-Russia Relationship
April 21, 2015
On April 21, 2015, the Arms Control Association and The Lugar Center hosted a dinner discussion to review the role of nuclear weapons in the U.S.-Russia relationship, and discuss several questions.
Rose Gottemoeller, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, began the discussion by noting that in dealing with Russia, the State Department has had to analyze and respond to both negative and positive actions by Russia.. Causes of strain in the U.S.-Russia relationship include Russia’s INF Treaty violations, verbal and militaristic posturing, and the Ukraine crisis. However, Gottemoeller also noted that Russia has been cooperative in several areas, such as the P5+1 (China, Russia, France, German, United Kingdom, and the United States) negotiations with Iran; the dismantlement of Syria’s chemical weapons; and implementation of New START. Gottemoeller maintained that continued implementation of New START is vital because the agreement can provide an area of predictability in a time when U.S.-Russian relations are strained.
Ambassador Linton Brooks, currently senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and former government official with positions at the National Nuclear Security Administration, U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and National Security Council, discussed his belief that an “adversarial” component to the U.S.-Russian relationship is not new, and has been in place for some time. But now, there is a growing concern that some Russians say or believe that the U.S. is attempting regime change in Russia, either by trying to instigate regime change and that the United States wants a first strike capability. Russian mistrust towards the United States is going to be hard to change. Because of the tensions in the relationship, it is very important to continue cooperation where possible. However he cautioned against removing the residual U.S. tactical nuclear weapons still deployed in Europe and further strategic nuclear weapons reductions without Russian reciprocity. But he also said New START remained in the national interest and that arms control should still be pursued because arms control is most valuable between people who distrust and fear each other.
The U.S. Nuclear Weapons Budget: Fiscal Year 2016 and Beyond
February 10, 2015
The Congressional Nuclear Security Working Group, co-chaired by Representatives Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), co-hosted a briefing with the Arms Control Association and The Lugar Center to discuss the fiscal year 2016 budget request for nuclear weapons and current plans to rebuild America’s nuclear arsenal. The event provided perspectives on the policy assumptions that undergird the current spending plans, the anticipated affordability of the plans given current budget constraints, options for budget savings, and the necessity of the planned spending.
Amy Woolf, specialist in nuclear weapons policy at the Congressional Research Service, began the discussion by providing an overview of the FY 2016 budget request for nuclear weapons and the long-term financial implications of pursuing current nuclear weapons spending plans. Woolf broke down how President Barack Obama is committed to retaining the “triad” of nuclear weapons delivery systems as affirmed in the 2010 nuclear posture review and reaffirmed by then-Defense Secretary nominee Ashton Carter in his recent nomination hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. At the current budget levels Obama has requested for nuclear weapons programs at the Defense and Energy Departments, the United States can reasonably expect to spend $30-35 billion dollars per year over the next 20 to 30 years. That amounts to nearly one trillion dollars over 30 years. Woolf noted that maintaining and rebuilding the current U.S. nuclear force in an age of austerity was likely going to be unsustainable, but that cutting costs would come with its own set of challenges, which would involve domestic politics as well international factors.
Evan Montgomery, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, followed Woolf and countered several arguments made in support of reducing nuclear spending. First, in response to the argument that the world is different than during the Cold War and nuclear weapons are no longer needed, Montgomery disagreed that geopolitical competition is a thing of the past, and that in the face of a more hostile Russia and China, geopolitical concerns are still a valid reason for maintaining the nuclear arsenal at its current level. Second, Montgomery countered the claim that if the United States begins to disarm its nuclear weapons systems, so will other countries. He noted that as the United States has brought down its overall numbers of nuclear weapons, proliferation has actually increased globally. Finally, in response to arguments that the United States cannot afford the arsenal it wants to maintain, Montgomery noted that there is a difference between absolute and relative costs. Furthermore, he noted that there are fixed costs associated with the nuclear weapons program that will not be abated even if the number of nuclear warheads or delivery systems are cut down, such as infrastructure, early warning systems, etc.
Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, wrapped up the discussion by arguing for further cuts in both the budget and the nuclear weapons program. According to Kristensen, the fiscal year 2016 budget request proposes a “modernization bonanza.” Kristensen noted that U.S. military officials have already determined that the United States has one-third more nuclear weapons deployed than needed to meet current U.S. national security requirements. Kristensen went on to proposes a number of steps that could be taken to scale back current nuclear spending plans without undermining U.S. security, such as reducing the number of ballistic missile submarines, delaying plans for a new nuclear-armed cruise missile, and delaying plans for a new long-range strike bomber. Over all, Kristensen maintained that right now, there is no grave national security threat large enough to justify the excessive size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
Speakers and Resources:
On January 21, 2015, the Arms Control Association and The Lugar Center hosted a briefing for Congressional staff in the Dirksen Senate office building to discuss the on-going negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran over Iran’s nuclear program. The event aimed to answer the following questions: What would a good, comprehensive agreement with Iran look like? What is the outlook for such an agreement? How should Congress weigh-in? What impact would new sanctions have on the prospects for a final agreement?
Paul Pillar, a Brookings Institution senior fellow and former CIA analyst, began the discussion with an overview of the negotiations. Pillar said that Iranians are very keen and well-informed regarding American politics and legislative action, and that Congress doesn’t need to pass legislation right now to indicate that if the nuclear talks fail, further sanctions will be imposed on Iran. Pillar warned that if sanctions legislation were passed, this could weaken Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and their ability to negotiate a final agreement acceptable to the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States). Furthermore, the United States could reasonably expect the Majlis, Iran’s Parliament, to retaliate.
Michael Singh, managing director at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and former National Security Council, noted that the interim agreement, known as the Joint Plan of Action, is the second best option for both the United States and Iran in that it offers limited sanctions relief for Iran and limited restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program for the west. Singh doubted whether more sanctions would actually be implemented should the nuclear talks fail and pointed particularly to some international allies who may not be as keen to renew sanctions on Iran. Singh noted that he is doubtful that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will sign a final agreement with the United States and highlighted instances where Khamenei has both supported the negotiators but also undermined negotiators by setting redlines that limited their flexibility. Singh also noted that the White House should work with Congress and show a willingness to implement new sanctions if the talks fail instead of threatening to veto new sanctions.
Elizabeth Rosenberg, senior fellow and program director at the Center for a New American Security, argued that Iran’s economy is currently weak and that the rollback of certain sanctions and unfreezing of a limited amount of assets under the Joint Plan of Action have had a limited effect on improving Iran’s economy. Rosenberg said legislating more sanctions now could be self-defeating and fatal to negotiations. She said Iran would see new sanctions as an act of bad faith by the United States and demonstrate that the administration cannot actually deliver sanctions relief down the road if a deal is reached. In addition, she said that new unilateral U.S. sanctions would anger the U.S. negotiating partners in the P5+1 and could result in the unraveling of the multilateral sanctions regime. Rosenberg also warned that new sanctions will not result in Iran halting their enrichment, but will likely decrease the transparency in regards to their nuclear program.
Speakers and Resources:
U.S.-Russian Nuclear Arms Control in Tough Times
September 29, 2014
On September 29, 2014, the Arms Control Association and The Lugar Center hosted a dinner discussion to review U.S.-Russia arms control policy issues on the horizon, such as the recent Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) violations by Russia, the future of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), and, more broadly, how the United States should or should not respond to Russia's recent behavior in regards to Ukraine.
Stephen Rademaker, a National Security Project Advisor at the Bipartisan Policy Center and former assistant secretary of State for international security and nonproliferation during the George H. W. Bush administration, argued that Russia does not support President Obama’s goal of a world free of nuclear weapons and has been consistently violating U.S.-Russian arms control agreements. Ultimately, Mr. Rademaker noted that the best way to get Russia to return to compliance with standing nuclear weapons arms control agreements would be for the United States to temporarily suspend the implementation of reductions mandated by New START.
Steven Pifer, Director of the Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative at the Brookings Institution and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, argued that it is not in the United States’ best interest to tamper with the New START because it could lead to unhelpful Russian counter-reactions, such as withdrawal from the INF Treaty and New START, and the loss of the New START data exchanges, notifications and inspections that provide transparency about Russian strategic forces. Mr. Pifer maintained that we should continue to put pressure on Russia for its aggression against Ukraine and INF violations, but the best way to do so would be to continue the economic sanctions that are having a damaging impact on Russia’s economy and influencing Moscow’s policy-making decisions.
U.S. Missile Defenses: Plans for the West Coast, East Coast and Europe
June 3, 2014
Mr. Frank A. Rose, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Space and Defense Policy at the State Department, outlined U.S. plans for Ground-Based Missile Defense, the Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) test planned for June, and plans to expand the West Coast GBI system based on the outcome of that test. He also discussed proposals to build a new GBI site in an Eastern state, plans to redesign the GBI "kill vehicle," and proposals to accelerate the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) SM-3 missile deployment in Poland.
Mr. Philip Coyle, former Assistant Secretary of Defense and Director, Operational Test and Evaluation, and former Associate Director for National Security and International Affairs in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, gave his impressions of the GBI program and his reservations about expanding the system.
Mr. Richard Fieldhouse, Senior Professional Staff Member at the Senate Armed Services Committee (Majority), and Mr. Robert Soofer, Senior Professional Staff Member at the Senate Armed Services Committee (Minority) and former Deputy Director of the Office of Missile Defense Policy, shared their views on how the Senate is addressing missile defense issues.
Final Phase Negotiations with Iran: What Makes a Comprehensive Deal?
April 4th, 2014
Mr. George Perkovich, Director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, argued that the United States should structure a final agreement around demonstrably practical requirements for a purely civilian nuclear program, include an Iranian commitment to put all of its nuclear facilities under safeguards, resolve IAEA concerns about “possible military dimensions, ” and include more-extensive transparency and verification procedures. Mr. Perkovich concluded by noting that Iran also has concerns, which tend to be neglected by Western governments and experts. Iranian leaders are skeptical that the United States will live up to its commitments. In particular, Iranian leaders doubt that they can rely on Washington to take all the steps necessary to remove pertinent sanctions on Iran at the national level and through the United Nations. Given that implementation of a final agreement would take place over several years, one must ask, how can Iran be assured that a future U.S. administration and Congress actually would lift sanctions?
Mr. Michael Singh, Managing Director at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, argued that the U.S. shift away from zero enrichment to limited enrichment represents a significant diplomatic victory for Iran. Iran has no practical need for enrichment. It is blessed with abundant natural resources of oil and gas. Even if one accepts Tehran’s argument that it wants to diversify its energy supply, enriching uranium makes little sense as importing fuel is much more economical. Furthermore, allowing Iran to enrich complicates the task of verifying that Iran is not diverting ostensibly safeguarded material to a parallel, covert nuclear weapons program. Verifying nondiversion at every point along the supply chain is a formidable task. Allowing Iran to enrich also raises questions about broader U.S. policy on enrichment. Finally, permitting Iran to enrich will be seen as a defeat for Washington. At a time when U.S. influence in the Middle East is already low, the message to allies and adversaries alike would be one of diminishing U.S. will. Yielding on enrichment may hasten a nuclear agreement, but would threaten vital U.S. interests such as nonproliferation and regional stability.
US Nuclear Weapons Spending
February 18, 2014
David Mosher, Assistant Director for the National Security Division at the Congressional Budget Office and Michael Bennett, a nuclear spending analyst, provided an overview of their recent report, Projected Costs of US Nuclear Forces, 2014-2023. They explained that their report is not an alternative estimate, but a projection of current spending. The major takeaway, according to the CBO analysts, is that modernization costs over the next decade will mostly go to cover research and development; only after 2023 will the procurement costs kick in, which are significantly higher than current expenses.
Clark Murdock, Director of the Project on Nuclear Issues at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, does not think that the United States spends an unreasonable amount of money on its nuclear forces. In fact, compared to other countries, the US spends a smaller percentage of both its total defense budget (4%) and total GNP (though the actual dollar amount is much more). Mr. Murdock believes that Russia is actually spending a higher amount than reports indicate and warned that future cyber technology could make our submarines obsolete. Therefore, Mr. Murdock advises that we stop designing and planning our nuclear forces as continuations of the Cold War models and start from scratch.
Steve Pifer, Director of the Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative at the Brookings Institution, argues that there is an opportunity cost for our nuclear forces, even at 4% of the total defense budget. It is possible to have a robust and secure nuclear force at 500 deployed warheads and fewer SSBNs in operation. However, Mr. Pifer believes that the ICBM leg of the triad is worth keeping, as it is by far the least expensive to develop and maintain. Finally, while the bomber leg is vital as a physical projection of power, its purpose as an insurance policy against another state developing an omnipotent missile defense system is rather farfetched. Missile defense is extremely difficult, and a handful of bombers would be sufficient to project United States power.
On January 23, 2014, the Arms Control Association and The Lugar Center hosted a second discussion on the nuclear deal with Iran featuring the views of key P5+1 European partners and their respective positions on the deal and the path forward.
Caroline Hurndall, Head of the Middle East Team at the British Embassy, presented her state’s policy with candor. The United Kingdom believes that the nuclear deal with Iran, while not comprehensive, is a solid start and the best way to test Iran’s true intentions with respect to their nuclear program. The deal does not signal planned détente with Iran, but Iran’s current regime also presents the best chance at negotiations in thirty-four years. Hurndall said it was her government’s view that the November 24 first phase agreement provides time for negotiations on the final phase agreement and the key now is the make sure that the P5+1 states negotiate the best possible comprehensive deal. To do that, there must be a common understanding that both sides will honor and sustain their commitments, there must be unity amongst the P5+1 states, there must be political space for both sides to negotiate a realistic outcome, and economic pressure on Iran must be maintained. The EU has put in place limited sanctions relief as set out by the Joint Plan of Action, but will continue to enforce all other sanctions.
Denis Chaibi, Head of the Political, Development, and Security section at the European Union (EU) Delegation to the United States shared details about the EU legislative process to adopt sanctions and to enforce them. He noted the important role played by EU Member States who have been trading partners with Iran in the past and who curtailed such activity to keep with EU policy and UN resolutions. He pointed out some of the expectations of the negotiating parties in the regular talks that will take place over the next six months to conclude a final agreement.. He noted that the other P5+1 negotiating partners, including Russia and China, were convinced that negotiations were the best means to reach s shared objective of a nuclear weapons-free Iran.
The First Phase Nuclear Deal with Iran and Next Steps
December 9, 2013
On December 9, 2013, The Lugar Center and Arms Control Association hosted a discussion evaluating the November 24 nuclear deal with Iran. Bob Einhorn, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and former State Department Special Advisor for Nonproliferation and Arms Control, was involved in the negotiations with Iran from 2009 to May 2013. He examined the deal in the context of the current international environment: it’s not perfect, but it is the best we can do given the circumstances. Iran is not going to give up its nuclear energy program. The next best option, therefore, is to stop the clock and “freeze” its current program until a comprehensive agreement can be reached.
Chris Griffin, Executive Director of the Foreign Policy Initiative and former Legislative Director for Senator Joseph Lieberman, recognized the merits of the Administration’s agenda, but disagreed with its end-state. For Griffin, a perfect, comprehensive deal would ban all Iranian enrichment and reprocessing. Its practical needs for nuclear energy are miniscule, and the number of current Iranian centrifuges dwarfs the number needed. This deal does nothing to address Iran’s other activities in the Middle East, such as its support for Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations. Griffin further argued that the deal sets a dangerous precedent and could lead to proliferation in the Middle East. And finally, the deal only imposes a modest freeze with reversible steps.
The speakers agreed that the United States should quickly adopt a credible, and public, response to any future Iranian breakout attempt.
On November 19, 2013 the Arms Control Association and the Lugar Center brought together three individuals with firsthand experience in chemical weapons destruction and the current situation in Syria. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation Simon Limage stressed the incredible accomplishments that have been made thus far, particularly the aggressive timetable for chemical weapon destruction. This is not only a technological achievement, but also a testament to the international community’s ability to positively influence the Syrian regime. Internal conflict aside, the Assad regime’s willingness to strictly and honestly follow all protocols set forth will be critical to completing the mission.
Major General Jay Santee, Deputy Director of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) spoke to the technological capabilities that have enabled the OPCW to commit to such a plan. Last year, the Threat Reduction Advisory Council engaged DTRA to develop the mobile CW-destruction technology that will now likely be used. This foresight would have been futile without the funding provided by the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program. This enabled DTRA to pursue the technological achievements we have seen faster than any thought possible.
Despite the best-laid plans, there are always dangers and further considerations. Providing a unique perspective as the former director of the Iraq Survey Group, Charles Duelfer warned that many parties – from American politicians to Syrian rebels – will attempt to disrupt the success story by questioning the intelligence reports and disputing claims. He also emphasized the value of the OPCW-verified destruction of the mixing and filling equipment to date, which prevented the Syrian regime from producing additional chemical weapons.