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Iran Delays Announcing Nuclear Achievements | The P4+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert

Iran Delays Announcing Nuclear Achievements The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) announced March 27 that it developed a new advanced centrifuge and would unveil the machine in April, but it appears that event may have been postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The AEOI may have intended to display the new centrifuge during a ceremony marking the country’s National Nuclear Technology Day, an annual event during which officials recap the country’s nuclear accomplishments of the past year. National Nuclear Technology Day was scheduled for April 8, but Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesman...

Video Short: New START at 10 Years

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My name is Kingston Reif and I am the director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association.

What is New START and why is its extension important?

The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, which was signed a decade ago this week, limits the size of the still enormous U.S. and Russian deployed strategic nuclear arsenals and provides for an extensive monitoring and verification regime to ensure compliance with the treaty. The use of but a fraction of the still enormous U.S. and Russian arsenals would result in a catastrophe the likes of which humanity has never seen.

New START is excited to expire in less than a year, in February 2021, unless the U.S. and Russian presidents agreed to extend the treaty by up to five years. If New START expires with nothing to replace it, there would be no limits on the size of the U.S. and Russian arsenals for the first time in half a century. The risk of unconstrained nuclear competition and even more fraught bilateral relations would grow. As a global pandemic ravages the nation and the world, we can ill afford to lose the only remaining limits on the world's two largest nuclear arsenals, which would open the door to an arms race.

Can we negotiate a "trilateral" agreement with Russia and China as the Trump administration is pursuing?

The administration's pursuit of a more comprehensive arms control agreement that includes additional nuclear-armed states is a worthwhile and praiseworthy objective. However, such an effort would be unprecedented, extremely complex to negotiate, and time-consuming, and almost certainly cannot be achieved before New START expires in less than a year, all of which reinforces the case for extending New START which will buy an additional five years with which to pursue a more ambitious agreement.

What can concerned citizens do to support New START's extension?

The future of New START hangs in the balance it is important that members of Congress hear from their constituents about the importance of extending New START. You can take action by going to our website ArmsControl.org/TakeAction and encourage your member of Congress to support existing bipartisan legislation in the Senate and the House calling on the President to extend New START.

Thanks for your support. Stay healthy and stay safe

Description: 
In the first of a new video short series, Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy, describes why it is particularly important now to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia before it expires in February 2021 and how you can help.

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TAKE ACTION: Extend New START

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The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) is the only treaty limiting the world’s two largest nuclear weapons arsenals—and its future hangs in the balance.

New START, which requires rigorous monitoring and verification, is set to expire in February 2021 unless the U.S. and Russian presidents agree to extend it. President Vladimir Putin has proposed an extension of five years without conditions, but President Trump remains undecided.

Time is running out on New START and it is now crucial that Congress takes action to protect and extend it.

A growing number of Republican and Democratic members of Congress are voicing their support for the treaty and its extension. For instance:

  • In the House, Reps. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Michael McCaul (R-Texas) introduced the “Richard G. Lugar and Ellen O. Tauscher Act to Maintain Limits on Russian Nuclear Forces” (H.R. 2529) bill, which expresses the Sense of Congress that the United States should seek to extend the New START Treaty so long as Russia remains in compliance.
     
  • In the Senate, Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) introduced a companion bill, also named the “Richard G. Lugar and Ellen O. Tauscher Act to Maintain Limits on Russian Nuclear Forces” (S. 2394). This bill expresses the same as the House bill.

Unfortunately, instead of working toward an extension of New START, the Trump administration is busy arguing for a new trilateral arms control agreement, one that includes Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons and China's smaller stockpile, which totals approximately 300.

Pursuing talks with other nuclear-armed states, like China, and limits on all types of nuclear weapons is an admirable objective, but such a negotiation would be complex and time-consuming. Not only is China opposed to a trilateral deal at this time, but there is not enough time to negotiate and ratify a new arms control deal before New START expires.

The first step should, therefore, be a five-year extension of New START which would provide a foundation for a more ambitious successor agreement.

Use the form below to urge your senators and representative to support the bipartisan legislation currently before them in the House and Senate.

The active support of your members of Congress for this legislation can help ensure common sense limits on Russia’s nuclear weapons arsenal remain in force and can help prevent an unconstrained arms race.

Description: 

The New START agreement is now the only treaty capping the world’s two largest nuclear weapons arsenals—and it is in jeopardy. The U.S. and Russian presidents can extend it—and its irreplaceable verification and monitoring system—for up to five years if they choose. The actions of Congress can help protect and extend it.

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Pandemic Reveals Misplaced Priorities


April 2020
By Daryl G. Kimball

For decades, national security and health experts have warned of the risks of global threats that are simply too big for one country to handle, such as disease pandemics, climate change, and nuclear war. For many years, the response of our national and global leaders has fallen short.

Twenty years ago, John Steinbruner, then the chair of the Arms Control Association Board of Directors, warned in his book Principles of Global Security that globalization is generating “a new class of security problems in which dispersed processes pose dangers of large magnitude and incalculable probability.” He argued that policymakers “will have to shift from contingency reaction to anticipatory prevention” and “this will have to be done in global coalition.”

Unfortunately, U.S. spending priorities and modes of thinking about security have become increasingly defined in military terms. Congress provided a record $746 billion for national defense in fiscal year 2020. U.S. arms manufacturers dominate the global arms trade and help fuel regional conflicts that undermine human development. In recent years, the Trump administration’s nationalist “America First” foreign policy has made it even more difficult for the world’s leading nations to work together on the toughest global challenges.

Today, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which threatens the lives and livelihoods of millions worldwide, has laid bare the terrible human cost of these misplaced policy choices.

As the scope and scale of the coronavirus threat began to reveal itself in January and February, the Trump administration focused on other matters. For example, the administration in February asked Congress for $44.5 billion in fiscal year 2021 for programs to maintain and upgrade the U.S. nuclear arsenal, a 19 percent increase above the previous year.

The U.S. government spends tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to maintain a massive nuclear arsenal capable of destroying the planet many times over. Meanwhile, it does not have a stockpile of masks large enough to protect front-line health care workers who are battling COVID-19 and is proposing to cut programs that help provide for early disease detection.

The U.S. stockpile of medical supplies includes 12 million medical-grade N95 masks and 30 million surgical masks, which is only about 1 percent of the 3.5 billion needed in a year to deal with a disease pandemic. At the price of $0.50 a mask, it would cost approximately $1.75 billion to build up the N95 stockpile and about $350 million a year to replace expired masks, according to a report published by The War Zone. That is less than the $3.2 billion increase above fiscal year 2020 levels that the Pentagon is seeking for its multiyear programs to sustain and rebuild the U.S. triad of nuclear-armed missiles, submarines, and bombers.

Meanwhile, the administration is proposing to slash by 37 percent the budget request for the Defense Department’s Biological Threat Reduction Program, which “seeks to facilitate detection and reporting of diseases caused by especially dangerous pathogens.” As a result of that program’s previously provided threat reduction training efforts, local officials in Thailand detected the first case of the novel coronavirus there, only days after its initial discovery in Wuhan, China.

Now is the time for Congress to radically scale back the existing plan to replace and upgrade the already excessive U.S. nuclear arsenal, particularly plans for new missiles and bombers, new nuclear warheads, and production infrastructure. This would save billions of taxpayer dollars that should be spent on addressing higher priority human and health security needs.

Making matters worse, the United States has become part of the problem rather than helping to find viable solutions to counter the most serious global threats.

While the Trump administration is seeking to expand U.S. nuclear capabilities at the expense of programs that address human security needs, it is turning its back on hard-won agreements that have effectively reduced the nuclear threat.

President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal with no viable plan to replace it creates the potential for a new nuclear crisis. Iran’s leaders have retaliated to the reimposition of U.S. sanctions by breaching key limits on their nuclear activities.

In addition, the post-Cold War progress toward reducing the role and number of nuclear weapons has stalled. To date, Trump has failed to take up Russia’s offer to extend the only remaining treaty that limits the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals, the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. The global nonproliferation and disarmament regime, the best prophylactic against a nuclear pandemic, is under serious threat.

The unfolding COVID-19 outbreak will not only take away the lives of people, but it will change our personal lives, and it will very likely force changes in the international system. If we are to survive well into this century, there must be a profound shift in the way we deal with global security challenges and how we align our scientific, economic, diplomatic, and political resources to address the health, climate, and nuclear dangers that threaten us all.

 

For decades, national security and health experts have warned of the risks of global threats that are simply too big for one country to handle, such as disease pandemics, climate change, and nuclear war. For many years, the response of our national and global leaders has fallen short.

Assessing U.S. Plans to Modernize Its Nuclear Weapons


April 2020
By Allison Bawden

Thank you for inviting me to discuss the Government Accountability Office (GAO) views on National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) plans for modernizing the nation’s nuclear security enterprise and aligning its efforts with the Defense Department to modernize delivery systems. These remarks should be viewed as helping the NNSA set itself up for success.

 (U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works/Flickr)The nuclear security enterprise is embarking on its most ambitious level of effort since the Cold War era. The NNSA is currently managing four weapons modernization programs, proposing a fifth, and undertaking infrastructure projects that affect every strategic material and component used in nuclear weapons.

Today, I will discuss the schedule risks presented by the integrated nature of NNSA and Defense Department nuclear modernization efforts, the budget and schedule estimates for implementing the overall program, and the importance of the NNSA setting priorities among its efforts in the event of budget shortfalls or cost or schedule overruns.

First, on the schedule risks, because NNSA modernization is highly integrated, any delay could have a significant cascading effect on the overall effort. Here are three scenarios. First, weapons programs depend on the completion of certain infrastructure projects. For example, the W87-1 program will require all new components, including plutonium pits. The construction schedule for pit facilities is aggressive, and a delay could have an impact on the schedule for the weapons programs it supports.

Also, because the NNSA uses the same production infrastructure for each weapons program and capacity is limited, each program schedule can impact the next. In addition, NNSA weapons program schedules must remain aligned with the schedules for the Defense Department’s new delivery systems to ensure essential testing is completed at critical times. This is especially true for the W80-4 warhead and the Air Force’s long-range standoff missile, as well as the W87-1 warhead and the Air Force’s intercontinental ballistic missile replacement. The current schedules have little margin for delay.

Second, on budget and schedule estimates, in the past, the GAO has been critical of the NNSA’s performance on a number of weapons modernization programs and major construction projects. We identified poor planning and overly optimistic assumptions about performance that contributed to cost and overruns, schedule delays, and program and project cancellations. The NNSA has made improvements to management controls for these efforts, especially around cost and schedule estimating, and it is increasingly paying attention to program and project management capacity.

As the NNSA undertakes an increased scope of work, it is essential that its overall plans reflect realistic cost and schedule estimates, rather than best-case estimates. For example, although the NNSA has not yet fully developed its schedule for constructing pit facilities, its own analysis of alternatives suggests current dates will be difficult to achieve.

Finally, on setting priorities, the president’s fiscal year 2021 budget request includes a 25 percent increase for the NNSA modernization program and anticipates sustaining this increased funding level for at least the next five years. In 2017 the GAO reviewed the NNSA’s long-term plans for its modernization program. At the time, we found that the NNSA planned to defer work to a period beyond its five-year programming window. We concluded that these deferrals created a significant bow wave of funding needs in future years to undertake the simultaneous weapons programs and construction projects it planned. The requested budget increase for next year suggests this bow wave has arrived.

Requesting a funding increase is one way to address the bow wave and maintain the overall scope of planned modernization efforts. However, actual funding in future years could fall short of budget estimates, and programs or projects could and have encountered cost overruns or schedule delays.

The GAO recommended in 2017 that to increase the credibility of its modernization plans, the NNSA should develop a portfolio approach as a way to manage these risks. Such an approach would present options that could be exercised if budget or schedule risks materialized. This would include identifying programs for which starts could be deferred. Any such plan would need to be put forward in collaboration with the Defense Department. The NNSA’s most recent long-term plan includes an assessment of whether its budget requests fall within the range of its program cost estimates. However, it has not yet adopted a portfolio approach to setting its priorities, should cost or schedule risks materialize. NNSA planning could further benefit from this approach in light of the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review and additional programs it anticipates.


Adapted from testimony by Allison Bawden, director of the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s natural resources and environment team, delivered to the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, March 3, 2020.

An oversight official raises concerns about the U.S. ability to modernize its nuclear forces on time and on budget.

Trump Still Wants Multilateral Arms Control


April 2020
By Kingston Reif and Shannon Bugos

The United States is open to meeting with the other permanent members of the UN Security Council to discuss nuclear arms control and will soon put forward a trilateral arms control proposal with Russia and China, President Donald Trump said in February. China, however, has continued to express its opposition to trilateral talks with Russia and the United States, and it has not yet responded to U.S. overtures to begin a bilateral strategic security dialogue.

President Donald Trump takes questions from the media in the White House briefing room on Feb. 29. He said the five permanent members of the UN Security Council will likely discuss nuclear arms control this year. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)At the same time, the Trump administration continued to deflect questions about its stance on the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which is due to expire in 2021.

Trump told reporters on Feb. 29 that Russia, China, the United Kingdom, and France “all want to now discuss arms control” and that the leaders of those countries will likely discuss the subject at the UN General Assembly in New York in September.

Russian President Vladimir Putin first proposed the idea of a summit of those nations earlier this year to discuss a broad range of security topics, including arms control. “We have discussed this with several of our colleagues and, as far as I know, have received a generally positive response to holding a meeting of the heads of state of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council,” Putin stated during a late January trip to Israel.

In a March 5 statement commemorating the 50th anniversary of the entry into force of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Trump said he “will be proposing a bold new trilateral arms control initiative with Russia and China to help avoid an expensive arms race and instead work together to build a better, safer, and more prosperous future for all.”

Trump, who first proposed a trilateral approach to arms control nearly a year ago, said such an approach is needed because, “[o]ver the next decade, China seeks to at least double the size of its nuclear stockpile while Russia is developing expensive and destabilizing new types of delivery systems.” (See ACT, May 2019.)

Neither the president nor other officials have provided a timeline for when the administration might release a proposal.

Nevertheless, “we’re optimistic that it will be possible to engage both with Russia and with China, and to bring those bilateral engagements forward into a trilateral engagement that will ultimately result in the kind of agreement that President Trump has tasked us with trying to come to,” a senior State Department official told reporters on March 9. “So we are cautiously optimistic and hope very much to be engaged with both, not just one, of those two parties in the very near future,” the official added.

Beijing, however, has continued to express no interest in a trilateral approach. “China has repeatedly reiterated that it has no intention of participating in the so-called trilateral arms control negotiations,” a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said on March 6.

In addition to pursuing trilateral talks with Russia and China, Christopher Ford, U.S. assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, invited China last December to begin a bilateral strategic security dialogue.

China has yet to respond to the offer. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said on March 6 that “China is always open to bilateral exchange with the U.S. in the field of strategic security.”

The Trump administration’s continued pursuit of arms control discussions with Russia and China comes as the clock continues to tick toward the February 2021 expiration of New START. The United States and Russia can exercise the option to extend the agreement by up to five years by mutual agreement.

The administration has yet to make its decision regarding the future of the accord. The senior State Department official said the administration is evaluating a decision on extension in the context of whether prolonging New START aids or sets back the pursuit of limits on additional types of Russian nuclear weapons not covered by the treaty and bringing China into the arms control process.

“We are not forecasting what that answer is,” the official said.

The official would not comment on the administration’s specific goals for trilateral arms control or whether the administration would consider extending New START to buy additional time to engage China.

The official added that there remains plenty of time to extend the treaty before it expires and that an extension could be quickly accomplished with “nothing more than an exchange of diplomatic notes.”

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Feb. 19 that if the United States chooses to extend New START, then a new agreement should “capture the new Russian strategic weapons. I also believe that the Russians should bring underneath that treaty the nonstrategic nuclear weapons. And then, of course, the Chinese.”

Moscow has expressed its readiness to extend New START immediately and without any preconditions, but warned that time is running out and any proposal to include Russian weapons not covered by the treaty would require an amendment to the agreement. (See ACT, January/February 2020.)

Vladimir Leontyev, deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control, said in February that the United States rejected a proposal from Russia to hold “a lawyers’ meeting to…work out an understanding of the technical aspect of the extension process.”

“No follow-up agreement is in sight, and it is clear that there is no chance of producing anything meaningful over the time left” before the treaty expires, Leontyev noted.

Russia has also maintained that it “will not try to convince China” to join trilateral talks, according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. “If the Americans are quite sure that it makes no sense to take any further steps on the New START…without China, let them get down to business on this all on their own,” he said on Feb. 10.

A reported hindrance to the U.S. effort to negotiate a more comprehensive replacement for New START has been the Trump administration’s inability to find a lead negotiator for the undertaking. Politico reported on Feb. 12 that the administration has offered the role to several potential candidates but struggled to find someone to take it. The Guardian reported on March 4 that the White House had chosen Marshall Billingslea, the current assistant secretary for terrorist financing at the Treasury Department, for the role.

New START caps U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals at 1,550 deployed warheads, 700 deployed missiles and heavy bombers, and 800 deployed and nondeployed missile launchers and bombers each. It also put into place a rigorous inspections and verification regime, on which the U.S. military relies for knowledge about the Russian arsenal.

 

The extension of New START remains up in the air as the Trump administration pushes talks with China.

U.S. Questioning Open Skies Treaty


April 2020
By Kingston Reif and Shannon Bugos

The U.S. Defense Department is halting funding to replace the Pentagon’s aging aircraft used for flights under the Open Skies Treaty until the Trump administration decides the future of U.S. participation in the pact, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told Congress in March.

Navy Lt. Bethany Baker monitors the path of an OC-135B aircraft during a January 2016 flight over Haiti unrelated to the Open Skies Treaty. The Pentagon has elected not to upgrade the aircraft as the Trump administration assesses the U.S. role in the Treaty. (Photo: Perry Aston/U.S. Air Force)“Until we make a final decision on the path forward, I am not prepared to recapitalize aircraft,” Esper told the Senate Armed Services Committee during a March 4 hearing. “We still have the means to conduct the overflights,” he added, “[b]ut at this time, we’re holding until we get better direction.”

The Trump administration has yet to make a final decision on whether to remain a party to the treaty. The administration has reportedly warned allies that it could withdraw from the agreement if its concerns about Russian noncompliance and other shortcomings are not allayed. (See ACT, January/February 2020.)

“In due course, we will be getting together to do that, to decide the best path forward for our nation,” Esper said at a Feb. 20 press briefing.

Esper has not disclosed how he is advising President Donald Trump on the agreement, but told senators that he has “a lot of concerns about the treaty as it stands now.”

The United States maintains two Boeing OC-135B aircraft based at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska for treaty overflight missions. Congress appropriated $41.5 million last year to continue replacement efforts for these aircraft. The Air Force was planning to seek $76 million in fiscal year 2021 to continue the replacement process, but the final budget request published in February did not include any request for funding.

U.S. lawmakers criticized the administration’s actions. “By not recapitalizing the Open Skies aircraft, we are adding risk to our aircrews,” said Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) in a statement to Defense News. Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Jack Reed (D-R.I.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Feb. 28 opposing a potential withdrawal of the United States from the Open Skies Treaty.

“If this administration moves forward with a precipitous unilateral withdrawal from the treaty the United States will be less safe and secure,” they wrote.

But Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) sent a letter to Trump on March 12 calling on him to withdraw from the agreement.

“It is well past time to withdraw,” they wrote, citing concern about the costs of the OC-135B replacement efforts and suggesting that the United States receives few benefits from the accord.

The senators also referenced Russia’s noncompliance with the treaty as grounds for withdrawal. The United States asserts that Russia is violating the agreement by restricting observation missions over Kaliningrad to flying no more than 500 kilometers and by establishing a 10-kilometer corridor along Russia’s border with the Georgian border-conflict regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The Defense Department has responded by restricting flights over the Pacific Fleet in Hawaii and the missile defense interceptor fields in Fort Greely, Alaska.

Meanwhile, Vayl Oxford, director of the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency, commented on Feb. 11 before the House Armed Services Committee that the United States has had “a lot of consultation with our treaty partners” who view Open Skies as “very valuable.”

Oxford also said that “[i]f we fly all the missions currently planned this year, it’d be the busiest Open Skies season ever.”

James Gilmore, U.S. representative to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, on March 2 described Russian support for a recent mission that took place over Kaliningrad as “very cooperative.”

Gilmore also noted that Russia will no longer raise an “objection” for the United States and its allies to “fly over one of their major exercises,” as was reported.

“However, we don’t believe that that’s good enough,” he noted. “We think that we have to be holding the Russians strictly to account on the Open Skies Treaty.”

The widening impact of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic is creating further complications. Citing the “serious public health risk posed by the spread of COVID-19,” on March 16, the chair of the Open Skies Consultative Commission, Belarus, requested a suspension of all Open Skies flights until April 26, according to a statement. The other parties agreed and have notified their suspension of flights, according to diplomatic sources.

Signed in 1992, the treaty permits each state-party to conduct short-notice, unarmed, observation flights over the others’ entire territories to collect data on military forces and activities. The treaty entered into force in January 2002 and currently has 34 states-parties, including the United States and Russia. Since 2002, there have been nearly 200 U.S. overflights of Russia and about 70 overflights conducted by Russia over the United States.

The Pentagon is no longer seeking to update its aircraft used to photograph Russian military sites.

Pentagon Tests Hypersonic Glide Body


April 2020
By Kingston Reif and Shannon Bugos

The United States successfully tested a common hypersonic glide body (C-HGB) in a flight experiment on March 19 in Hawaii, demonstrating the Trump administration’s intention to match Chinese and Russian weapons advancement. The data collected from the experiment will support the development of several new hypersonic weapons systems, according to the Defense Department.

The Army and Navy jointly conducted the test from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii.

A missile carrying a common hypersonic glide body launches from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii on March 19. (Photo: Oscar Sosa/U.S.Navy)“This event is a major milestone towards the department’s goal of fielding hypersonic warfighting capabilities in the early to mid-2020s,” said the Pentagon on March 20.

Hypersonic weapons travel at least five times the speed of sound. Hypersonic glide vehicles are distinguished from traditional ballistic missiles by their ability to maneuver and operate at lower altitudes.

The Pentagon, with the support of Congress, is proposing to accelerate the development of conventionally armed hypersonic glide vehicles and cruise missiles to keep pace with Russia and China as they develop such weapons and to augment U.S. conventional war-fighting capabilities. Some experts, however, have questioned the military rationale for the weapons and warned that they could increase the risk of rapid escalation in a conflict or crisis. (See ACT, January/February 2018.)

The Trump administration is requesting $3.2 billion for fiscal year 2021 to accelerate the development of hypersonic weapons, an increase of $600 million above the previous fiscal year.

The United States has hypersonic weapons programs underway for all of the armed services. The Army is requesting $801 million for the Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon system and aims to begin fielding it in fiscal year 2023. The Navy is requesting $1 billion for the Conventional Prompt Strike program and has set a target deployment date of fiscal year 2028.

“The Navy and Army are working closely with industry to develop the C-HGB with Navy as the lead designer, and Army as the lead for production,” said the Pentagon after the flight experiment. “Each service will use the C-HGB, while developing individual weapon systems and launchers tailored for launch from sea or land.”

In addition to the Army and Navy programs, the Air Force is pursuing the Advanced Rapid Response Weapon system, for which it requested $382 million in fiscal year 2021.

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) monitored the March 19 test in order to “inform its ongoing development of systems designed to defend against adversary hypersonic weapons.” The MDA asked for $207 million for fiscal year 2021 for developing hypersonic defense technology. (See ACT, March 2020.)

The Defense Department has expressed varying rationales for the development of hypersonic weapons.

Michael Griffin, the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, told the House Armed Services Committee on March 11 that the United States needs to develop hypersonic weapons “to allow us to match what our adversaries are doing.”

Last October, China included the Dongfeng-17, a medium-range ballistic missile armed with a hypersonic glide vehicle, in a military parade. Last December, Russia announced that it had begun deploying the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle on an existing long-range ballistic missile. (See ACT, January/February 2020.)

The Defense Department has also emphasized a specific military need for hypersonic weapons.

The department said on March 20 that the weapons would provide “the warfighter with an ability to strike targets hundreds and even thousands of miles away, in a matter of minutes, to defeat a wide range of high-value targets.”

“These capabilities,” said Michael White, assistant director for hypersonic weapons in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, “help ensure that our warfighters will maintain the battlefield dominance necessary to deter, and if necessary, defeat any future adversary.”

A March 19 test shows the U.S. aim to keep up or surpass Chinese and Russian technology developments.

U.S. Fuels Growing Arms Market


April 2020
By Jeff Abramson

Although the pace of increase has slowed, the global trend for major conventional weapons trade remains upward, according to a March study released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). In that trade, the United States continues to account for the largest and growing share, with more than half of its weapons delivered to the conflict-torn Middle East.

The SIPRI report, released March 9, measures the volume of trade with a trend indicator value, a metric based on actual deliveries of military equipment rather than just financial value, and compares five-year periods as a way to measure change. It found that the volume of international trade had increased 5.5 percent during 2015–2019 compared to five years earlier, and 20 percent compared to 2005–2009.

The United States accounted for 36 percent of exports, up from 31 percent during 2010–2014, with identified exports of major arms to 96 states.

Russia, the only other country accounting for more than 10 percent of global exports, had 47 client states and provided 21 percent of global arms, down from 27 percent in the previous period. China, at fifth largest, was responsible for 5.5 percent of exports in each period, with Pakistan accounting for more than a third of the volume of its exports among 51 clients in the past five years.

Saudi Arabia and the Middle East

In justifying arms and other trade with Saudi Arabia, U.S. President Donald Trump pointed to Russia and China as countries likely to replace the United States should it discontinue trade with the Middle Eastern kingdom. More broadly, his administration has elevated economic considerations and argued for greater governmental involvement and faster approval of arms sales as critical to U.S. competition in the arms trade. The SIPRI findings suggest that rather than the United States losing its place, it is expanding its share of global arms trade.

The arms trade, especially to the Middle East, continues to be controversial domestically and internationally. Countries in that region imported 61 percent more arms during 2015–2019 compared to five years earlier, with Saudi Arabia now both the region’s and the world’s top arms importer.

Washington supplied nearly three-quarters of weapons exports to Riyadh in that period, including combat aircraft and large numbers of missiles and guided bombs. It is unclear how much of the nearly $8 billion in arms for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been delivered since Trump used emergency provisions in the Arms Export Control Act to waive congressional notification requirements last May, then used vetoes to override three congressional resolutions of disapproval in July. (See ACT, September 2019.) His administration has yet to notify Congress of any new sales via the foreign military sales program to either country since then.

A number of European countries have stopped arms deals with Saudi Arabia out of concern over the nation’s use of weapons in Yemen, where five years of war have exacerbated a humanitarian crisis. In March, Belgium took new steps to suspend export licenses, and Germany renewed preexisting holds.

In the United Kingdom, an appeals court ruled in May that the country had not properly accounted for possible harm in making arms trade decisions. In December, a group of civil society organizations presented a dossier to the International Criminal Court in an effort to convince that body to investigate European arms suppliers.

India Arms Trade Changes

Cross-border attacks in early 2019 involving India and Pakistan using weapons provided by an array of countries, including the United States, drew international attention to the arms trade involving the long-time rivals. Generally, however, trade with India has not raised the same concerns as that with Middle Eastern states.

India, which until two years ago had been listed as the world’s largest arms importer, now is second largest, accounting for 9.2 percent of global arms imports, according to SIPRI. Russia remains the country’s top supplier, providing 56 percent of arms deliveries, down from 72 percent during the earlier five-year period. The United States, which was India's second-largest arms supplier in 2010–2014, delivered half as many weapons to New Delhi in 2015–2019 as Israel and France provided the second- and third-most weapons to the country, with a combined 26 percent.

That position may change. On Feb. 25 during a visit with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi, Trump announced $3 billion in arms agreements, saying they “will enhance our joint defense capabilities as our militaries continue to train and operate side by side.” In total during 2019-2020, the Trump administration has notified Congress of more than $6.3 billion in potential foreign military sales to New Delhi.

Some members of Congress have raised alarm about India’s actions in Kashmir and its treatment of Muslims, drawing the defense trade into the debate. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted on March 2, “President Trump is engaging in arms deals with Modi while his administration is ethnically cleansing the country’s religious minorities. We must not enable this rise in sectarian violence.”

Global arms transfers continue to grow, with Washington providing more than one-third of them.

Budget Would Slash Nunn-Lugar Program


April 2020
By Kingston Reif

The Trump administration’s fiscal year 2021 budget request proposes to slash funding for the Defense Department’s flagship program to counter weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and related threats, including dangerous pathogens such as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Vayl Oxford, director of the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency, told U.S. lawmakers in February that CTR assistance helped Thailand identify its first case of novel coronavirus exposure in January. (Photo: Defense Department)The submission has prompted alarm from members of Congress, former government officials, and nuclear security experts who argue that the program remains a key lynchpin of the U.S. effort to work with allies and partners to combat chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear dangers.

The Pentagon is asking for $239 million for the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program, commonly known by the names of the authors of the 1991 legislation that established the effort, Sens. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.). This amount would be a decrease of $135 million, or 36 percent, below the fiscal year 2020 appropriation and $95.5 million, or 29 percent, below what the Pentagon planned to request for the program as of last year.

The request would cut the program’s efforts to reduce the proliferation of biological weapons and facilitate detection and reporting of diseases caused by especially dangerous pathogens by $76 million, or 37 percent, below last year’s enacted level.

Critics argue that cutting the budget for a global program to secure dangerous pathogens would be foolish, especially during a global pandemic such as the one that has ensued after the appearance of the novel coronavirus in late 2019.

“In a time when the United States is struggling to respond to the spread of COVID-19, a highly infectious new virus, we are alarmed by the [Defense] Department’s significant reduction in the budget request for a mission of detecting and confronting biological threats to the United States,” House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) told Arms Control Today.

Laura Holgate, vice president for material risk management at the Nuclear Threat Initiative and a former White House National Security Council official, echoed similar concerns.

The CTR budget request “is at odds with…the current biological crisis at home and around the world,” she said in an interview.

Congress last year increased the budget for the CTR program by $35 million, or 10 percent, above the administration’s request.

Since its inception, the program has assisted in the deactivation of thousands of former Soviet nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles, the securing of countless biological pathogens, and the destruction of thousands of tons of chemical weapons agents.

The program’s initial focus of eliminating nuclear weapons in former Soviet states expanded over time to address securing nuclear, chemical, and biological materials around the world.

Vayl Oxford, the director of the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency, told lawmakers on Feb. 11 that the surveillance and detection assistance provided by the CTR program helped Thailand identify “the first case of a novel coronavirus on Jan. 13, 2020, only days after its initial discovery in Wuhan, China.”

The program “has been one of the Pentagon’s best, most cost-effective investments,” Jay Branegan, a senior fellow at The Lugar Center, said in a March 20 interview. The center is a nonpartisan think tank founded by Lugar.

The proposed budget cut for the program was the result of an internal review led by Defense Secretary Mark Esper to identify savings that could be spent on higher-priority nuclear and conventional weapons systems modernization efforts.

In a January 2020 report to Congress, Esper said that the cut reduces “the Cooperative Threat Reduction program by eliminating efforts for low-to-near zero probability threats.”

A Pentagon official told Defense News in February that the program had “turned into partnership building, capacity building far beyond the program’s original mission.”

“So then we had to ask the question in those areas, is that more impotent than hypersonics?” the official said, referring to the Pentagon’s effort to accelerate the development of new hypersonic missiles. “In a lot of those cases we said no, hypersonics is more important than that.”

Other governmental programs to secure WMD materials would fare better under the budget proposal.

The Trump administration is asking for $1.5 billion for core nuclear security and nonproliferation programs at the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) for fiscal year 2021, an increase of about $30 million above the fiscal year 2020 appropriation and $80 million above what the agency planned to request as of last year.

The largest proposed increase is for the Material Management and Minimization program, which supports the removal of civilian highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium around the world and converts HEU-fueled research reactors and medical isotope production facilities to the use of low-enriched uranium. The program would get $401 million, a $37 million increase from the fiscal year 2020 appropriation.

The Global Material Security program, which has the task of improving the security of nuclear materials around the world, securing orphaned or disused radiological sources, and strengthening nuclear smuggling detection and deterrence, would receive $400 million, a decrease of $42 million from the fiscal year 2020 appropriation.

“In an extremely difficult budget environment, the Trump administration deserves praise for protecting much of the funding for [NNSA] nuclear security programs in this year’s budget request,” said Nickolas Roth, nuclear security program director at the Stimson Center.

Roth noted, however, that the proposed budget is still less than what was projected to be spent on these programs before the Trump administration took office.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), the chairwoman of the House Appropriations energy and water subcommittee that oversees the NNSA’s nuclear weapons and nonproliferation work, expressed concern about the cut to the Global Material Security program at a March 4 hearing on the agency’s budget request.

“In addition to rectifying this, I also believe we need to take a fresh look at emerging threats as nuclear technologies evolve and as nations try to acquire them,” she said.

During the first three years of the Trump administration, Congress provided almost $470 million more than what the administration requested for core NNSA nuclear security and nonproliferation programs.

The administration is requesting $149 million for fiscal year 2021 to continue to pursue the “dilute and dispose” strategy to dispose of 34 metric tons of surplus plutonium from the U.S. nuclear weapons program. The strategy is a less expensive alternative to the now-terminated mixed-oxide fuel facility.

The Trump administration is seeking to cut funds to cooperative threat reduction activities by 36 percent.

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