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"[Arms Control Today is] Absolutely essential reading for the upcoming Congressional budget debate on the 2018 #NPR and its specific recommendations ... well-informed, insightful, balanced, and filled with common sense."

– Frank Klotz
former Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration
March 7, 2018
Daryl G. Kimball

Holding New START Hostage

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Volume 3, Issue 6, April 20, 2012

In the next few weeks, the Republican leadership on the House Armed Services Committee is expected to try to block implementation of the New START Treaty unless the Obama administration agrees to further increase spending on the U.S. nuclear weapons infrastructure. This type of partisan "hostage taking" threatens to undermine U.S. national security, ignores budget reality, and defies common sense.

Blocking U.S. implementation of New START, as Strategic Forces Subcommittee chairman Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio)'s bill H.R. 4178 threatens to do, would likely result in Russia doing the same. The treaty would unravel, allowing Moscow to rebuild its forces above treaty levels and increase the number of nuclear weapons aimed at the United States. Moreover, the inspection system established under the treaty could collapse, depriving the United States of crucial data exchanges and on-site inspections of Russian forces.

Such outcomes are clearly not in the U.S. national security interest. Yet Rep. Turner would put New START at risk--ignoring the will of the 71 senators who voted for it--to extort additional spending on nuclear weapons that is unsustainable and unnecessary, and that key members of his own party do not support.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) added his voice to the debate with an April 17 letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee stating that "if modernization efforts to ensure the safety, security and reliability of a smaller stockpile are not sustained, then further reductions to the stockpile should not be considered" until New START expires in 2021. However, modernization efforts are being sustained, with increased spending in FY2013.

Both Sen. Lieberman's and Rep. Turner's proposals to hold New START and future arms reductions hostage are all pain, no gain.

Nuclear Weapons Funding is Sufficient

Critics often point out that the administration's FY2013 $7.6 billion request for National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) weapons activities is 4% lower than projected in 2010, during the New START debate in the Senate. What they tend to ignore is that the FY2013 request is actually 5% higher than the 2012 enacted budget.

Rather than a breach of faith, as Rep. Turner sees it, the FY2013 NNSA request represents a healthy increase despite fiscal pressures imposed by the bipartisan 2011 Budget Control Act and the GOP-led House Appropriations Committee's failure to fully fund the program last year. In fact, the Energy and Water Development Subcommittee marked up its FY2013 budget this week and did not add additional funds above the administration's $7.6 billion request.

Given the new fiscal environment, congress cannot expect two-year-old budget projections to remain valid. As Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) put it in March, the New START debate took place "nine months before the Budget Control Act became law," and thus "falling 4 percent short of the [2010-derived] target is reasonable given the fiscal reality facing us today."

Bipartisan Agreement: We Don't Need CMRR Now

The administration's FY2013 NNSA weapons activities budget request contains no funding for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) Facility, to be built for plutonium research at Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico, and deferred work for at least five years.

For FY2012, the House Appropriations Committee cut CMRR by $100 million, or 33 percent, indicating bipartisan concern about the need for CMRR.

As House Energy and Water Subcommittee Chair Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) said last June:"Yes, 'Weapons Activities' is below the President's request, but this request included hundreds of millions of dollars for construction projects that are not ready to move forward, capabilities that are secondary to the primary mission of keeping our stockpile ready, and, yes, slush funds that the administration has historically used to address its needs...The recommendation before you eliminates these weaknesses and it is responsible."

For FY2013, the House Energy and Water Subcommittee has so far not provided any money for CMRR.

With total cost estimates for CMRR skyrocketing to $6 billion, the delay is a reasonable response to tight budgets given that other NNSA facilities have "inherent capacity" to support ongoing and future plutonium activities, according to NNSA. As a result, the CMRR deferral will not compromise NNSA's ability to maintain the nuclear stockpile.

When asked at a February hearing if the FY2013 budget request fully meets the requirements to maintain the nuclear stockpile, NNSA Administrator Thomas D'Agostino said: "...it absolutely does, fully meets the requirements, and we'll be able to take care of the stockpile... So the stockpile is safe, secure, and reliable."

Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler, Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, testified before the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee April 17, that "I wouldn't want to suggest that the [nuclear] force that's deployed today is not safe, secure and effective. It is. I believe it can achieve its deterrence responsibilities as we sit there today. In fact, I'm extremely confident in that."

Charles McMillan, director of Los Alamos lab where CMRR would be built, told congress April 18 that the decision to defer CMRR "leaves the United States with no known capability to make 50 to 80 newly-produced pits on the timescales planned for stockpile modernization."

The reality, however, is that there is no identified need to produce that many plutonium pits and the nation has time to evaluate its options.

D'Agostino testified April 17 that "We're not hampered by saying the nation has to have a capability right now to make 50 or 80 pits per year in order to take care of the stockpile. That's great news for the country because we're not forced into making rash decisions on significant investments in a very short period of time. So we have time to evaluate this area."

Assistant Defense Secretary for Global Strategic Affairs Madelyn Creedon testified April 17 that CMRR's planned production capacity would be revisited. She said, "what is the future pit requirement, how big CMRR has to be, how much plutonium it has to hold -- those are all decisions that may in fact change...when we once again resume consideration of the funding and the design of the CMRR."

New START Resolution of Approval Provides the Path Forward

In addition to being misguided, Rep. Turner's bill is unnecessary because the December 2010 New START Resolution of Advice and Consent already provides recourse. The resolution's condition 9 declared a "sense of the Senate" that the United States is committed to providing the resources needed to maintain nuclear weapons at the levels "set forth in the President's 10-year plan provided to the Congress pursuant to section 1251 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 (Public Law 111-84)," otherwise know as the 1251 report.

Just in case Congress did not provide sufficient resources in the future, condition 9 of the resolution of ratification states that the President shall submit a report detailing how the administration would address the resource shortfall; the proposed level of funding required; the impact of the shortfall on the safety, reliability, and performance of U.S. nuclear forces; and whether "it remains in the national interest of the United States to remain a Party to the New START Treaty."

It is the responsibility of Congress to fund programs, and Congress did not fully fund the administration's request for 1251 report activities in FY2012, nor is it likely to add money in FY2013. The Pentagon said in March that it intends to submit the condition 9 report soon on how to deal with the shortfall and on the value of remaining a party to New START.

New START Still In U.S. Interests

New START remains in the U.S. national interest because the treaty reduces the threat to the United States from Russian nuclear forces, and the administration has managed to save money in FY2013 while still achieving its goal of modernizing the nuclear arsenal and production complex.

Future nuclear force reductions cannot be held hostage to annual congressional debates about the particulars of each and every component of the NNSA budget, which is higher than it was before negotiations on New START began. It remains in the U.S. national security interest to verifiably reduce excess Cold War U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals.

As the Pentagon's January 2012 strategy document Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense says: "It is possible that our deterrence goals can be achieved with a smaller nuclear force, which would reduce the number of nuclear weapons in our inventory as well as their role in U.S. national security strategy." It would also save money.

The major threats the United States faces today, such as proliferation, terrorism or cyber attacks, cannot be addressed by nuclear arms. Rather than asking American taxpayers to cough up yet more money for yesterday's weapons, Congress needs to focus on more cost-effective solutions that address the nation's future defense needs.--Tom Z. Collina and Daryl G. Kimball

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today.

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Volume 3, Issue 6, April 20, 2012

In the next few weeks, the Republican leadership on the House Armed Services Committee is expected to try to block implementation of the New START Treaty unless the Obama administration agrees to further increase spending on the U.S. nuclear weapons infrastructure. This type of partisan "hostage taking" threatens to undermine U.S. national security, ignores budget reality, and defies common sense.

Technical Study on Test Ban Cites Progress

Daryl G. Kimball

A U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) committee report reviewing technical issues related to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) has concluded that the U.S. nuclear weapons Stockpile Stewardship Program “has been more successful than was anticipated in 1999,” when the Senate last considered and voted on the CTBT.

The report, which was released March 30, also said that “the status of U.S. national monitoring and the International Monitoring System [IMS] has improved to levels better than predicted in 1999.”

The study was requested by the Obama administration in 2009 following President Barack Obama’s call for “immediately” pursuing reconsideration and ratification of the treaty, which was signed by President Bill Clinton in September 1996 but has not yet been approved by the Senate. Although the report was completed in early 2011, its release was delayed by an extensive declassification review.

“[P]rovided that sufficient resources and a national commitment to stockpile stewardship are in place…the United States has the technical ability to maintain a safe, secure, and reliable stockpile of nuclear weapons into the foreseeable future without nuclear explosion testing,” says the report, which is by the National Research Council, the operating arm of the NAS.

Stockpile stewardship is the responsibility of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semiautonomous unit of the Department of Energy. Since 2009, funding for the NNSA nuclear weapons complex has increased by 13 percent. The Obama administration’s $7.6 billion budget request for fiscal year 2013 would boost the funding even more, by 5 percent over the fiscal year 2012 appropriation of $7.2 billion.

The NAS panel, which was chaired by Ellen Williams, a physicist and now chief scientist at BP, was charged with reviewing technical changes related to the U.S. nuclear stockpile and to nuclear explosion test monitoring that have occurred in the 10 years since the NAS’s 2002 report on the subject. The panel’s eight other members include former NNSA Administrator Linton Brooks; Richard Garwin, a veteran weapons designer and adviser to U.S. national laboratories; Adm. Richard Mies, the former head of U.S. Strategic Command; and former Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Director Bruce Tarter. A subcommittee of seismological experts supported the panel’s investigation.

The panel’s 200-page report concludes that “[c]onstraints placed on nuclear-explosion testing by the monitoring capabilities of the IMS and…U.S. NTM [national technical means of intelligence] will reduce the likelihood of successful clandestine nuclear-explosion testing, and inhibit the development of new types of strategic nuclear weapons.”

The report finds that “[o]ther states intent on acquiring and deploying modern, two-stage thermonuclear weapons would not be able to have confidence in their performance without multi-kiloton testing. Such tests would likely be detectable (even with evasion measures) by appropriately resourced U.S. national technical means and a completed IMS network.”

The study concluded that an on-site inspection as permitted under the CTBT once it enters into force “would have a high likelihood of detecting evidence of a nuclear explosion with a yield greater than 0.1 kilotons, provided that the event could be located with sufficient precision…and conducted without hindrance.” The panel said on-site inspection “constitutes a deterrent to treaty violation whether or not an inspection actually takes place.”

The report found that “the development of weapons with lower capabilities…is possible with or without the CTBT for countries of different levels of nuclear sophistication, but such development would not require the United States to return to nuclear testing in order to respond because it already has—or could produce—weapons of equal or greater capability based on its own nuclear-explosion test history.” The United States has conducted 1,030 nuclear test explosions, the last of which was in September 1992 when Congress approved legislation mandating a halt to U.S. nuclear explosive testing.

Brooks said last November that “as a practical matter, it is almost certain that the United States will not test again. The political bar against testing is extremely high.”

“I have been in and out of government for a long time,” Brooks said, “and in recent years, I never met anybody who advocated that we seek authorization to return to testing.”

A U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) committee report reviewing technical issues related to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) has concluded that the U.S. nuclear weapons Stockpile Stewardship Program “has been more successful than was anticipated in 1999,” when the Senate last considered and voted on the CTBT.

Case for the CTBT Is Stronger Than Ever

Daryl G. Kimball

Preventing the spread and buildup of nuclear weapons remains one of the highest priority international security challenges. Success depends on a multipronged global strategy, including a verifiable ban on nuclear explosive testing to prevent the emergence of new and more deadly nuclear weapons. U.S. leadership is critical.

With its two-decade-long moratorium on testing and its 1996 signature on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the United States already has assumed most CTBT-related responsibilities. The full security benefits of the treaty, however, depend on U.S. ratification, which would trigger ratification by other holdout states, including China, India, and Pakistan.

A new report by a panel of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) on technical issues related to the CTBT reaffirms that the United States no longer needs and would not benefit from further nuclear testing. The study explains why the treaty would significantly improve U.S. capabilities to detect and deter nuclear test explosions by others.

The detailed report by the NAS panel of senior scientific and military experts documents the significant technical advances over the past decade that should resolve earlier concerns about the treaty. In the weeks and months ahead, senators and their staff need to take a serious look at the merits of the CTBT in light of the new NAS findings and not rush to judgment on the basis of old myths and misconceptions.

The study finds that maintaining an effective nuclear stockpile will require continued diligence, but it does not require nuclear test explosions. The panel finds that the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) nuclear weapons Stockpile Stewardship Program “has been more successful than was anticipated in 1999,” when the Senate last considered the CTBT.

Just as the 2002 NAS report on the CTBT concluded, the new study finds that if sufficient resources are dedicated to the task, the United States has the technical ability to maintain a safe, secure, and reliable stockpile of nuclear weapons into the foreseeable future without nuclear explosive tests.

Today, the nuclear weapons laboratories have more resources and better tools than ever before. Since 2009, funding for the NNSA nuclear weapons complex has increased 13 percent, and the Obama administration’s $7.6 billion request for fiscal year 2013 would boost funding by another 5 percent.

As Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) noted at a recent Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing, “Regarding nuclear weapons activities, I believe the fiscal year 2013 budget request provides more than sufficient funding to modernize the nuclear weapons stockpile.”

Another key conclusion of the NAS panel is that “the status of U.S. national monitoring and the International Monitoring System [IMS] has improved to levels better than predicted in 1999.” The new study documents advances in the capabilities of U.S. national technical means (NTM) and the IMS in all areas: seismic, hydroacoustic, infrasound, radionuclide, and satellite monitoring.

The new report also confirms that, with the combined capabilities of the nearly completed IMS and even more capable NTM, as well as tens of thousands of civilian seismic monitoring stations, no potential CTBT violator could be confident that a nuclear explosion of military utility would escape detection.

The panel’s report finds that “[c]onstraints placed on nuclear-explosion testing by the monitoring capabilities of the IMS and…U.S. NTM will reduce the likelihood of successful clandestine nuclear-explosion testing, and inhibit the development of new types of strategic nuclear weapons.” For example, the global test ban would make it far more difficult for China, India, and Pakistan to perfect the more-compact warhead designs that would allow them to field missiles armed with multiple warheads.

The report concludes that “[o]ther states intent on acquiring and deploying modern, two-stage thermonuclear weapons would not be able to have confidence in their performance without multi-kiloton testing. Such tests would likely be detectable (even with evasion measures).” In other words, without nuclear explosive testing, states such as Iran could not perfect sophisticated two-stage thermonuclear warheads that can be delivered on long-range ballistic missiles.

The panel notes that once the treaty enters into force, the possibility of short-notice, on-site challenge inspections “constitutes a deterrent to treaty violation whether or not an inspection actually takes place.” It finds that “the development of weapons with lower capabilities…is possible with or without the CTBT…but such developments would not require the United States to return to nuclear testing in order to respond.”

President Barack Obama has repeatedly expressed his support for U.S. ratification and prompt entry into force of the CTBT. But to realize the promise of the test ban, he must provide stronger leadership to create the necessary support for a successful Senate vote sometime in 2013.

With the CTBT, the United States stands to lose nothing and would gain an important constraint on nuclear weapons proliferation that could pose a threat to its security. It is past time to reconsider and ratify the treaty.

Preventing the spread and buildup of nuclear weapons remains one of the highest priority international security challenges. Success depends on a multipronged global strategy, including a verifiable ban on nuclear explosive testing to prevent the emergence of new and more deadly nuclear weapons. U.S. leadership is critical.

The New NAS Report: The Case is Stronger Than Ever for the Test Ban Treaty

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Volume 3, Issue 5, March 30, 2012

Today, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released its long-awaited report on technical issues related to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The independent panel of senior scientific and military experts was charged in 2009 with reviewing technical developments related to the U.S. nuclear stockpile and to nuclear explosion test monitoring that have occurred since the 2002 NAS report on the CTBT and the Senate's brief debate and rejection of the treaty in 1999.

The new NAS report, The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty: Technical Issues for the United States, reaffirms that the United States no longer needs--and would not benefit from--nuclear explosive testing. Renewed nuclear testing would only help improve other nations' nuclear capabilities and reduce U.S. security. And the report documents why U.S. ratification and entry into force of the CTBT would significantly improve our ability to detect and deter nuclear testing by others.

The NAS report lays out a stronger case than ever before for supporting the CTBT:

  • The 2012 NAS report documents that significant technical advances have resolved earlier concerns about the treaty.

The panel concluded that the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)'s nuclear weapons stockpile stewardship program "has been more successful than was anticipated in 1999," when the Senate last considered the CTBT. Maintaining an effective nuclear stockpile will require continued diligence, but it does not require nuclear test explosions.

"Similarly," the panel said, "the status of U.S. national monitoring and the International Monitoring System has improved to levels better than predicted in 1999."

The new study cites substantial advances in the U.S. national monitoring and the International Monitoring System capabilities across all of the key verification technologies deployed worldwide to detect and deter nuclear test explosions-seismic, hydroacoustic, infrasound, radionuclide, and satellite monitoring.

  • More is known today than ever before about the U.S. nuclear arsenal and there is no technical or military reason to resume testing.

As former NNSA administrator and NAS panel member Linton Brooks said in Dec. 2011, "as a practical matter, it is almost certain that the United States will not test again ... in recent years I never met anybody who advocated that we seek authorization to return to testing."

Similar to the 2002 NAS report, the new study finds that if sufficient resources are dedicated to the task the United States has the technical ability to maintain a safe, secure, and reliable stockpile of nuclear weapons into the foreseeable future without resuming nuclear test explosions.

The nuclear weapons labs have more resources than ever before to perform core stockpile stewardship work. Since 2009, funding for the NNSA nuclear weapons complex has increased by 13%. The Obama administration's $7.6 billion budget request for fiscal year 2013 would boost NNSA weapons programs funding even more-by 5% over last year's appropriation of $7.2 billion.

As Sen. Dianne Feinstein noted at a March 21, 2012 appropriations committee hearing, "Regarding nuclear weapons activities, I believe the fiscal year 2013 budget request provides more than sufficient funding to modernize the nuclear weapons stockpile."

  • National and international test ban monitoring and verification capabilities have improved immensely.

With the combined capabilities of the International Monitoring System (IMS), national technical means (NTM), and civilian seismic networks, no potential CTBT violator could be confident that a nuclear explosion of any military utility would escape detection.

The panel's detailed report also concludes that "[c]onstraints placed on nuclear-explosion testing by the monitoring capabilities of the IMS and ... U.S. NTM, will reduce the likelihood of successful clandestine nuclear-explosion testing, and inhibit the development of new types of strategic nuclear weapons."

The report found that "[o]ther states intent on acquiring and deploying modern, two-stage thermonuclear weapons would not be able to have confidence in their performance without multi-kiloton testing. Such tests would likely be detectable (even with evasion measures) by appropriately resourced U.S. national technical means and a completed IMS network."

The study noted that on-site inspections as allowed under the treaty once it enters into force, "would have a high likelihood of detecting evidence of a nuclear explosion with a yield greater than 0.1 kilotons, provided that the event could be located with sufficient precision ... and conducted without hindrance." The panel noted that an on-site inspection "constitutes a deterrent to treaty violation whether or not an inspection actually takes place...."

  • The security value of the CTBT is greater than ever.

U.S. ratification and entry into force of the treaty would improve our ability to detect and deter nuclear testing that could allow others to improve their arsenals.

The NAS report documents how the CTBT constrains the ability of the established nuclear-weapon states, including Russia and China, to build new types of more sophisticated nuclear warhead designs.

The report also documents why, without the option of nuclear explosive testing, newer testing nations, including potentially Iran, could not perfect sophisticated two-stage thermonuclear warheads that can be delivered on long-range ballistic missiles.

The report found that "the development of weapons with lower capabilities ... is possible with or without the CTBT for countries of different levels of nuclear sophistication, but such developments would not require the United States to return to nuclear testing in order to respond because it already has-or could produce-weapons of equal or greater capability based on its own nuclear-explosion test history."

The United States has detonated 1,030 nuclear test explosions--more than all other nations combined--the last of which was in September 1992. Russia has conducted 715 nuclear tests; China 45; North Korea 2; Iran 0.

Time for a Thorough, Thoughtful Review

The Senate has not seriously examined these issues in years. In the decade since the Senate last considered the CTBT, 59 Senators have left office; only 41 Senators who debated and voted on the CTBT in 1999 remain.

Good policy depends on good information. Senators and their staff need to take a serious look at the merits of the CTBT in light of the new NAS findings and not rush to judgment on the basis of old information, misconceptions, or partisan politics.

President Obama has repeatedly expressed his commitment to the CTBT, most recently in a March 26 speech in Seoul. But he and his team must provide stronger leadership to ensure the Senate's questions on the CTBT are fully addressed and to create the necessary climate and support for a successful vote in 2013.

The bipartisan approval of New START in 2010 shows that a successful treaty approval process requires months of hearings, answers to thousands of questions, and a serious commitment to building understanding for the national security issues at stake.

U.S. ratification of the CTBT is essential for entry into force and would very likely prompt other states, including China, India, and Pakistan, to follow suit.

The American people expect their leaders to take action to reduce the threats posed by nuclear weapons and proliferation. U.S. ratification of the CTBT would advance American national security interests by helping to reduce nuclear threats and enhancing our ability to detect, deter, and confront proliferators. --DARYL G. KIMBALL

For more information on the CTBT, see:

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Volume 3, Issue 5, March 30, 2012

Today, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released its long-awaited report on technical issues related to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The independent panel of senior scientific and military experts was charged in 2009 with reviewing technical developments related to the U.S. nuclear stockpile and to nuclear explosion test monitoring that have occurred since the 2002 NAS report on the CTBT and the Senate's brief debate and rejection of the treaty in 1999.

Test Ban Treaty: Myths vs. Realities

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Volume 3, Issue 6, March 30, 2012

The March 30 release of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report, The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty--Technical Issues for the United States lays out the most compelling case to date, based on the latest classified and intelligence information, that the United States does not need nuclear tests to maintain its arsenal and that the Test Ban Treaty can be verified.

The NAS report concludes that, without nuclear tests, "the United States is now better able to maintain a safe and effective nuclear stockpile and to monitor clandestine nuclear-explosion testing than at any time in the past."

Nevertheless, critics of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) will no doubt continue to repeat misinformation about the treaty. It is well-past time to put these myths to rest.

The Reality: Case For the Test Ban is Stronger Than Ever

The United States was the first nation to sign the CTBT when it was completed in 1996 and the treaty now has 182 members, including all U.S. allies in NATO. Russia and China stopped nuclear explosive testing as a direct result of the CTBT and only one nation (North Korea) has conducted nuclear tests since 1998. The CTBT has halted the regular practice of nuclear explosive testing, reducing the nuclear danger to the United States and its allies.

The United States was able to confidently sign the CTBT because it already has the most sophisticated and well-tested nuclear arsenal in the world. The United States conducted 1,030 nuclear detonations from 1945 to 1992--more than all other nations combined (Russia conducted 715 nuclear tests; China, 45; North Korea, 2; Iran, 0).

Moreover, the United States remains the world's unquestioned conventional weapons superpower. Today, there is no technical or military rationale for the United States to resume nuclear testing, and Washington gains an important constraint on nuclear proliferation by preventing testing by others.

The Senate failed to approve the CTBT when it came up for a vote in 1999, mainly due to political considerations and lack of sufficient time to fully debate the issues. But some senators also had concerns about whether the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)'s stockpile stewardship program (SSP) would be able to maintain the U.S. nuclear arsenal without testing, and whether the international monitoring system (IMS) to detect clandestine nuclear tests would be as effective as predicted.

Twelve years later, we have now gained enough experience with the SSP and the IMS to know that the predictions were correct. According to the new NAS report, these programs have proven to be even more effective than expected.

Commenting on how the case for the CTBT has improved, George Shultz, President Ronald Reagan's Secretary of State, said in April 2009, "[Republicans] might have been right voting against [the CTBT] some years ago, but they would be right voting for it now, based on these new facts.... [There are] new pieces of information that are very important and that should be made available to the Senate."

Debunking the Myths

The Senate has a responsibility to reconsider the treaty in light of the new evidence and not rush to judgment on the basis of old information. In particular, senators must dispel the tired myths that CTBT opponents continue to repeat about the treaty.

1. The Test Ban and Non-Proliferation

Ignoring abundant evidence to the contrary, CTBT critics make the unsubstantiated claim that ratification of the CTBT would not strengthen efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons. These views are at odds with a growing list of bipartisan leaders who agree that the CTBT provides an important constraint on the ability of other states to threaten American security.

As Dr. Sigfried Hecker, former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, said in 2009, "the single most important reason to ratify the CTBT is to stop other countries from improving their arsenals."

Supporting this view, the NAS report states that Russia and China are "unlikely to be able to deploy new types of strategic nuclear weapons" without conducting "multi-kiloton tests to build confidence in their performance." Such large tests, according to NAS, "would likely be detectable (even with evasion measures) by appropriately resourced U.S. national technical means [NTM] and a completed IMS network."

For example, with additional nuclear testing China could perfect smaller warhead designs and thereby put multiple warheads on its relatively small arsenal of strategic ballistic missiles. China has not conducted a nuclear test since it signed the CTBT, and is reportedly waiting for the United States to ratify before it does so.

The NAS report also found that, "Other states intent on acquiring and deploying modern, two-stage thermonuclear weapons would not be able to have confidence in their performance without multi-kiloton testing."

In other words, potential nuclear-armed states like Iran could use nuclear tests to develop more advanced nuclear warhead designs that could fit on ballistic missiles. Given Tehran's uranium enrichment and missile capabilities, it is important to establish additional barriers against a sophisticated Iranian nuclear weapons capability in the years ahead.

It does not make sense to forego the CTBT and leave the door open to the resumption of nuclear testing by Russia, China and others. As Gen. John Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, concluded in his 2001 report on the CTBT, "For the sake of future generations, it would be unforgivable to neglect any reasonable action that can help prevent nuclear proliferation, as the Test Ban Treaty clearly would."

Preventing nuclear testing not only denies proliferators an important tool to develop more threatening warheads, but the CTBT is vital to broader U.S. nonproliferation goals. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) would probably not have been extended indefinitely in 1995 without the pledge from the United States and the other original nuclear powers to stop testing and conclude CTBT negotiations by the end of 1996.

Another myth is that the CTBT might actually promote proliferation by forcing U.S. allies to question the effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear umbrella. The reality is that all U.S. NATO and other allies support the CTBT.

For example, on April 29, 2011, the foreign ministers of 10 key U.S. allies--Australia, Germany, Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates--issued a statement calling on "all states which have not yet done so to sign and ratify the CTBT... We believe that an effective end to nuclear testing will enhance and not weaken our national as well as global security and would significantly bolster the global non-proliferation and disarmament regime."

2. The Utility of Nuclear Test Explosions

Some claim that nuclear tests are still needed, and thus the United States should not limit its options under the CTBT. The reality is that the United States has not conducted a nuclear test since 1992, and does not need nuclear tests today or in the foreseeable future. The NAS report finds that "the United States has the technical capabilities to maintain a safe, secure, and reliable stockpile of nuclear weapons into the foreseeable future without nuclear-explosion testing."

As NNSA Administrator Thomas D'Agostino said in an April 2011 interview, the United States has "a safe and secure and reliable stockpile. There's no need to conduct underground [nuclear] testing."

And as D'Agostino's predecessor in the Bush administration, Linton Brooks, said in November 2011, "as a practical matter, it is almost certain that the United States will not test again... I have been in and out of government for a long time.  And in recent years I never met anybody who advocated that we seek authorization to return to testing."

The technical strategy for maintaining the U.S. nuclear stockpile without explosive testing has been in place for almost two decades. Since 1994, each warhead type in the U.S. nuclear arsenal has been determined to be safe and reliable through a rigorous annual certification process. The stockpile stewardship program includes nuclear weapons surveillance and maintenance, non-nuclear and subcritical nuclear experiments, and increasingly sophisticated supercomputer modeling.  Life extension programs have successfully refurbished existing types of nuclear warheads and can continue to do so indefinitely.

A 2009 study by JASON, the independent technical review panel, concluded that the "lifetimes of today's nuclear warheads could be extended for decades, with no anticipated loss in confidence."

The 2012 NAS report found that "The technical capabilities for maintaining the U.S. stockpile absent nuclear-explosion testing are better now than anticipated" when the NAS issued its previous report in 2002.

Moreover, NNSA has more resources than ever before to perform core stockpile stewardship work. Since 2009, funding for the nuclear weapons complex has increased by 13%. The Obama administration's $7.6 billion budget request for fiscal year 2013 would boost NNSA weapons programs funding even more, by 5% over last year's appropriation of $7.2 billion.

As Sen. Dianne Feinstein noted at a March 21, 2012 appropriations committee hearing, "Regarding nuclear weapons activities, I believe the fiscal year 2013 budget request provides more than sufficient funding to modernize the nuclear weapons stockpile."

Another myth is that the United States might someday need to test to develop a new type of nuclear weapon. First, this need would only arise in response to a new weapon developed by another state that had conducted nuclear tests, which the CTBT itself would help prevent. Second, in the exceedingly unlikely event that nuclear testing is needed in the distant future, the United States has the option of exercising the CTBT's "supreme national interest clause" and withdraw.

However, given that the United States already has the most advanced nuclear arsenal in the world, setting off another round of global nuclear tests would only serve to undermine U.S. security by helping other nuclear-armed states improve their nuclear capabilities.

3. Test Ban Verification

One of the most enduring myths is that the CTBT is not verifiable. The reality is that national and international test ban monitoring capabilities have improved immensely over the last decade. With the combined capabilities of the international monitoring system (IMS), U.S. national technical means (NTM), and civilian seismic networks, no potential CTBT violator could be confident that a nuclear explosion of any military utility would escape detection.

The 2012 NAS report finds that national and global technical capabilities to monitor nuclear tests "have improved significantly over the past decade." Most (80%) of the stations planned as part of the IMS are now complete, and the United States' own global NTM capabilities are "superior to that of the IMS and can focus on monitoring countries of concern to the United States."

U.S. NTM includes seismic and radiation detection stations, spy satellites, human intelligence, and other tools, and data from these sources can be employed to verify treaty compliance.

NAS finds that these monitoring capabilities will "reduce the likelihood of successful clandestine nuclear-explosion testing, and inhibit the development of new types of strategic nuclear weapons."

North Korea has provided two recent real-world tests of U.S. and global monitoring capabilities. In October 2006, the international monitoring system easily detected North Korea's relatively low-yield (0.6 kiloton) nuclear explosion at 22 seismic stations and had a solid estimate of its location within five hours of the event. Radioactive gases from this test were detected by South Korea, the United States and 4,600 miles away in Yellowknife, Canada, at one of the international monitoring network's noble gas monitoring stations.

The second test by North Korea on May 25, 2009, with a yield of a few kilotons, was detected by a total of 61 international seismic stations. Some have suggested that because the international monitoring network did not detect radionuclide particles from the second North Korean test explosion, the system failed.

But, in fact, the seismic evidence alone would have provided a firm basis for on-site inspections (OSIs). The CTBT sets a limit of 1,000 square km for the inspected area, and the seismic data located the test well within this limit. According to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) in Vienna, "The data would have provided a clear lead to the inspection team regarding where to look."

The NAS study noted that on-site inspections as allowed under the treaty once it enters into force, "would have a high likelihood of detecting evidence of a nuclear explosion with a yield greater than 0.1 kilotons..." The panel noted that an on-site inspection "constitutes a deterrent to treaty violation whether or not an inspection actually takes place."

Another myth suggests that because the CTBT requires 30 of 51 nations on the CTBTO's Executive Council to agree to an OSI, states unfriendly to the U.S. could block them. In reality, the CTBT's on-site inspection provisions were established to balance the need for rapid response to a suspected test against the possibility of "frivolous or abusive" inspections. The approval of 30 out of 51 members of the Executive Council was designed to give nations like the United States and Israel confidence that inspections would be approved as needed, but not by a small minority with questionable motives.

4. Test Ban Treaty "Scope"

A common myth is that states have different interpretations of what the CTBT prohibits and that therefore some states believe that very low-yield tests are permitted.

The reality is that the negotiating record is clear: Article I of the CTBT bans "any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion" and all signatories of the treaty understand that means "zero" nuclear test explosions.

The CTBT is a "zero-yield" treaty, meaning that it prohibits all nuclear explosions that produce a self-sustaining, supercritical chain reaction. According to the State Department, the parties made a deliberate decision not to include a specific definition of scope in the treaty so as to avoid loopholes that could arise from a technical list of what specific activities were and were not permitted. A review of the negotiating history and statements by world leaders shows that all states understand and accept the CTBT as a "zero-yield" treaty.

The CTBT follows the precedent of the 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT) that used this same approach. The LTBT has been in force for nearly fifty years, and the language has never been at issue.

Under the CTBT, supercritical "hydronuclear" tests (which produce a self-sustaining fission chain reaction) are banned, but subcritical "hydrodynamic" experiments, which do not produce a self-sustaining fission chain reaction, are permitted. According to the State Department, these decisions were made to ensure that the CTBT banned all nuclear testing, but permitted the United States to maintaining a safe, secure and effective nuclear arsenal.

In 1999, the United States' CTBT negotiator, Amb. Stephen Ledogar, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the subject: "I have heard some critics of the treaty seek to cast doubt on whether Russia, in the negotiation and signing of the treaty, committed itself under treaty law to a truly comprehensive prohibition of any nuclear explosion, including an explosion/experiment/event of even the slightest nuclear yield. In other words, did Russia agree that hydronuclear experiments would be banned, and that hydrodynamic explosions (which have no yield because they do not reach criticality) would not be banned?"

Ledogar continued, "The answer is a categoric 'yes.' The Russians, as well as the other weapon states, did commit themselves. That answer is substantiated by the record of the negotiations at almost any level of technicality (and national security classification) that is desired and permitted. More importantly for the current debate, it is also substantiated by the public record of statements by high level Russian officials...."

As the Russian government explained to the Duma when it ratified the CTBT in 2000: "Qualitative modernization of nuclear weapons is only possible through full-scale and hydronuclear tests with the emission of fissile energy, the carrying out of which directly contradicts the CTBT." It is clear to all parties that the CTBT establishes a "zero-yield" prohibition on nuclear test explosions.

Dangerous Mythology

Taken together, these outdated CTBT myths amount to a "do-nothing" approach that would deny the United States the clear benefits of CTBT ratification. Without positive action on the CTBT, the risks of a resumption of nuclear testing by others will only grow. U.S. ratification, however, would reinforce the taboo against testing and prompt other hold-out states--such as China, India, and Pakistan--to ratify the treaty.

Nuclear testing is a dangerous and unnecessary vestige of the Cold War that the United States rightly rejected two decades ago. The United States does not need nuclear weapons test explosions, but those who seek to improve their arsenals do.

U.S. action on the CTBT would build support for updating and strengthening the global nonproliferation system at a critical juncture. The Senate's reconsideration of the CTBT should be based on an honest and up-to-date analysis of the facts and the issues at stake. --TOM Z. COLLINA and DARYL G. KIMBALL

For more information on the CTBT, see:

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today.

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Volume 3, Issue 6, March 30, 2012

The March 30 release of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report, The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty--Technical Issues for the United States lays out the most compelling case to date, based on the latest classified and intelligence information, that the United States does not need nuclear tests to maintain its arsenal and that the Test Ban Treaty can be verified.

Op-Ed: U.S. should cut nuclear stockpile

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By Daryl G. Kimball and Dr. Ira Helfand

The following piece was originally published at Newsday on March 29, 2012.

This week at an international nuclear security summit in South Korea, President Barack Obama's private request to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for "space" on his proposal for cooperation on missile defense was overheard from a live microphone and grabbed the headlines.

The president's public remarks on the nuclear threat, however, were far more noteworthy. "The massive nuclear arsenal we inherited from the Cold War is poorly suited to today's threats, including nuclear terrorism," he told those in attendance. He announced that the administration is reviewing U.S. nuclear strategy and declared that we can "already say with confidence that we have more nuclear weapons than we need."

Now, Obama should put his words into action by discarding outdated nuclear war planning assumptions and opening the way toward deeper reductions in obsolete Cold War arsenals.

Changes are in order. The current size of both the U.S. and Russian arsenals -- and the fleet missiles, submarines, and bombers that carry them -- far exceeds what is necessary to deter nuclear attack. Both sides can and should go much lower.

Even under the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the United States and Russia can each deploy 1,550 strategic nuclear weapons on as many as 700 missiles and bombers until 2021 or beyond. Thousands of additional warheads are in reserve. Unless they adjust their thinking, both countries will spend hundreds of billions of dollars to modernize and maintain similar nuclear force levels for decades to come.

Obama shouldn't settle for marginal adjustments. Given that no other country deploys more than 300 nuclear weapons -- China possesses just 40 to 50 warheads on intercontinental-range missiles -- he should implement a significant reduction of the U.S. nuclear stockpile to just a few hundred deployed warheads.

During the Cold War, the United States and Russia amassed huge stockpiles to "prevail" in a protracted nuclear war. But such a conflict is extremely unlikely today -- and the size of the nuclear force required to deter an attack is also far smaller. Joseph Stalin or Mao Zedong might have been willing to sacrifice tens of millions of their countrymen in a nuclear exchange, but Vladimir Putin andHu Jintao are not.

Speaking of the United States and the Soviet Union in his 1984 State of the Union address, President Ronald Reagan said, "The only value in our two nations possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they will never be used. But then would it not be better to do away with them entirely?"

Until we eliminate nuclear weapons altogether, the United States can deter a nuclear attack with a smaller, but still lethal force of 500 or fewer strategic warheads.

A reliable and credible U.S. nuclear deterrent doesn't require immediate retaliation capabilities, but only the assurance that U.S. nuclear forces would survive a nuclear attack. As Obama correctly said in 2008, this requirement for prompt launch is "a dangerous relic of the Cold War. Such policies increase the risk of catastrophic accidents." He should eliminate the prompt launch requirement, which requires U.S. strategic nuclear forces to be prepared to retaliate in response to a nuclear attack immediately.

By discarding outdated nuclear thinking, the president can open the way for lower U.S.-Russian force levels, either through a new treaty or reciprocal and parallel cuts. The reductions would also enhance prospects for nuclear reductions involving other nuclear-armed states. And that would bring the ultimate goal -- the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons -- closer to reality.

 

Dr. Ira Helfand is the North American vice president of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, the organization that recieved the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize. Daryl G. Kimball is executive director of the independent Arms Control Association in Washington.

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This week at an international nuclear security summit in South Korea, President Barack Obama's private request to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for "space" on his proposal for cooperation on missile defense was overheard from a live microphone and grabbed the headlines.

Reality Check: Nuclear Weapons Spending and New START

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Volume 3, Issue 4, March 19, 2012

In recent weeks, a handful of Congressional Republicans have charged that the Obama administration and the Defense Department are failing to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal and weapons production complex "as promised" in 2010 during consideration of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).

A March 12 Senate Republican Policy Committee paper claims, for example, that the President's FY2013 budget request "broke his promise by significantly underfunding nuclear modernization."

In addition, some House Republicans are threatening to block the implementation of New START through legislation such as H.R. 4178, introduced March 8 by Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee.

Such approaches ignore key facts and, if adopted, would harm U.S. national security interests.

Only In Washington Is More Considered Less

Assertions about "failing to meet funding commitments" ignore the reality that spending for nuclear weapons maintenance and infrastructure programs has increased significantly under Obama's watch.

Actual funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)'s nuclear weapons complex has increased by 13% since 2009. The administration's $7.6 billion FY2013 request would boost NNSA weapons programs funding even more-by 5% over last year's appropriation of $7.2 billion-even as other federal program budgets are being downsized.

The critics base their arguments on the fact that the exact funding levels projected in 2010 for NNSA nuclear weapons activities do not match those in the President's FY2013 budget request. As Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said at a March 14 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing: "I don't know exactly what the amount of money [is that] we need.  But the amount that was committed [in 2010] is not provided for in this budget."

That is the wrong metric to use. What really matters is whether the resources are adequate for the stockpile stewardship activities that maintain the effectiveness of the existing U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. At well over $7 billion per year, the nuclear weapons labs have more than enough to get the job done.

Congress, Not the White House, Appropriates

Congressional critics of the administration's nuclear weapons and arms control strategy also conveniently ignore the fact that it was Congress that decided not to approve the administration's full budget request for higher funding for NNSA weapons work.

In fact, it was the Republican-led House Appropriations Committee that refused to fully fund the administration's nuclear weapons request in the FY2012 budget. Although the committee increased the NNSA weapons activities budget over the previous year, the appropriations bill allocation for fiscal 2012 is $500 million less than the Obama administration's whopping $7.6 billion request.

Budget Control Act Changes Everything

In addition, between the 2010 New START debate and the FY2013 budget request, Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress passed the bipartisan Budget Control Act, which dramatically altered the fiscal environment and forced both sides to reexamine their funding priorities and commitments.

The Pentagon and NNSA are now planning to reduce budget growth by $487 billion in "050" defense-related spending over the next decade, and this cut may double if the current law requiring "sequestration" is not changed before January 2013.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said at the March 14 hearing that since the New START debate took place "nine months before the Budget Control Act became law, falling 4 percent short of the [2010-derived] target is reasonable given the fiscal reality facing us today."

In this fiscal context, the administration had little choice but to adjust its defense spending projections, as it did in many budget areas. Rather than asking "has the budget changed," the right question is "does the new the budget achieve the mission?" The answer is yes.

The bottom line is that small changes in the defense budget, as mandated by the Budget Control Act, do not alter the fact that the administration is meeting its commitments to the Senate under New START. Planned defense spending for nuclear weapons modernization is more than adequate. Claims to the contrary are incorrect.

The Nuclear Weapons Complex Budget Has Increased Significantly

As required by the Senate's December 22, 2010 Resolution of Advice and Consent to Ratification of New START, the President certified to the Senate on Feb. 2, 2011 that he would:

"...accelerate, to the extent possible, the design and engineering phase of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) building and the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF)..." and request full funding for these facilities upon completion of their design and engineering phase. (Emphasis added.)

The FY2013 budget request for NNSA contains no funding for the CMRR, to be built at Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico, and deferred work for at least five years. The House Appropriations energy and water subcommittee cut CMRR by $100 million, or 33 percent, as part of the FY2012 budget process, indicating bipartisan concern about the need for CMRR.

With total cost estimates of $6 billion for CMRR and $6.5 billion for UPF, and given current NNSA budget realities, it is simply not possible to build both of these facilities at the same time. The delay of CMRR is a reasonable response to tight budgets given that other NNSA facilities have "inherent capacity" to support ongoing and future plutonium activities, according to NNSA.

As a result, the CMRR deferral will not compromise NNSA's ability to maintain the nuclear stockpile. In addition, the delay allows NNSA to prioritize construction of UPF at the Y-12 Plant in Tennessee, which would be funded at $340 million in FY2013, a $180 million increase over FY2012.

Moreover, NNSA's FY2013 request for weapons activities is $7.6 billion, an increase of $363 million or five percent above enacted FY2012, and $1.2 billion more than FY2010. Historically, this funding level is higher than at any time since the Cold War.

When asked at a February congressional hearing if the FY2013 budget request fully meets the requirements to maintain the nuclear stockpile, NNSA Administrator Thomas D'Agostino said: "...it absolutely does, fully meets the requirements, and we'll be able to take care of the stockpile... So the stockpile is safe, secure, and reliable."

Nuclear Weapons Delivery Systems Are Being Modernized

The Defense Department is also modernizing U.S. nuclear delivery systems, and there is no basis for claims to the contrary.

As also required by the New START Resolution of Advice and Consent, the President certified to the Senate on Feb. 2, 2011 that he would:

"...modernize or replace the triad of strategic nuclear delivery systems: a heavy bomber and air-launched cruise missile, an [Intercontinental Ballistic Missile or ICBM], and a nuclear power-ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) and [Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile or SLBM]..." (Emphasis added.)

It is important to note that the President's commitment does not specify that weapon systems have to be replaced (as opposed to modernized), nor does it specify funding levels, numbers of systems, or production schedules.

As then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stated in 2010, "The studies and development programs for these [nuclear delivery] systems will consider a range of possible options, with the objective of defining a cost-effective approach that supports continued reductions in U.S. nuclear weapons while promoting stable deterrence."

The Pentagon's FY2013 budget request includes:

  • New Bomber: $292 million for a new long-range bomber ($6.3 billion over five years), with plans to produce 80-100 planes at $550 million each starting in the mid-2020s. The existing fleet of 91 B-52 and 20 B-2 nuclear-capable bombers is expected to stay in service into the 2040s and beyond (2058 for the B-2), and is being upgraded at a cost of $4 billion over the next five years.
  • New Cruise Missile: $2 million to study a new air-launched cruise missile.
  • New ICBM: $11.6 million to study a new ICBM; the current force of 450 Minuteman III ICBMs will remain in service through 2030 or longer.
  • New Submarine: $565 million for a new strategic submarine, the SSBN-X, to replace the current 14 Ohio-class subs starting in 2031. The current sub fleet will stay in service through 2040. The FY2013 budget would defer first procurement of the SSBN-X by two years, a reasonable response to budget pressures that will not adversely affect U.S. security, saving $4.3 billion over five years. The existing D-5 SLBM would be maintained into the 2040s.

At over $6 billion per boat and a total life-cycle cost of almost $350 billion for a fleet of 12, concern about the cost of the SSBN-X is shared across party lines. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said March 15 that, "We are getting to a point where more than half of the Navy's total shipbuilding budget will be required to build extraordinarily expensive nuclear submarines. I am worried that funding needed to modernize the surface fleet is being crowded out..."

As former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright's said in July 2011 "... we have to recapitalize all three legs [of the nuclear triad], and we don't have the money to do it." Some on the Hill may share Cartwright's concern, but there is no basis to claim that the administration is breaking promises on delivery systems made in the context of New START, and no reason to jeopardize New START implementation by tying it to unsustainable spending levels outlined two years ago.

The Obama administration remains committed to maintaining a formidable mix of U.S. nuclear weapons delivery systems (submarines, bombers and missiles) in the years ahead, though the ultimate size and cost of that force can and should be reduced given that the current force is based on outdated "requirements" for deterrence and nuclear war fighting developed more than a decade ago.

New START Resolution of Approval Provides the Path Forward

The New START Resolution of Advice and Consent declared a "sense of the Senate" that the United States is committed to providing the resources needed to maintain the weapons production complex at the levels "set forth in the President's 10-year plan provided to the Congress pursuant to section 1251 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 (Public Law 111-84)," otherwise know as the 1251 report.

Just in case Congress did not provide sufficient resources in the future, the Resolution of Advice and Consent states that the President shall submit a report detailing how the administration would address the resource shortfall; the proposed level of funding required; the impact of the shortfall on the safety, reliability, and performance of U.S. nuclear forces; and whether "it remains in the national interest of the United States to remain a Party to the New START Treaty."

It is the responsibility of Congress to fund programs, and Congress did not fully fund the administration's request for 1251 report activities in FY2012, nor is it likely to do so in FY2013. It is now up to the administration to submit the required report on how to deal with the shortfall and whether to remain a party to New START.

New START Still In U.S. Interests

New START remains in the U.S. national interest because the treaty reduces the threat to the United States from Russian nuclear forces, and the administration has managed to reduce its funding request for FY2013 while still achieving its goal of modernizing the nuclear arsenal and production complex.

Some congressional Republicans, by contrast, would like to increase spending on nuclear weapons at the expense of other, higher priorities for national defense. Where exactly would the Senate Republican Policy Committee like the nuclear weapons budget increases to come from? Troop pay, body armor, or ammunition? They do not say. But given the budget crunch, these trade-offs cannot be avoided.

Furthermore, the idea that implementation of New START should be frozen unless every dollar is appropriated by Congress for an outdated budget plan defies common sense and the bipartisan will of 71 Senators who voted to approve ratification of New START.

Bottom Line

Nuclear weapons are simply not the security priority they once were. It is in the U.S. national security interest to verifiably reduce excess, Cold War U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals. As the Pentagon's January 2012 strategy document "Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense" clearly says: "It is possible that our deterrence goals can be achieved with a smaller nuclear force, which would reduce the number of nuclear weapons in our inventory as well as their role in U.S. national security strategy."

The major threats the United States faces today, such as proliferation, terrorism or cyber attacks, cannot be addressed by nuclear arms. Rather than asking American taxpayers to cough up yet more money for yesterday's weapons, Congress needs to focus on more cost-effective solutions that address the nation's future defense needs.--Tom Z. Collina and Daryl G. Kimball

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today

Description: 

Volume 3, Issue 4, March 19, 2012

In recent weeks, a handful of Congressional Republicans have charged that the Obama administration and the Defense Department are failing to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal and weapons production complex "as promised" in 2010 during consideration of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).

Report on Nuclear Review Stirs Debate

Daryl G. Kimball

The White House is “weighing options” for sharp reductions in U.S. nuclear forces as part of its study of how to implement the results of its 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), the Associated Press reported Feb. 14.

The report, which cited unnamed congressional and former administration sources, said the administration is considering “at least three options for lower total numbers of deployed strategic nuclear weapons cutting to around 1,000 to 1,100, 700 to 800, or 300 to 400.” The United States reported that it deployed 1,790 strategic nuclear warheads as of Sept. 1. The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) allows Russia and the United States to deploy as many as 1,550 warheads apiece through 2021.

National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor called the Associated Press report “wildly overwritten,” noting that “[a]s part of the NPR implementation study, [the Department of Defense] used a range of policy criteria to develop options for the presidential guidance that will be used to develop force structure, force postures, and stockpile requirements. The implementation study is still underway, and the Department of Defense has not yet presented the study to the president.”

In recent weeks, senior administration officials have indicated that the presidential review will open the way for further nuclear reductions. According to the Pentagon’s new defense strategy, released Jan. 5, “It is possible that our deterrence goals can be achieved with a smaller nuclear force.”

At a Nov. 2 hearing of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy James Miller said that based on options developed by a Pentagon study completed at the end of 2011, President Barack Obama would issue new guidance on nuclear weapons employment, force levels, and alert posture. (See ACT, December 2011.)

In a Feb. 15 session with reporters, Acting Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller said the NPR implementation study was necessary “homework” to help determine the contours of future negotiations with Russia on deployed, nondeployed, strategic, and nonstrategic nuclear weapons.

Some congressional Republicans were quick to react to the leaked account of the secret administration deliberations and the possibility of reductions to 300-400 deployed strategic warheads.

In a letter sent to Obama a day after the publication of the Associated Press story, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.), strategic forces subcommittee chairman Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio), and 32 other House Republicans wrote, “We seek your assurance…that you will cease to pursue such unprecedented reductions in the U.S. deterrent and extended deterrent.”

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who opposed New START, told the Associated Press, “A 300 number would [mean] the Chinese would have more than we have. I mean, this is a number where anybody that wanted to could build up to that number and be a peer with the United States.”

Currently, the only other nuclear-armed adversary of the United States other than Russia with nuclear warheads on intercontinental-range missiles is China, with an estimated stockpile of 40 to 50.

Miller said at a public forum on Feb. 15 that one of the options under consideration will be to remain at the 1,550 New START limit, but he suggested that getting below 1,550 is more likely, according to the Associated Press. The presidential review is expected to be completed this year.

The White House is “weighing options” for sharp reductions in U.S. nuclear forces as part of its study of how to implement the results of its 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), the Associated Press reported Feb. 14.

Tauscher Leaves State Dept. Post

Daryl G. Kimball

Ellen Tauscher stepped down on Feb. 6 from her position as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security to serve as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s special envoy for strategic stability and missile defense. Clinton tapped Rose Gottemoeller to be acting undersecretary while continuing to serve as assistant secretary for arms control, verification, and compliance.

The Department of State announced the changes Feb. 7.

Gottemoeller, who led the U.S. team that negotiated the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia, had assumed a lead role for the administration on its efforts to begin negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty and secure Senate approval of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. She will advise Clinton on the full range of arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament matters, the department said.

Tauscher, who successfully overcame esophageal cancer during her tenure at the State Department, decided it was time to scale back her schedule and will spend some of her time advocating for cancer patients and pursuing projects outside government, according to State Department sources cited in a Jan. 25 report in The Cable.

Ellen Tauscher stepped down on Feb. 6 from her position as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security to serve as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s special envoy for strategic stability and missile defense. Clinton tapped Rose Gottemoeller to be acting undersecretary while continuing to serve as assistant secretary for arms control, verification, and compliance.

Op-Ed: Start Cutting U.S. Nuclear Weapons Down To 1,000

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By Daryl G. Kimball 

The following piece was originally published on AOL Defense on February 17, 2012.

We may well be on the cusp of another round of deep cuts -- 50 percent or more -- to the American nuclear arsenal. While nuclear weapons occupy a unique niche in America's arsenal, they are fundamental to the nation's strategic planning. Fewer nukes can mean more money for other national security needs, or for other domestic spending. So I asked the head of the sober Arms Control Association to offer his view of what should happen. Given the fairly close links between the association and the administration, you may well find these same arguments being deployed later. The Editor.

In the 20 years since the end of the Cold War, successive U.S. and Russian presidents have gradually reduced the size and salience of their enormous nuclear stockpiles, which remain by far the largest of any country. Nevertheless, the size of each country's arsenal far exceeds what is necessary to deter nuclear attack by the other or by one of the world's other nuclear-armed states.

Both sides can and should go lower.

Even under the New START treaty, approved in 2010, each country is still allowed to deploy 1,550 strategic nuclear weapons on 700 missiles and bombers until the year 2021. Under current plans, thousands of additional warheads would held in reserve. Today, each nation's total nuclear stockpile exceeds 5,000 nuclear bombs. Unless they adjust their thinking, both countries will spend hundreds of billions of dollars to maintain and modernize these large nuclear force levels for 20 to 30 years to come.

Press reports this week confirm that President Barack Obama is poised to review the presidential nuclear "guidance" that determines U.S. nuclear war plans, the target lists, and the number of nuclear weapons and delivery systems "required" to hit them. While no decisions have been made yet, Mr. Obama will reportedly consider options developed by the Pentagon that could eventually lead to a reduction in the number of deployed nuclear weapons of 50 percent or more.

That's welcome news. A wide-range of national security and military experts believe that this review is overdue and that fundamental changes are in order.

The Obama administration's 2010 "Nuclear Posture Review Report" provides a new framework for the steps the President should now take to reduce the role and number of U.S. nuclear weapons and eliminate outdated Cold War thinking. The document states that "the fundamental role of U.S. nuclear forces is to deter nuclear attacks against the U.S. and our allies and partners." That is an important shift away from the Cold War-era strategy of being prepared to "prevail" in a protracted nuclear exchange with the Soviets involving thousands of city-busting nuclear bombs, and also to be prepared to use nuclear weapons against conventional military threats.

In line with this new approach, the United States (and Russia) could reduce their overall nuclear stockpiles substantially-to 1,000 warheads each-- and still retain sufficient firepower to deter nuclear attack by any current or potential adversary. Other than Russia and the United States, no other country deploys more than 300 strategic warheads. China possesses just 40 to 50 nuclear warheads on intercontinental-range missiles. Iran does not have nuclear weapons and North Korea's arsenal is limited in size and range.

And given the reality that the chance of a bolt-from-the-blue nuclear attack from Russia is near zero and far less likely today than it was during the Cold War, the nuclear force required to deter such an attack is far less than it was then. Joseph Stalin might have been willing to sacrifice tens of millions of Russians in a nuclear exchange, but Vladimir Putin would not. Just one U.S. nuclear-armed submarine could devastate an entire nation and kill millions.

A 2007 Arms Control Association report, "What Are Nuclear Weapons For?" by Stanford physicist Sidney Drell and James Goodby of the Hoover Institution concluded that the United States can and should achieve move to a smaller force of 500 deployed and 500 nondeployed strategic warheads on a mainly submarine-based "triad" of nuclear delivery systems within the next few years.

A 2010 study by three Air Force analysts in Strategic Studies Quarterly concluded that the United States could deter nuclear attack with a relatively smaller number of survivable, reliable weapons dispersed among missile silos, submarines, and airplanes." They argue that such a force might number only 311 nuclear weapons.

There are a number of changes to nuclear weapons plans President Obama should consider to move in the right direction. He could eliminate entire target categories from the current nuclear war plan, which now include a wide range of military forces, nuclear weapons infrastructure, and military and national leadership targets, and war-supporting infrastructure, mainly in Russia. These targeting assumptions were developed decades ago to deplete war-fighting assets rather than ensure there is a sufficient retaliatory capability to deter nuclear attack in the first place.

Obama should also direct war planners to discard old assumptions for how much damage must be accomplished to ensure that a target is destroyed. Current plans require hitting many targets with more than one nuclear weapon. To deter a nuclear attack, adversaries need only realize the United States is capable of reducing key targets to radioactive rubble rather than a fine dust.

The nuclear policy review also gives President Barack Obama the chance to eliminate the Cold War practice of keeping nuclear weapons ready to launch within minutes. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama said the practice is "outdated" and "increases the risk of catastrophic accident or miscalculation." Indeed, a reliable and credible U.S. nuclear deterrent does not require the ability to retaliate immediately if U.S. nuclear forces and command and control systems can survive an attack -- and they can.

Obama can and should make it clear that the United States no longer will develop or exercise plans for rapid launches and will replace such plans with new ones that would allow the president to delay a response to a nuclear attack for days. He should invite Russia to make reciprocal changes to its nuclear posture.

Some of the administration's critics may -- incorrectly -- assert that given the risk that nuclear weapons will spread, further reductions in our arsenal would be unwise. But maintaining overpowering nuclear forces does not deter nations, such as Iran or North Korea, or terrorist actors to abandon their pursuit of these weapons. We must recognize that the other pressing security threats we face today – terrorists, short and medium-range ballistic missiles, and cyberattack --simply cannot be dealt with by means of a large nuclear arsenal. And all of the United States major allies support further steps to reduce U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles.

Maintaining an excessively large nuclear force could also push China to alter increase the size and lethality of its relatively limited long-range nuclear force. For its part, Russia will be hard pressed to deploy 1,550 strategic warheads unless it undertakes an expensive ballistic missile modernization effort. Rather than induce Russia to build up, it is in the security and financial interests of both countries to pursue further, parallel nuclear reductions.

Since the end of the Cold War, U.S. presidents have understood the logic and value of reducing nuclear overkill. During George H. W. Bush's four years in office, the total U.S. arsenal was shrunk from about 22,200 weapons to 13,700 -- a 38 percent cut. In George W. Bush's eight years, the U.S. arsenal dropped from about 10,500 weapons to just over 5,000 -- about 50 percent fewer.

Now is the right time for President Obama to provide the leadership necessary to discard dangerous Cold War-era nuclear war plans, slash costly nuclear arsenals, and redirect taxpayer dollars to more pressing U.S. security needs.

Daryl G. Kimball is executive director of the independent Arms Control Association in Washington, D.C.

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In the 20 years since the end of the Cold War, successive U.S. and Russian presidents have gradually reduced the size and salience of their enormous nuclear stockpiles, which remain by far the largest of any country. Nevertheless, the size of each country's arsenal far exceeds what is necessary to deter nuclear attack by the other or by one of the world's other nuclear-armed states.

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