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Right after I graduated, I interned with the Arms Control Association. It was terrific.

– George Stephanopolous
Host of ABC's This Week
January 1, 2005
Kelsey Davenport

Congress Wants Options on Nuclear Subs

Tom Z. Collina and Kelsey Davenport

In the latest sign of political problems for the planned replacement of the United States’ nuclear-armed submarines, Congress has required the Navy and U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) to prepare a report on options for replacing the fleet.

The directive was included in the fiscal year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama on Dec. 31. It comes at a time of increasing pressure to reduce defense spending in general and questions about the submarine replacement in particular.

The Navy currently deploys 12 Ohio-class strategic submarines, which will start to reach the end of their operational lives in 2027. The Navy wants to have a replacement submarine ready by 2029. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected in June 2011 that the new submarine will cost $6 billion to $7 billion per boat. The Department of Defense has said that it will cost nearly $350 billion to develop, build, and operate a fleet of 12 new submarines through 2075, making it the most expensive part of the Pentagon’s plan to rebuild the triad of nuclear weapons delivery systems, which also includes a new long-range bomber and intercontinental ballistic missile.

In July, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) proposed to reduce nuclear weapons spending by $79 billion over 10 years, in part by curtailing and delaying the new submarine program. In October, 65 Democratic House members called for major reductions to nuclear weapons programs, including the new submarine. They suggested the program be delayed and scaled back from 12 to eight submarines, saying this would save $27 billion over the next 10 years. (See ACT, November 2011.)

STRATCOM Commander Gen. Robert Kehler testified at a Nov. 2 House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee hearing that although the country needs to replace the current Ohio-class submarine, “affordability has to be an issue here” and that Congress did not have to make a decision now on “what the ultimate number of submarines is that we might have to deploy.” The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has recommended that the number of new submarines be reduced to 10, although the Navy reportedly is objecting that 10 submarines are not enough to support five submarines “on station” at all times. (See ACT, December 2011.)

According to congressional staffers, the defense authorization law’s reporting requirement on the new submarine is intended to provide an in-depth review of the various options that have been suggested. It calls for an assessment of procurement and life-cycle costs associated with five options: a fleet of 12 submarines with 16 missile tubes each, as proposed by the Navy; 10 submarines with 20 missile tubes each, as proposed by OMB; 10 submarines with 16 missile tubes each; eight submarines with 20 missile tubes each, which is similar to the House Democratic proposal; and any “other options the [Navy] secretary and the [STRATCOM] commander consider appropriate.”

The report, due by the end of June, must include an assessment of each option’s ability to meet the current “at-sea requirements” and any expected changes in such requirements. This refers to the Pentagon’s policy that five strategic submarines must be at sea and deployed near potential targets at all times to allow for prompt launch of their nuclear-armed missiles. According to the Navy, supporting five forward-deployed submarines requires a total fleet of 12 operational boats, given the current rotation schedule. However, the Obama administration is now reviewing such policies as part of its Nuclear Posture Review implementation study that is expected to provide new guidance to Pentagon war planners.

The report also must assess each option’s ability to meet “the nuclear employment and planning guidance” currently in place and any expected changes in the guidance. This refers to the requirement that a certain number of nuclear warheads be deployed at sea (there are currently about 1,000) and that they be located close enough to potential targets to launch within hours. Changing these requirements would affect the number of submarines at sea and the number of missiles and warheads they need to carry.

Under the act, the Pentagon’s research and development work on the new submarine program would receive $1.1 billion, the amount the Obama administration requested.

In general, authorization bills for defense and other discretionary spending are supposed to provide guidance for appropriations bills, which set the actual spending levels.

Strategic Weapons Appropriations

On other strategic weapons, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012, which Obama signed on Dec. 23, funded research and development for the Air Force’s new nuclear-capable bomber, called the Next Generation Bomber, at $297 million, $100 million more than the administration’s request. The act fully funded the $9.9 million request for developing a new air-launched cruise missile.

Missile defense programs generally received full funding. For example, the appropriations act included the $565 million the administration had requested for procurement of the Aegis ballistic missile defense system. However, several programs were funded at levels below the administration’s request.

The law approved $390 million for the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS), $17 million below the requested amount. Earlier in the year, the program seemed to be headed for deeper cuts after the Army had announced plans to kill it. In the House version of the bill to fund the Defense Department, MEADS received $257 million; in the Senate Appropriations Committee’s version, the program was fully funded.

The system, jointly funded by the United States, Germany, and Italy to replace the Patriot interceptor, has faced years of delays and cost overruns. Congress reportedly funded MEADS primarily to avoid contract penalties of $800 million.

The appropriations act also provides $80 million, half of the administration request, for research and development funding for the Precision Tracking Space System, a new satellite system for tracking ballistic missiles in flight. The CBO has found that this program may not be cost effective because of the other missile-tracking capabilities the United States already has. The House’s version of the defense appropriations act provided no funding for this program while the Senate Appropriations Committee recommended full funding.

The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system received $709 million of the $833 million request.

NNSA Funding

The appropriations act provided $7.2 billion for “weapons activities” in the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). That figure is $355 million below the administration’s budget request, but represents a 4.9 percent increase over the fiscal year 2011 appropriation.

Within the “weapons activities” category, the spending legislation fully funded the $224 million request for the B61 bomb’s life extension program (LEP). However, in the report accompanying the bill, Congress expressed concern over the NNSA’s “ability to execute its planned scope for the B61” under an “affordable” LEP and stipulated that only $89 million could be used until the NNSA submits to Congress the results of the so-called Phase 6.2/2A study. The Senate Appropriations Committee recommended funding the B61 LEP request at $180 million in its consideration of the fiscal year 2012 Energy Department appropriation. The report stated that enhanced security measures for the warhead should “not come at the expense of long-term weapon reliability.”

As with the defense appropriations bill, the full Senate never voted on the energy and water appropriations bill.

The legislation also provided less funding than requested for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) Project at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. The CMRR Project is designed to assist in manufacturing plutonium warhead cores, or “pits.” Congress provided $200 million, $100 million less than the administration request, and said that no “construction activities” for the CMRR Project would be funded for fiscal year 2012. The $160 million request for the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee was fully funded.

As part of its negotiations with the Senate over ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the administration committed itself to specific funding levels for modernizing the nuclear weapons complex, including construction of the CMRR Project and UPF.

In the latest sign of political problems for the planned replacement of the United States’ nuclear-armed submarines, Congress has required the Navy and U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) to prepare a report on options for replacing the fleet.

End of Nuclear Security Summits Mulled

Kelsey Davenport

The nuclear security summit process could end in 2014, a top adviser to President Barack Obama indicated last month.

In remarks at an Oct. 7 press briefing at the United Nations, Gary Samore noted that the first nuclear security summit, held in Washington in April 2010, endorsed the plan “to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years,” which Obama had announced a year earlier in a speech in Prague. “We do not intend to create a permanent institution with the nuclear security summit,” said Samore, the White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) terrorism.

He said he expected 2014 to be the “end point” of the four-year period.
“[A]t that point, it makes most sense for the nuclear security challenge to be transmitted to the broader international community and to the institutions that encompass all of the countries in the world,” he said, citing the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Samore added that although 2014 seemed the “logical” end point, it would be up to the leaders to decide if that was the “appropriate moment” to end the summit process.

Samore is the U.S. sherpa, or lead government negotiator, for next year’s summit, which is to be held March 26-27 in Seoul. In an Oct. 25 e-mail to Arms Control Today, he said that “it made sense to have at least one more summit” after the one in 2012 and, in particular, to have one in 2014 to mark the end of the four-year period.

Speaking at the Oct. 7 press conference, Hahn Choong-hee, the Korean sous-sherpa, or deputy government negotiator, also said the nuclear security process will be transferred to “existing international organizations and initiatives,” but said it was “too early and too premature to say that we are going to finish at a particular time.” He called for a third summit in 2014 to check the progress on the four-year goal of securing all nuclear materials.

Samore said at the briefing that he hoped the summits “will have provided a stimulus for countries to take actions to deal with the global challenge of nuclear security.” Although only 47 countries are participating in the nuclear security summit process, Samore said limiting the number of participants was a practical matter and that “we made sure to make clear that nuclear security is a global challenge that involves all countries.”

Samore expressed confidence in the ability of the UN and the IAEA to continue nuclear security work after the summit process ends, citing their involvement in the Washington and Seoul summits.

The UN, the IAEA, and the European Union participated in the 2010 summit and have attended the preparatory meetings for the 2012 summit. Interpol was added to the list of international organizations invited to 2012 summit. At the Oct. 7 briefing, UN High Representative for Disarmament Sergio de Queiroz Duarte said that strengthening nuclear security remained high on the UN’s international security agenda.

At the Washington summit, 29 countries made more than 50 specific commitments to strengthen nuclear security and help meet the four-year goal. The commitments were based on the consensus communiqué and work plan of the summit, which laid out principles of nuclear security and provided details on how those principles would be implemented.

Laura Holgate, senior director for WMD terrorism and threat reduction at the U.S. National Security Council, said at the press briefing that the countries have made “significant progress” toward fulfilling the principles of the work plan. As the 2012 summit draws closer, Holgate said she expected to see further progress toward meeting the commitments made in Washington and “new pledges of action” to prevent nuclear terrorism and illicit trafficking.

Although the commitments were voluntary and nonbinding, Obama said in an April 14, 2010, statement that the participating countries agreed at the Washington summit that it is a “fundamental responsibility” to secure nuclear materials and facilities effectively.

The UN press briefing took place two days after the conclusion of a preparatory meeting for the 2012 Seoul summit. Sherpas from the 47 countries met in Helsinki Oct. 4-5 to continue working on the Seoul Communiqué, a document drafted by South Korea that will guide the 2012 summit.

In his statement at the briefing, South Korean Ambassador to the UN Kim Sook provided some details on the communiqué, which is in the drafting stage. He said the sherpas at the Helsinki meeting adopted five guiding principles for the communiqué.

One principle cited by Kim is that nuclear security will remain the focus of the Seoul summit. Hahn said that although in the synergy between nuclear safety and security would be discussed in Seoul, safety would remain a secondary issue. The damage to Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant from an earthquake and tsunami last March sparked a debate among leaders over how much emphasis the summit should place on nuclear safety.

The other four principles that Kim listed were that the summit will build on the work of the 2010 summit, national commitments will remain voluntary, no new regime for nuclear security will be created, and the communiqué will “respect” Obama’s vision for securing all nuclear materials in four years.

Hahn said the agenda from the 2010 summit would be broadened to include security of sensitive information and radioactive sources. Although North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons will not be an explicit agenda item, the summit will provide an opportunity to emphasize the need for peace and security on the Korean peninsula, Hahn said.

The sherpas are scheduled to meet again in New Delhi next February to continue discussing the contents of the communiqué and the summit agenda.

The nuclear security summit process could end in 2014, a top adviser to President Barack Obama indicated last month.

GAO Finds Gaps in U.S. Nuclear Tracking

Kelsey Davenport

U.S. agencies are not able to verify the location and physical security of U.S.-obligated nuclear materials overseas, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in a report released last month. The document, a summary of the classified report issued to the House Foreign Affairs Committee in June, recommended that Congress consider requiring the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to “complete a full accounting of U.S. weapons-usable nuclear materials [in other countries].”

The Energy Department, NRC, and Department of State disagreed with the GAO recommendations. In responses included in the report, all three agencies said that comprehensive tracking of U.S. nuclear material overseas is unwarranted and impractical. According to the statement from the Energy Department, “[International Atomic Energy Agency] inspection, surveillance, and reporting processes serve as an effective, internationally sanctioned and U.S.-supported tracking and accounting mechanism.”

The report also said Congress should consider amending the Atomic Energy Act to require greater access rights under future nuclear cooperation agreements for U.S. agencies to verify physical protection of U.S.-obligated nuclear materials.

The NRC responded by stating that the report “does not give sufficient weight to foreign sovereign responsibilities for ensuring physical protection” and that the review process conducted prior to negotiating nuclear cooperation agreements adequately assesses physical protection and safeguards.

U.S. agencies are not able to verify the location and physical security of U.S.-obligated nuclear materials overseas, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in a report released last month. The document, a summary of the classified report issued to the House Foreign Affairs Committee in June, recommended that Congress consider requiring the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to “complete a full accounting of U.S. weapons-usable nuclear materials [in other countries].”

Support for Nuclear Weapons Funding Dips

Kelsey Davenport

Congressional backing for increased nuclear weapons spending that was evident after last year’s debate on the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty appears to be cracking under the weight of federal budget deficits as a Senate subcommittee last month approved a spending bill that fell $400 million short of the Obama administration’s request for nuclear weapons funding.

In the Sept. 7 vote, the Senate Appropriations energy and water subcommittee provided $7.2 billion for weapons activities for fiscal year 2012. The administration had requested more than $7.6 billion; the appropriations bill passed by the House in July provided $7.1 billion. The fiscal year 2011 appropriation was $6.9 billion.

The National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) Directed Stockpile Work, particularly the life extension program for the B61 gravity bomb, sustained one of the larger cuts in the subcommittee recommendations. In explaining the cut in that program, from $223 million to $180 million, the subcommittee focused on the NNSA’s plan to incorporate new safety features into the B61. The subcommittee said that “new safety and security features should be incorporated in weapons systems when feasible, but the primary goal of a life extension program should be to increase confidence in warhead performance without underground nuclear testing.” The House version of the bill allocated $279 million for the B61 life extension program, $55 million more than the NNSA budget request. According to the report accompanying the House bill, “The recommendation moves back funding requested under Campaigns which had been associated with the B61 in the fiscal year 2011 request.” Additionally, the report said that no more than 50 percent of the funding should be obligated until the NNSA meets certain reporting requirements.

Two other Directed Stockpile Work categories, stockpile services and stockpile systems, also received less than the administration requested while the NNSA request for weapons dismantlement was fully funded.

Fiscal year 2011 ended on Sept. 30, but Congress has not yet agreed on funding levels for most departments and agencies. The government is being funded with a short-term spending measure.

Congressional backing for increased nuclear weapons spending that was evident after last year’s debate on the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty appears to be cracking under the weight of federal budget deficits as a Senate subcommittee last month approved a spending bill that fell $400 million short of the Obama administration’s request for nuclear weapons funding.

Books of Note

The India-Pakistan Military Standoff: Crisis and Escalation in South Asia

Edited by Zachary S. Davis, Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, 240 pp.

Zachary S. Davis, a senior fellow at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Center for Global Security Research, has assembled a set of articles examining the 2001-2002 Indian-Pakistani confrontation, an extended sparring match between the two nuclear rivals largely overshadowed in Western media by U.S. operations in Afghanistan. The perspectives presented in this volume include first-hand recollections, a diplomatic reconstruction based on interviews, and analyses of the political implications of the events and the means by which future adventures in brinksmanship can be prevented.

The various authors are in agreement that the standoff came perilously close to erupting into war, whether in the form of a limited clash similar to the 1999 Kargil conflict, a full Indian invasion, or a nuclear exchange. Their accounts stress the danger of escalation in an environment in which conventional and nuclear options were intertwined and poorly conceptualized. Former Indian military officer Gurmeet Kanwal claims most Indian military planners believed and continue to believe that a deep drive into Pakistan would shake its commitment to retaliating with nuclear weapons. As a result, they have continued to support the buildup of Indian conventional capabilities. Feroz Hassan Khan, a Pakistani scholar who served in Kashmir across the Line of Control from Kanwal, maintains that the crisis in fact entrenched support for an ambiguous first-strike policy as insurance against conventional defeat. This contrast informs Davis’ conclusion that it and similar “unlearned” lessons from the crisis leave South Asia in a precarious nuclear balance. —XIAODON LIANG


How We Stopped Loving the Bomb

Douglas Roche, Lorimer, 2011, 208 pp.

For 35 years, Douglas Roche has tackled nuclear proliferation in a variety of roles, including Canadian ambassador for disarmament, chairman of the United Nations Disarmament Committee, and founding president of Parliamentarians for Global Action. This book narrates the highs and lows of his international diplomacy and arms control efforts. Roche’s candor provides insight into behind-the-scene realities. The career diplomat pulls no punches in his observations. He criticizes the five countries that the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) recognizes as nuclear-weapon states—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—for what he sees as their obstruction of nonproliferation efforts. The NPT “is so compromised by forty years of non-action on its key element of comprehensive negotiations for elimination,” writes Roche, “that it cannot achieve a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East.” Roche also weighs in on a number of pressing topics, from International Atomic Energy Agency funding to missile defense. He describes what he argues are the underlying causes of proliferation, such as militarism and poor global economic development. Ultimately, the book is a call to action, warning that a convention banning production and use of nuclear weapons will happen only “once the public rebels against the weapons that would destroy all life.” —FARRAH ZUGHNI

 

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