"...the Arms Control Association [does] so much to keep the focus on the issues so important to everyone here, to hold our leaders accountable to inspire creative thinking and to press for change. So we are grateful for your leadership and for the unyielding dedication to global nuclear security."
– Lord Des Browne
Vice Chairman, Nuclear Threat Initiative
Kingston Reif

An Evolving Nuclear Agenda Spurs Plutonium Pit Production at LANL

News Source / Outlet: 
The NM Political Report
News Date: 
October 9, 2019 -04:00

Top Dems warn Trump against US pullout of Open Skies Treaty

News Source / Outlet: 
Defense News
News Date: 
October 8, 2019 -04:00

Russia, China Criticize U.S. Missile Test

October 2019
By Kingston Reif and Shannon Bugos

An August test of a missile previously banned by the defunct Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty drew continued denunciations from Russia and China
in September.

The United States tests a ground-launched cruise missile in California on Aug. 18. The test would have been prohibited by the INF Treaty before the United States withdrew from the pact on Aug. 2. (Photo: Defense Department)Days after the Aug. 18 U.S. flight test of a ground-launched Tomahawk missile, Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed his defense and foreign ministries, as well as other related government agencies, “to analyze the level of threat posed to our country” and to “take exhaustive measures for a reciprocal response.” His comments also followed comments from U.S. officials calling for the deployment of new intermediate-range missiles.

Putin specifically highlighted the launcher used in the test, the MK-41 vertical launching system. This launcher was a different configuration than that currently fielded in Romania and soon to be deployed in Poland as part of NATO’s Aegis Ashore missile defense system. In response to Russian claims that the European-based launcher violated the INF Treaty, U.S. officials repeatedly argued that the deployed system “does not have an offensive ground-launched ballistic or cruise missile capability” and therefore did not violate the treaty. After the news of the August test, Putin said, “[T]he fact of the violation is evident and impossible to dispute.”

On Sept. 5, Putin further detailed Russia’s response, saying that Moscow would take steps to produce ground-launched intermediate-range missiles, but not deploy them unless the United States deploys such missiles first. Since 2014, the United States has maintained that Moscow violated the treaty by testing, possessing, and fielding an illegal ground-launched cruise missile, known as the 9M729 or SSC-8. (See ACT, September 2014.)

Later in September, Putin sent a letter to NATO member states reiterating Russia’s offer of a deployment moratorium. NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu told the Financial Times on Sept. 26 that the alliance had “heard this proposal before” and saw it as “not a credible offer.”

“Unless and until Russia verifiably destroys the SSC-8 system, this moratorium on deployments is not a real offer,” she said.

The U.S. missile test occurred less than two weeks after the Trump administration formally withdrew the United States from the INF Treaty on Aug. 2. Before then, the treaty banned the possession or testing of all nuclear and conventional, ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, as well as the launchers for such missiles. (See ACT, September 2019.)

China also expressed its concerns about the U.S. test. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang on Aug. 20 urged “the U.S. side to abandon outdated notions of Cold War thinking and zero-sum games and exercise restraint in developing arms.”

At a Russian and Chinese request, the 15-member UN Security Council convened on Aug. 22 to discuss the issue. As expected, the United States and Russia clashed at the meeting, repeating their respective accusations of noncompliance.

At the Security Council meeting, Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russian first deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, said that “because of the U.S. geopolitical ambitions, we are all one step from an arms race that cannot be controlled or regulated in any way.”

Acting U.S. Ambassador to the UN Jonathan Cohen replied that the real reason behind the council’s meeting was that “the Russian Federation preferred a world in which the United States continued to fulfill its INF Treaty obligations, while the Russian Federation did not.”

Meanwhile, in Congress, the Trump administration’s push for new intermediate-range missiles has proven controversial. The House version of the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act prohibits the Pentagon from spending money to develop any new intermediate-range missiles until several conditions are met. The Senate version does not have a similar provision, and the two versions are set to be reconciled during conference committee negotiations, with the goal of sending a final bill to the president in October.

In addition to the August test of a ground-launched cruise missile, the Defense Department is planning to test an intermediate-range ballistic missile with a range of about 3,000 to 4,000 kilometers later this year. Robert Soofer, deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy, confirmed at a conference in Virginia on Sept. 4 that the department is planning to test a ballistic missile, but would not comment on what missile would be tested.

Without the INF Treaty, the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) now stands as the only treaty limiting the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals. Although set to expire in February 2021, New START can be extended by up to five years if the U.S. and Russian presidents agree to do so.

Former National Security Advisor John Bolton had said in June and July that an extension is “unlikely.” (See ACT, September 2019.) Bolton, however, departed the administration on Sept. 10 and has been replaced by Robert O’Brien, and it remains to be seen how the change will affect the administration’s deliberations on the future of New START.

The United States and Russia last met in mid-July to discuss strategic security, but no additional meetings have been scheduled. Putin said on Sept. 5 that “[s]o far, our American partners have remained silent with regard to our proposals to maintain contacts in the sphere of disarmament and containing the arms race.”


With no more limits on intermediate-range missiles, the Pentagon is embarking on a test of once-banned systems. 

Boeing Seeks Intervention on New ICBM

October 2019
By Kingston Reif

Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. has rejected a proposal from its competitor the Boeing Co. to team up on the development of a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) system, prompting Boeing to call on the Pentagon to intervene.

The United States tests a Minuteman III ICBM on May 1, 2019. Plans to replace the missile have been slowed by contracting difficulties. (Photo: Defense Department)“We think clearly it’s time for the Air Force or other governmental entities to engage and direct the right solution,” Frank McCall, Boeing’s director of strategic deterrence systems, told reporters on Sept. 17 at the Air Force Association’s annual conference at National Harbor, Maryland.

“Northrop has elected not to do that,” McCall added, “so we’re looking for government intervention to drive us to the best solution.”

Boeing’s proposal to split the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) contract follows the company’s announcement in July that it would not bid on the development contract unless the Pentagon adjusted the bid parameters. (See ACT, September, 2019.)

“There has never been a time in the history of the Minuteman when the Air Force wasn’t supported by both companies,” McCall told the Washington Post on Sept. 18.

In August 2017, the Air Force selected Boeing and Northrop to proceed with development of the Minuteman III ICBM replacement. (See ACT, October 2017.) On July 16, the Air Force issued a request for proposals for the engineering and manufacturing development contract to produce and deploy the system. The service planned to award the contract in the summer of 2020.

The Defense Department is planning to replace the Minuteman III missile, its supporting launch control facilities, and command-and-control infrastructure. The plan is to purchase 666 new missiles, 400 of which would be operationally deployed through 2070.

Northrop Grumman on Sept. 16 revealed a team of 10 contractors that it plans to work with to develop the GBSD system, including fellow industry giant Lockheed Martin.



The contract to replace the U.S. ICBM fleet could see just a single bidder. 

Pentagon Seeks New Missile Interceptor

October 2019
By Kingston Reif

The U.S. Defense Department has formally canceled its program to design an upgraded kill vehicle for the U.S. long-range missile defense system and will instead seek to build a new interceptor for the system.

A U.S. plan to replace the exoatmospheric kill vehicle, shown here as an artists' conception, were formally cancelled in August. (Image: Raytheon)An Aug. 21 Pentagon statement said that effective the next day, the Pentagon would terminate the Boeing Company’s contract to build the Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV) “due to technical design problems.”

The announcement followed the department’s decision in May to order Boeing, the lead contractor for the $67 billion Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, to stop all work on the new kill vehicle. (See ACT, July/August 2019.) The GMD system is designed to defend the United States against a limited, long-range ballistic missile attack from North Korea or Iran.

“Ending the program was the responsible thing to do,” Mike Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, said in the statement. “Development programs sometimes encounter problems. After exercising due diligence, we decided the path we’re going down wouldn’t be fruitful, so we’re not going down that path anymore.”

Congress has appropriated more than $1 billion for the RKV program, from the program’s inception in fiscal year 2015 through fiscal year 2019.

The RKV was intended to be more reliable and cost effective than the current generation of GMD kill vehicles that have seen mixed test results and face an evolving threat, particularly from North Korea. The system has an intercept success rate of just more than 50 percent in controlled testing.

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) planned to deploy the RKV beginning in 2021 atop 20 new interceptors in Alaska to augment the existing fleet of 44 interceptors there and in California. The RKV was also intended to replace the aging kill vehicles atop the current fleet.

The demise of the RKV could delay the fielding of the additional interceptors “to the 2030 timeframe at the earliest under the current acquisition requirements” to compete, test, and certify a new interceptor “in operational and realistic conditions,” the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance said in an Aug. 21 alert.

The termination will likewise delay the modernization of the existing fleet of ground-based interceptors, the oldest of which were fielded between 2004 and 2007.

According to the Government Accountability Office, ground-based interceptors “only have an initial service life of 20 years and [the] MDA previously decided not to make any upgrades to the [original interceptor] because of initial plans to begin replacing them with RKVs in 2020.”

In the wake of the failure of the RKV program, the Defense Department plans to develop an entirely new long-range interceptor that will also include a new kill vehicle.

John Rood, undersecretary of defense for policy, said at a Sept. 17 event in Washington that the department plans to issue “what we will hope will be the final request for proposals” to industry for the new interceptor in October.

“We are positioned for near-term responses from industry, and the Missile Defense Agency advises me that they’re poised to try to rapidly move to award,” he added.

The Pentagon has released few details about the requirements for the new interceptor, the proposed timeline to develop and field it, or the estimated cost.

Rood said the MDA will continue existing plans to build 20 additional missile silos in Alaska “to be ready to house” the new interceptors.

The plan to develop the new interceptor is part of “a realignment of over $12 billion in current budget plans for development of a Next-Generation Interceptor” for the GMD system, according to the report accompanying the Senate Appropriations Committee version of the fiscal year 2020 defense appropriations bill.

In addition to the Next-Generation Interceptor, the $12 billion figure includes funding for research, development, test, and evaluation; procurement; and operations and maintenance for the entire GMD program from fiscal year 2020 to fiscal year 2030, a defense official told Inside Defense on Sept. 13.

Unlike the other involved Senate and House committees, the Senate Appropriations Committee published
its defense bill after the cancellation of the RKV.

The bill supported the MDA proposal to shift $728 billion in fiscal year 2019 and 2020 funding for the GMD system to support “a competitive acquisition” of the new interceptor “while addressing current GMD requirements.” The bill would provide $222 million specifically for the new interceptor.


The Defense Department has ended a program to design a new missile defense kill vehicle after the system failed to overcome technical hurdles. 

Members Briefing on the Future of New START



October 1, 2019
3:00pm Eastern U.S. time

The New START agreement between the United States and Russia—now the only agreement limiting the world’s two largest nuclear weapons arsenals following termination of the INF Treaty—is scheduled to expire in February 2021 unless Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin mutually agree to extend it by five years.

Former National Security Advisor John Bolton was a harsh critic of extending New START. What does Bolton's departure from the administration in September mean for the future of the treaty?

Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction, and Thomas Countryman, board chair and former acting undersecretary of state for arms control, briefed members on what could be the most important national security decision in a generation.

These calls are open to members of the Arms Control Association. Audio recordings of the call may be made available for nonmembers at some point following the call. Join or renew your membership today to receive details on how to join us for our next members call and be part of the conversation. 

AUDIO RECORDING: The Future of New START, October 1 Members Call


Join Kingston Reif and Thomas Countryman for a members-only briefing on the future of the New START agreement between the United States and Russia.

Country Resources:

Will The INF Treaty's Collapse Restart a Dangerous Nuclear Arms Race?

News Source / Outlet: 
News Date: 
September 20, 2019 -04:00

U.S.-Saudi Nuclear Cooperation Policy Still Far from Adequate (UPDATED)

UPDATE, Sept. 19 : A day after we published this post, Bloomberg revealed that Energy Secretary Rick Perry's letter to the Saudi's also stated that "The terms of the 123 Agreement [with Saudi Arabia] must also contain a commitment by the kingdom to forgo any enrichment and reprocessing for the term of the agreement." This is good news and the right policy, as we describe below. Such a commitment should have a long-term duration, be legally-binding, and apply to both U.S.-origin and non-U.S. origin fuel. Over the past two years, the Trump administration and Saudi Arabia have been engaged in...

U.S.-Russian Nuclear Arms Control Watch, Sept 13, 2019

U.S. Tests Ground-Launched Cruise Missile On Aug. 18, less than two weeks after the official collapse of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the United States tested a ground-launched variant of the Tomahawk sea-launched cruise missile that would have been prohibited by the treaty. The test was a clear signal that the United States can and will pursue such systems in the absence of the INF Treaty. In a statement, the Defense Department said the “test missile exited its ground mobile launcher and accurately impacted its target after more than 500 kilometers of flight. Data...
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