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The Arms Control Association is an "exceptional organization that effectively addresses pressing national and international challenges with an impact that is disproportionate to its small size." 

– John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
January 19, 2011
Kingston Reif

Trump Increases Budget for Banned Missiles


May 2019
By Kingston Reif

The Trump administration has requested nearly $100 million in fiscal year 2020 to develop three new missile systems that would exceed the range limits of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a pact the United States is preparing to exit in August.

A Soviet inspector examines a BGM-109G ground-launched cruise missile before it was destroyed in 1988 under the INF Treaty. The United States plans to test a new, ground-launched variant of the Tomahawk sea-launched cruise missile soon after the treaty expires in August. (Photo: Jose Lopez/U.S. Air Force)The funding proposal seeks more than twice what Congress provided last year and is likely to prove controversial in Congress. Democrats have criticized the administration’s treaty withdrawal plans and questioned the need for new missiles.

The budget submission includes $76 million in the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Prompt Global Strike Capability Development account to develop a mobile, conventionally armed, land-based cruise missile and a ballistic missile system, a congressional aide told Arms Control Today. The request is $28 million more than the fiscal year 2019 appropriation to research and develop concepts and options for INF Treaty-range missile systems. (See ACT, November 2018.)

The budget documents do not specify the purpose of the proposed funding other than to note that it is for “a classified munitions program” and to address “strategic policy and treaty issues.” In the past, the prompt global-strike program has focused on the development of hypersonic missile technologies, but the two treaty-busting missiles funded in this account are currently slated to fly on traditional cruise and ballistic trajectories.

Defense Department officials told reporters in March that the Pentagon is planning to test a ground-launched variant of the Navy’s Tomahawk sea-launched cruise missile that has a range of about 1,000 kilometers in August and a ground-launched ballistic missile with a range of 3,000 to 4,000 kilometers in November. (See ACT, April 2019.) The INF Treaty required the United States and Russia to eliminate permanently all their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.

Prior to the INF Treaty’s conclusion in 1987, the United States deployed several hundred nuclear-armed, intermediate-range Pershing II ballistic missiles and ground-launched cruise missiles in Europe, the latter of which were an adaptation of the Tomahawk. The Pentagon spent over $6 billion, in fiscal year 1987 dollars, to develop and procure the missiles.

The officials estimated that the new cruise missile could be deployed in 18 months while the new ballistic missile would not be ready for at least five years.

The announcement of the planned tests came just more than a month after the Trump administration announced on Feb. 2 that it would withdraw from the INF Treaty on Aug. 2 unless Russia corrects alleged compliance violations with the agreement. U.S. officials also announced in early February the immediate suspension of U.S. implementation of the pact.

The officials said the Pentagon would cancel the tests if Russia returns to compliance with the treaty, but the likelihood of that happening is low. (See ACT, March 2019.) They also noted that there have been no discussions with allies in Europe and Asia about hosting the missiles. One official said the new ballistic missile could be deployed in Guam, a U.S. territory, which would allow the missile to strike targets in mainland China.

U.S. officials have said Russia has deployed several battalions of the allegedly treaty-noncompliant 9M729 cruise missile, including some at locations within range of European targets. Russia, which denies any treaty violation, formally suspended its implementation of the agreement in March and has pledged to begin development of new INF Treaty-range missiles.

A New, Third Weapon

The budget request also contains $20 million for the Army to begin development of a mobile, land-based, medium-range missile “that can attack specific threat vulnerabilities in order to penetrate, dis-integrate, and exploit in the strategic and deep maneuver areas.” The Army is planning to request to total of $900 million for the missile through fiscal year 2024.

A U.S. Army Tactical Missile System is tested in South Korea in 2017.  The United States is considering replacing the system with a missile that could fly further than currently allowed by the INF Treaty. (Photo: South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images)The budget documents do not specify the type or range of the missile, but the congressional aide confirmed that the weapon would fall within the range prohibited by the INF Treaty. The Defense Department classifies a medium-range missile as having a range between 1,000 and 3,000 kilometers.

In addition, the Army is pursuing several other ground-launched missile systems with ranges that could exceed 500 kilometers.

The service is requesting $164 million to continue development of a Precision Strike Missile to replace the aging Army Tactical Missile System. The current range requirement for the new ballistic missile is up to 499 kilometers, as dictated by the INF Treaty, but Army officials have stated the missile could eventually fly as far as 700 kilometers. The service aims to begin fielding the missile as soon as 2023.

The budget request seeks $228 million to begin developing a land-based hypersonic missile “to provide the Army with a prototype strategic attack weapon system” and $92 million for a Strategic Long-Range Cannon program “to further enhance range, lethality, and precision enablers for extended range cannon and munition systems.”

Gen. John Murray, the chief of Army Futures Command, told Congress last September that the service is “looking very hard and starting down the path of hypersonics and then also looking at what we call the Strategic Long-Range Cannon, which conceivably could have a range of up to 1,000 nautical miles.”

It is unclear whether these weapons would meet the INF Treaty’s definition of a ground-launched ballistic missile and thus be limited by the agreement, but this question now appears moot given the impending collapse of the treaty.

Supporters of developing new INF Treaty-range missiles argue that such weapons would provide additional military options against Russia and especially China, which is not a party to the agreement and has deployed large numbers of missiles with ranges that the United States and Russia are prohibited from deploying.

Critics argue that the U.S. military can counter Russia and China by continuing to field air- and sea-launched cruise missiles that do not violate the accord. They also note that such intermediate-range weapons would need to be deployed on the territory of allies neighboring Russia or China to be of meaningful military value. So far, no country has said that it would be willing to host such missiles. Several countries, including Poland, have made it clear that any deployment of the new systems in Europe would have to be approved by all NATO members.

In an Oct. 24, 2018, letter to the secretaries of defense and state, Reps. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), now the chairmen of the House armed services and foreign affairs committees, respectively, said they had seen “no validated military requirement for withdrawing from the INF Treaty and deploying INF-range missiles.”

Other congressional Democrats have introduced legislation to restrict funding for ground-launched, INF Treaty-range missiles unless several specific conditions have been met, the key one being a requirement that any deployment of such a missile in Europe come from a NATO-wide decision, not a bilateral agreement.

The Trump administration has requested nearly $100 million in fiscal year 2020 to develop three new missile systems that would exceed the range limits of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a pact the United States is preparing to exit in August.

U.S. Seeks Broader Nuclear Arms Pact


May 2019
By Kingston Reif and Shervin Taheran

President Donald Trump has ordered his staff to seek a new agreement on nuclear weapons that would encompass all Russian and Chinese nuclear arms, senior administration officials told reporters in April. Currently, the United States and Russia abide by the bilateral 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) that limits only deployed strategic weapons and does not involve China. The treaty is due to expire in February 2021, but the pact allows the two sides to extend it for up to five years.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov (center), speaking here at January conference in Beijing, suggested in April that any future U.S.-Russian arms control talks would need to address a variety of previously unnegotiated issues. (Photo: Thomas Peter/Getty Images)“The president has made clear that he thinks that arms control should include Russia and China and should include all the weapons, all the warheads, all the missiles,” said a senior White House official on April 25. “We have an ambition to give the president options as quickly as possible to give him as much space on the calendar as possible.”

Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, suggested Moscow’s response would depend on the nature of any U.S. proposals. “Further steps towards nuclear disarmament will require creating a number of prerequisites and taking into account many factors that have a direct impact on strategic stability” including missile defense systems, cyber weapons, weapons development in space, and advanced conventional arms, he said in an April 26 news briefing.

The Trump administration has shown no indication that it would be willing to limit these weapons in an agreement with Russia and China. Even if it were willing to do so, it is highly unlikely an agreement could be reached before New START expires in less than two years.

The president’s new order followed his April 4 comments at the White House, while sitting next to Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He, on the need for the United States, Russia, and China to reduce the numbers of and spending on nuclear weapons.

“Between Russia and China and us, we’re all making hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of weapons, including nuclear [weapons], which is ridiculous…. We have to be the leader. I think it’s much better if we all got together and we didn’t make these weapons…. And those three countries, I think, can [come] together and stop the spending and spend on things that maybe are more productive toward long-term peace,” Trump said.

Senior administration officials echoed the president’s desire to include China in arms control. The Trump administration is “at the very beginning of conversations about renewing” New START, said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in April 10 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “If we can get the deal right, if we can make sure that it fits 2021 and beyond, President [Donald] Trump has made very clear that if we can get a good, solid arms control agreement, we ought to get one.”

Remaining unclear is whether Pompeo was referring to conversations within the Trump administration, conversations with Russia, or both. Administration officials have been saying for months that they are in the early stages of formulating the U.S. position on an extension, arguing that plenty of time remains before the treaty lapses. Several factors would guide a decision, according to the officials, including how Russia pursues its concerns about U.S. compliance with the pact, whether Russia would agree to limit new strategic weapons it is developing, and Russian compliance with other arms control agreements.

Pompeo appeared to add additional factors at the hearing, suggesting that future arms control agreements should incorporate more nations. “We need to make sure that we've got all of the parties that are relevant,” he said. “It’s very different today in the world than it was” when New START was completed, he added. Asked to clarify which nations should be included, Pompeo said, “[I]t’s certainly China that has large numbers.”

Russian officials have also offered ambiguous projections for New START’s future. Anatoly Antonov, Russian ambassador to the United States, said Russia is ready to discuss extending the treaty, but repeated previously stated concerns about U.S. compliance with some of the pact’s conversion procedures.

“The extension of the New START is not a simple technicality that could be resolved in a couple of weeks,” he said at the Arms Control Association’s April 15 annual meeting. “Serious issues must be settled.”

Antonov also said that the full array of Russia’s planned new nuclear weapons would not be covered by New START, so any limits on them would need “another round of negotiations,” which would require Senate and Duma approval.

Meanwhile, the treaty’s dispute resolution forum, the Bilateral Consultative Commission, met in April, according to an April 12 release from the U.S. State Department. It was 17th meeting of the commission, which meets twice yearly.

Several current and former U.S. military officials have recently lamented the reduced level of communication and dialogue between the United States and Russia.

“During the Cold War, we understood each other’s signals. We talked,” said U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the top military commander in Europe, in an April interview. “I’m concerned that we don’t know them as well today.”

 

Administration opens door to negotiations on new weapons, new partners.

Nuclear Security Funding Cuts in Future


May 2019
By Kingston Reif

For the third year in a row, the Trump administration is proposing to reduce funding for core U.S. nuclear security and nonproliferation programs at the semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). The fiscal year 2020 budget request has prompted concerns from experts and lawmakers who have warned of persistent threats of nuclear terrorism and diminishing international attention to nuclear security.

Workers load a cask of spent highly enriched uranium removed from a Vietnamese research reactor into a container bound for Russia. The Trump administration is seeking to reduce financial support for the Energy Department's nonproliferation efforts. (Photo: Sando Tozser/IAEA)Even NNSA Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty suggested that the submission is insufficient, telling a congressional committee last month that she would gladly take additional funds above the budget request “to secure more nuclear materials around the world because that’s nuclear materials that are less likely to fall in the hands of terrorists or adversaries.”

The Trump administration is asking for $1.3 billion for core nuclear security and nonproliferation programs at the NNSA next year, a decrease of about $100 million, or 7 percent, from the fiscal year 2019 appropriation.

When measured against what the NNSA said it would request for these programs during the last year of the Obama administration, the fiscal year 2020 proposal is more than $200 million less than projected.

The largest proposed reduction in the request is to the Global Material Security program, which has the task of improving the security of nuclear materials around the world, securing orphaned or disused radiological sources, and strengthening nuclear smuggling detection and deterrence. The program would get $342 million, a $65 million reduction from the fiscal year 2019 appropriation.

According to budget documents, the decline from the enacted level reflects “a return to the baseline budget” after one-time increases from Congress in fiscal year 2019 to programs addressing domestic and international radiological material security and nuclear smuggling.

Asked at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on April 9 what the NNSA could do with an additional $80 million for international nuclear security programs, Gordon-Hagerty said the agency could acquire additional cesium blood irradiators, undertake “additional training around the world,” and help other countries with “security installations.”

The Material Management and Minimization program, which supports the removal of civilian highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium around the world and converts HEU-fueled research reactors and medical isotope production facilities to the use of low-enriched uranium, would receive $334 million, a decrease of $59 million from the fiscal year 2019 appropriation.

The budget request would increase funding slightly for nonproliferation and arms control activities from a fiscal year 2019 appropriation of $130 million to $137 million. Spending for nonproliferation research and development activities, which focus on technologies used in tracking foreign nuclear weapons programs, illicit diversion of nuclear materials, and nuclear detonations, would rise to $495 million from its $477 million fiscal year 2019 appropriation.

Experts and lawmakers are questioning the wisdom of the proposed reductions in funding for NNSA nuclear and radiological security activities.

A policy brief from Harvard University’s Managing the Atom Project published in April argued that the “budget request for programs to reduce the dangers of nuclear theft and terrorism is too small to implement the ambitious approach that is needed.”

Although past U.S. efforts to improve nuclear security around the world have been highly successful, the brief notes, “momentum is slowing, raising serious doubts as to whether national leaders are fulfilling their commitment to continue to make nuclear security a priority.”

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), the chairwoman of the House energy and water appropriations subcommittee that oversees the NNSA’s nuclear weapons and nonproliferation work, expressed concern at an April 2 hearing on the NNSA budget request “that the administration is taking its foot off the gas pedal with respect to key nonproliferation programs.”

During the first two years of the Trump administration, Congress provided almost $300 million more than what the administration requested for core NNSA nuclear security and nonproliferation programs.

Elsewhere in the NNSA nonproliferation budget, the administration is requesting $220 million to close down the controversial mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel facility and $79 million to support an alternative strategy to dispose of 34 metric tons of surplus plutonium from the U.S. nuclear weapons program. (See ACT, March 2019.)

The MOX fuel facility, designed to turn the surplus material into fuel for civilian power reactors, has been plagued by major cost increases and schedule delays. The Energy Department has sought to end the program since 2014 in favor of
a cheaper alternative, known as dilute and dispose. That process would down-blend the plutonium with an inert material for direct disposal at the deep-underground Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.

The NNSA estimated last year that the dilute-and-dispose process would cost $19.9 billion, or 40 percent of the $49.4 billion cost of continuing the MOX fuel program.

Trump pursuing cuts to U.S. nuclear security, nonproliferation programs.

Taiwan Strait passage; China targets US spies; Gitmo, nursing home; Russia’s military whales?; And a bit more.

U.S.-Russian Nuclear Arms Control Watch, April 24, 2019

Update: April 29, 2019: Trump Directs Russia-Chinese Arms Control Effort On April 25, senior administration officials told reporters that President Donald Trump had directed his administration to seek a new arms control agreement with Russia and China. One official told CNN that the agreement should included “all the weapons, all the warheads, and all the missiles.” The officials criticized the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) for only limiting U.S. and Russian deployed strategic nuclear weapons. The goal of a new agreement with Russia is apparently to seek to capture...

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New Report Highlights Costs of and Alternatives to Trump's Nuclear Weapons Spending Plans

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Body: 

For Immediate Release: April 12, 2019

Media Contacts: Kingston Reif, director for disarmament policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 104

(Washington, D.C.)–A new report from the Arms Control Association describes how the mounting costs of the Trump administration’s plans to replace the U.S. nuclear arsenal are unnecessary, unsustainable, and unsafe.

The report comes as Congress considers the Trump administration’s fiscal year 2020 budget request for national defense and amid growing concern about the rising price tag of the nuclear spending plans, the Trump administration’s proposals for more usable nuclear capabilities, and the crisis in the U.S.-Russian arms control relationship.

The report assesses options to reduce spending on nuclear weapons that would save as much as $300 billion over the coming 30 years, while still maintaining a devastating nuclear force that can deter nuclear attack by any adversary.

“The United States maintains a larger and more diverse nuclear arsenal than is required to deter and respond to a nuclear attack against itself or its allies,” said Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association. “The simple fact is that the planned spending to maintain and replace the arsenal will pose a significant affordability problem, and threaten other national security priorities,” he noted.

The United States currently plans to spend nearly $500 billion, after including the effects of inflation, to maintain and replace its nuclear arsenal over the next decade. Over the next 30 years, the price tag is likely to top $1.5 trillion and could even approach $2 trillion.

The new report, U.S. Nuclear Excess: Costs, Risks, and Alternatives, outlines the Trump administration’s nuclear spending plans, explains why they are financially untenable and potentially destabilizing, and assesses three less expensive alternatives to the plans.

The alternatives analyzed in the report would free up at least an estimated $29 billion to $282 billion from fiscal year 2017 to 2046 that could be spent on more pressing national security priorities. The bulk of these savings would occur over the first 20 years of the 30-year period.

“Changes to the nuclear replacement program could make it easier to execute and ease some of the hard choices facing the overall defense enterprise, while still leaving a force more than capable of deterring nuclear attacks against the United States or its alliance partners,” Reif added.

The report urges Congress to take steps to enhance its understanding of the budget challenges posed by the spending plans and the policy assumptions underlying them. These include:

  • holding in-depth hearings on U.S. nuclear weapons policy and spending;
  • requesting a National Intelligence Estimate on the sufficiency of the U.S. nuclear arsenal; and
  • calling for a report on the cost of the Pentagon’s major nuclear and non-nuclear acquisition programs over the next 20 years.

The Arms Control Association has repeatedly raised concerns about the need and affordability of the nuclear weapons spending plans, argued that these plans pose a threat to other military priorities, and suggested more cost-effective alternatives. The new report released Friday builds upon a 2014 Arms Control Association report titled The Unaffordable Arsenal: Reducing the Costs of the Bloated U.S. Nuclear Stockpile.

Description: 

The report outlines the Trump administration’s nuclear spending plans, explains why they are financially untenable and potentially destabilizing, and assesses three less expensive alternatives to the plans.

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