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"Though we have acheived progress, our work is not over. That is why I support the mission of the Arms Control Association. It is, quite simply, the most effective and important organization working in the field today." 

– Larry Weiler
Former U.S.-Russian arms control negotiator
August 7, 2018
Kingston Reif

The Iran Deal and Preventing Proliferation in the Middle East

On April 2 in Lausanne, Switzerland, Iran the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) reached a breakthrough on the parameters of an agreement to verifiably roll back and constrain Iran’s nuclear program. As 30 leading nonproliferation specialists detailed in an April 6 statement , a comprehensive agreement based on these parameters would be a net win for nonproliferation and international security. Yet, a concern repeatedly voiced against the developing deal, which would allow for a limited Iranian uranium-enrichment program, is that it will encourage...

NATO Monitoring Russian Saber Rattling

May 2015

By Kingston Reif

NATO Deputy Secretary-General Alexander Vershbow, shown in this November 2014 photo, said recent Russian actions and comments dealing with the country’s nuclear arsenal were “irresponsible.” (NATO)NATO is in the process of determining whether “increased Russian attention to nuclear weapons” should prompt steps such as military exercises “to make sure that there is no doubt about the effectiveness of our deterrent,” Alexander Vershbow, the alliance’s deputy secretary-general, said last month. 

In a video posted on the website of Defense News on March 29, Vershbow said the Russians “are flaunting their nuclear capability, they are holding more nuclear exercises, and they are talking about their nuclear capabilities” as “part of their messaging.” 

“Maybe this is just rhetoric, but it is irresponsible nonetheless,” he added.

Among other recent nuclear threats from Russian officials, Mikhail Vanin, the Russian ambassador to Denmark, said on March 21 that “Danish warships will be targets for Russian nuclear missiles” if Denmark joins NATO’s ballistic missile defense system. 

It is unclear what specific nuclear-related steps, if any, NATO may be considering to respond to these threats. 

On the issue of NATO’s nuclear policy posture, Vershbow said the alliance members “think we still have an effective posture.”

In an April 10 e-mail, a NATO official said that “NATO does not comment on military contingency planning.” 

But the official said that NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group (NPG), which acts as the alliance’s senior body on nuclear matters, convened Feb. 5 during the last meeting of NATO defense ministers. The NPG meetings take place about once a year and “provide an opportunity for Allies to address the safety and effectiveness of our nuclear forces,” he said. 

The official added that NATO’s “nuclear readiness levels have not changed since the start of the Ukraine crisis.” Relations between NATO and Russia have deteriorated significantly since Russia’s annexation of Crimea and continued action in eastern Ukraine, resulting in the imposition of Western economic sanctions against Russia. The official also said NATO is not considering the basing of tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of new member states.

On the other hand, he emphasized that “NATO is currently implementing the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War.” 

Such steps include increasing NATO’s presence on the territory of the alliance’s easternmost members and doubling the size of the NATO Response Force to up to 30,000 troops. The response force is a multinational force that the alliance can deploy quickly, wherever needed. 

“All of this shows that NATO is serious about deterrence, and stands ready to defend all Allies against any threat,” the official said.

China, S. Korea Nuclear Pacts Advance

May 2015

By Kingston Reif

President Barack Obama signed and transmitted to Congress a new nuclear cooperation agreement with China on April 21, and a day later, U.S. and South Korean officials held a ceremony to initial a new cooperation pact. 

The proposed 30-year agreement with China would permit the transfer of equipment, including reactors, and material, components, information, and technology for nuclear research and nuclear power production. 

Notably, the agreement would grant each party “advance consent,” as specialists call it, to reprocess nuclear material transferred under the agreement and used in or produced through the use of transferred material or equipment. This provision, which would allow China to reprocess such material without obtaining U.S. consent in each case, would be a “major change from the old agreement” with China, said Mark Hibbs of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in a commentary posted on the website of The Hill. 

The new agreement would replace an existing agreement signed in 1985 and set to expire at the end of this year. 

In his transmittal statement to Congress, Obama said the pact “provides a comprehensive framework for peaceful nuclear cooperation with China based on a mutual commitment to nuclear nonproliferation.”

In the past, U.S. officials have raised concerns about China’s nonproliferation record. For example, China is building reactors in Pakistan at that country’s Chashma site that U.S. officials have said contravene commitments that China made when it joined the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2004. (See ACT, June 2010.

U.S. law provides Congress with the opportunity to review a nuclear cooperation agreement for two time periods totaling 90 days of so-called continuous session. After submitting the agreement, the administration is to consult with the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Senate Foreign Relations Committee for at least 30 days. After that, a second 60-day review period begins. If Congress does not pass a resolution disapproving the agreement before the end of this 60-day period, the agreement may enter into force. 

In an April 23 e-mail, a congressional source said he expected the 90-day period to run out before Congress breaks for a long recess in August. 

Mark Lippert (left), U.S. ambassador to South Korea, shakes hands with Park Ro-byug, South Korean ambassador for nuclear energy cooperation, in Seoul on April 22 during a ceremony to initial a new nuclear cooperation agreement. (Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images)Meanwhile, on April 22 in Seoul, Mark Lippert, the U.S. ambassador to South Korea, and Park Ro-byug, South Korea’s ambassador for nuclear energy cooperation, initialed a new cooperation agreement that would replace a 1974 pact between the two countries. Some observers have said Obama and South Korean President Park Geun-hye could sign the agreement when Park visits the United States later this year.

Last year, the two countries brought into force a two-year interim extension of the old agreement, which was set to expire in March 2014, after they were unable to resolve key issues, notably South Korea’s interest in treating spent fuel through a technique called pyroprocessing. (See ACT, April 2014.)

Although the text of the new agreement has not been publicly released, news reports and a summary issued by the Korean embassy in Washington indicate that the United States did not provide South Korea with advance consent to enrich or reprocess U.S.-origin nuclear materials.

Instead, the agreement, which took more than four years to negotiate, creates a high-level commission that would regularly review implementation of the pact and provide a venue for the two sides to discuss future options, including indigenous South Korean enrichment and reprocessing.

The new agreement would last for 20 years, half the length of the original pact.

The Obama administration sent Congress a new nuclear cooperation agreement with China and initialed a new pact with South Korea.

Air Force Wants 1,000 New Cruise Missiles

UPDATED: May 7, 2015

By Kingston Reif

The U.S. Air Force is planning to build about 1,000 new nuclear-capable air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs), several sources said last month.

The projected purchase wAn AGM-86B cruise missile is displayed at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, in this undated photo. (U.S. Air Force)ould roughly double the size of the existing U.S. fleet of ALCMs. 

A knowledgeable source said in an April 7 e-mail that the plans called for 1,000-1,100 new missiles at a cost of roughly $9 billion. In a subsequent e-mail exchange, Maj. Kelley Jeter, an Air Force spokeswoman, confirmed the number of planned missiles, but declined to comment on the cost. 

“The draft acquisition strategy currently plans to procure approximately 1,000 missiles,” Jeter said. That number “provides enough weapons to meet the operational requirement” for U.S. Strategic Command, as well as spares and test missiles, she added. Jeter did not specify how many weapons the Air Force is planning to assign to each of these categories. 

Acquisition planning and development activities for the new missile are well under way, Jeter said. 

The Air Force is aiming to receive approval later this year from the Office of the Secretary of Defense to go to the next stage of the acquisition process, which includes maturing the technology, refining requirements, and finalizing cost estimates for the new missile. The first new missile is slated for completion in 2026. 

The Air Force does not currently plan to develop a conventional variant of the new missile, Jeter said. “There is currently no validated requirement” for a new conventional ALCM, “nor is there funding for such a variant,” she said.

President Barack Obama determined in 2013 that the United States has more deployed strategic nuclear weapons than it needs for its security. It is not clear how the addition of 1,000 new missiles would comport with that determination.

It is also unclear whether the Air Force can afford a new cruise missile given the budget constraints imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act and the costs of rebuilding other elements of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Public remarks by top Pentagon officials have repeatedly acknowledged the limits that the act imposes on their plans.

Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, said on April 14 that beginning in 2021, the Defense Department will have to secure an additional $10-12 billion annually above current funding levels for nuclear forces in order to afford the current nuclear weapons modernization plan. The department has “a huge affordability problem” with regard to nuclear modernization, Kendall said. 

Nuclear-armed ALCMs are part of the U.S. nuclear triad of delivery systems consisting of land-based missiles, submarine-launched missiles, and long-range bombers, which can carry ALCMs and gravity bombs. ALCMs are carried by the B-52 long-range bomber and can attack targets at great distances. 

In a June 2014 letter to the leadership of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Kendall stated that long-range bombers armed with nuclear ALCMs “assure our allies and provide a unique and important dimension of U.S. nuclear deterrence in the face of increasingly sophisticated adversary air defenses.” 

Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, shown above in a September 2014 photo, has said the Pentagon has “a huge affordability problem” with regard to nuclear modernization. (CSIS)A bomber force armed with the new missiles also would give the United States “uniquely flexible options in an extreme crisis, particularly the ability to signal intent and control escalation,” Kendall added.

But some current and former government officials have questioned the need for any new cruise missile. (See ACT, November 2014.)

The Air Force’s lone remaining ALCM variant is the AGM-86B, up to 20 of which can be carried by a B-52 bomber. The missile, which has a range of more than 1,500 miles, was first fielded in 1982 with a planned service life of 10 years. Multiple life extension programs have kept the missile in service for more than 30 years. The Air Force is planning to retain the missile until 2030. 

The B-2 bomber is not equipped to carry ALCMs, but has the capability to deliver 16 nuclear gravity bombs at any given time.

According to Jeter, the Air Force currently retains 575 ALCMs. Those missiles, which would be retired, carry the W80-1 warhead, which is maintained by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semiautonomous arm of the Energy Department. In an April 17 e-mail, Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, estimated that there are approximately 550 W80-1 operational warheads left in the military stockpile. 

The Air Force is developing the long-range standoff cruise missile to replace the AGM-86B. The new missile will be compatible with the B-2 and B-52 bombers, as well as the planned long-range strike bomber. 

Kristensen said the current plan to build another 1,000-1,100 missiles would “make sense” if one assumed the Air Force wanted enough missiles for a force in the 2030s of 16 operational B-2 bombers and 44 new long-range strike bombers, each carrying a maximum of 16 missiles, plus about 200 missiles for use as spares and test missiles. 

The United States is planning to maintain up to 60 nuclear-capable long-range bombers under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). But the treaty does not cap the number of weapons that can be carried on each bomber. Each bomber counts as only one warhead against the treaty cap of 1,550 deployed warheads even if capable of carrying more than one cruise missile or gravity bomb. 

As the Pentagon proceeds with its plans to build the new long-range cruise missile, the NNSA is to carry out a life extension program for the ALCM warhead. Production of the first of these modified warheads, known as the W80-4, is scheduled to be completed in 2025. 

In an April 21 e-mail, Energy Department spokesman Derrick J. Robinson said the NNSA has not yet decided how many of the modified warheads it would produce and that the number would be classified. According to Kristensen, the NNSA would have to bring previously retired ALCM warheads out of storage to provide the number of warheads needed to accommodate the draft 1,000-missile plan. 

The Obama administration’s fiscal year 2016 budget request proposed to increase spending to accelerate by two years the development of the long-range standoff missile and the modified warhead that it would carry, partially reversing the fiscal year 2015 proposal to delay development of both by three years. (See ACT, March 2015.

If the knowledgeable source’s estimate of $9 billion for the missile is accurate, the total cost of replacing the existing ALCM and the associated warhead could be close to $20 billion. The NNSA has estimated that the cost of the life extension program will be between $7 billion and $9.5 billion. 

The Air Force’s draft acquisition plan for the long-range missile “makes a mockery” of New START “by blatantly taking advantage” of the treaty “loophole” that attributes only one weapon to each bomber, said Kristensen. The Air Force plan “sends the wrong message” about U.S. intentions “and should be rejected,” he said.


UPDATE: Air Force Official Responds

In response to this story, an Air Force official e-mailed the following statement on May 7:

The AF LRSO program is designed to replace current nuclear-armed air-launched cruise missiles (ALCM).  Replacement of our current ALCM is necessary to ensure that the U.S. nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure, and effective, in accordance with the President's guidance.

The number of LRSO missiles to be acquired includes a large number of spare and test missiles that will be required throughout the life of the program.  This means that the planned purchase of 1,000 missiles includes far more missiles than we plan to operationally arm and deploy in our nuclear force.  There is no plan to operationally arm and deploy 1,000 LRSO missiles - the requirements for these systems in our guidance have not increased and we intend to deploy only a fraction of those we purchase.

Nuclear-armed cruise missiles, including the LRSO, are accountable under New START's bomber counting rule.  The New START bomber counting rule is well understood and was fully debated during the Treaty's ratification.  In counting one warhead per bomber, the New START Treaty advances the legacy of bomber stability and flexibility initiated under the original START Treaty. The LRSO program is fully consistent with the approach to reductions and strategic stability negotiated by Washington and Moscow.

The U.S. Air Force is planning to build about 1,000 new nuclear-armed air-launched cruise missiles, several sources said last month.

Task Force: Boost Nonproliferation Funds

May 2015

By Kingston Reif

In this undated photo, a train moves through the Idaho desert on its way to Idaho National Laboratory as part of a nonproliferation effort by the Energy Department to take back spent highly enriched uranium fuel from foreign research reactors. (U.S. Department of Energy)The Energy Department should expand its nonproliferation efforts and augment funding for the nonproliferation programs carried out by its semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), according to an Energy Department task force charged with advising the department on its nonproliferation strategy. 

The report, which was released March 31, makes a total of 17 recommendations for modifying or expanding the department’s nonproliferation efforts in areas such as preventing nuclear and radiological terrorism, halting illicit transfers of nuclear technology, and developing new detection and monitoring technologies and approaches to verify future nuclear arms reductions. 

The task force expressed concern about the recent trend of falling budgets for the department’s nonproliferation programs, noting that appropriations declined from $2.2 billion in fiscal year 2013 to $1.6 billion for fiscal year 2015, a reduction of 25 percent. “The need to counter current and likely future challenges to nonproliferation justifies increased, rather than reduced, investment in this area,” the report said. 

The task force recommended increased funding for a number of efforts, including those charged with monitoring procurement channels for the nuclear black market, establishing a comprehensive national research and development program for verifying future nuclear arms reductions; training and recruiting the next generation of nonproliferation experts; and rebuilding the capacity of the U.S. nuclear laboratories to conduct broad, integrated analyses of foreign nuclear programs.

Other observers of the department’s nonproliferation work have reached similar conclusions. Last August, 26 senators sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget seeking increased funding for nuclear nonproliferation programs for fiscal year 2016. (See ACT, September 2014.)

After proposing major spending cuts for NNSA nuclear nonproliferation programs in last year’s budget request, the Obama administration is asking for $1.7 billion for these efforts in its fiscal year 2016 budget request, an increase of $91 million, or 5.6 percent, above the fiscal year 2015 appropriation. (See ACT, March 2015.)

The task force also highlighted obstacles to the recommended changes in NNSA nonproliferation activities, including the limited willingness of some countries to cooperate. 

Noting that Russia ended most joint work with the United States on nuclear security in Russia at the end of 2014 (see ACT, March 2015), the report calls for continuing cooperation in the areas in which Russia has allowed it, maintaining dialogue among U.S. and Russian technical experts, and developing approaches to cooperation “that appear to put both countries in equal roles.” 

Established in December 2013 by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, the task force was asked to advise the Energy Department on “future areas of emphasis for its nuclear nonproliferation activities.” 

Albert Carnesale, former UCLA chancellor and Harvard University provost, chaired the task force. Matthew Bunn, a professor at Harvard University and a member of the Arms Control Association Board of Directors, was a member.

In an interim report last August, the task force said, “The U.S. government does not yet have a compelling vision for the future of its nonproliferation efforts or how [the Energy Department’s] programs fit in that larger picture, though [the department] has launched an effort to develop one.” (See ACT, November 2014.

The final report says the Energy Department has made “significant progress toward implementation of key recommendations” from the interim report. In particular, the task force praised the department for preparing and issuing in March of this year its first strategic plan to address the threats of nuclear proliferation and terrorism. 

Titled “Prevent, Counter, and Respond—A Strategic Plan to Reduce Global Nuclear Threats (FY2016-2020),” the plan “provides a comprehensive overview for the first time in a single place of NNSA’s integrated strategy for preventing, countering, and responding to nuclear weapons proliferation and nuclear and radiological terrorism threats, now and in the future,” according to an Energy Department press release.

The report identifies five important trends in the evolution of nuclear security threats that are informing the department’s thinking about preventing nuclear terrorism: the presence of significant amounts of nuclear material in regions of concern, the continued temptation for some states to develop nuclear weapons or a weapons capability, the global expansion of civil nuclear power and the wide use of radiological sources, the expanding sophistication of illicit procurement networks, and the greater diffusion of technologies and manufacturing techniques that could create new pathways to nuclear weapons.

The Energy Department should expand its nonproliferation efforts and augment funding for nonproliferation programs, a task force said. 

Russia Completes CFE Treaty Suspension

April 2015

By Kingston Reif

Russia is suspending its participation in meetings of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty Joint Consultative Group (JCG), according to a Russian Foreign Ministry statement on March 10.

The announcement marks a further pullback from the treaty that Moscow had largely abandoned in 2007. (See ACT, January/February 2008.)

In a March 11 interview with Interfax, Mikhail Ulyanov, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control, said Moscow’s suspension was not due to the deterioration in U.S.-Russian relations resulting from Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

“The issue was long overdue, long before the Ukraine crisis, before the current state of affairs in our relations with the West,” Ulyanov said.

According to Ulyanov, the United States “had forbidden its allies to discuss any substantive issues at the JCG. In those conditions there was not much sense in continuing our participation in the JCG.”

The CFE Treaty, signed at the end of the Cold War on Nov. 19, 1990, eliminated the Soviet Union’s overwhelming quantitative advantage in conventional weapons in Europe by setting equal limits on the number of tanks, armored combat vehicles, heavy artillery, combat aircraft, and attack helicopters that NATO and the Warsaw Pact could deploy between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ural Mountains.

The treaty was designed to prevent either alliance from amassing forces for a blitzkrieg-type offensive, which could have triggered the use of nuclear weapons in response.

Russia suspended implementation of the CFE Treaty in 2007, claiming it was responding to NATO member states’ decision to condition their ratification of the 1999 Adapted CFE Treaty on the resolution of a dispute over Russian military deployments in parts of Moldova and Georgia. But Moscow continued to participate in the consultative group, saying that it hoped that dialogue could lead to the creation of an effective, new conventional arms control regime in Europe.

Beginning in 2010, the Obama administration sought to resolve the CFE Treaty dispute through the development of a draft “framework” for new negotiations to strengthen the treaty regime. But the talks stalled, and in November 2011, the United States announced that it “would cease carrying out certain obligations” under the CFE Treaty with regard to Russia.

Ulyanov told Interfax that Russia would be unlikely to return to compliance with the CFE Treaty. The accord, created when the Warsaw Pact was still in existence, is “anachronistic” and “absolutely out of sync with the present realities,” he said.

Russia is suspending its participation in meetings of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty Joint Consultative Group (JCG), according to a Russian Foreign Ministry statement on March 10.

STRATCOM Shifts on Nuclear Costs

April 2015

By Kingston Reif

U.S. Strategic Command appears to be backing away from a September 2014 estimate that maintaining and modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal “will require close to 10 percent” of the Defense Department budget “for a period of time.”

Adm. Cecil Haney, who has led STRATCOM since November 2013, made the estimate in a letter to Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), the chairman of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee. But at a Feb. 26 subcommittee hearing, Haney said the figure was likely to be in the range of “5 percent to 6 percent.”

In this video image, Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) speaks at a February 26 hearing of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee. At the hearing, Larsen asked about a budget estimate made last year by U.S. Strategic Command. (House Armed Services)Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) first disclosed the existence of the letter at the hearing. Arms Control Today subsequently obtained a copy of the letter, which has not been publicly released.

In the letter, Haney says the Defense Department currently spends 2.5 percent of its budget on nuclear forces but that current plans to rebuild U.S. nuclear-armed missiles, submarines, and bombers and the associated nuclear warheads and supporting infrastructure for these weapons will cause this ratio to quadruple in the future. Haney defended the large anticipated surge in funding, writing that “the cost of losing a credible deterrent capability would likely be much greater not only in dollars, but potentially in terms of freedom and sovereignty.”

The letter does not detail how STRATCOM calculated total nuclear weapons costs or specify the period of time and anticipated size of the Pentagon budget during which nuclear weapons spending could peak at 10 percent of military spending.

At the hearing, Larsen asked Haney how STRATCOM is thinking about the spending trade-offs that would be required to accommodate increased spending on nuclear weapons programs within the Defense Department, noting that 10 percent of the budget “over any period of time is a lot.”

In response, Haney appeared to back away from the 10 percent estimate, stating that “as I look at some of the Congressional Budget Office [CBO] work that is ongoing, more specifically, as it looks over a period…in the 2020[s] to 2030s, when we would have to recapitalize the bulk of our strategic forces,” the cost of nuclear weapons is “really [on] the order of 5 percent to 6 percent” of the Defense Department’s budget.

A January 2015 CBO report estimated that current plans to sustain and modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal will cost $348 billion between fiscal years 2015 and 2024, or 5 to 6 percent of the total cost of the Obama administration’s plans for national defense over that period. (See ACT, March 2015.)

In an e-mail exchange with Arms Control Today, STRATCOM declined to outline the assumptions behind the estimates contained in the September letter or clarify whether Haney has disavowed the 10 percent estimate. In a March 17 e-mail, STRATCOM spokesman Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell said, “I would refer you back to the Admiral’s testimony” and quoted from the exchange with Larsen.

Meanwhile, high-ranking Defense Department officials continue to warn that the United States may not be able to afford the growing cost to sustain and modernize U.S. nuclear forces, especially in light of the spending limits set by Congress in the 2011 Budget Control Act. The Obama administration proposed a major funding hike in the fiscal year 2016 budget request for nuclear weapons programs.

At a March 4 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, said that as the Pentagon starts to actually build new submarines, missiles, and bombers in the early 2020s, it is going to “start to have a problem finding ways to afford these systems.”

“We will work to do that,” Kendall added. “It’s a very high priority, and we will work to do that,” but it will be “a challenge for us,” he said.

U.S. Strategic Command appears to be backing away from a September 2014 estimate that maintaining and modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal “will require close to 10 percent” of the Defense Department budget.

Missile Defense Cost Rises Amid Concerns

April 2015

By Kingston Reif

Admiral Bill Gortney, head of North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, testifies at a March 19 hearing of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee in this video image. (House Armed Services)The Obama administration’s fiscal year 2016 budget request proposes a major increase for ballistic missile defense programs amid concerns from two high-ranking military officials that the country’s current strategy to defeat adversary ballistic missiles is “unsustainable.”

The administration is asking for $9.6 billion for missile defense efforts in fiscal year 2016, an increase of $1.1 billion, or 13 percent, above what the administration requested for fiscal year 2015. In the request for fiscal year 2016, $8.1 billion would be for the Missile Defense Agency (MDA).

Congress appropriated $7.9 billion for the MDA, which is part of the Defense Department, for fiscal year 2015.
The proposal to increase missile defense spending comes as the Navy and Army have raised alarms about the direction of U.S. missile defense policy. In a November 5, 2014, memorandum to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, and Gen. Raymond Odierno, Army chief of staff, wrote that the “present acquisition-based strategy is unsustainable in the current fiscal environment.”

Current ballistic missile threats, they said, “continue to outpace our active defense systems and exceed our Services’ capability to meet Combatant Commanders’ demand.”

The memo calls for the development of a more “holistic approach” to missile defense “that is more sustainable and cost-effective” and places greater emphasis on deterring and preventing missiles from leaving the ground and other means of defense, such as cyber- and electronic warfare weapons.

The memo, titled “Adjusting the Ballistic Missile Defense Strategy,” was first posted on the website of Inside Defense on March 6.

In a Feb. 5 letter, obtained by Arms Control Today, Hagel responded to Greenert and Odierno’s memo by saying U.S. missile defense strategy is “sound” but that the Pentagon would undertake a review to “inform force requirements and related issues” for the fiscal year 2017 budget request.

The United States is currently developing, testing, and deploying a ballistic missile defense system designed to counter ballistic missiles of all ranges in an integrated and layered configuration that provides multiple opportunities to destroy missiles and their warheads after they are launched but before they can reach their targets. The Defense Department spent approximately $105 billion on the system between fiscal years 2002 and 2014, according to a Government Accountability Office report in December 2014.

The MDA is proposing to spend an additional $38 billion between fiscal years 2016 and 2020.

At a March 19 hearing of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), the subcommittee’s ranking member, characterized the Greenert-Odierno memo as “pretty astonishing” and “kind of a vote of no confidence” in U.S. missile defense strategy “from two of the most important people in the military.”

Adm. Bill Gortney, the head of North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, told Cooper at the hearing that the primary concern expressed by Greenert and Odierno is that the current defense approach is “emphasizing being a [missile] catcher and shooting a rocket down with a rocket, which is a very expensive proposition.”

“We’re on the wrong side of the cost curve, and we’re on the wrong side of the operational tempo curve” because the Pentagon is not able to meet the demand for missile defense capabilities around the world, Gortney said.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), the subcommittee chairman, said at the hearing that he was “deeply troubled” by the Greenert-Odierno memo but that he agreed with Hagel that the current missile defense policy is sound. “Missile defense is a core mission; it is not a ‘nice to have,’ it is a ‘must do,’” he said.

Rogers suggested that the caps on military spending imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act are the biggest threat to the missile defense mission. “We must get…budget relief so that this core mission” is “executable,” said Rogers.

It is not clear whether the problems with the current strategy identified by the Navy and Army will lead to major changes to missile defense policy.

At a March 17 conference in Washington, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work announced the creation of an Electronic Warfare Programs Council to direct all Pentagon electronic warfare programs. According to Work, a stronger emphasis on electronic warfare is needed in part to provide additional options to defeat the increasingly sophisticated missile capabilities of U.S. adversaries.

In a March 19 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Philip Coyle, former director of weapons testing for the Defense Department, said that “the basic architecture of U.S. missile defense systems is in doubt because of elements that are not effective, do not exist, or are not achievable for the foreseeable future.” He added that “a major review and reconsideration of America’s missile defense systems is warranted.”

Two high-ranking military officials said the current U.S. strategy to defeat adversary ballistic missiles is “unsustainable.”

Nuclear Weapons Could Require 10% of Defense Budget

Nuclear weapons are expensive. That much has been known for some time. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released reports in December 2013 and January 2015 showing that current plans to maintain and eventually rebuild all three legs of the U.S. nuclear triad and its associated warheads will cost American taxpayers roughly $35 billion per year over the next decade, or five to six percent of the plans for national defense spending. Over the next 30 years, the bill could add up to $1 trillion, according to recent report of the National Defense Panel Review of the 2014 Quadrennial Defense...

Top Russian Official Backs New START

March 2015

By Kingston Reif

Sergey Kislyak, Russian ambassador to the United States, speaks at a conference in Washington sponsored by ExchangeMonitor Publications and Forums on February 18. (Courtesy of ExchangeMonitor Publications & Forums)Russia’s ambassador to the United States reaffirmed his country’s commitment to the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) last month amid questions about the value of the agreement from influential voices in both countries.

Speaking on Feb. 18 at a conference in Washington, Sergey Kislyak said, “I don’t foresee developments—I hope I am right—that would force at least Russia to reconsider its commitment” to New START. The treaty constitutes “a very serious undertaking, and we are taking it seriously,” he added.

Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, also spoke at the conference and reiterated the U.S. commitment to the treaty. “It is [in] times like these that arms control proves its worth,” she said, referring to the current tensions between the United States and Russia over Ukraine. “Arms control measures provide stability and predictability even when other things fall into disarray.”

New START, which entered into force in February 2011, limits the United States and Russia to 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear warheads; 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and long-range bombers; and 800 deployed and nondeployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers, and long-range bombers. Each side has until 2018 to meet the treaty caps. The pact also contains transparency and verification provisions, including on-site inspections, to ensure compliance.

Kislyak’s endorsement of New START comes on the heels of a recent warning by a high-ranking Russian Foreign Ministry official that Moscow could rethink its commitment to the agreement in light of allegedly hostile U.S. actions toward Russia.

“I am not ruling out the possibility that Washington could force us to…adjust our policy in this area,” Mikhail Ulyanov, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control, told RIA Novosti on Jan. 13.

“It would be quite natural, considering the unfriendly nature of U.S. actions [in regard to Russia],” he added.

The United States has condemned Moscow for annexing Crimea and supporting rebel forces in eastern Ukraine. Washington and many of its NATO allies have imposed sanctions against Russia and strengthened the alliance’s eastern defenses.

Ulyanov was not the first Russian official to suggest New START could be at risk due to tensions in the U.S.-Russian relationship over Ukraine.

Last March, shortly after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, unnamed Russian Defense Ministry officials told RIA Novosti and other Russian media outlets that Moscow was prepared to suspend its permission for the United States to carry out inspections as required under New START because “groundless threats to Russia from the U.S. and NATO regarding its Ukrainian policy are considered by us as an unfriendly gesture and allow us to declare a force majeure.” According to the protocol to New START, the only basis for the cancellation of inspections is “circumstances brought about by force majeure,” an unexpected event that is beyond the control of the inspected party.

Meanwhile, the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation in each of the past four years that would have threatened the U.S. ability to implement the treaty.

The version of the fiscal year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act that the House passed last year barred spending any money to carry out the reductions required by New START until Russia met a number of conditions, including “respecting the sovereignty of all Ukrainian territory.” But the Democratic-led Senate opposed this language, and the final bill merely requires a report from the Defense Department stating the reasons that continued implementation of New START is in the national security interests of the United States. (See ACT, January/February 2015.)

In a Feb. 19 interview, a Senate Republican staffer said the new Republican-led Senate would prefer not to “relitigate” New START. The staffer said that “curing” Russia’s violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty will likely be a higher Senate Republican priority, along with pressing ahead with U.S. nuclear weapons modernization plans and guarding against potential Obama administration proposals to reduce U.S. nuclear weapons below New START levels without a new treaty.

Russia’s ambassador to the United States reaffirmed his country’s commitment to the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty amid questions in both countries about the value of the agreement.

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