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

– Frank Klotz
former Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration
March 7, 2018
Kingston Reif

Bolton Renews New START Criticism


September 2019
By Kingston Reif

National Security Advisor John Bolton has continued to disparage the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), casting further doubt on the future of the agreement as the Trump administration seeks a more comprehensive nuclear arms control deal.

National Security Advisor John Bolton (right) listens to U.S. President Donald Trump at a July 18 White House meeting. Recent Bolton comments have created doubt that the United States will seek to extend New START. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)Echoing comments he made in a June interview with the Washington Free Beacon, Bolton told the Young America Foundation’s annual National Conservative Student Conference on July 30 that “while no decision has been made,” New START is “unlikely to be extended.” (See ACT, July/August 2019.)

New START “was flawed from the beginning,” Bolton said, noting that it “did not cover short-range tactical nuclear weapons or new Russian delivery systems.”

“Why extend a flawed system just to say you have a treaty,” he added. “We need to focus on something better, and we will.”

New START caps deployed U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals at 1,550 warheads, 700 missiles and heavy bombers, and 800 missile launchers and bombers each. The treaty is slated to expire in February 2021, but can be extended for up to five years by agreement of the U.S. and Russian presidents.

Previously, Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed interest in an extension, but Russia has raised concerns about U.S. implementation of the treaty that it says must be resolved.

Other administration officials have echoed Bolton’s criticism. Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters on Aug. 2 that New START should include the new longer-range strategic weapons Russia is developing, Russia’s larger arsenal of shorter-range nonstrategic weapons, and other nuclear powers, namely China.

Bolton’s latest denunciation of the treaty came just days before the U.S. withdrawal from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty on Aug. 2. New START is now the only remaining agreement constraining the size of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals. If the treaty disappears with nothing to replace it, there will be no legally binding limits on the size of the two arsenals for the first time in nearly half a century.


 


Despite Bolton’s criticism, U.S. military leaders continue to tout the benefits of the treaty, including Vice Admiral David Kriete, deputy commander of the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM).

“When it comes to…New START…from a STRATCOM perspective, we like the idea of arms control agreements, particularly with Russia, that provide us with some level of assurance that at least a portion of their nuclear forces are capped,” he told reporters July 31.

He added that New START “has a very, very robust verification regime…. If we were to lose that for any reason in the future, we would have to go look for other ways to fill in the gaps for the things we get from those verifications.”

Trump told reporters at the White House on Aug. 2 he has “been speaking to Russia about…a pact for nuclear—so that they get rid of some, we get rid of some.”

“We’d probably have to put China in there,” he added, claiming that “China was very, very excited about talking about it, and so is Russia.”

Trump administration officials have provided few details on how they would persuade Russia to limit broader categories of weapons and China to participate in arms control talks for the first time. (See ACT, June 2019.)

Fu Cong, director-general of the arms control department at the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said on Aug. 6 that “given the huge gap between the nuclear arsenals of China and that of the U.S. and the Russian Federation, I don’t think it is reasonable or even fair to expect China to participate in an arms reduction negotiation at this stage.”

Despite White House opposition, Democrats and Republicans in Congress are expressing their support for New START.

By a vote of 236–189, the House on July 11 approved an amendment to the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act offered by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) that would express the view of Congress that the United States should seek to extend New START unless Russia is determined to be violating the agreement or a better agreement is negotiated. Every Democrat, along with five Republican lawmakers, voted to approve the amendment.

The provision, which is based on a bipartisan “Richard G. Lugar and Ellen O. Tauscher Act to Maintain Limits on Russian Nuclear Forces” bill originally introduced in May by Engel and Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas), would also require several briefings and reports, including an intelligence assessment of how the expiration of New START would affect the size and posture of Russian nuclear forces and the additional intelligence capabilities the United States would need to compensate for the loss of the treaty’s extensive transparency and on-site monitoring provisions.

In addition, the provision would prohibit the use of fiscal year 2020 funds to withdraw from the treaty unless Russia is determined to be in material breach of the agreement.

The Senate version of the defense authorization bill does not include similar language, but some senators are speaking up.

On Aug. 1, Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) introduced legislation modeled after the Engel-McCaul bill that calls for an extension of the treaty.

Prospects for extending the treaty appear to be weakening under U.S. criticism.

Boeing Bows Out of New ICBM Competition


September 2019
By Kingston Reif

The Boeing Co. announced in July that it would not bid on the contract to develop a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) system amid controversy in Congress about the project’s rationale and viability.

A Minuteman III missile stands ready in its silo in North Dakota. Plans to replace the land-based component of U.S. nuclear weapons were disrupted in July, when Boeing Co. announced it would not bid on the program. (Photo: U.S. Air Force/Getty)“After numerous attempts to resolve concerns within the procurement process, Boeing has informed the Air Force that it will not bid [on] Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) under the current acquisition approach,” said Todd Blecher, a company spokesman.

First reported by Inside Defense on July 24, the company’s exit leaves Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. as the only company left competing for the contract.

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 EMD contract to produce and deploy the system. The service planned to award the contract in the summer of 2020.

Boeing complained, however, that Northrop had “unfair advantage” in the competition after acquiring last year the firm Orbital ATK, one of the nation’s two producers of solid rocket motors. Boeing has asked the Pentagon to adjust the bid acquisition parameters, but it remains to be seen how the Defense Department will respond.

If the department stays the course and moves ahead without competition, it would have less leverage to control costs. There is no precedent for the absence of competition for a development contract the size of the GBSD program.

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.

The Trump administration’s fiscal year 2020 budget request included $570 million for research and development for the GBSD program and $112 million to continue the design of the W87-1 warhead to replace the W78 warhead currently carried by the Minuteman III. (See ACT, April 2019.)

The Air Force initially estimated the cost of the GBSD program at $62 billion after inflation, but the Pentagon in August 2016 set the estimated acquisition cost of the program at $85 billion. The $85 billion estimate is at the lower end of an independent Pentagon cost estimate that put the acquisition price tag as high as $150 billion. (See ACT, March 2017.)


 


The Defense Department completed another independent cost estimate of the program in June, but has yet to disclose whether the projected cost of the program has changed.

The Air Force argues that a new ICBM is necessary because the fleet of 400 deployed Minuteman III missiles is aging into obsolescence and losing its capability to penetrate adversary missile defenses. According to the report of the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, the life of the Minuteman III “cannot be extended further.”

A 2014 Air Force analysis, however, did not determine that extending the life of the Minuteman III is infeasible. Instead, the study found that the price to build a new missile system would be roughly the same as the cost to maintain the Minuteman III.

The service arrived at this conclusion by comparing the total life-cycle cost of the two options through 2075 and assuming a need to deploy 450 missiles for the entire 50-year service life of the new missile system.

Critics of the GBSD program claim that if the requirements for 450 missiles, a 50-year service life, and new capabilities are relaxed, then it is possible to extend the life of the Minuteman III for a period of time beyond 2030 and at less cost than the current approach.

The Congressional Budget Office projected in 2017 that $17.5 billion in fiscal year 2017 dollars could be saved through 2046 by delaying development of a new ICBM by 20 years and instead extending the life of the Minuteman III by buying new engines and new guidance systems for the missiles. (See ACT, December 2017.)

Citing concerns about the need for and ability to execute the GBSD program as planned, the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and defense appropriations bill passed by the Democratic-led House this summer eliminated the Pentagon’s funding request to proceed to the main development phase of the GBSD program.

Both bills also halved the funding request for the W87-1 warhead and cut $241 million from the Energy Department’s request of $712 million to expand the production of plutonium pits to at least 80 per year in support of the W87-1 life extension program.

A draft version of the House NDAA also would have required an independent study on the benefits, risks, and estimated cost savings of extending the life of the Minuteman III through 2050 and delaying the GBSD program. The provision was stripped out during the House Armed Services Committee’s markup of the bill in June.

An amendment to restore the provision on the House floor failed by a vote of 164–264.

The Republican-led Senate Armed Services Committee fully funded the administration’s request for the GBSD program, W87-1 warhead, and plutonium-pit production.

Pentagon plans to replace U.S. ICBMs are disrupted by contractor difficulties.

U.S. Nuclear Warhead Costs Still Rising


September 2019
By Kingston Reif

The estimated cost of sustaining U.S. nuclear warheads and their supporting infrastructure continues to rise, according to the Energy Department’s latest annual report on the Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan. Prepared by the department’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the July report illustrates the rising cost of the government’s nuclear mission as the Trump administration implements the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, which calls for expanding U.S. nuclear weapons capabilities. (See ACT, March 2018.)

The fiscal year 2020 iteration projects more than $392 billion in spending, after inflation, on agency efforts related to sustaining and modernizing the nuclear weapons stockpile over the next 25 years. This is an increase of $13 billion from the 2019 version of the plan. (See ACT, December 2018.)

The NNSA states that the projected growth in spending is “affordable and executable,” but the projected cost of the plan falls at the low end of an estimated range of $386 billion to $423 billion. The agency has historically struggled to complete large infrastructure and facility recapitalization projects on time and on budget.

Overall, the Trump administration is requesting $37.3 billion in fiscal year 2020 for the Defense and Energy departments to sustain and modernize U.S. nuclear delivery systems and warheads and their supporting infrastructure, an increase of about $2 billion from the fiscal year 2019 appropriation. (See ACT, April 2019.)

Of that amount, the NNSA is requesting $12.4 billion for its weapons program, an increase of $1.3 billion from the fiscal year 2019 appropriation and $530 million from the projection for fiscal year 2020 in the fiscal year 2019 budget request.

A major source of projected growth in the new stockpile plan is in the area of nuclear warhead life-extension programs. The total cumulative costs over 25 years for these programs increased by approximately $4 billion from the 2019 estimate.

The plan attributes the higher projected costs to “2018 Nuclear Posture Review implementation, refined requirements that increase scope complexity, accelerated production schedule milestones, updated assumptions for future warheads, and the escalation costs of a future year replacing a lower-cost early year.”

The estimated cost under the plan to upgrade the warhead for the existing air-launched cruise missile rose to $11.2 billion, an increase of $1.2 billion from the estimated cost as of last year’s plan.


 


The estimated cost of the B61 life extension program held steady at $7.6 billion, but the department reported that the program “is experiencing an unresolved technical issue related to the qualification of electrical components used in non-nuclear assemblies,” which is expected to delay the previously planned first production-unit date of March 2020. (See ACT, June 2019.) The plan states that additional “testing is required to ascertain the impacts and whether a change in initial operational capability dates are necessary.”

The NNSA Office of Cost Estimating and Program Evaluation projected in 2017 a total program cost of approximately $10 billion and a two-year delay to the agency’s first production-unit date. (See ACT, June 2017.)

The stockpile plan notes that the NNSA’s goal remains to produce at least 80 plutonium pits per year as directed in the Nuclear Posture Review. (See ACT, June 2018.)

That goal may be difficult to reach. The Institute for Defense Analyses, a federally funded research organization, reported in April that the agency’s 80-pit goal by 2030 cannot be met. The institute’s study found “no historical precedent to support” achieving such a capability by 2030.

In addition, the stockpile plan reveals that the NNSA and Pentagon have established a “Deeply Buried Target Defeat Team…to determine future options for defeating such targets.” This suggests the administration could consider the development of a new earth-penetrating nuclear weapon. (See ACT, December 2005.)

The Trump administration forecasts spending $392 billion next year to maintain U.S. warheads.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper Indicates There are no Immediate Plans to Nuke Afghanistan

News Source: 
Task and Purpose
News Date: 
August 28, 2019 -04:00

American Specialist: We Must Know the Truth About the Explosion Near Severodvinsk

News Source: 
Хартия'97
News Date: 
August 28, 2019 -04:00

Nuclear Missile Replacement Program at a Crossroads

News Source: 
National Defense
News Date: 
August 23, 2019 -04:00

Russia Accuses U.S. Of Stoking 'Military Tensions' With Cruise-Missile Test

News Source: 
Radio Free Europe
News Date: 
August 19, 2019 -04:00
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