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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
U.S. Nuclear Weapons

Budget Speeds Cruise Missile Development

March 2015

By Kingston Reif

The Obama administration is proposing to increase spending to accelerate by two years the development of a new nuclear-armed cruise missile, according to budget documents released Feb. 2.

The increase in proposed spending is part of a major funding hike in the fiscal year 2016 budget request for programs to sustain and to rebuild nuclear-armed missiles, submarines, and bombers and their associated nuclear warheads and supporting infrastructure. An updated cost analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released on Jan. 22 estimated that the administration’s nuclear weapons spending plans would cost $348 billion between fiscal years 2015 and 2024 (see box).

Some current and former U.S. defense officials have questioned whether the modernization plans can be implemented as currently conceived, given continued pressure to reduce military spending. (See ACT, September 2014.)

An air-launched cruise missile is flight-tested in February 2012. (U.S. Air Force)The Air Force is seeking $36.6 million in fiscal year 2016 for research and development for a long-range standoff weapon, more than 10 times as much as the $3.4 million that Congress appropriated for the current fiscal year. The new standoff missile, would replace the Air Force’s nuclear-armed air-launched cruise missile (ALCM), which has been operational since 1986. ALCMs are carried by long-range bombers and can attack targets at great distances.

Meanwhile, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semiautonomous agency of the Energy Department, is requesting $195 million to begin refurbishing the existing ALCM warhead that would be delivered by the new missile. That is an increase of $186 million above the fiscal year 2015 appropriation of $9.4 million. The first refurbished warhead is now scheduled for completion in 2025, two years earlier than the NNSA proposed last year.

The fiscal year 2015 budget request delayed development of the new ALCM by three years. An Air Force spokeswoman told InsideDefense.com at the time that the delay was caused by “warhead uncertainty and…continuing fiscal challenges.”

Overall, the administration requested $561 billion for national defense in fiscal year 2016, which includes the Defense Department’s regular budget activities and the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons programs.
This spending proposal is nearly $39 billion above the spending caps set by Congress in the 2011 Budget Control Act. If Congress does not raise the spending caps or cut the president’s budget request down, automatic, across-the-board cuts will have to be made to the request before the new fiscal year starts on Oct. 1.

Triad Spending Grows

The budget request also substantially increases investments in next-generation nuclear submarines, bombers, and land-based missiles.

CBO Updates Nuclear Cost Study

Current U.S. plans to sustain and modernize its nuclear arsenal will cost $348 billion over the next decade, or 5 to 6 percent of the total costs of the Obama administration’s plans for national defense, according to a January report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
The report is an update to the cost study that the CBO released in December 2013, which put the price tag for U.S. nuclear forces between fiscal years 2014 and 2023 at $355 billion. The update estimates the cost between fiscal years 2015 and 2024.
The $7 billion dip from the 2013 estimate is due to “budget-driven delays in several programs, including a three-year delay for the new cruise missile and its nuclear warhead,” the update said.

The CBO spending projection is approximately $51 billion more than the $297 billion 10-year estimate the Defense and Energy departments provided to Congress last year.
The report was released just before the administration’s fiscal year 2016 budget request, which sought increased funding to accelerate the development schedule for the new cruise missile and improve the management of the nuclear force. These funding increases are not reflected in the CBO’s latest cost update.

In a Feb. 2 press briefing at the Pentagon, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work expressed concern about the growing costs of the nuclear mission. “We need to keep the old equipment and systems going,” he said, “but it is becoming more expensive for us to do so and requiring us to divert resources in that regard.”—KINGSTON REIF

    The highest-priority and most costly program remains the Navy’s plan to replace its current fleet of 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines with 12 new subs, called the SSBN(X). Under the Navy’s budget request, the program would receive $1.4 billion in fiscal year 2016, an increase of $100 million above the fiscal year 2015 appropriation. A December 2014 report by the CBO estimated that the cost to build the 12-sub fleet would be more than $100 billion, with the first boat entering service in 2031.

    Proposed funding for the Air Force’s plan to build up to 100 new long-range strategic bombers continues to rise steeply. The Air Force is seeking $1.25 billion in fiscal year 2016, an increase of $332 million over the fiscal year 2015 appropriation. The new bombers are scheduled to enter service in the mid-2020s, and the entire fleet could cost as much as $80 billion to produce, according to some estimates.

    The program to develop a replacement for the current force of 450 land-based Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles also would get a big boost under the administration’s request. The Air Force is requesting $75.2 million for the program, an increase of $68.3 million over the appropriation for the current fiscal year. The potential replacement missile is slated to begin deployment in fiscal year 2027.

    The budget request also includes $1.1 billion in new funding to address the professional and ethical lapses and poor morale plaguing the nuclear force, according to the Associated Press. (See ACT, December 2014.) This proposal would support 1,120 additional military and civilian personnel working on Air Force nuclear issues and accelerate investments in Navy shipyard infrastructure. The Pentagon plans to spend $8 billion for these and other force improvement efforts over the next five years, the AP said.

    Gen. Mark Welsh, chief of staff of the Air Force, warned last month that if Congress fails to raise the budget caps, across-the-board cuts would slash “roughly 66 percent of currently planned [Air Force] funding intended to modernize nuclear systems and infrastructure.”

    Warhead Request Pleases GOP

    NNSA nuclear warhead maintenance and infrastructure programs would receive $8.9 billion in fiscal year 2016, an increase of $667 million, or 8 percent, above the fiscal year 2015 appropriation.

    The NNSA weapons budget would increase spending to rebuild the B61 gravity bomb and ALCM warhead, refresh a key part of the W88 submarine-launched ballistic missile warhead, and build a new uranium-processing facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

    Some Republican lawmakers have criticized previous administration requests for NNSA weapons programs for allegedly not comporting with the spending levels proposed by the administration in 2010 during the ratification debate over the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. This time, however, two Senate Republican staffers praised the fiscal year 2016 NNSA weapons request.

    The budget request “is a good sign and represents the President’s commitment to modernize the [Energy Department] nuclear weapons complex,” one staffer told Arms Control Today in a Feb. 18 e-mail.

    A second Republican staffer said in a Feb. 19 interview that the request is “90 to 95 percent consistent” with what President Barack Obama promised five years ago.

    Although it is unclear what Congress will do to address the mismatch between the budget request and the budget caps, some lawmakers have said they doubt that the budget request for nuclear weapons programs is realistic. In a Feb. 13 interview with Weapons Complex Monitor, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee that oversees the NNSA, said that the agency has “more in [its] total overall budget than we’re going to have, frankly, when we get done with the budget resolution.”

    The Obama administration is proposing to increase spending to accelerate by two years the development of a new nuclear-armed cruise missile.

    President’s ‘16 Budget Calls for Unsustainable, Unnecessary Nuclear Weapons Spending

    On February 2 the Obama administration released its fiscal year (FY) 2016 federal budget request. The request is the administration’s biggest down payment to date on a planned unaffordable and unsustainable nuclear spending binge to rebuild all three legs of the nuclear triad and their associated warheads and supporting infrastructure. The administration’s budget proposal includes significant increases for several strategic nuclear weapons systems, including increase for some programs above what was projected in the FY 2015 budget request (see the chart). Most notably, the budget accelerates...

    CBO: Nuclear Weapons Still Expensive

    By Kingston Reif A new report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released today estimates that the United States will spend $348 billion on nuclear weapons over the next decade, or 5 percent to 6 percent of the total costs of the administration’s plans for national defense. But this is just the tip of the coming budget bow wave. 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 Review. This planned spending encompasses a massive rebuild of all three legs of the existing nuclear...

    Hill Withholds Funds for Work in Russia

    January/February 2015

    By Kingston Reif

    Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) talks with reporters as he walks to the Senate floor for the start of a series of votes on December 12, 2014, the day that the Senate voted to approve the defense authorization bill for fiscal year 2015. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)Congress voted in December to withhold the Energy Department’s $92.3 million fiscal year 2015 budget request for nuclear material security work in Russia amid uncertainty about the future of collaborative efforts between Washington and Moscow in that area.

    Lawmakers also voted to significantly curtail Defense Department Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) programs in Russia.

    Despite the decision not to fund the budget request for the Energy Department programs, unspent money within the department’s nonproliferation account will allow activities in Russia to continue if Moscow agrees to such cooperation, a Senate Appropriations Committee staffer said in a Dec. 19 e-mail to Arms Control Today.

    These provisions were part of the fiscal year 2015 omnibus appropriations and defense authorization bills, both of which Congress passed in December at the end of the 113th Congress. Fiscal year 2015 started on Oct. 1, 2014, and runs until Sept. 30.

    Of the money Congress withheld for Energy Department work in Russia, $25.4 million was taken from the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), and $66.9 million was subtracted from the International Material Protection and Cooperation (IMPC) program.

    In his e-mail, the Senate staffer said that there is enough unspent money left over from previous years’ appropriations and the spending bill that funded the government from Oct. 1 through mid-December to “complete activities” in fiscal year 2015 “and start new activities” if Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz approves them. According to budget figures shown to Arms Control Today, roughly $100 million remains available to continue work in Russia by the Energy Department’s semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) in fiscal year 2015.

    Congress also put constraints on the Defense Department’s nuclear security work in Russia. The defense bill prohibits funding for CTR programs in Russia beyond fiscal year 2015 without specific authorization from Congress. “[T]he traditional manner in which the program’s activities have been carried out in the Russian Federation is no longer necessary and no longer sustainable,” said the explanatory report accompanying the bill. “[S]ecuring and destroying nuclear weapons and nuclear material is now a Russian responsibility and one that the United States should no longer fund without Russian cooperation,” the report added.

    The decline in congressional support for nuclear security work in Russia comes as Moscow has taken steps to wind down cooperation with the United States, putting the future of such cooperation in doubt. (See ACT, December 2014.)

    The omnibus bill provided funding above the budget request for other nuclear security efforts, including an extra $32 million to complete installation of fixed detection equipment to prevent nuclear smuggling at vulnerable border crossings, airports, and small seaports in key countries around Russia and in high-threat areas in the Middle East. The bill also added funds to accelerate efforts to develop a new generation of warhead monitoring technologies and improve capabilities to detect low-yield nuclear tests.

    Despite these increases, the final spending level for Energy Department nonproliferation work fell far short of what the Senate appropriations energy and water subcommittee, which funds the department’s nuclear security programs, approved in July. The full appropriations committee and the full Senate never voted on that bill. Although the subcommittee provided about $825 million, well above the budget request of $638 million for the GTRI and IMPC programs, the omnibus bill reduced their funding to $597 million.

    Instead, the final funding levels for the GTRI and IMPC programs mirror those approved by the House, which withheld funding for work in Russia and funded other activities at roughly the same level as the budget request.

    In the Dec. 19 e-mail, the Senate staffer said that increasing the funding for nonproliferation activities in the omnibus bill “was an uphill battle” for a number of reasons, including the Obama administration’s “inadequate” fiscal year 2015 budget request for nonproliferation “and uncertainty about the future of some of these nonproliferation programs.” In August, 26 senators sent a letter to the White House criticizing the administration’s proposed cuts to nonproliferation programs over the last several years. (See ACT, September 2014.)

    Signed by President Barack Obama on Dec. 16, the omnibus appropriations bill is a $1.1 trillion conglomeration of 12 appropriations bills that had to be passed to keep the government operating. The bill provides funding for agencies covered by 11 of the appropriations bills for the remainder of the fiscal year and continues spending at last year’s funding levels for the Department of Homeland Security until Feb. 27.

    The $577 billion National Defense Authorization Act, which Obama signed Dec. 19, establishes spending ceilings and sets policy for Defense Department and NNSA activities.

    Overall, the omnibus bill includes approximately $8.2 billion for nuclear weapons activities conducted by the NNSA, an increase of roughly $406 million from last year’s funding level.

    New Cruise Missile Funded

    The omnibus bill includes a compromise between the Senate and House to provide $9.4 million, the amount the NNSA had requested, to study a refurbishment of the warhead for the nuclear-armed air-launched cruise missile (ALCM). The funding figure essentially split the difference between the House, which initially approved $17 million for the study, and the Senate, which provided no funding for the concept study. (See ACT, November 2014.)

    According to the Senate staffer, the bill makes no commitment to ultimately fund a life extension program for the ALCM warhead. The bill mandates that before the NNSA moves beyond the concept study phase, the NNSA must provide Congress with a report on the military requirements and preliminary cost and schedule estimates for a refurbishment effort.

    The omnibus bill also requires the defense secretary to submit a report to Congress “describing the requirements, anticipated missions, programmed funding by fiscal year, and current program schedule” for the new missile that will carry the refurbished warhead. The Air Force’s fiscal year 2015 budget request delayed the new missile program by three years. According to an aide for Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), the outgoing chairman of the defense appropriations subcommittee, the “general intent” of the report “is to have [the Defense Department] better explain” the acquisition strategy for the new missile program.

    Meanwhile, the defense authorization bill dilutes provisions in the original House bill regarding the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), Russia’s alleged noncompliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, and the maintenance of U.S. Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) silos. The House bill barred the spending of 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.” 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.

    Similarly, the House bill required the Defense Department to prepare a plan for developing new U.S. intermediate-range missiles in response to Russia’s alleged INF Treaty violation, but the final bill asks for a report on steps being taken or planned by the department to respond to the violation (see story below). Moreover, while the House bill demanded the maintenance of 450 operational Minuteman III ICBM silos without an end date for that requirement, the final bill requires the maintenance of the silos only until 2021.

    Missile Defense Scrutinized

    Personnel at the Missile Defense Integration and Operation Center on Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado work at the test control facility during the flight test of a ground-based interceptor on June 22, 2014. (Missile Defense Agency)The defense bill includes provisions to strengthen congressional oversight of U.S. missile defense programs. One section requires that prior to production or deployment of “a new or substantially upgraded interceptor or weapon system of the ballistic missile defense system,” the defense secretary must ensure “sufficient and operationally realistic testing” of the system and that the testing results demonstrate “a high probability” that the system “will work in an operationally effective manner.” The provision also requires the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation to provide an assessment of the “sufficiency, adequacy, and results of the testing.”

    Another section requires the defense secretary to commission an independent study on the testing program of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system. The study must include “an assessment of whether the currently planned testing program” for the missile system “is sufficient to establish reasonable confidence that the…system has a high probability of performing reliably and effectively.”

    Plagued by rushed development, cost overruns, and test failures, the GMD system is designed to protect the United States from limited missile attacks by Iran and North Korea. A total of 30 interceptors are currently deployed in Alaska and California. The Pentagon is planning to deploy an additional 14 interceptors in Alaska by the end of 2017.

    Overall, the omnibus bill provided $1.1 billion for the GMD system, including $43 million more than the administration requested to upgrade the Capability Enhancement II kill vehicle. The bill also funded the administration’s $99.5 million request to begin work on a redesigned kill vehicle for the system. (See ACT, July/August 2014.)

    Congress voted in December to withhold the Energy Department’s $92.3 million fiscal year 2015 budget request for nuclear material security work in Russia...

    America Mustn’t Overspend on its Nukes

    In his Nov. 25 New York Times op-ed “ America Mustn’t Neglect Its Nukes ,” Elbridge Colby urges the nation to stop aspiring to eliminate nuclear weapons, stop worrying about nuclear deterrence, and willfully pay the trillion dollar price tag to replace the entire nuclear triad. Colby complains that apathy and even hostility toward the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security strategy from prominent voices in and out of government is part of the problem. In a similar vein, Robert Spalding complains in the Washington Post that “it erodes morale and encourages perpetually low funding...

    Pentagon Releases Nuclear Reviews

    December 2014

    By Kingston Reif

    In the wake of professional and ethical lapses and poor morale in the U.S. nuclear force, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced on Nov. 14 the results of two reviews of the Defense Department’s management of nuclear weapons and the steps the department is taking to address the numerous setbacks.

    At a press briefing at the Pentagon, Hagel said that an internal and an external review “found evidence of systematic problems that if not addressed could undermine the safety, security, and effectiveness of the elements of the force in the future.” He attributed the problems to “a lack of sustained focus, attention, and resources, resulting in a pervasive sense that a career in the nuclear enterprise offers too few opportunities for growth and advancement.”

    The Air Force, particularly the service’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) force, has been embarrassed by revelations over the past two years of failed nuclear security inspections at ICBM bases, misconduct by senior nuclear commanders, and cheating by missileers on performance tests. In response, Hagel in January ordered internal and external reviews of all U.S. nuclear forces. (See ACT, March 2014.)

    Hagel announced numerous steps intended to fix the problems plaguing the force. These include changing the conduct of inspections to reduce the burden on airmen and sailors, eliminating micromanagement of nuclear personnel seen as overtaxed by excessive bureaucratic and administrative requirements, and elevating the head of Air Force Global Strike Command, which oversees the Air Force’s nuclear forces, from a three- to a four-star rank. Hagel also said the Defense Department will request a 10 percent annual increase in funding for nuclear weapons over the next five years. This will come on top of the $15-16 billion the department currently spends annually on the weapons.

    Hagel, who announced his resignation on Nov. 24, emphasized the “critical role” nuclear weapons play in U.S. national security. “No other capability we have is more important,” he said.

    The newly completed analyses are the sixth and seventh reviews of the nuclear enterprise the Defense Department has undertaken since 2007, when a B-52 bomber was mistakenly flown across the United States with six nuclear-armed, air-launched cruise missiles on board.

    Hagel said that earlier reviews “were implemented without the necessary follow-through to assess that they were implemented effectively.” He pledged that senior department leaders would ensure that the new recommendations are being effectively implemented.

    Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced on Nov. 14 the results of two reviews of the Defense Department’s management of nuclear weapons and the steps the department is taking to address the numerous setbacks.

    Nuclear Weapons Budget Still Ripe for Savings

    Current and former U.S. government officials and military leaders have repeatedly stated that present plans to rebuild the U.S. nuclear arsenal – which could add up to $1 trillion over the next 30 years – are unaffordable given existing budget constraints. This massive price tag comes at a time when other national security bills are coming due, Congress has mandated reductions in planned military spending, and the United States has more nuclear weapons than it needs for its security. Given this state of affairs, reshaping the current nuclear spending blueprint to comport with the fiscal and...

    Air Force Nuclear Reviews Miss the Forest for the Trees

    At a Nov. 14 press conference , Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced the release of two reviews, one internal and the other external, on the Pentagon nuclear weapons enterprise. Ordered in response to the revelations about troubling lapses and poor morale in the nation’s nuclear forces, particularly the ICBM force, the reviews found what Hagel described as “systematic problems.” Hagel attributed the root cause of these shortcomings to “a lack of sustained focus, attention, and resources, resulting in a pervasive sense that a career in the nuclear enterprise offers too few opportunities...

    25 Years After the Fall of the Berlin Wall, the Enduring Value of Nuclear Arms Control

    Sections:

    Body: 

    Volume 6, Issue 11, November 7, 2014

    Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has rightly aroused concern in Western capitals about Moscow’s commitment to international peace and security and a rules-based international order. These concerns are compounded by troublesome Russian behavior in the nuclear arena, such as the testing of a ground-launched cruise missile in violation of the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and not so subtle reminders from Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia is strengthening its “nuclear deterrent capability.”

    Russia’s belligerence has prompted calls from some in the United States to abandon long-standing bipartisan arms control efforts to reduce the Russian nuclear threat.

    Some members of Congress have proposed mimicking Moscow by placing a greater premium on nuclear weapons in U.S. national security strategy.

    But this would be a mistake. Moscow’s challenge to Europe requires a tough and unified response, but the challenge can’t be effectively resolved with nuclear weapons or the buildup of nuclear capabilities.

    In a Sept. 8 opinion piece in Foreign Policy, Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) stated that Russia's development of new nuclear capabilities should accelerate plans to modernize U.S. nuclear weapons "and perhaps even develop new nuclear systems."

    Similarly, former George W. Bush administration official Stephen Rademaker recently argued in The Washington Post that the Obama administration should punish Russia by suspending implementation of the reductions mandated by the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START)and cease efforts to further reduce excess U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons.

    Heeding these calls would be counterproductive and self-defeating. U.S. presidents from both parties have long recognized the value of arms control agreements in constraining and reducing Russian nuclear forces. While current tensions between the United States and Moscow may preclude new negotiated agreements in the near term, the arms reduction process has survived similar downturns in the past, and remains in the national interest today.

    Nuclear Weapons and the Ukraine Crisis

    To date, the United States and European Union have responded to Russian moves in Ukraine and Crimea primarily with economic sanctions, financial and limited military assistance to Ukraine, and conventional military support to NATO countries, particularly the alliance’s easternmost members that border Russia.

    U.S. nuclear forces have not played a significant role in the current tensions over Ukraine. The nuclear component of the U.S. response has been limited to sending nuclear-capable B-2 and B-52 aircraft to Europe to participate in military exercises. The deployment of the bombers is largely seen as a symbolic gesture meant to reassure NATO allies alarmed by Russian actions. The calls from Eastern European allies for reassurance have been almost exclusively for non-nuclear measures.

    The unparalleled destructive power of nuclear weapons makes them unusable in all but the direst of circumstances. Given the catastrophic impacts of using just a handful of nuclear weapons, deterring their use can be achieved with a far smaller nuclear force than the arsenal of 4,800 weapons the United States currently possesses.

    Nuclear weapons are especially irrelevant to the strategy of “hybrid war” that Russia has pursued in Ukraine and which some NATO officials fear could be deployed against the alliance’s eastern flank.  A recent article in the Financial Times described the Russian approach as “a broad range of hostile actions, of which military force is only a small part, that are invariably executed in concert as part of a flexible strategy with long-term objectives.” These tactics fall well below the threshold that makes threatening or using nuclear weapons rational or credible.

    In fact, an overreliance on nuclear weapons could make preventing future Russian misbehavior more challenging. For example, many NATO members are skeptical of the continued deployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. According to former British Secretary of State for Defense Lord Des Browne, this situation is a “godsend” for Russia, which is eager to exploit fissures in the alliance. In addition, the money spent on maintaining a bloated nuclear arsenal is money that can’t be spent to help Ukraine’s economy or provide central and eastern European allies with additional conventional military support.

    Responding to Russia’s INF Violation

    The State Department’s 2014 arms control compliance report released in July found “that the Russian Federation is in violation of its obligations under the INF Treaty not to possess, produce, or flight-test a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with a range capability of 500 km to 5,500 km, or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles.”

    The United States government has not published details of the violation. Sources told the New York Times in January 2014 that the missile of concern – which may not be intended to deliver nuclear weapons – has not yet been deployed. The Obama administration has taken up the issue with the Russians, but Washington remains unsatisfied with Russia’s explanation for the tests.

    The Obama administration should publicly criticize Russia for its violation of the INF treaty, consider steps to make Russia pay a price for its actions, and engage with Moscow in an attempt to bring it back into compliance with the agreement. However, withdrawing from the INF treaty, stopping implementation of other arms control treaties, or ceasing pursuit of future agreements would not serve U.S. interests.

    In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan continued to observe the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Moscow despite its determination that a large radar located at Krasnoyarsk in Siberia violated the treaty. It also engaged in negotiations with the Soviet Union on the INF treaty and Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty during this period. It took time, but diplomacy worked and the Soviets eventually tore down the radar.

    Likewise, building new nuclear capabilities to counter Russia would be unwise. The U.S. military does not have a requirement for new INF-range missiles. Forcing the Pentagon to spend money on such hardware would suck funds from investments for which there are requirements. In addition, trying to find hosts for new intermediate range missiles would have political costs.

    Overall, the implementation record of arms control agreements with Russia has been highly successful—which is why both Republican and Democratic presidents have pursued such agreements. Without these efforts, Russian forces would be unconstrained, our ability to verify what Russia is doing would be curtailed, and the incentives to engage in a costly arms race would be magnified.

    The Case for Further Reductions

    Over the last 40 years, the United States and Russia have reduced their stockpiles of nuclear weapons to the benefit of U.S., Russian, and global security. Successive administrations, on a bipartisan basis, have reduced the U.S. nuclear arsenal as a way to draw down Russia’s arsenal, build international support for nonproliferation, and save money. These rationales still hold true today.

    Paradoxically, the current tensions with Russia reinforce the value of arms control agreements such as New START. The United States and Russia are no longer adversaries like they were during the Cold War and the risk of a deliberate nuclear exchange is exceedingly low. However, by verifiably capping U.S. and Russian deployed nuclear forces, the treaty bounds the current tensions between the two countries.

    Blocking implementation of New START would be a major propaganda victory for Moscow and could cause it to renege on its own commitments under the treaty. This would limit the U.S. ability to verify the size and composition of the Russian nuclear stockpile, thereby driving up the worst case assessments of military planners, leading to a potentially costly surge in weapons procurements.

    Even under New START, the United States and Russia are allowed to deploy as many as 1,550 strategic nuclear weapons with thousands more in reserve. After an extensive review of nuclear deterrence requirements, U.S. military leaders concluded last year that the United States could safely reduce the size of its deployed strategic arsenal by up to one-third below the New START levels.

    In the past, U.S. nuclear weapons reductions have provided an incentive for Russia to similarly reduce the number of nuclear weapons aimed at the United States, via both formal treaties and unilateral cuts. Today, Russia is already well below the New START limit on deployed delivery vehicles. While Russia is aggressively modernizing its nuclear forces, some observers expect Russia’s stockpile to continue to decline as its largest and most heavily loaded missiles reach the end of their lifetimes and are retired.

    Russia has so far resisted U.S. offers to negotiate further cuts below News START, and given current tensions between the two sides over Ukraine and INF Treaty compliance issues, further negotiated treaty cuts seem unlikely in the near term. However, the United States and Russia have continued to cooperate on other risk reduction goals, such as constraining Iran’s nuclear program, destroying Syrian chemical weapons, and securing dangerous nuclear and radiological materials. Likewise, disagreements over Ukraine should not reverse the overall trend toward smaller nuclear arsenals.

    One option is for the United States and Russia to informally agree to reciprocally reduce their deployed strategic arsenals to 1,000 warheads and 500 delivery systems. According to a 2012 report by the Secretary of State’s International Security Advisory Board, this lower level could be verified using the New START verification provisions and reduce Russia’s incentive to build back up to New START levels and deploy new delivery systems.

    Continued U.S. and Russian nuclear reductions are a necessary condition for including other nuclear-armed states in the arms control process, most notably China. If the United States and Russia fail to further reduce their arsenals, China, which is believed to possess less than 300 nuclear warheads, is unlikely to consider capping the size of its arsenal and could instead speed up efforts to increase the capability and size of its arsenal.

    There are also strong financial reasons for the United States to consider retiring excess weapons. The congressional mandate for significant reductions in projected military spending could force reductions to the U.S. arsenal with or without Russian reciprocity.

    A December 2013 Congressional Budget Office report estimated the cost of the Obama administration’s nuclear weapons spending plans at $355 billion over the next decade. But this is just the tip of the spending iceberg. Over the next 30 years, the bill could add up to $1 trillion.

    Faced with increasing pressure to reduce military spending, a bipartisan, independent report commissioned by Congress and the Defense Department recently called the Obama administration’s plans to rebuild the nuclear arsenal “unaffordable” and a threat to “needed improvements in conventional forces.” Russia also faces significant financial constraints, as a drop in global oil and natural gas prices, the growing costs of the war in Ukraine, and the impact of Western sanctions have taken a significant toll on Russia’s economy.

    Now is the time to reevaluate existing spending plans before major budget decisions are made.

    Calls to place a greater emphasis on nuclear weapons in response to Russian revanchism is not the magic bullet that some critics make it out to be.  The marginal utility of the 4,799th and 4,798th warheads in the U.S. stockpile is next to nil. Pursuing common sense arms control measures and reshaping U.S. nuclear policy to comport with current security and fiscal realities makes sense as a way to reduce excess U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons and free up resources to address the most 21st century security challenges. – KINGSTON REIF

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    Moscow’s challenge to Europe requires a tough and unified response, but the challenge can’t be effectively resolved with nuclear weapons or the buildup of nuclear capabilities.

    Country Resources:

    Congress Leaves Nuclear Issues in Limbo

    November 2014

    By Kingston Reif

    Lawmakers left Washington for November’s congressional elections without resolving a host of key nuclear weapons policy and budget decisions for fiscal year 2015, which began Oct. 1.

    Congress failed to pass a final National Defense Authorization Act, a sweeping bill that establishes spending ceilings and legislative guidelines for Defense Department programs and the activities conducted by the Energy Department’s semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). The initial House and Senate versions of the legislation contain different policy provisions on issues ranging from implementation of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) to nuclear security cooperation with Russia.

    Congress also did not approve any fiscal year 2015 appropriations bills, opting instead to extend the previous fiscal year’s funding levels until Dec. 11. The absence of new legislation leaves unsettled a disagreement between the House and Senate about whether to fund the administration’s plans for a new fleet of nuclear-armed air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs).

    Meanwhile, Pentagon officials continue to raise doubts about the feasibility of the overall U.S. nuclear modernization plan in the face of projected military spending reductions mandated by Congress in the 2011 Budget Control Act. Plans to maintain and rebuild the nuclear triad of air-, land-, and sea-based weapons and their associated warheads could cost $355 billion over the next decade, according to a December 2013 analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

    The USS Wyoming, an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine, returns to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia on June 28.  The Navy is planning to replace the Ohio-class submarines, but the cost of the replacement is prompting a debate in Washington. (U.S. Navy)Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, told reporters on the sidelines of the Air Force Association’s annual meeting on Sept. 17 that nuclear modernization is “a big challenge” and “a lot of things [will] have to be paid for at the same time,” according to the Breaking Defense website. Two weeks later, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus stated at a press briefing that the country must begin a debate about how to pay for the cost of building a fleet of 12 new, nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines. He added that if the Navy is forced to foot the entire bill, it would “break something else” in the Navy’s budget.

    In comments at an Oct. 7 roundtable discussion with reporters, Andrew Weber, outgoing assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical, and biological defense programs, said the growing cost of nuclear weapons “causes us to have to take a hard look at the priorities. What are the trade-offs? Is [the] current strategy affordable and executable, or does it need to be modified?”

    The White House is currently overseeing an interagency review of the multibillion-dollar modernization plans, which will inform the administration’s fiscal year 2016 budget request to Congress. (See ACT, September 2014.)

    House GOP Targets New START

    The House version of the defense authorization bill seeks to prohibit funding to implement New START reductions until Russian armed forces “are no longer illegally occupying Ukrainian territory” and Russia “is respecting the sovereignty of all Ukrainian territory.” The bill would also condition funding for New START on a return by Moscow to compliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) and Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaties.

    The U.S. State Department determined earlier this year that Russia is in violation of its obligations under the INF Treaty. (See ACT, September 2014.) Russia suspended its implementation of the CFE Treaty in December 2007.

    The House passed its version of the defense authorization bill on May 22 by a vote of 325-98. The next day, the Senate Armed Services Committee passed its own version, which does not place constraints on New START implementation. The full Senate has yet to debate the committee measure.

    The Republican majority in the House has sought to legislate curbs on implementation of New START in every defense authorization bill it has passed since the treaty entered into force in 2011. But the Democratic-led Senate successfully watered down or blocked these efforts in the final version of the bills.

    The pending House legislation also seeks to place certain restrictions on the Pentagon’s and the NNSA’s nuclear material security cooperation programs with Russia (see page 28). In addition, it requires the maintenance of 450 operational Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) silos. The provision does not include an end date for that requirement.

    The Senate bill, on the other hand, does not restrict nuclear security cooperation activities with Russia. The Senate legislation also does not include a directive on how many ICBM silos the Pentagon must keep.

    The schedule for final passage of the defense authorization bill remains uncertain. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said in late September that he expects Congress to pass a bill when lawmakers return during a postelection session.

    Levin also said that members and staff of his committee and its House counterpart have begun meeting behind closed doors to discuss reconciling differences between the two bills.

    New Cruise Missile in Doubt

    Meanwhile, the House and Senate Appropriations energy and water subcommittees allotted different amounts for the ALCM warhead life extension program for fiscal year 2015.

    The Senate subcommittee did not fund NNSA’s $9.4 million request to study refurbishment of the warhead, citing concerns that the Air Force has yet to identify sufficient funding to design and build a new cruise missile to deliver a life-extended warhead. The Air Force’s fiscal year 2015 budget request delayed the new missile program by three years.

    In contrast, the House of Representatives approved $17 million for the study of the cruise missile warhead.

    The fiscal year 2015 appropriations legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama on Sept. 19 funds all government programs at last year’s levels from Oct. 1 to Dec. 11. According to a congressional staffer, the NNSA cannot spend money on the ALCM warhead study under the law, known as a continuing resolution, because the program is considered “a new start” that was not funded in fiscal year 2014.

    At the Oct. 7 discussion, Weber said that the administration is examining whether the United States could “live with perhaps either delaying or forgoing the follow-on to the ALCM,” given that the B61 gravity bomb is undergoing a major upgrade.

    It is unclear what kind of appropriations legislation Congress will pass once the current legislation expires on Dec. 11. One option is to approve another short-term continuing resolution. Another option, which Congress chose last year, is to pass an omnibus appropriations bill that provides new funding for Defense Department and NNSA programs.

    Lawmakers left Washington for November’s congressional elections without resolving a host of key nuclear weapons policy and budget decisions for fiscal year 2015.

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