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U.S. Nuclear Weapons

ACA Executive Director Daryl Kimball's Prepared Remarks for the November 13, 2003 Workshop on "The Implications of a New Era in


Sponsored by the Institute of Nuclear Materials Management

For Immediate Release: November 13, 2003

Press Contacts: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107;

I want to thank the members of the Institute for putting this session together and for inviting me to provide some perspectives and observations on the subject of arms control in a new era of international relations and security. This panel is focused on the future of U.S./Russian arms control, which I believe remains of vital importance. I would also like to note that the Arms Control Association's concept of and program focus on arms control goes beyond U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear weapons to cover the full range of conventional, chemical, biological, and nuclear arms challenges, as well as the strategies to deal with them.

Adjusting and Redoubling Arms Control and Nonproliferation Efforts

Let me start by sketching out a diagnosis of and prescription for dealing with today's nuclear security challenges.

While there remain substantial, festering Cold War nuclear dangers, it is abundantly clear that today's Russia is certainly not yesterday's Soviet Union and the major threats to U.S. security are, as President George W. Bush has said repeatedly, international terrorism and the acquisition of nuclear weapons, nuclear material, and other WMD by additional states or non-state actors. We certainly are in a post-post Cold War era of international relations that requires a recalibration of our approaches to dealing with WMD threats and responses.

In my view-and of many in the broader arms control community-the situation demands renewed dedication to arms control and nonproliferation strategies that were pioneered and championed by the United States over the course of the last several decades. The historical record shows that these strategies have been highly successful, though they are clearly not foolproof. We and other states have not met every challenge with appropriate determination. Nor have we and other states been consistent in our pursuit of nonproliferation objectives. Nevertheless, they have been and continue to be an indispensable tool in our national security toolbox. While the new, immediate concern is the possession of dangerous weapons in the hands of dangerous states and terrorists, the problem we face is not simply the intersection of WMD and terrorism, but ultimately it is the very existence of these weapons and the capability to build them, whether by so-called "friendly" or "unfriendly" actors.

As a consequence, I would summarize the overall nuclear security agenda over the next few years along the following lines:

· One set of key tasks involves making much more rapid progress on finishing the task of eliminating Cold War nuclear dangers, including the verifiable elimination of excessive and costly U.S. and Russian strategic and tactical arsenals and delivery systems, as well as expediting and improving our cooperative efforts to safeguard and dispose of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons assets in the former Soviet Union, and, where and when we can in other places, such as the recent U.S.-Russian announcement regarding efforts to retrieve spent HEU fuel from Eastern European states;

· Another priority must be to reinforce key elements of the still evolving nuclear nonproliferation regime, such as improved IAEA safeguards, better physical protection of nuclear facilities and accounting for nuclear materials worldwide, achieving agreement on a global halt to fissile material production for weapons, establishing more stringent controls over the nuclear fuel cycle to limit the proliferation of the most weapons-relevant technologies, and improved monitoring and verification capabilities and institutions in a range of areas.

All of these efforts and more are needed to prevent the emergence of new nuclear-armed states and are essential to impeding terrorist acquisition of nuclear weapons and materials.

Our nonproliferation strategies must also take into account that proliferation and arms racing is invariably motivated and driven by the existence of underlying political and security problems and the perception that nuclear weapons are credible and legitimate tools of foreign and military policy. Consequently, the United States must reconsider and truly diminish the role of nuclear weapons in our own foreign and military policies and strategies and refrain from developing a new class of nuclear weapons and reinforce, not erode, the global nuclear test moratorium. A "do as I say, not as I do" nuclear doctrine and nonproliferation policy is not a prudent long-term strategy.

To me this represents a monumental arms control agenda that requires vigorous U.S. commitment to achieving arms control and nonproliferation results. I do not claim that arms control and nonproliferation measures can address every security threat, nor is it likely that all of these initiatives can be achieved in the near term. But to meet today's proliferation challenges, the nonproliferation regime must be strengthened, not abandoned.

Arms Control Is Dead Because the Cold War Is Over? Wrong.

Nevertheless, it is fashionable these days in some circles to declare arms control, and strategic nuclear arms control in particular, a dead strategy because strategic nuclear arms control was a response to the U.S.-Soviet Cold War nuclear rivalry and the Cold War is over.

With Russia now listed for now in the "friendly state" category, and with new threats from new enemies on the horizon, the argument goes, the United States needs a more flexible approach to nuclear arms control that allows us to re-size, reconfigure, and possibly add new nuclear weapons capabilities.

That approach was outlined rather cogently by Linton Brooks and has been codified, so to speak, with the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), the 2002 Nuclear Posture Review, and recent congressional authorization and appropriation decisions to allow research on new and modified nuclear warheads that could, at some future stage, lead to design engineering, development, testing, and production of new nuclear weapons.

Let me turn briefly to SORT, which is also known as the Moscow Treaty, and the pursuit of new U.S. nuclear capabilities, which have become the defining elements of the U.S./Russian strategic arms relationship.

The Moscow Treaty

In my view, it is simplistic and shortsighted to consider arms control a strategy of the past and to believe that the Moscow Treaty allows us to check off the strategic arms control box from the foreign policy to do list.

The Moscow Treaty is useful for what it is: a short statement that binds the United States and Russia to reduce operationally deployed nuclear weapons within a decade. It requires each side to reduce their deployed strategic warheads from about 5,000-6,000 today to no more than 2,200 by 2012.

The administration is to be commended for committing to force reductions that have been delayed for years. But beyond that, the Moscow Treaty is significant not so much for what it is, but what it isn't. In contrast to past agreements, such as START I, it does not restrict or mandate the destruction of strategic missiles and bombers.

The new treaty does not require the destruction of a single nuclear warhead. The new agreement does not even outline a timetable for withdrawing deployed strategic warheads from service. As a result, the treaty allows each side to store warheads withdrawn from service, making them more readily available for redeployment on strategic delivery systems.

At a July 9, 2002 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Secretary of State Colin Powell admitted that the United States could increase its deployed strategic forces from 2,200 warheads to 4,600 warheads within three years of the treaty's 2012 deadline, which expires the same day that it enters into force.

As Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) has noted, if Russia follows the U.S. storage policy, this will increase the long-term burden of safeguarding Russia's already vast and insecure nuclear weapons complex and require additional U.S. and European financial and technical assistance.

Quite simply, the United States should pursue its past goal of verifiably dismantling excess nuclear warheads and provide greater U.S. funding for assistance to Russia to do so.

In stark contrast to past agreements, the Moscow Treaty contains no additional verification provisions. The White House asserts that this "trust without verification" formulation suits the more amicable U.S.-Russian relationship. To ensure compliance, the Bush team suggests that our national technical means of intelligence gathering and existing START verification provisions will suffice. However, the START agreement is due to expire in 2009, three years before each side is due to comply with the terms of the new treaty. As a result, U.S. intelligence experts cannot assure that the United States can, with high confidence, verify Russia's warhead totals after 2009.

Though proposals to expand data sharing and improve confidence in compliance with the agreed force reductions were considered by U.S. and Russian negotiators, the two sides failed to close a deal on such measures.

President Bush has made the bold and erroneous claim that the treaty "will liquidate the legacy of the Cold War." But in reality, the proposed size of the deployed U.S. arsenal ten years from now would be roughly the same as the 2,000-2,500 levels of the proposed START III framework approved by the U.S. Strategic Command in 1997.

Though the United States and Russia are no longer enemies, the force size allowed by the new treaty and dictated by the Pentagon's recent nuclear posture review is still very much based on Cold War requirements to counter Russia's nuclear and conventional military forces.

Absent such requirements, I challenge anyone in the administration to describe the future threat scenarios that require the deployment of more than a few hundred survivable nuclear warheads, let alone 2,200 warheads with thousands more available for rapid redeployment.

In sum, the agreement's emphasis on flexibility detracts from its predictability, lessening its value in building a more stable and secure U.S.-Russian relationship.

There is much left to be done. There are few signs at the moment that there is much interest doing them.

The False Promise of New Nukes

The Bush administration's vision for the role of nuclear weapons also includes the expansion of U.S. nuclear weapons capabilities designed to counter emerging nuclear and non-nuclear threats.

The pursuit of new nuclear weapons capabilities, now in the research phase, also represents an unnecessary and ultimately counterproductive response to the post-9/11 security threats to our nation. Expanding or adapting the U.S. nuclear arsenal to try to dissuade and deter new adversaries from pursuing, acquiring, and using chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons provides little or no additional military value while it risks undermining vital efforts to prevent proliferation and mobilize international support against proliferators.

As President John F. Kennedy noted in 1963, "A nation's security does not always increase as its arms increase…and unlimited competition in the testing and development of new types of destructive nuclear weapons will not make the world safer." The pursuit of new nuclear weapons erodes the nonproliferation norms established over the last four decades and will likely encourage other states to match or counter the U.S. bid.

Proponents argue that, by reducing the weapons' explosive yields, collateral damage can be minimized to the point that they become "usable." But a "small" nuclear blast, with just 1/13 the power of the Hiroshima bomb, detonated at a depth of 20-50 feet, would eject more than a million cubic feet of radioactive debris. If used to target chemical or biological weapons, nuclear strikes would probably spread, rather than destroy, the deadly material.

It is possible to improve the depth of penetration of weapons to destroy deeper targets, but these weapons are hardly "usable." The "robust" bunker-busting nuclear warheads types now under study-the B61 and B83-are not small, but rather high-yield, city-busting behemoths with yields capable of exceeding 100 kilotons.

A nuclear weapon, however big or small, is still a weapon of mass destruction. So long as nuclear weapons exist, their role should be limited to deterring their use by others. The key to holding a potential adversary's buried chemical or biological weapons at risk is better intelligence and more effective conventional munitions, not the threat of nuclear attack.

During his 2000 election run, President Bush aptly called nuclear weapons "obsolete weapons of dead conflicts." He's right. How is the W88 warhead going to help us hunt down Osama? How will the B61 Mod. 11 help us deal with Russia's nuclear cooperation with Iran? How will a new round of nuclear testing help us restrain Indo-Pakistani nuclear and missile competition that could increase the risk of a nuclear war in that region?

While the Cold War conflict may be gone, the weapons that grew out of that age are still with us and our decades-long addition to them has not yet ended. The role of nuclear weapons can and should be limited to deterring nuclear attacks by others, and with the likelihood of nuclear attack by Russia as low as it is today, our nuclear arsenal, and that of Russia can and should be irreversibly and verifiably reduced.

In sum, writing off nuclear arms control as a key element in U.S. national security in the interest of keeping open our nuclear weapons options is a losing strategy that shortchanges our security.

Thank you for your attention.

* Delivered remarks may have differed slightly from this text.

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The Arms Control Association is an independent, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to promoting public understanding of and support for effective arms control policies to address security threats posed by nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, as well as conventional arms.

Arms Experts Rap Congress for Backing Bush Administration's Nuclear Weapons Ambitions; A "Setback" for Addressing Global Nuclear



For Immediate Release: November 7, 2003

Press Contacts: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107;
Christine Kucia, Research Analyst, (202) 463-8270 x103

(Washington, D.C.): A congressional decision announced today to allow the Bush administration to further explore new nuclear weapons is a “serious error that will be a setback to U.S. efforts to persuade and prevent other nations from developing nuclear weapons,” according to the Arms Control Association, a nonpartisan membership organization dedicated to promoting effective arms control policies.

As part of their consideration of the fiscal year 2004 defense authorization bill, House and Senate legislators complied with a White House request to repeal a 10-year-old ban on research leading to development of new nuclear weapons with yields of less than five kilotons, so-called “low-yield” weapons. They also approved Bush administration proposals to continue researching new types of nuclear “bunker busters” to destroy targets deep underground and shorten the time required to prepare for a full-scale nuclear test from 24 months to 18 months.

“Congress and the Bush administration have made a mistake by opening the door to a new wave of global nuclear weapons competition. The diplomatic and security costs of the Bush administration’s proposals to explore new nuclear weapons far outweigh any marginal benefits such arms might yield,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

“This sends a dangerous message that will hamper U.S. efforts to prevent other nations from developing nuclear weapons,” he warned.

Lawmakers have signaled that they also harbor some unease with the administration’s plans to reinvigorate U.S. nuclear weapons research and test preparations. While supporting research into new low-yields weapons, legislators withheld authorization to actually engineer, develop, and test new or modified nuclear bombs. And earlier this week, congressional appropriators cut proposed 2004 funding for studying bunker busters in half-from $15 million to just $7.5 million-and barred the Department of Energy from spending $4 million of an approved $6 million for new weapon concepts until it submits a report on U.S. nuclear stockpile requirements.

This congressional skepticism may help head off future, more dangerous Bush administration nuclear arm proposals, Kimball noted. “Further efforts by this or another administration to win necessary congressional approval for engineering, development, and testing of new or modified nuclear weapons will be vigorously opposed and must be defeated,” he said.

Expert scientists have contradicted the arguments made by proponents of “low-yield” nuclear weapons, saying that new and “smaller” nuclear warheads are dirty, dangerous, and unnecessary. Dr. Sidney Drell, a Stanford University physicist and longtime advisor to the U.S. nuclear program, wrote in Arms Control Today in March, “Even a lower-yield, one-kiloton nuclear warhead (1/13 the size of the Hiroshima bomb) detonated at a depth of 20-50 feet would eject more than one million cubic feet of radioactive debris, forming a crater about the size of ground zero at the World Trade Center.” Drell added, “The result would be a highly contaminated zone and atmospheric fallout that would endanger civilians, as well as military personnel who might be ordered into the area.”

The perceived “usability”of such weapons is a dangerous notion, Kimball argued. “Nuclear weapons should not be considered just another weapon in our arsenal. They are mass terror weapons whether used by the United States or another country,” he stressed.

# # #

The Arms Control Association is an independent, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to promoting public understanding of and support for effective arms control policies to address security threats posed by nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, as well as conventional arms.

Defense Science Board Calls for New Nuclear Weapons Capabilities

The Defense Science Board (DSB) is recommending that the United States scale back its current reserve nuclear weapons stockpile and develop lower-yield nuclear weapons that cause less collateral damage. The recommendation is contained in a yet-to-be-released study completed this summer and first reported by Jane’s Defence Weekly Oct. 22. The board is a civilian panel charged with advising defense leaders on scientific and technological matters.

According to documents obtained by Arms Control Today, the study entitled “Future Strategic Strike Forces” suggests that the U.S. arsenal does not meet current and future threat requirements. The board cites a “different, more complex threat environment” that may not be appropriate for the “legacy weapons” that the Department of Energy maintains. The stockpile stewardship program, which may cost up to $6.4 billion in fiscal year 2004, according to the president’s budget request, uses science-based programs to ensure the safety and reliability of U.S nuclear weapons without using explosive testing.

Calling for a “strategic redirection” of stockpile stewardship priorities, the report recommends scaling back weapons life-extension programs in favor of focusing on a “more relevant” nuclear weapons stockpile. According to the study, a future nuclear stockpile should contain weapons that have “great precision, deep penetration, [and] greatly reduced radioactivity” as well as special electromagnetic pulse and neutron bombs, “all with reduced fission yield.” The board also recommends streamlining the nuclear weapons complex to be “agile and responsive” to meet the new needs of the U.S. arsenal. In addition, the study suggests reducing the nondeployed stockpile in line with the U.S. nuclear posture.

Many of the DSB’s recommendations fall in line with current U.S. priorities as outlined in the 2002 Nuclear Posture Review and reinforced in the Bush administration’s fiscal year 2004 budget request. As part of the new “capabilities-based” approach touted in the review, the Departments of Defense and Energy are currently studying whether an existing nuclear design can be modified to destroy hardened and deeply buried targets, and defense officials are seeking permission to research a low-yield nuclear weapon. In addition, the Energy Department requested funding to compress the preparation time for a nuclear weapons test so that it can be executed in 18 months or less. (See ACT, March 2003.)

The DSB study also suggests expanding response capabilities to include new non-nuclear options. Broadening the number of non-nuclear options may reduce dependence on nuclear capabilities, sources told Jane’s Defence Weekly. The DSB recommends developing new options such as earth-penetrating weapons using conventionally armed ballistic missiles, microwave weapons, and high-energy lasers.

Senate Okays Funds for Nuclear Weapons Research

Christine Kucia

The Republican-led House and Senate are at odds over whether to fund new nuclear weapons initiatives proposed by the Bush administration. The Senate’s fiscal year 2004 energy and water appropriations bill, approved Sept. 16, funds continued research on the controversial nuclear earth penetrator, accelerated nuclear test readiness, and exploration of new weapons technologies. Meanwhile, the House version, approved July 18, makes considerable cuts to these items. (See ACT, September 2003.) The differences will be hammered out in a House-Senate conference, likely to take place in October.

The administration has been encouraging Congress to modernize the nuclear arsenal for some time. More recently, a Sept. 11 “Statement of Administration Policy” sent to the Senate prior to the appropriations vote noted that full funding for nuclear research programs “will help lay the foundation for transforming the [n]ation’s Cold War era nuclear stockpile into a modern deterrent suited for the 21st century.” A post-vote letter from Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham to GOP Sens. Pete Domenici (N.M.) and John Warner (Va.) praised the Senate for keeping the president’s nuclear weapons initiatives in the bill and urged the senators to ensure the measures are sustained in conference with the House.

Attempts by Democratic senators to block the measures largely fell short. An amendment on the floor by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) to eliminate the funding for the earth penetrator and for new weapons technologies, as well as to bar funds from being used to shorten the test readiness period, failed 53-41. Democrats achieved a small victory, however, when the Senate passed by voice vote an amendment by Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), which would restrict weapons funding to research only and ensure that the administration consults with Congress before developing new nuclear weapons. The amendment mirrors one approved by the Senate during debate over the defense authorization bill in May. (See ACT, June 2003.)

During her floor speech, Feinstein warned that developing new weapons will harm U.S. nonproliferation objectives: “Indeed, by seeking to develop new nuclear weapons ourselves, we send a message that nuclear weapons have a future battlefield role and utility.” Kennedy stressed that appropriating the funds would be the first in a series of destabilizing measures that could make nuclear war more likely, and he told The New York Times Sept. 17, “We are fully committed to staying after the issue.” But Republican Sen. Jon Kyl (Ariz.) had a different take. “[W]e now have the capability of delivering weapons very precisely. Wouldn’t it be better to do that, even in a nuclear context, than the one we are in now?” he asked during the Sept. 15 floor debate.




The Republican-led House and Senate are at odds over whether to fund new nuclear weapons initiatives proposed by the Bush administration. 

Missile Defense Technologies Still a Work in Progress

Wade Boese

A year before the Pentagon is scheduled to field the initial elements of the ground-based midcourse missile defense (GMD) system in Alaska, a majority of its critical technologies remain unproven, a recent U.S. government report found. In addition, the Sept. 23 report from the congressional watchdog General Accounting Office (GAO) chided the Bush administration for failing to plan a test of the radar tasked with tracking incoming ballistic missiles before the system is to become operational.

The GAO report said that only two of 10 critical technologies for the proposed GMD system were ready for integration into a working system, though the other technologies were appraised as “nearing completion.” However, GAO warned that, in general, hurrying to put systems together before all the technologies are demonstrated “increases the program’s cost, schedule, and performance risks.”

There are essentially three main elements of the proposed GMD system: the missile interceptors; radars; and the battle management command, control, and communications center. Satellites will also aid the system.

The Pentagon’s current plan calls for six missile interceptors to be deployed at Fort Greely, Alaska, and four at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, by Oct. 1, 2004. Initial radars will be located in Alaska, California, and on a mobile sea-based platform, and the battle management center is in Colorado. The satellites envisioned to detect and track an enemy missile launch are behind schedule, so the Pentagon will initially rely on existing, older-model satellites to fulfill that role.

Cued by satellites to a hostile missile launch, the radars are supposed to track and relay data on the missile’s trajectory to the battle management center, which then formulates an intercept plan and feeds that to the interceptor. A booster powers the interceptor into space, where the interceptor’s exoatmospheric kill vehicle (EKV) will separate from the booster and home in on the enemy target through radar updates passed through the battle management center, as well as its own onboard infrared sensors, for a high-speed collision.

GAO rated the EKV’s infrared sensors and the battle management center’s fire control software as the most mature technologies. It assessed the radars as being the furthest behind in development.

Located on the western tip of the Aleutian Islands, the Cobra Dane radar is intended to gather and provide the key tracking data on an incoming missile, but it is currently unable to perform real-time data processing and communication. The Cobra Dane radar will receive upgraded software in 2004 so it can do these missions, but no plans exist to test the radar against in-flight targets for the next three years.

The Pentagon contends that it does not have the funding available to carry out a test using sea- or air-launched targets of the radar before next fall. If the opportunity arises, the Pentagon says it could test the radar, which is fixed to face northwest, by trying to track foreign, namely Russian, missile test launches or U.S. space and missile launches.

Even with its intended upgrades, the Cobra Dane radar would not effectively be able to separate out a warhead from decoys and from debris potentially traveling alongside it. For this mission, the Pentagon is seeking to put a more advanced X-band radar on a mobile sea-based platform, which will permit it to be moved around to meet changing threats.

The sea-based X-band radar is not yet built and is expected to become operational sometime in 2005. Though the Pentagon professes confidence that this radar will work properly, GAO suggested severe wind and sea conditions could impair its performance.

Putting all these technologies together to form a working GMD system will cost about $21.8 billion, according to the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA). That estimate covers the period 1997 to 2009 but does not include personnel, maintenance, and systems engineering costs.

The ground-based system is just one of the missile defense options being explored. MDA estimates that missile defense spending, including GMD funds, will total about $50 billion between fiscal years 2004 and 2009.




A year before the Pentagon is scheduled to field the initial elements of the ground-based midcourse missile defense (GMD) system in Alaska, a...

Bush's Bipolar Disorder and the Looming Failure of Multilateral

Peter Hayes

Many U.S. “experts” and the Bush administration believe that the United States came out of the August 2003 six-party talks aimed at halting North Korea’s nuclear weapons program in a stronger position than it went in—not least because the D.P.R.K. (North Korea) upset the other states, particularly Russia and China, by threatening to test nuclear weapons while the United States lined up with the other states to advocate a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula.

Unfortunately, these pundits and the White House are wrong. A more nuanced assessment of the talks indicates that the outcome may be far less favorable to the United States—and for nonproliferation—than the Bush administration asserts. Rather than shore up Chinese support for the U.S. position, the talks drove a wedge between Washington and Beijing. These discussions also served to highlight the disarray in U.S. policy toward Pyongyang.

Contrary to the blithe talk of hard-liners, the lack of the progress to date and the poor prospects for future talks have revealed the limits of political and military coercion to achieve nonproliferation goals in Korea. They also point to the failure of U.S. policymakers to exploit North Korea’s economic dilemmas in ways that increase mutual security and reduce and eventually eliminate the proliferation threat. Unless the United States shifts gears and develops a more practical and realistic set of proposals for a verifiable end to the North Korean plutonium and highly-enriched uranium programs, Kim Jong Il is likely to walk free with nuclear weapons before the end of President George W. Bush’s current term.

U.S. Policy Disputes

Unfortunately, U.S. policy is hamstrung by the president’s unwillingness to resolve the relentless internal policy turmoil that pits hardliners who want to squeeze Kim Jong Il’s regime with undeclared sanctions until it falls against those who favor pragmatic engagement and bargaining.

Indeed, the Bush administration suffers from bipolar disorder. The administration’s erratic swings from limited diplomatic engagement one day to “personal” statements by Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton prefiguring the collapse of North Korea the next, and then back to engagement the day after that reveals a real lack of strategic coherence on the Bush administration’s part. However, recent trends favor engagement—partly because the hard-liners have been forced to pull in their horns by the deteriorating situation in Iraq. Nonetheless, it is evident that the Bush White House is not yet ready to accept any answer from North Korean, short of complete surrender. Certainly it would take presidential leadership to do so—as former North Korea negotiator Ambassador Jack Pritchard emphasized when he resigned on the eve of the six-party talks.

Underlying these contending policy currents are very different views on the nature of the political-economic processes underway in North Korea. Rather than standard strategic calculi relating to deterrence and “compellence1,” the pivot of the Korean nuclear issue turns on economic rather than military power, a reality lost on many pundits.

Many hard-liners in Washington doubt the plausibility of any scenario whereby North Korea ultimately relinquishes its nuclear weapons as part of a trade-in scenario. They appear to believe the following.

· The Kim Jong-Il clique is irrevocably committed to its corrupt economic base and to obtaining nuclear weapons at any cost, even of having an economy. Therefore, the only U.S. policy options (embodied in the Proliferation Security Initiative) are either to induce a coup, squeeze it to collapse, or ratchet up sufficient pressure to force outright capitulation.
· The more the North Koreans play with nuclear fire, the more it will hurt itself by alienating its vital economic partners China and Russia.
· If North Korea goes nuclear, then the United States, allies, and friends will contain North Korea until it disarms or collapses.
· The only way to contain North Korea is for other states to share the burden and to maximize U.S. leverage over Pyongyang by building a global coalition—the construction of which will require much time and effort. This edifice would be built on principles of anti-terrorism, elimination of criminal exports (drugs, arms), nonproliferation, human rights, etc. Until it is built, which principle or set of principles will lead to multiple agreements between North Korea and external powers (including the United States) remains unknown.

Far from preparing to engage, therefore, the hard-liners have maneuvered
furiously to block pragmatic moves by the Department of State, specifically those that would engender an urgent bilateral deal (for example, putting a refreeze of plutonium activities first, followed closely by a declaration and freeze of enrichment activities).

Economic Transition or Stasis?

The hard-liners view of North Korea stems from a fundamentally flawed analysis of the North Korean economy and Kim Jong Il’s motivations.

The North Korean economy may be at rock bottom now, but it is slowly on the way up. In the meantime, Kim Jong Il’s most important dilemma is maintaining momentum and political-military control of his territory and populace. In particular, the conventional North Korean military wants a growing economy in order to modernize. An unhappy conventional military does not serve Kim Jong Il’s rule.

The most important recent development in North Korea has not been Pyongyang’s bluster about its nuclear arsenal but quiet moves priming the North Korean economy for future growth and insulating it from any international sanctions or quasi-sanctions. First, many rural, provincial, and border communities have shifted to a local make-shift economy from whatever resources they can mobilize. Second, the big nationals—the cities, the national leadership, and the military—rely on extracting a surplus from these local make-shift economies and on external support—especially from China. Third, these players also charge rent on trade, investment, and financing arrangements with third parties such as Taiwanese and South Korean firms, labor exports to Russia, subvention from overseas Koreans in Japan, etc. The Bush administration’s Proliferation Security Initiative2 can chase missile-carrying airplanes or ships around the world, but it cannot make a dent in these fundamental dynamics.

Relatedly, the “marketization” of the North Korean economy, at least at the local level, and the breakup of state monopolies and creation of proto-markets and competition between national agencies is underway. The combination of thousands of
local survival initiatives and the national dynamics of institutional reform ensure the permanence and irreversibility of the present economic transition. So long as absolute living standards do not crash again, increasing productive efficiency suggests that Kim Jong Il’s totalitarian pyramid of power will be politically stable for the foreseeable future. It is anticipated that this trend will accelerate over the coming years as the North Korean economy continues to gradually shift toward markets. In this way, Pyongyang is likely to follow a course first charted out by its two most influential neighbors, South Korea and China.

Much more likely than collapse or a coup dreamed about by hawks in Washington is the possibility that, within a decade, big party bosses and players in North Korea will be operating vertically and horizontally in integrated trading empires that look, feel, and sound like South Korean chaebols, such as Hyundai and Daewoo, with global operations but concentrated on a zone of urban-industrial commerce and manufacturing along the northern side of the DMZ. There will be at least a dozen or so North Korean billionaires selling real estate at Panmunjon. The big question is: Will they be armed with nuclear weapons? How this question is answered will depend on whether the United States is willing to play a constructive role in this nascent economic reform process or stand aside while it happens.

China’s Role

So far, the Bush administration has been unwilling to do so. Hard-liners assume that time is on their side, with economic pressure squeezing the North Korean economy while Pyongyang’s obduracy costs it the support of key regional players, most importantly China. But the hard-liners are not only wrong about the North Korean economy, they are also wrong about China. Far from consolidating China’s determination to hold North Korea accountable for its violations of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the recent talks have actually widened the distance between Beijing and Washington. China has played a key role as host of the Beijing talks, first with just the United States and North Korea and then with six parties including Russia, Japan, and South Korea. It also serves as North Korea’s economic lifeline, providing most of its food and fuel. The hope among Washington’s hard-line critics is that Pyongyang would behave so dangerously as to drive Beijing to its knees.

This analysis rests on false assumptions about China and overlooks key elements shaping its strategy toward Pyongyang— most critically how it views events on the peninsula through the prism of its own foreign policy goals, especially reunification with Taiwan. These Chinese goals actually give North Korea more leverage over China than many hard-liners appreciate.

Given its vital interests, China places first priority on stability of the Korean Peninsula. Beijing wants to avoid a flood of North Korean refugees and needs South Korean investment, trade, and finance. The Chinese are also aware that there are limits to their ability to coerce North Korea, as Pyongyang can just as easily deploy its nuclear weapons to target Beijing as Seoul, Tokyo, or Washington. That comes on top of their continued need to reassure North Korea that China will oppose regime change and, if necessesary, even support the North Korean military against unilateral U.S. attacks. Most critically, they want to prevent Washington from successfully using coercion to get its way in Northeast Asia, fearing this would set a precedent for the United States to militarily intervene in a reunification war should Taiwan declare independence.

The Chinese have made it absolutely clear that they will militarily back the North Koreans if they judge the United States, not North Korea, to have escalated tension in Korea to the point of war. As noted above, the Chinese see everything in North Korea through a prism related to Taiwan. Americans should be under no illusion that China has “abandoned” its interest in North Korea, provided Pyongyang keeps its nuclear capacities suffiently quiet and underground so that they are not perceived as an immediate threat by North Korea’s neighbors.

Indeed, if the Chinese needed any reminding of the stakes involved, the North Koreans provided it. Those conversant with North Korea’s long-standing distrust of China, especially since Beijing recognized Seoul without insisting on U.S. cross-recognition of Pyongyang in the early 1990s, were not surprised by North Korea’s threat to test at the end of the talks. This was a deliberate poke in China’s eyes designed to bring home Pyongyang’s frustration that Beijing had not reined in U.S. unilateralism. It underscored North Korean views that further talks were pointless.

It was no accident that China quickly moved to hold the United States accountable for the lack of progress in the talks. Beijing blamed the United States for dragging its feet and insisting on an unrealistic “North Korea acts first, we negotiate later” stance.

To be sure, the Chinese have also read the riot act in Pyongyang, telling North Korea that Beijing will view any North Korean nuclear activities (such as a test) as dangerous and provocative. This “advice” may have led the North Koreans not to display their latest missile on North Korea national day in September.

Still, the Chinese now are letting policymakers in Washington know that the United States has to shape up in the next round of talks or there may not be one, at least not with China as host. Thus, China’s support for the U.S. position has become more contingent on a major shift in U.S. policy toward pragmatism. At a minimum, the United States will have to put enough tangible, new proposals on the table to keep the talks alive.

Thus, the burning question for all parties (which could number seven as the European Union may join) at the next round of talks is whether the United States will unfold its own road map that all parties can sign onto in different ways.

A Ukrainian Solution?

The failure to offer a U.S. initiative would risk the collapse of the talks and any hope of constraining the North Korean nuclear program. Fortunately, the empirical evidence of irreversible change in North Korea combined with authoritative policy statements and rational self-interest indicates that North Korea may accept an affordable trade-in price paid by the U.S. and others for North Korea’s nuclear capacities. There is an important precedent for such an outcome. In the mid-1990s, Ukraine—which had possession of some 1,900 former Soviet nuclear warheads—agreed to get rid of them all in exchange for security assurances, economic support, and energy assistance. Such a result did not come easily or cheaply and required the dedicated attention of President Bill Clinton and international partners. There were numerous members of the Ukrainian leadership who feared giving up their nuclear deterrent force, who saw the missiles as symbols of Ukrainian status and power. But in the end, Ukraine agreed to relinquish the weapons and embrace Europe and the world.

It is possible that this model could work for North Korea as well. As with Ukraine, energy assistance, economic aid, and security guarantees are at the heart of North Korea’s diplomatic goals. China, Russia, South Korea, and the United States are all, for the first time, on relatively good terms; together, they could engage North Korea in a way that assured its goals would be met, but only in exchange for an accelerated and verified dismantlement of Pyongyang’s nuclear capability.

Underlying this view is the observation that North Korea’s leadership faces multiple, conflicting trade-offs and dilemmas and that nuclear weapons are a means, not an end. An appreciation of the real pressures on Pyongyang, plus a differing estimate of the willingness of the Kim Jong-Il clique to make the shift from a corrupt, criminal economic base to a normal commercial national economy, are at root the difference between doctrinaire hard-liners and tough-minded pragmatists. Following the former’s policy prescriptions risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Of course, there is no way to provide “proof positive” that North Korea’s leadership can survive the roller-coaster ride if such a transition is underway, or to refute the view that Kim Jong Il’s clique is unable to make the shift from a corrupt, criminal economy toward a normal one nested in world markets. But as bad as an “actually existing” North Korea may be, the replacement could be worse, including possibly more motivated nuclear export racketeers or civil war and loss of central control over fissile material or actual nuclear weapons. The stakes are so high that it is imperative that the United States fully test the proposition that North Korea’s nuclear weapons program can be bought out while precision-guided markets and nongovernmental programs transform North Korea from the inside out.

The North Koreans continue to probe U.S. intentions and the mood in Washington to see what the traffic might bear. It is still not too late to test North Korean intentions in return. The United States holds the key to this door. So long as it lists North Korea as a terrorist state, international institutions such as the World Bank will not allow it to join. Without such intermediaries, countries such as Japan and major corporations will not kickstart and invest in North Korea’s economy.

Bipolar Disorder in Washington

Provided the United States is willing to put something new on the table, it is likely there will be a third round of talks. North Korea has shifted slightly from insisting on a written nonaggression pact, and U.S. officials are working on nontreaty ways of offering a security guarantee to North Korea that would save face but mean little given the realities at the DMZ.

But fundamentally, until and unless the United States is willing to drive a set of stakes in the ground that indicate what it is willing to do for Pyongyang and when, and what North Korea must do in reciprocal, interdependent fashion, the talks will not achieve President Bush’s goal of peacefully resolving the nuclear issue in Korea. There is no shortage of pragmatic visions for dealing with Pyongyang, including grand schemes for comprehensive settlements,3 lesser steps forward one foot at a time,4 and detailed technical schemes for the hardest question of all— monitoring and verifying the lack of clandestine enrichment activity.5 What is missing is political will from the White House.

Meanwhile, North Korea may be pursuing feverishly its nuclear weapons and thereby increasing their political-military value and their potential trade-in price. By now, Pyongyang may have successfully
reprocessed the spent fuel stored at Yongbyon since 1994, in which case it
already has the fissile material to manufacture up to eight plutonium-based nuclear weapons.

Given the slow pace of past and future multilateral talks relative to possible North Korean proliferation activity, the Bush administration is stunningly serene about the prospect that North Korea will simply play its nuclear hand once and for all. Some officials say that, if it were to do so, then the international response would be overhelming. When asked for a game plan or precedent to this effect, they are silent. Similarly, the administration has no specific format in mind for a multilateral pact with North Korea.

In fact, the White House appears to be relying on Kim Jong Il to slice his nuclear salami paper-thin, rather than cut off big chunks by testing and deploying. This is risky as it places the initiative in Pyongyang rather than Washington.

Wild Cards

Unfortunately, American history in Korea is full of rude surprises and strategic miscalculations. Pushed hard enough, the North Koreans may conduct an underground, low-yield subcritical test that would keep everyone guessing and increase the ambiguity created by their nuclear weapons. In this “Green Flash” scenario, North Korea would walk free with nuclear weapons while the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative chases their exports.6 Just to complicate the situation, Pyongyang might invite inspectors back into North Korea at this juncture or if the situation on the peninsula veered back toward war, as it has in the past with little notice,7 they could export a nuclear weapon, perhaps the most dangerous outcome of all.8

Or North Korea could conduct a transparent, above-ground nuclear test and hang tough, the so-called Boom Boom scenario. This outcome might suit the hard-liners in that it would justify their previously-held views. Yet, it might prompt unilateral U.S. military strikes that would risk all-out war on the Peninsula and even with China. More likely, it would portend the United States drifting away from the Korean Peninsula while other powers cut their own deals with Pyongyang and respond to a chain reaction of nuclear proliferation in other Asian states. Should President Bush be reelected, and should Iraq be stabilized, it is conceivable that he would then decide to take action seeking to reverse the North Korean rush across the nuclear redline. But by then, U.S. power to affect the situation will have dwindled while our uncertainty as to what North Korea actually has will have increased greatly.

If these outcomes are unacceptable to the White House, then some other factor must trigger President Bush’s attention between now and the elections, preferably earlier rather than later. Perhaps the Democratic presidential candidates will start to beat the administration publicly for a failed North Korea policy rather than ducking for cover on the issue. Perhaps Pyongyang will simply collapse and go away. However, wishful thinking is a poor basis for breaking the link between weapons of mass destruction and terrorism in the case of North Korea.



1. The term compellence was devised by the scholar Thomas C. Schelling, Arms and Influence (Greenwood Press, Wesport, Ct. 1976). It describes a more complex strategy than simple “deterrence.” A compelling threat is an active or offensive strategy taken on the initiative of the threatener while a deterrent threat is described as a promised reaction to an adversary whose potential action evokes a specified response.

2. Announced May 31 by President George W. Bush in Poland, the Proliferation Security Initiative seeks to bolster the resolve and capabilities of participating countries to intercept shipments of WMD, missiles, and related technologies to terrorists and countries of proliferation concern. The United States has made no secret that North Korea is a primary target of the initiative even though it is ostensibly not aimed at any specific countries. Washington has enlisted 10 other countries—Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom—in the initiative and says that it will seek to broaden the effort as much as possible.

3. M. O’Hanlon, A ‘Master Plan’ to Deal with North Korea , January 2003, Brookings Institution, available at http://www.nautilus.org/DPRKBriefingBook/uspolicy/Michael.html.

4. M. Armacost, D. Okimoto, G.W. Shin, Addressing the North Korea Nuclear Challenge, Asia-Pacific Research Center, Stanford University, April 15, 2003, available at http://www.nautilus.org/DPRKBriefingBook/uspolicy/APARC.html.

5. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Nautilus Institute, Verifying DPRK Nuclear Disarmament, A Technical Analysis, 2003, available at http://www.nautilus.org/DPRKBriefingBook/monitoringVerification/CEIP=WP_38_Nautilus=final.pdf.

6. See Nautilus Institute, A Korean Krakatoa? Scenarios for the Peaceful Resolution of the North Korean Nuclear Crisis, August 2003, available at http://www.nautilus.org/DPRKBriefingBook/scenarios/DPRKscenarios2003.pdf.

7. See Robert G. Rich, “U.S. Ground Force Withdrawal From Korea: A Case Study in National Security Decision Making”, Executive Seminar in National and International Affairs, 1981-82, released to Nautilus Institute under US Freedom of Information Act, available at www.nautilus.org/foia/richwithdrawl.html.

8. See P. Hayes, “Plutonium Pineapples: Avoiding Awful Choices OVer North Korean Nuclear Exports,” PFO 03-40, August 20, 2003, available at www.nautilus.org/fora/security/0340_Hayes.html.


Peter Hayes is executive director of the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainable Development, a non-governmental policy-oriented research and advocacy group and the author of Pacific Powderkeg: American Nuclear Dilemmas in Korea. He has visited North Korea seven times.



Representative Weldon, Pentagon Spar Over Proposed Nuclear Strategy

Christine Kucia

The Pentagon is seeking to block an effort by Representative Curt Weldon (R-PA) to form a Commission on Nuclear Strategy, which would offer recommendations on nuclear policy and military requirements to the secretary of defense as well as to both congressional armed services committees. In August, Weldon, the second-ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, lashed out at the Pentagon’s decision to oppose his idea and suggested that the Pentagon’s action might affect his future support for Department of Defense (DOD) proposals in Congress.

In passing its version of the fiscal year 2004 National Defense Authorization Act, the House of Representatives included a provision for forming the commission. Under the House bill, which was approved May 22, the secretary of defense must appoint 12 members—spanning a range of political, military, and technical expertise in nuclear strategy—in consultation with congressional armed services committee leaders. The group would review nuclear policy, assess a range of nuclear strategies that the United States could pursue in the coming decades, focus on strengthening relations with Russia, and discuss deterrence and military requirements for the nuclear arsenal. The commission analysis would also address the issues of missile defense, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and nuclear weapons development in other countries.

The Senate counterpart, however, contains no such provision, and members from both houses are meeting in a conference committee to reconcile the differences in legislation. The Pentagon informed conference committee members of its opposition on July 23 and pushed for the provision to be dropped from the bill. The stance was part of the “appeals package,” in which DOD outlines its positions on various aspects of the authorization bill.

Pentagon officials pointed to the expansive assessment of nuclear strategy and policy that comprised the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which was released in January 2002, and noted that the study took into account all of the requirements that the commission would evaluate. (See ACT, January/February 2002.) In addition, the NPR called for periodic assessments by officials from the Departments of Defense and Energy and the military, the first of which will begin this year. In light of the broad range of research and development programs in the coming decade that the NPR initiated, DOD wrote, “A new review of Nuclear Strategy would therefore be both disruptive and redundant.”

The Pentagon’s opposition caught Weldon off guard, as shown by an August 14 letter he wrote to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Noting that he first learned of DOD’s disagreement with the proposed commission through press reports, Weldon criticized the department’s “lack of professional courtesy” in failing to inform him directly. He stressed that DOD’s reasoning does not take into account “Congress’ constitutional obligation to oversee the Department of Defense—a function completely separate and distinct from the Pentagon’s NPR.” Weldon also noted that more than 20 experts—including John S. Foster, who heads a commission on stockpile safety and reliability, and James Woolsey, former director of central intelligence and a participant in Rumsfeld’s 1998 commission to assess the ballistic missile threat—support the creation of a Nuclear Strategy Commission.

Weldon pointed out that DOD seems to have forgotten his efforts to support the Pentagon in previous legislative battles. He stated that, after the department “turn[ed] its back on my efforts and publicly oppose[d] my legislation without so much as the courtesy of a phone call,” he will be “hard pressed to continue to fight the Department’s battles on these issues in Congress in the future.”

His confrontation with the Pentagon might be short-lived, however. One congressional source said the conference committee faces many tough questions when it reconvenes its talks in September. According to the staffer, the Nuclear Strategy Commission is further down the list of committee priorities and lacks significant support from other members of Congress.

This dispute is not Weldon’s first confrontation with administration officials over nuclear policy. Weldon inserted himself in the middle of the crisis over North Korea’s development of its nuclear weapons capability, heading a bipartisan congressional delegation to visit the country in May and drawing up a 10-point plan of action to halt North Korea’s burgeoning production capability and bring the country into compliance with international nuclear arms control norms. (See ACT, July/August 2003.) Weldon also joined Representative John Spratt Jr. (D-SC) and other members of Congress in critiquing what they considered inadequate efforts by the Bush administration to secure and dispose of nuclear weapons and related materials in Russia, as well as calling for expanded measures to accelerate dismantlement of Russia’s weapons of mass destruction stockpiles.


The Pentagon is seeking to block an effort by Representative Curt Weldon (R-PA) to form a Commission on Nuclear Strategy, which would offer recommendations on nuclear policy...

House Slashes Nuclear Weapons Budget Request

Christine Kucia

Citing a “Flawed budget process,” the House of Representatives July 18 overwhelmingly approved a fiscal year 2004 appropriations bill that slashes President George W. Bush’s request for funds needed to conduct earth-penetrating nuclear weapons research, build a new plutonium pit- manufacturing facility, and shorten the potential time frame for conducting a nuclear test to 18 months.

The 377-26 vote on the Energy and Water Appropriations bill reflected a stinging challenge to the president’s proposed spending level of $8.8 billion to fund Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear weapons programs. Representative David Hobson (R-Ohio), chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water, led the attack on the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) budget.

In a July 8 statement, Hobson said, “Based on the President’s decision to reduce our nuclear stockpile, I thought we were trying to consolidate the nuclear weapons complex around the country—not expand it.” Under the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) signed in May 2002 by Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the United States and Russia each agreed to reduce their operational nuclear arsenals and deploy only 1,700-2,200 warheads by 2012. Citing the need for a “serious debate” about the national security requirements for the nuclear weapons program, the Appropriations Committee concurred that it “will not assume that all of the proposed nuclear weapons requests are legitimate requirements,” according to the July 15 panel report.

The overall Weapons Activities budget was cut by $260.4 million—for a total budget of $6.1 billion, and the full committee report cited concerns that the nuclear weapons stockpile plan has not been modified to incorporate anticipated changes as a result of SORT. Hobson pointedly noted that, although House appropriators requested a plan for the nuclear weapons stockpile reflecting the reductions outlined in SORT, which entered into force June 1, 2003, “we are still waiting for that plan,” which House appropriators first requested in September 2002.

Directed Stockpile Work was cut by only $21 million, but the committee juggled funds considerably to meet stockpile maintenance needs while forcing NNSA to re-evaluate several programs. The committee cut $15 million from programs to study potential earth-penetrating nuclear weapons capabilities and to fund additional research on advanced nuclear weapons concepts. “The committee is concerned the NNSA is being tasked to start new activities…before the Administration has articulated the specific requirements to support the President’s announced stockpile modifications,” the report stated.

Significant decreases in funding were also levied against other nuclear weapons programs. The committee cut $12 million for a new plutonium pit-manufacturing facility, questioning whether the existing production capability at Los Alamos National Laboratory would fulfill U.S. stockpile needs. Planning for the facility is in the early stages.

The committee also rebuffed efforts to shorten the time needed to resume full nuclear tests to 18 months, cutting the entire $24.8 million request from NNSA for that purpose. The House report indicates that the current 24-36-month readiness posture “has not been successfully maintained” and appropriators fail “to see how the NNSA’s enhanced test readiness proposal puts in place a program that precludes a similar state of disarray ten years into the future.”

In addition, the committee slammed NNSA’s management of stockpile maintenance programs, stating that the agency is “struggling to successfully demonstrate its core mission of maintaining the existing stockpile through the Stockpile Stewardship Program.” A July General Accounting Office report profiled problems with the Stockpile Life Extension Program, including NNSA’s failure to report the full cost of refurbishments in compliance with U.S. government standards; insufficient planning and organization, resulting in field contractors making independent budgetary decisions; and inadequate means of comparing the program’s progress against established baselines.

NNSA spokesman Bryan Wilkes rebuffed the House’s critique August 20, saying, “We’re not ‘struggling’ to demonstrate anything,” adding that the cuts “were not based on correct information.” NNSA officials remain confident that the requested budget will prevail during House-Senate conference committee deliberations.

Meanwhile, Senate appropriators passed the NNSA’s weapons and directed stockpile budget requests July 17 with only minor changes. The full Senate will deliberate the appropriations bill after the August recess.


Nonproliferation Programs Cut

In addition to cutting administration requests for certain nuclear programs, the House of Representatives made several notable changes to fiscal year 2004 funding for programs focused on reducing the threat posed by nuclear problems in Russia.

Claiming that the way the Department of Energy (DOE) administers nuclear nonproliferation programs with Russia “leads to excessive costs for administration and less funding going to Russia,” the House limited money spent in the United States on such programs to 35 percent of the DOE nonproliferation funds for Russia. The House also refused to expand a program to bolster the safety of nuclear reactors to countries other than Russia. In addition, the House slashed nearly all the funds required to help accelerate the disposal of excess highly enriched uranium in Russia, saying that previously allocated funds had not yet been spent. Still, the House provided $28 million to continue the Megaports program—first initiated in the fiscal year 2003 wartime supplemental appropriations bill—to screen the world’s busiest seaports for radioactive material prior to shipping cargo to U.S. ports.

Meanwhile, the Senate committee allocated $20 million for a nuclear and radiological national security program and $20 million to help remove nuclear weapons-grade materials at risk of theft from sites worldwide. The Senate also shifted an additional $10 million to the Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention program, which helps out-of-work nuclear weapons workers to prevent them from offering their expertise to other countries.

Budget Request
House Allocation
Weapons Activities
$6.38 billion
$6.12 billion
-$260 million
Directed Stockpile Work (Supports maintenance, R&D, engineering and certification programs for nuclear stockpile)
$1.36 billion
$1.34 billion
- $21 million
Campaigns (Provides specialized scientific and technical support for stockpile work)
$2.40 billion
$2.27 billion
- $127 million
Readiness in Technical Base and Facilities (Supports physical/operational infrastructures at nuclear plants and laboratories)
$1.61 billion
$1.51 billion
- $102 million
Defense nuclear
$1.34 billion
$1.28 Billion
- $60 million
Nonproliferation and International Security (Funds security for weapons of mass destruction materials)
$102 million
$106 million
+ $4 million
International Materials Protection, Control, and Cooperation (Helps Russia secure nuclear weapons and weapons-grade fissile material)
$226 million
$255 million
+ $29 million
Accelarated Materials Disposition (Accelerates Russia’s disposal of highly enriched uranium)
$30 million
$5 million
- $25 million
Total for National Nuclear Security
$8.83 billion
$8.51 billion
- $326 million

Source: 2004 House Energy and Water Appropriations Committee Report


Citing a “Flawed budget process,” the House of Representatives July 18 overwhelmingly approved a fiscal year 2004 appropriations bill that slashes President George W. Bush's...

GAO Warns Against Hurrying Missile Defense Deployment

Wade Boese

By pushing to meet President George W. Bush’s September 2004 deadline for deploying an initial, limited missile defense system, the Pentagon is deviating from a proven approach to building weapons systems and is risking fielding defenses that will not work and will cost more in the long run, warned a report released June 4 by the General Accounting Office (GAO).

Tasked with conducting studies for Congress, GAO stated that the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has “adopted practices that offer the best opportunity to develop a complex weapon system successfully.” Known as “spiral development,” those practices include developing the system incrementally and integrating components after they are successfully tested. But GAO warned that, in its haste to fulfill Bush’s goal of having a missile defense system ready by next fall, MDA is abandoning some of those practices. This revised approach “places MDA in danger of getting off track early” and “opens the door to greater cost and performance risks,” GAO cautioned.

GAO described the mission of building missile defenses to stay abreast of changing missile threats as “an expensive and risky endeavor.”

Bush’s deployment plan, in part, calls for six ground-based strategic missile interceptors to be stationed at Fort Greely, Alaska, and four more at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, before October 1, 2004. Another 10 interceptors are to be added at Fort Greely in 2005.

Each interceptor is to be made up of a powerful booster and an exoatmospheric kill vehicle (EKV), which is designed to home in on and collide with an enemy warhead in space. The booster lifts the EKV into space.

GAO pointed out that the booster for the interceptor is far behind schedule and has not yet been tested. In the interceptor’s eight intercept tests—five successes and three failures—a weaker, surrogate booster has been used.

MDA plans to conduct two intercept tests with a new booster before the 10 interceptors are to be deployed next year, but two competing versions of the booster have not yet been flight-tested.

More generally, GAO critiqued past testing as insufficiently challenging. GAO noted that all the tests essentially repeated the same scenario and were carried out at slower speeds and shorter ranges than what a real intercept would require. “As a result, testing to date has provided only limited data for determining whether the system will work as intended in 2004,” the report stated.

GAO indicated that more thorough testing before deployment could save future costs by avoiding the need to replace or repair components that do not perform properly.

At this time, MDA is estimating that it will spend $50 billion on missile defenses between fiscal years 2004 and 2009. But GAO noted that this figure is incomplete because it only includes research and development costs and does not account for production, operational, and maintenance expenses.

GAO recommended that MDA conduct a more comprehensive calculation of how much missile defenses might cost and for the Pentagon to start budgeting for those additional expenditures. Otherwise, GAO cautioned that the Pentagon might not have the necessary funding to build and field future systems without cutting spending for other weapons programs. MDA responded to the GAO report by saying it will prepare “life-cycle” cost estimates.

Two Democratic Senate missile defense skeptics seized on the GAO report to charge that the Bush administration’s deployment plan is being driven by politics. The deployment date is several weeks before the 2004 presidential election.

Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) declared in a June 3 statement with Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) that “[f]ielding such an unproven system may pick up political points with some people, but it won’t contribute to the defense or security of our country.” Reed echoed Levin: “The President’s decision to deploy an untested national missile defense system still seems to be motivated more by politics than effective military strategy.”

MDA defended its approach. In a prepared statement regarding the GAO report, MDA spokesman Rick Lehner stated, “In the face of this credible [missile] threat and technical challenges, MDA has structured the program to manage and reduce risk to fielding an effective, though limited, missile defense capability by the fall of 2004.” He described MDA as “highly confident” that it will achieve its goal.

The GAO report is not the first to warn against developing missile defense systems to meet a specific timetable. In February 1998, a group of independent experts headed by retired Air Force General Larry Welch characterized the Pentagon’s missile defense programs as being on a “rush to failure.”


By pushing to meet President George W. Bush’s September 2004 deadline for deploying an initial, limited missile defense system, the Pentagon is deviating...

Congress Approves Research on New Nuclear Weapons

Christine Kucia

The U.S. House and Senate each voted in late May to allow research on low-yield nuclear warheads and authorized the continuation of an Energy Department program exploring development of a robust nuclear earth penetrator (RNEP) using existing warheads. The programs were contained in the record-setting $400.5 billion fiscal year 2004 defense authorization bill, which the chambers approved separately May 22.

Congress will reconcile the two versions of the authorization bill in conference committee meetings in June. Legislators must harmonize the wording on the low-yield nuclear weapons research provisions, as well as items on nuclear readiness that were changed in the House bill but left untouched from the administration’s request during the Senate’s deliberations.

Creating new or modified nuclear weapons capabilities has been a source of considerable debate. Bush administration officials highlighted in the January 2002 Nuclear Posture Review a need for a nuclear weapon to penetrate hardened, deeply buried targets, such as underground biological- or chemical-weapon facilities, and development of new types of “[nuclear] warheads that reduce collateral damage.” (See ACT, April 2002.) Critics maintain that U.S. credibility in nuclear nonproliferation would be undermined if it researches new nuclear capabilities, which could create a need for resuming explosive nuclear testing.

Administration Wants New Nukes

Congressional action on the nuclear provisions included in the president’s defense authorization request occurred as administration officials offered mixed messages about the ultimate goal of the nuclear-weapon research programs. Department of Defense officials responsible for guiding nuclear policy have declared their strong support for the earth-penetrating and low-yield nuclear weapons research programs. Fred Celec, deputy assistant to the secretary of defense for nuclear matters, indicated that, if nuclear scientists could design a nuclear earth-penetrating weapon that could penetrate deeply into rock, “[i]t will ultimately get fielded,” the San Jose Mercury News reported April 23. But Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was more cautious in May 20 comments: “It is a study. It is nothing more and nothing less. And it is not pursuing, and it is not developing, it is not building, it is not manufacturing, it is not deploying, and it is not using.”

Linton Brooks, head of the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, denied that a military requirement exists for a new nuclear weapon during a Senate hearing April 8 and re-emphasized that repealing the fiscal year 1994 Spratt-Furse law, which prohibits research and development on nuclear warheads with a yield of five kilotons or less, would provide important research opportunities for nuclear weapons scientists. When pressed about what role a low-yield nuclear weapon would play in U.S. security, he stated, “I have a bias in favor of the lowest usable yield because I have a bias in favor of something that is the minimum destruction.…That means I have a bias in favor of things that might be usable. I think that’s just an inherent part of deterrence.”

The Bush administration put an end to the mixed messages in a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) issued to the Senate May 20, at the start of congressional floor deliberations of the defense authorization bill. The policy, which was coordinated among all concerned agencies and approved by the White House, indicates administration approval of Senate action to allow “critical research and development for low-yield nuclear weapons.” The SAP continued, “It is essential to undertake the research needed to evaluate a range of U.S. options that may prove essential in deterring or neutralizing future threats.”

Research Allowed, Work Restricted

Amid the mixed messages from administration officials, a contentious Senate floor debate on authorizing the nuclear weapons provisions began May 20, as Democrats sought to roll back the administration’s initiatives that were endorsed by the Republican-led committees. After the Senate Armed Services Committee approved the administration’s request to repeal the Spratt-Furse law, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA) introduced a floor amendment to maintain the prohibition on low-yield research and development. Both argued that restarting nuclear research would likely lead to renewed development and testing in the United States and possibly in other countries. Feinstein said she finds the administration’s initiative “absolutely chilling and even diabolical, particularly when we preach to other nations” that they should abandon plans to start or improve their own nuclear weapons capabilities. The Feinstein-Kennedy effort failed 51-43.

Taking another tack, Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) offered an amendment May 21 to reinstate the Spratt-Furse law with changes to allow research on low-yield nuclear weapons but still to prohibit development engineering. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner (R-VA) countered with an amendment allowing research on low-yield nuclear weapons but stipulating that “the Secretary of Energy may not commence the engineering development phase, or any subsequent phase, of a low-yield nuclear weapon unless specifically authorized by Congress.” The Warner amendment passed on a 59-38 vote. The Senate also approved an analogous provision offered by Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) for nuclear earth penetrator capabilities currently being researched, calling for congressional authorization prior to RNEP development work.

Similarly, in House Armed Services Committee deliberations May 14, Representative John Spratt (D-SC) offered an amendment to his original law. The amendment permits research but states that the Energy Department “may not conduct, or provide for the conduct of, develop, produce, or provide for the development or production of, a low-yield nuclear weapon.” It passed the committee on a voice vote, and no further action on low-yield nuclear weapons was taken on the House floor.

House Debates RNEP Research

The House panel also debated the possibility of slashing $21 million requested for fiscal year 2004 Energy Department nuclear weapons research. The funding covers $15 million for RNEP feasibility and cost studies as well as $6 million for Advanced Concepts Initiatives, which would fund nuclear weapons laboratories’ feasibility studies for potential weapons technologies. (See ACT, March 2003.) Representative Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) proposed during committee debate to use the money instead to fund research on the bunker-busting abilities of non-nuclear munitions, but her measure failed in a tight 28-29 vote.

Reintroducing the amendment on the House floor along with co-sponsor Edward Markey (D-MA), Tauscher explained, “Until we have exhausted all conventional means to defeat hardened targets and the military service produces a current requirement for an RNEP, it would be irresponsible for Congress to jump the gun and promote new uses for nuclear weapons.” In reply to Tauscher’s amendment, Representative Heather Wilson (R-NM) emphasized, “We must continue to maintain our weapons of mass destruction program so that we can never be subject to surprise.” The amendment failed on the House floor 226-199.

Missile Defense, Threat Reduction

Congress approved the administration’s full funding request for missile defense and threat reduction activities, but the House and Senate each shifted money to address different priorities within the programs. In a move later endorsed by the full House, the House panel voted to transfer $280 million from long-term missile defense research to bolster theater missile defense work, “reflecting the need to fund more near-term requirements.”

The Senate, however, took steps to make the missile defense program more accountable. The Senate allocated $100 million to conduct an additional intercept test, established performance criteria for each missile defense system segment, required a schedule of operational testing plans, and mandated an annual report from the Pentagon on the program’s progress. The Senate’s action comes amid criticism that the Missile Defense Agency decided to pare down the number of intercept tests and is now planning to deploy ground- and sea-based interceptors prior to operational testing. (See ACT, June 2003.) Feinstein and Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) co-sponsored an amendment, which the Senate adopted, prohibiting work on nuclear-tipped interceptors for missile defense—an idea the Pentagon floated in April 2002. (See ACT, May 2002.)

Both congressional committees fully funded programs providing Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) assistance to help secure and destroy Russia’s weapons of mass destruction. Both the House and Senate approved another one-year waiver of conditions that must be met in order to continue construction of Russia’s Shchuch’ye chemical weapons destruction facility. The waiver allows the president to release funds even if he decides he cannot certify Russia’s compliance with several congressional requirements.

In addition, the House approved an amendment offered by Representative Curt Weldon (R-PA) that would allow the secretary of state to establish an International Nuclear Materials Protection and Cooperation program—to transport fissile materials out of vulnerable facilities or to protect them—for countries outside the former Soviet Union. The Weldon amendment also mandates an annual report on the use of U.S. threat reduction funds and the level of Russian financial contributions to the program, in addition to a detailed plan on securing and destroying Russian biological and chemical weapons and materials. The Senate simply extended authorization for up to $50 million of CTR funds to be used in countries needing assistance outside of the former Soviet Union as the administration had requested.




The U.S. House and Senate each voted in late May to allow research on low-yield nuclear warheads and authorized the continuation of an Energy Department program...


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