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

– John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
January 19, 2011
Strategic Policy

Nuclear Sword of Damocles

Daryl G. Kimball

Fifty years after the Cuban missile crisis brought the world to the brink of a nuclear holocaust, the threats posed by the bomb have changed, but still hang over us all. Today, there still are nearly 20,000 nuclear weapons, and there are nine nuclear-armed states. More countries have access to the technologies needed to produce nuclear bomb material, and the risk of nuclear terrorism is real.

The massive nuclear arsenals of the United States and Russia—the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War—have been reduced through successive arms control agreements. Yet, deployed U.S. and Russian nuclear forces still exceed 1,500 strategic warheads each, far more than necessary to deter nuclear attack.

Five decades ago, President John Kennedy warned of the possibility of dozens of nuclear-armed nations. Since then, world leaders have built up an extensive nonproliferation regime that has slowed the spread and reduced the salience of nuclear weapons.

But to remain effective, the nuclear non-proliferation system must be updated, new commitments must be implemented, and progress on disarmament must be accelerated. The newer nuclear-armed states—India, Israel, and Pakistan—must adhere to the same nuclear disarmament measures expected of the world’s 190 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) member states.

Even with the NPT, political and military tensions continue to drive proliferation behavior in regional hot spots. If U.S.-led talks with Iran and North Korea fail to persuade them to curb sensitive nuclear fuel-cycle activities and meet their nonproliferation obligations, the risk of arms races and conflicts will grow.

Doing nothing is not an option. No matter who occupies the White House following the 2012 election, he must pursue a nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament “stimulus plan.” It should include the following elements:

End Cold War Thinking. The chances of a bolt-from-the-blue nuclear attack by Russia or the United States on the other is near zero, yet their arsenals and strategies are still designed to counter such a threat and engage in a protracted nuclear war. President Barack Obama has taken some steps to reduce the role and number of nuclear weapons, but there is much more to be done. The White House must follow through by implementing a saner, “nuclear deterrence only” strategy, which would allow U.S. and Russian arsenal reductions to no more than 500 deployed nuclear warheads each—the size of the Soviet force in 1962.

Reduce Global Arsenals. By signaling he is prepared to accelerate reductions and move U.S. forces below the ceilings of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), the U.S. president could induce the Kremlin to build down rather than build up its forces, saving tens of billions of dollars. With New START verification tools in place, reciprocal U.S.-Russian cuts, including new transparency measures on tactical nuclear weapons, need not wait for a new, follow-on treaty. Such actions would put pressure on China to abandon its slow increase in nuclear forces and open the door for serious multilateral disarmament discussions.

Prevent a Nuclear-Armed Iran. Tehran has not yet made a decision to build nuclear weapons and does not have the necessary ingredients for an effective nuclear arsenal. Bipartisan experts agree that preventive military strikes would be counterproductive; sanctions can alter Iran’s calculus, but cannot halt its program. Diplomacy remains the best option.

U.S. negotiators must redouble efforts to limit Iran’s enrichment to normal reactor-grade levels, cap its uranium stockpiles, and give international inspectors greater access to ensure that Iran has halted all weapons-related work, all in exchange for a phased rollback of international sanctions.

End Testing Forever. Twenty years after its last nuclear test, the United States no longer needs or wants a resumption of testing. Yet by failing to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), Washington has denied itself and others the treaty’s full security benefits.

With the CTBT in force, the established nuclear-weapon states would not be able to proof-test new nuclear warhead designs, newer nuclear nations would find it far more difficult to build more-advanced warhead types, and emerging nuclear states would encounter greater obstacles in fielding a reliable arsenal. U.S. action on the CTBT is urgently needed to help head off future nuclear arms competition, particularly in the Middle East, South Asia, and the Korean peninsula.

Secure Nuclear Material. Today, dozens of states possess nuclear material that must be safeguarded from terrorists. Pakistan’s nuclear assets are especially vulnerable. Recent nuclear security summits have prompted significant action, but states must maintain and improve their performance. Consistent funding and U.S. leadership on a long-term, global framework for action are critical.

New efforts to end the production of fissile material, particularly by India and Pakistan, are also essential. To help achieve a global cutoff treaty, the five original nuclear powers could formalize their de facto production halt and engage Islamabad and New Delhi in direct talks to curtail their fissile production.

As Kennedy once suggested, we must work faster and harder to abolish nuclear weapons before they abolish us. In the months ahead, U.S. policymakers must overcome petty partisan politics to help address today’s grave nuclear challenges.

Fifty years after the Cuban missile crisis brought the world to the brink of a nuclear holocaust, the threats posed by the bomb have changed, but still hang over us all. Today, there still are nearly 20,000 nuclear weapons, and there are nine nuclear-armed states. More countries have access to the technologies needed to produce nuclear bomb material, and the risk of nuclear terrorism is real.

Cartwright Urges Nuclear Spending Cuts

Tom Z. Collina

As the possibility of automatic cuts looms over the ongoing debate on reducing U.S. defense spending, the former head of U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) has called for cutting the nuclear weapons budget by roughly $120 billion over the next two decades.

Gen. James Cartwright, who oversaw U.S. nuclear weapons under President George W. Bush and served as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff until he retired last year, testified before the Senate Appropriations energy and water subcommittee July 25 that his proposal to reduce U.S. nuclear forces by 80 percent from current levels could save about $100 billion in delivery system costs and $20 billion in nuclear warhead costs. Cartwright presented testimony jointly with former U.S. ambassador to Russia and the United Nations Thomas Pickering.

Cartwright chaired a panel that in May called for deep reductions in the U.S. nuclear arsenal, doing away with all intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and removing the threat of a “decapitating” first strike against Russia. (See ACT, June 2012.) The panel would keep 900 warheads in the U.S. force, compared to about 5,000 today, with half of them deployed but off alert and half in storage.

Cartwright testified that, of the 900 warheads, 720 would be assigned to Trident Ohio-class submarines, with future sub production reduced from 12 to 10. The remaining 180 warheads would be assigned to 18 B-2 bombers. B-52 bombers no longer would carry nuclear warheads, and the order for the planned new strategic bomber would shrink from up to 100 planes to about 30. In addition, all Minuteman ICBMs would be retired, the Minuteman’s replacement canceled, and all tactical nuclear weapons eliminated.

At the hearing, Cartwright and Pickering did not release a detailed accounting of their budget estimate. However, according to preliminary estimates provided by Global Zero, which sponsored the May report, savings over 10 to 15 years would come largely from taking U.S. nuclear weapons out of NATO ($3 billion), eliminating current ICBMs and canceling a new version ($13 billion), scaling back current Ohio-class submarines and buying fewer new ones ($25 billion), retiring B-52 bombers and the associated refueling tanker fleet ($12 billion), and reducing investments in nuclear command, control, and communications and in early-warning satellites. Over 15 to 20 years, buying only 30 new bombers instead of 100 would save about $38 billion, Global Zero said.

The $10 Billion Bomb

In addition to saving $100 billion on delivery systems, Cartwright and Pickering estimated saving $20 billion from the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semiautonomous part of the Energy Department that oversees the nuclear weapons production complex. Half of this amount would be saved by decreasing the number of warhead types in the U.S. active stockpile from seven today to four by 2022, which would reduce the need to refurbish warheads through the life extension program (LEP), Cartwright and Pickering said.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who chairs the energy appropriations subcommittee, opened the July 25 hearing by revealing that NNSA estimates for the cost of the B61 bomb LEP had doubled from $4 billion to $8 billion. Moreover, she said that an independent Defense Department review pegged the cost at $10 billion. This new price tag requires the NNSA to find billions of dollars “at a time when budgets are shrinking and sequestration is a real possibility,” she said.

Sequestration is a mechanism under which congressional funding of government agencies is cut automatically if it exceeds the amount that Congress had previously budgeted. Under the 2011 Budget Control Act, growth in the Pentagon budget will be reduced by roughly $500 billion over the next decade if Congress cannot find an alternative way to cut the federal deficit by January. Although sequestration once was considered an unlikely prospect, congressional inability over the last eight months to agree on how to tackle the deficit has increased anxieties in Washington that the automatic cuts actually may occur. Even if full sequestration is avoided, the Pentagon may face hundreds of billions of dollars in budget cuts beyond the approximately $490 billion in spending-growth reductions that are already planned.

The NNSA could save money by not building a new $6 billion plutonium facility, called the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Facility Replacement (CMRR), at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, Cartwright said. The new facility would not be needed for a 900-warhead stockpile, which would require only 18 new plutonium “pits,” or warhead cores, per year, not 80 as currently planned, Cartwright said. Even so, Cartwright said that, through extra shifts and additional equipment, the capacity of the current facility could be increased from 20 pits “to perhaps as high as 80 per year.”

The Obama administration announced in February that it had decided to delay construction of the CMRR by five years to redirect money to other programs, such as the $7 billion Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee. (See ACT, March 2012.) According to an April Los Alamos study on alternatives to the CMRR, which was not made public until August, the lab could support a production rate of 30 pits per year with assistance from other labs, such as Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, at a cost of $800 million over 10 years.

‘Not Your Father’s Nuclear Force’

Speaking to reporters Aug. 8 in Omaha, current STRATCOM head Gen. Robert Kehler said he agreed with the administration’s decision to give construction of the uranium facility priority over the CMRR. He also said that some of the need for pits could be met by reusing existing ones in storage rather than new production. “We don’t differentiate at all” between new pits and reused ones, he told reporters.

Kehler, seeking to show how STRATCOM has moved away from Cold War thinking, told a July 12 forum in Washington that “this is not your father’s nuclear force” and said that the U.S. nuclear stockpile had been reduced by 75 percent from the day the Berlin Wall fell. These are “very positive changes,” he said.

Regarding the triad of submarines, bombers, and ICBMs, Kehler said that “the triad is not a theological argument for me.” He said the triad continued to serve the country well today, but “it may not be true in the future.” Kehler said that if the president determines that U.S. deterrence needs have changed, “then we will make the adjustments that are necessary.”

On ICBMs, which Cartwright recommended retiring, Kehler said, “[T]here’s a big difference between a force that you can use promptly and one that you must use promptly. And I no longer see us in a scenario where we must use ICBMs promptly.” This reflects confidence among officials that U.S. submarine-based nuclear forces could survive a Russian first strike, and thus U.S. ICBMs would not have to be launched on warning of an attack.

Kehler said that the threat of a sudden nuclear war involving Russia and the United States “has receded by almost every measure” and is “at the lowest level that I have seen in my 37 years in the United States Air Force and military.”

Meanwhile, a State Department advisory group said that the United States and Russia could avoid “costly or destabilizing modernization efforts” by accelerating reductions under the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) and pursuing additional arsenal cuts.

The comment came in an Aug. 14 draft report by the department’s International Security Advisory Board. Arms Control Today obtained a copy of the draft report.

That preliminary report was drafted for the advisory board by a study group that is chaired by Harvard professor Graham Allison and includes former top officials of U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories. For the near term, the report recommends that Russia and the United States seek additional reductions below New START levels on the basis of a mutual understanding rather than a formal treaty. Such reductions “could improve stability by reducing Russia’s incentive to build a new heavy ICBM,” they wrote.

It is not clear when the final report will be released.

 

As the possibility of automatic cuts looms over the ongoing debate on reducing U.S. defense spending, the former head of U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) has called for cutting the nuclear weapons budget by roughly $120 billion over the next two decades.

Nuclear Weapons: Less Is More

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Volume 3, Issue 10, July 9, 2012

In the coming weeks, following a long bipartisan tradition, President Barack Obama is expected to take a step away from the nuclear brink by proposing further reductions in U.S. and Russian arsenals. This would be a welcome step toward making the United States safer while redirecting defense dollars to higher priority needs.

It was President Ronald Reagan who, in 1986, shifted U.S. policy away from ever-higher nuclear stockpiles--which peaked at about 30,000 nuclear warheads--and started down the path of reductions that continues today. U.S. and Russian arsenals have now been reduced by more than two-thirds, and the world is safer for it.

U.S. Presidents Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush all contributed to reducing the nuclear threat. Within weeks, President Obama is expected to announce revisions to outdated U.S. nuclear deterrence requirements that would allow another round of U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpile reductions beyond those mandated by the 2010 New START treaty.

As President Obama said in March, "we have more nuclear weapons than we need. I firmly believe that we can ensure the security of the United States and our allies, maintain a strong deterrent against any threat, and still pursue further reductions in our nuclear arsenal."

Military, Bipartisan Support

President Obama's efforts to reduce excess nuclear weapons stockpiles have strong military and bipartisan support. In April, Gen. James Cartwright, former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and commander of U.S. nuclear forces under President George W. Bush, called for reducing U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals by 80 percent from current levels. He wrote, along with other authors including former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), that the current U.S. and Russian arsenals "vastly exceed what is needed to satisfy reasonable requirements of deterrence."

In March 2011, former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry, and former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) wrote that, "Deeper nuclear reductions... should remain a priority," and that the United States and Russia, which led the buildup for decades, "must continue to lead the build-down."

Senator Carl Levin  (D-Mich.), chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in June: "I can't see any reason for having as large an inventory as we are allowed to have under New START, in terms of real threat, potential threat." He added, "The more weapons that exist out there, the less secure we are, rather than the more secure we are."

Today, it is clear that the United States can maintain a credible deterrent at lower levels of nuclear weapons than the 1,550 deployed strategic warheads allowed by New START. There is no reasonable justification today for such high numbers.

Decisions Expected Soon

President Obama and his National Security Staff are now considering options that could lead to major changes in the purpose, size and structure of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The current process--known as the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) Implementation Study--will also establish the basis for further nuclear arms reduction talks with Russia beyond New START.

The Obama administration outlined its approach to U.S. nuclear policy in its April 2010 NPR, which states that, "the fundamental role of U.S. nuclear forces is to deter nuclear attacks against the U.S. and our allies and partners." This is a major shift away from the Cold War-era strategy of "prevailing " in a nuclear war and using nuclear weapons to counter conventional military threats.

By signaling that the United States is prepared to accelerate reductions and go below New START ceilings, Washington could induce Moscow, which is already below New START levels, to rethink its plans to build up its forces, including a new long-range missile with multiple warheads. It could also eventually open the way for discussions with other nuclear-armed states to limit their stockpiles.

Further nuclear reductions would also help trim the high cost of maintaining and modernizing U.S. nuclear forces, which is estimated to cost $31 billion annually.

Nuclear Weapons Strategy, Deterrence, and "Overkill"

Unlike earlier post-Cold War reviews in 1994 and 2001, Obama's 2010 NPR suggests that deploying thousands of strategic nuclear weapons to perform a wide range of missions, including defending U.S. forces or allies against conventional and chemical attacks, is neither appropriate nor necessary for security and stability in the 21st century.

To truly put an end to outdated Cold War thinking, President Obama should:

  • Eliminate entire target categories from the current nuclear war plan, which now include a wide range of military forces, nuclear weapons infrastructure, and military and national leadership targets, and war-supporting infrastructure, mainly in Russia. These targeting assumptions were developed decades ago to deplete war-fighting assets rather than ensure there is a sufficient retaliatory capability to deter nuclear attack in the first place.
  • Direct war planners to discard old assumptions for how much damage must be accomplished to ensure that a target is destroyed. Current plans require hitting many targets with more than one nuclear weapon. To deter a nuclear attack, adversaries need only realize the United States is capable of reducing key targets to radioactive rubble rather than a fine dust.
  • Eliminate the practice of keeping nuclear weapons ready to launch within minutes. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama said the practice is "outdated" and "increases the risk of catastrophic accident or miscalculation." A reliable and credible U.S. nuclear deterrent does not require the ability to retaliate immediately if U.S. nuclear forces and command and control systems can survive an attack--and they can.

These and other changes would significantly reduce the number of targets and the number of nuclear weapons and delivery systems "required" to hit them.

Shifting to a more realistic, "nuclear deterrence only" strategy would allow for steep reductions in the number of strategic U.S. nuclear warheads (to 1,000 or fewer deployed and nondeployed) and the number of delivery vehicles (to 500 or less).

By the Numbers

During George H. W. Bush's four years in office, the total U.S. arsenal shrunk from about 22,200 weapons to 13,700--a 38 percent cut. In George W. Bush's eight years, the total U.S. arsenal dropped from about 10,500 weapons to just over 5,000--about 50 percent fewer.

Still, the U.S. and Russian arsenals remain by far the largest of any of the world's nuclear-armed states. Together the U.S. and Russia possess approximately 90% of all nuclear weapons.

Today, the U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles (not including warheads awaiting dismantlement) each exceed 5,000 nuclear bombs, any one of which could devastate Washington or Moscow.

As of March 1, 2012, the United States deployed some 1,737 strategic nuclear warheads and has approximately 500 operational tactical nuclear bombs, with an estimated 2,700 nondeployed warheads (i.e. warheads in reserve), putting the total number of active U.S. nuclear weapons at about 5,000.

Russia deploys some 1,492 strategic nuclear warheads, has an estimated 2,000 operational tactical nuclear bombs, and 2,000 in storage, for about 5,500 total.

Under New START each country is still allowed to deploy as many as 1,550 strategic nuclear weapons. Under current plans, thousands of additional warheads would be held in reserve.

Other than Russia, the only U.S. potential adversary with a significant nuclear arsenal is China, but Washington's arsenal of long-range strategic nuclear weapons outnumbers Beijing's by 30 to 1.

The Cost of Maintaining Nuclear Forces

Another factor the President and the Congress much consider is the significant cost of maintaining and modernizing U.S. nuclear forces.

According to a new study by the Stimson Center, U.S. spending on nuclear weapons is approximately $31 billion per year and the projected costs for maintaining and modernizing the current U.S. nuclear force will amount to hundreds of billions in the coming decade.

During the 2003 Senate hearings on the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell noted: "We have every incentive to reduce the number [of nuclear weapons]. These are expensive. They take away from soldier pay. They take away from [operation and maintenance] investments. They take away from lots of things. There is no incentive to keep more than you believe you need for the security of the Nation."

Within the next couple of years, key decisions must be made regarding costly, long-term strategic submarine and bomber modernization programs.

The Navy is seeking 12 new nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines to carry more than 1,000 nuclear warheads into the 2070s, at a total lifecycle cost of almost $350 billion. The Air Force wants a new, nuclear-armed strategic bomber that would cost at least $68 billion, as well as a new fleet of land-based ballistic missiles that would cost billions more.

In July 2011, then-Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Cartwright explained that "... we have to recapitalize all three legs [of the nuclear triad], and we don't have the money to do it."

In January 2012, the Pentagon said it would delay procurement of the proposed Ohio-class replacement nuclear-armed submarine by two years, which could save some $6-7 billion in the next ten years. However, without a reduction in the size of the force, the overall cost of the program will remain the same, and take resources away from the Navy's other priority shipbuilding projects.

Significant cost reductions can only be achieved if Obama shifts U.S. nuclear policy and eliminates the current "requirements" for Cold War-sized nuclear forces. This would enable President Obama and the Congress to:

  • Reduce the total number of new strategic subs it plans to buy in the coming years. By delaying procurement of new replacement subs by two years as now planned, and by reducing the current Trident nuclear-armed sub fleet from 14 to eight or fewer boats, and building no more than eight new nuclear-armed subs, the United States could save roughly $18 billion over 10 years, and $122 billion over the 50-year lifespan of the program.
  • Delay spending on a new fleet of nuclear-capable strategic bombers. Given the Pentagon's plan to retain 60 of its existing nuclear-capable, long-range B-2 and B-52 bombers into the 2040s there is no rush to replace this capability. Delaying work on the new bomber program would save $18 billion over the next decade, according to the Pentagon.
  • Reduce the land-based strategic missile force from 420 to 300 by cutting one squadron at each of the three Air Force bases where such missiles are deployed and foregoing a follow-on missile program to replace the existing force, which can be maintained for years to come.

There is bipartisan support for such steps. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) proposed a plan in July 2011 outlining similar cuts to the nuclear force that he said would save $79 billion over the next ten years.

Fresh thinking is in order. The United States does not need and cannot afford oversized strategic nuclear forces. Programs that address low-priority threats can be scaled back to make room for more pressing national priorities and reduce the deficit.

By discarding outdated nuclear war plans, President Obama can open the way for lower U.S.-Russian nuclear force levels, enhance the prospects for mutual, verifiable reductions involving the world's other nuclear-armed states, and reduce the danger that nuclear weapons will be used ever again.--Daryl G. Kimball and Tom Z. Collina

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today

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In the coming weeks, following a long bipartisan tradition, President Barack Obama is expected to take a step away from the nuclear brink by proposing further reductions in U.S. and Russian arsenals. This would be a welcome step toward making the United States safer while redirecting defense dollars to higher priority needs.

Official Nuclear Weapons Costs Too Low, Arms Control Today Article Finds

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For Immediate Release: June 4, 2012

Media Contacts: Russell Rumbaugh, Stimson Center (202-478-3422)

(Washington, D.C.) As Congress debates defense spending and deficit reduction, observers have pointed to U.S. nuclear weapons as a target for budget cuts. Yet, there has been disagreement about the actual costs of nuclear weapons, and estimates vary. Now, using a new methodology, an article in the June issue of Arms Control Today, the journal of the Arms Control Association, finds that the United States spends about $31 billion on nuclear weapons annually, or about 50 percent more than official estimates.

The article, "Resolving the Ambiguity of Nuclear Weapons Costs," by Russell Rumbaugh and Nathan Cohn of the Stimson Center, finds that the differences between previous cost estimates can be explained by two factors: a tendency to count different things, and a Pentagon budget that is hard to fathom. "Once these two issues are addressed," the authors find, "there is little disagreement about the cost of nuclear weapons."

Using a bottom-up approach, the authors' estimate of $31 billion includes $22.7 billion from the Defense Department (delivery systems, command and control, research, and related costs) and $8.2 billion from the Energy Department (nuclear warheads, naval reactors, and related costs). This is $11 billion higher than the official estimate ($20 billion) but significantly lower than some outside estimates. According to Rumbaugh and Cohn, "At the very least, this study should clarify that official estimates relying on a narrow definition of nuclear weapons understate the actual amounts the United States spends on nuclear weapons."

The article finds that it is reasonable to include, as some higher estimates do, the budgets for missile defense, environmental cleanup and nonproliferation under costs of nuclear weapons, but it is also reasonable to leave them out. According to the authors, "the study has demonstrated that nuclear weapons do incur costs greater than the ones the official estimates describe, no matter how narrowly nuclear weapons spending is defined."

Members and subscribers who have a digital account, click here for access to the June issue. If not, click here to establish your account.

Journalists who are not ACT subscribers and would like the text of the article may contact Russell Rumbaugh, [email protected]

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The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

Description: 

(Washington, D.C.) As Congress debates defense spending and deficit reduction, observers have pointed to U.S. nuclear weapons as a target for budget cuts. Yet, there has been disagreement about the actual costs of nuclear weapons, and estimates vary. Now, using a new methodology, an article in the June issue of Arms Control Today, the journal of the Arms Control Association, finds that the United States spends about $31 billion on nuclear weapons annually, or about 50 percent more than official estimates.

Don't Hold New START Hostage to Budget Battles

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Volume 3, Issue 8, May 16, 2012

This week, the House of Representatives will debate and vote on the annual defense authorization bill, which in its current form would hold up implementation of the 2010 New START Treaty unless Congress increases spending on nuclear weapons activities that the Pentagon did not request and does not want.

On May 9, Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee pushed through an amendment by Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio) to the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would block funding for New START implementation unless higher spending targets for National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) nuclear weapons production facilities set in 2010 are met in future years.

In response, the Obama administration issued a warning to Congress yesterday that the President may veto the final bill if these provisions survive, stating that sections 1053-1059 would "impinge on the President's ability to implement the New START Treaty and to set U.S. nuclear weapons policy."

Rep. Turner's partisan "hostage taking" ignores the fact that there is bi-partisan support for New START and bi-partisan agreement among congressional appropriators that additional nuclear weapon budget increases are unaffordable and unnecessary.

Rep. Turner also ignores the fact that twenty years after the Cold War the United States does not need as many nuclear weapons as we plan to maintain. Even after New START is implemented, the U.S. will have 1,550 nuclear warheads deployed on long-range missiles, bombers and submarines.

New START is Too Important for Partisan Games

If the House NDAA provisions to tie up New START were to become law, Russia would likely halt its nuclear reductions as well, risking the treaty's collapse. This would allow Moscow to rebuild its nuclear forces above the treaty ceiling of 1,550 deployed strategic warheads and increase the number of nuclear weapons aimed at the United States.

Moreover, the inspection system established under the treaty could collapse, depriving the U.S. of crucial data exchanges and on-site inspections of Russian forces, undermining transparency and strategic stability.

Rep. Turner and his allies complain that the administration's $7.6 billion request for NNSA weapons activities for  FY2013 is 4 percent lower than projected in 2010, during the New START debate in the Senate.

But they ignore the reality that the FY2013 request is actually 5 percent higher than the 2012 enacted budget. Rather than a breach of faith, this year's NNSA request represents a healthy increase in the face of fiscal pressures imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act.

No Need to Rush New Plutonium Lab

The main issue of contention is a plutonium laboratory, called the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) Facility, to be built at Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico, which the administration deferred for at least five years.

However, far from being upset that the administration was not seeking CMRR funds this year, the House Appropriations Committee complained that the facility should have been shelved sooner.

"By not fully considering all available options, millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent for work which will not be needed until a much later date," the Republican-led appropriations committee wrote about CMRR on April 24.

Even so, Rep. Turner and company warn that without CMRR, the U.S. does not have the capability to make 50 to 80 newly produced plutonium cores or "pits" annually for refurbished warheads.

Their bill would authorize $100 million more for the facility next year, call on DoD to cover future costs and stipulate that it is built no later than 2024 (sections 2804-2805).

The reality, however, is that there is no identified need to produce that many plutonium pits. NNSA Administrator Thomas D'Agostino testified to Congress on April 17 that the U.S. does not need CMRR to maintain an effective stockpile. "That's great news for the country, because we're not forced into making rash decisions on significant investments in a very short period of time. So we have time to evaluate this area," D'Agostino said.

With cost estimates for CMRR skyrocketing from $600 million to $6 billion, the delay is a reasonable response to tight budgets given that other NNSA facilities have "inherent capacity" to support ongoing and future plutonium activities, according to NNSA. CMRR deferral will not compromise NNSA's ability to maintain the nuclear stockpile.

East Coast Missile Interceptor Site is Premature

The House bill also includes a $460 million increase for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) program, including $100 million to study a strategic ballistic missile interceptor site on the East Coast (section 223). This would be in addition to the two sites already built in California and Alaska at a combined cost of $30 billion. The Congressional Budget Office said this new project would cost $3.6 billion over five years, which is likely a conservative estimate.

The Pentagon did not request funding for an East Coast site and does not want it. "In my military judgment, the program of record for ballistic missile defense for the homeland, as we've submitted it, is adequate and sufficient to the task," Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a Pentagon news briefing last Thursday. "So I don't see a need beyond what we've submitted in the last budget."

The White House said the proposal is "premature because the Administration has not identified a requirement for a third U.S.-based missile defense site, nor assessed the feasibility or cost in a cost-constrained environment."

Moreover, the Obama administration is already building an interceptor system in Europe, known as the Phased Adaptive Approach (PAA), to handle potential attacks from Iran, which has yet to deploy long-range missiles that could reach the United States.

The performance of the West Coast GMD system should give pause before deploying a similar one on the East Coast. The GMD system has not had a successful intercept test against since 2008, with two failures in 2010.

According to a recent National Research Council report, which has been misleadingly referenced in support of a near-term East Coast site, the GMD system "has serious shortcomings, and provides at best a limited, initial defense against a relatively primitive threat." Moreover, the GMD system has not been proven effective against a realistic target including decoys.

Building a costly third site for a GMD system that is ineffective and designed to counter a long-range missile threat that may not materialize for many years is not in the best interests of U.S. national security.

Time to Stop Playing Games

It is time to stop playing political games with U.S. nuclear weapons policy. Continued, verified reductions of excessive U.S. and Russian arsenals will enhance U.S. security by reducing the nuclear threat.

As the Pentagon said in January, "It is possible that our deterrence goals can be achieved with a smaller nuclear force, which would reduce the number of nuclear weapons in our inventory, as well as their role in U.S. national security strategy."

Today, Gen. James E. Cartwright, the retired vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and commander of U.S. nuclear forces in the George W. Bush administration, said that U.S. deterrence requirements could be achieved with a total arsenal of 900 strategic nuclear warheads, with only half of them deployed.

A smaller nuclear force would also save money.

The major threats the U.S. faces today, such as proliferation, terrorism or cyber attacks, cannot be addressed by nuclear arms. Rather than demanding American taxpayers cough up yet more money for a new nuclear facility that we don't need, Congress needs to focus on more cost-effective solutions that address the nation's future defense needs.--Daryl G. Kimball and Tom Z. Collina

Note: An earlier version of essay appeared in the May 12, 012 issue of Defense News.

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today

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Volume 3, Issue 8, May 16, 2012

This week, the House of Representatives will debate and vote on the annual defense authorization bill, which in its current form would hold up implementation of the 2010 New START Treaty unless Congress increases spending on nuclear weapons activities that the Pentagon did not request and does not want.

Groups Call On White House To Update Outdated Nuclear Policy

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DELIVER PETITION WITH 50,000 SIGNATURES

For Immediate Release: May 15, 2012

Contact: Daryl G. Kimball, 202-463-8270 x107

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)—Representatives of various groups advocating nuclear arms reductions, presented a petition with over 50,000 signatures to the White House. The appeal--circulated between February and April--urges President Obama to reduce the role and number of nuclear weapons as he makes a once-in-a-decade decision on Presidential nuclear weapons policy “guidance.”

The White House received the petition at a May 7 meeting with Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor for strategic communications and speechwriting. Leaders of arms control groups, including the Arms Control Association, Council for a Livable World and Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Women’s Action for New Directions participated in the meeting, as well the American Values Network, and a representative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“In the 21st century, nuclear weapons are a global liability, not an asset,” the petition says. It calls on the President to “end outdated U.S. nuclear war-fighting strategy, dramatically reduce the number of U.S. nuclear weapons and the number of submarines, missiles, and bombers that carry those weapons, and take U.S. nuclear weapons off high alert. Maintaining large numbers of nuclear forces on alert increases the risk of accident or miscalculation.”

In an email following the meeting Rhodes said: “The White House appreciates the engagement of citizens across our country who support efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and seek the peace and security of a world without them. This type of grassroots activism is critical to build awareness around the dangers of nuclear weapons, and to support common sense arms control policies. We look forward to continued dialogue on these critical issues for U.S. and global security.”

In a March 26 speech, President Obama said: “… the massive nuclear arsenal we inherited from the Cold War is poorly suited for today’s threats, including nuclear terrorism.  Last summer, I therefore directed my national security team to conduct a comprehensive study of our nuclear forces.  That study is still underway."

"But even as we have more work to do," Obama continued, "we can already say with confidence that we have more nuclear weapons than we need.  Even after New START, the United States will still have more than 1,500 deployed nuclear weapons, and some 5,000 warheads.  I firmly believe that we can ensure the security of the United States and our allies, maintain a strong deterrent against any threat, and still pursue further reductions in our nuclear arsenal.”

“We agree that current nuclear stockpiles are excessive and urge the President to translate his words into action by opening the door to dramatically deeper U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals and engaging other nuclear-armed states on nuclear risk reduction measures,” said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

For further information and perspectives, see:

"U.S. must revamp its strategy on atomic weapons," by Lt. Gen. Dirk Jameson (ret.), Buffalo News, April 25, 2012; The Providence Journal, April 24, and The Hill, April 11, 2012.

"Opponents of Nuclear Cuts Misread Trends," by Greg Thielmann, Roll Call, April 18, 2012

"Maine Voices: To save taxes and enhance national security," by Dr. Peter Wilk, Portland Press Herald, April 14, 2012

"U.S. Should Cut Nuclear Stockpile," by Dr. Ira Helfand and Daryl Kimball, Newsday, March 29, 2012

"The Case for Considering Arms Cuts," by Maj. Gen. Paul Monroe (ret.), Politico, Feb. 26, 2012

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The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

Description: 

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)—Representatives of various groups advocating nuclear arms reductions, presented a petition with over 50,000 signatures to the White House. The appeal--circulated between February and April--urges President Obama to reduce the role and number of nuclear weapons as he makes a once-in-a-decade decision on Presidential nuclear weapons policy “guidance.”

More Money for Yesterday's Weapons?

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Volume 3, Issue 7, May 8, 2012

 

 

Tomorrow, the House Armed Services Committee is scheduled to approve its version of the fiscal year (FY) 2013 defense authorization bill. Committee chair Buck McKeon (R-Cal.) and strategic forces chair Michael Turner (R-Ohio) are expected to add $3.7 billion more than the Defense Department requested. This includes hundreds of millions of dollars for nuclear weapons and missile defense programs that the military does not want and the nation cannot afford.

Meanwhile, in response to the bipartisan Budget Control Act, the Pentagon is trying to reduce spending growth by $487 billion over the next decade and faces an additional cut of $500 billion unless the sequestration time bomb can be defused by the end of the year.

Reps. Turner and McKeon's proposals to spend more on unneeded projects will eventually take limited resources away from defense programs the nation needs to address real 21st century security threats.

We Don't Need to Rush to Build an Expensive New Plutonium Lab

 

Rep. McKeon's draft defense authorization bill released on Monday includes $100 million for a new plutonium laboratory, called the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) Facility, to be built at Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico.

There is already bipartisan agreement to delay CMRR. The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) did not request any funds for CMRR and deferred construction for at least five years. The Pentagon does not support the facility, nor does the GOP-led House Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee.

In fact, the Appropriations Subcommittee complained that the facility should have been shelved sooner. "By not fully considering all available options, millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent for work which will not be needed until a much later date," the subcommittee wrote about CMRR on April 24.

NNSA Administrator Thomas D'Agostino testified in April that the United States does not currently need CMRR to maintain an effective stockpile. "That's great news for the country because we're not forced into making rash decisions on significant investments in a very short period of time. So we have time to evaluate this area," he said.

With cost estimates for CMRR skyrocketing from $600 million to $6 billion, the delay is a reasonable response to tight budgets given that other NNSA facilities have "inherent capacity" to support ongoing and future plutonium activities, according to NNSA.

The FY2013 NNSA budget request represents a healthy 5% increase despite fiscal pressures imposed by the Budget Control Act and the House Appropriations Committee's decision last year to cut the program. This year, the committee did not add additional funds above the administration's $7.6 billion request.

Further increases in the NNSA budget for the CMRR lab are out of step and are not necessary to maintain the existing U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.

But We Do Need New START

 

Compounding the misguided effort to restore CMRR funding, Rep. Turner is expected to try to block implementation of the 2010 New START Treaty unless the funding is provided.

Blocking U.S. implementation of New START, as Rep. Turner's bill  H.R. 4178 threatens to do, would likely result in Russia doing the same. The treaty would unravel, allowing Moscow to rebuild its forces above treaty ceilings and increase the number of nuclear weapons aimed at the United States. Moreover, the inspection system established under the treaty could collapse, depriving the United States of crucial data exchanges and on-site inspections of Russian forces that the U.S. intelligence community depends on for its assessments.

Such outcomes are clearly not in the U.S. national security interest. Yet Rep. Turner would put New START at risk--ignoring the will of the 71 senators who voted for it--to extort additional spending on nuclear weapons that is unsustainable and unnecessary, and that the Pentagon and key members of his own party do not support.

New START remains in the U.S. national interest because the treaty reduces the threat to the United States from Russian nuclear forces, and the administration has managed to save money in FY2013 while still achieving its goal of modernizing the nuclear arsenal and production complex.

East Coast Strategic Missile Interceptor Site?

 

Rep. McKeon's bill includes a $460 million increase for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) program, including $100 million to study a missile defense site on the East Coast. This would be in addition to the two sites already built in California and Alaska at a combined cost of $30 billion.

The Pentagon did not request this funding and does not want it. Gen. Charles Jacoby Jr., commander of the U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace and Defense Command, testified during a Senate hearing in March that, "today's threats do not require an East Coast missile field, and we do not have plans to do so."

Moreover, the Obama administration is already building an interceptor system in Europe, known as the Phased Adaptive Approach (PAA), to handle attacks from Iran, which has yet to deploy long-range missiles that could reach the United States.

The performance of the West Coast GMD system should give us pause before deploying a similar one on the East Coast. The GMD system has not had a successful intercept test against a cooperative target since 2008, with two failures in 2010. According to a recent National Research Council report, the GMD system "has serious shortcomings, and provides at best a limited, initial defense against a relatively primitive threat." Moreover, the GMD system has not been tested against a realistic target including decoys.

Building a costly third site for a GMD system that is ineffective and designed to counter a long-range missile threat that may not materialize for many years is not in the best interests of U.S. national or economic security.

We Don't Need 12 New Strategic Nuclear Subs

 

Rep. McKeon's bill also includes an increase of up to $347 million for the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine replacement program, known as the SSBNX. The Navy did not request this money, and instead wants to delay the program by two years.

By accelerating the SSBNX program, Rep. McKeon hopes to prevent the U.S. strategic submarine fleet from dropping from 12 to 10 operational subs around 2030, and the Seapower subcommittee would require the Navy to maintain a minimum of 12 subs. But in reality the United States has no need for 12 subs and could safely make do with eight--and would save at least $18 billion over ten years by doing so.

Just one U.S. Ohio-class submarine, currently armed with 96 nuclear warheads, could kill millions.

From a national security perspective, a shift to eight strategic submarines would provide a more than adequate nuclear deterrent. Under New START, the Pentagon plans to deploy approximately 1,000 nuclear warheads on strategic submarines. Eight fully armed Ohio-class or SSBNX submarines can meet this target. Therefore, a shift to eight operational submarines would not affect the Pentagon's planned warhead deployment levels.

This budget-saving approach takes advantage of the excess capacity that currently exists on each D-5 missile (which is designed to hold eight warheads but is currently loaded with four or five). Although each missile and submarine would carry more warheads under this plan, the submarines-unlike land-based missiles-would still be invulnerable to attack when deployed at sea.

An Office of Management and Budget (OMB) analysis in November 2011 reportedly recommended that the Navy should purchase only 10 submarines and increase the number of missile tubes from 16 to 20 on each boat. Congress has directed the Navy to prepare a report on more economical options for the new fleet, to be completed by mid-2012.

Time to Stop Playing Games

 

While the Defense Department is seeking reasonable ways to trim spending, Reps. McKeon and Turner are telling the military to spend millions on nuclear weapons and missile defense programs that the Pentagon does not want. This makes no sense, particularly when the Pentagon is trying to reduce spending by $487 billion over the next decade and sequestration looms. The days of ever-increasing defense budgets are over.

In particular, future nuclear force reductions cannot be held hostage to annual congressional debates about the defense budget. It remains in the U.S. national security interest to verifiably reduce excess Cold War U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals.

As the Pentagon's January 2012 strategy document Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense says: "It is possible that our deterrence goals can be achieved with a smaller nuclear force, which would reduce the number of nuclear weapons in our inventory as well as their role in U.S. national security strategy."

The major threats the United States faces today, such as proliferation, terrorism or cyber attacks, cannot be addressed by nuclear arms. Rather than asking American taxpayers to cough up yet more money for yesterday's weapons, Congress needs to focus on more cost-effective solutions that address the nation's future defense needs.--Tom Z. Collina and Daryl G. Kimball

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today

Description: 

Volume 3, Issue 7, May 8, 2012

 

 

Tomorrow, the House Armed Services Committee is scheduled to approve its version of the fiscal year (FY) 2013 defense authorization bill. Committee chair Buck McKeon (R-Cal.) and strategic forces chair Michael Turner (R-Ohio) are expected to add $3.7 billion more than the Defense Department requested. This includes hundreds of millions of dollars for nuclear weapons and missile defense programs that the military does not want and the nation cannot afford.

Holding New START Hostage

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Volume 3, Issue 6, April 20, 2012

In the next few weeks, the Republican leadership on the House Armed Services Committee is expected to try to block implementation of the New START Treaty unless the Obama administration agrees to further increase spending on the U.S. nuclear weapons infrastructure. This type of partisan "hostage taking" threatens to undermine U.S. national security, ignores budget reality, and defies common sense.

Blocking U.S. implementation of New START, as Strategic Forces Subcommittee chairman Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio)'s bill H.R. 4178 threatens to do, would likely result in Russia doing the same. The treaty would unravel, allowing Moscow to rebuild its forces above treaty levels and increase the number of nuclear weapons aimed at the United States. Moreover, the inspection system established under the treaty could collapse, depriving the United States of crucial data exchanges and on-site inspections of Russian forces.

Such outcomes are clearly not in the U.S. national security interest. Yet Rep. Turner would put New START at risk--ignoring the will of the 71 senators who voted for it--to extort additional spending on nuclear weapons that is unsustainable and unnecessary, and that key members of his own party do not support.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) added his voice to the debate with an April 17 letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee stating that "if modernization efforts to ensure the safety, security and reliability of a smaller stockpile are not sustained, then further reductions to the stockpile should not be considered" until New START expires in 2021. However, modernization efforts are being sustained, with increased spending in FY2013.

Both Sen. Lieberman's and Rep. Turner's proposals to hold New START and future arms reductions hostage are all pain, no gain.

Nuclear Weapons Funding is Sufficient

Critics often point out that the administration's FY2013 $7.6 billion request for National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) weapons activities is 4% lower than projected in 2010, during the New START debate in the Senate. What they tend to ignore is that the FY2013 request is actually 5% higher than the 2012 enacted budget.

Rather than a breach of faith, as Rep. Turner sees it, the FY2013 NNSA request represents a healthy increase despite fiscal pressures imposed by the bipartisan 2011 Budget Control Act and the GOP-led House Appropriations Committee's failure to fully fund the program last year. In fact, the Energy and Water Development Subcommittee marked up its FY2013 budget this week and did not add additional funds above the administration's $7.6 billion request.

Given the new fiscal environment, congress cannot expect two-year-old budget projections to remain valid. As Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) put it in March, the New START debate took place "nine months before the Budget Control Act became law," and thus "falling 4 percent short of the [2010-derived] target is reasonable given the fiscal reality facing us today."

Bipartisan Agreement: We Don't Need CMRR Now

The administration's FY2013 NNSA weapons activities budget request contains no funding for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) Facility, to be built for plutonium research at Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico, and deferred work for at least five years.

For FY2012, the House Appropriations Committee cut CMRR by $100 million, or 33 percent, indicating bipartisan concern about the need for CMRR.

As House Energy and Water Subcommittee Chair Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) said last June:"Yes, 'Weapons Activities' is below the President's request, but this request included hundreds of millions of dollars for construction projects that are not ready to move forward, capabilities that are secondary to the primary mission of keeping our stockpile ready, and, yes, slush funds that the administration has historically used to address its needs...The recommendation before you eliminates these weaknesses and it is responsible."

For FY2013, the House Energy and Water Subcommittee has so far not provided any money for CMRR.

With total cost estimates for CMRR skyrocketing to $6 billion, the delay is a reasonable response to tight budgets given that other NNSA facilities have "inherent capacity" to support ongoing and future plutonium activities, according to NNSA. As a result, the CMRR deferral will not compromise NNSA's ability to maintain the nuclear stockpile.

When asked at a February hearing if the FY2013 budget request fully meets the requirements to maintain the nuclear stockpile, NNSA Administrator Thomas D'Agostino said: "...it absolutely does, fully meets the requirements, and we'll be able to take care of the stockpile... So the stockpile is safe, secure, and reliable."

Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler, Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, testified before the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee April 17, that "I wouldn't want to suggest that the [nuclear] force that's deployed today is not safe, secure and effective. It is. I believe it can achieve its deterrence responsibilities as we sit there today. In fact, I'm extremely confident in that."

Charles McMillan, director of Los Alamos lab where CMRR would be built, told congress April 18 that the decision to defer CMRR "leaves the United States with no known capability to make 50 to 80 newly-produced pits on the timescales planned for stockpile modernization."

The reality, however, is that there is no identified need to produce that many plutonium pits and the nation has time to evaluate its options.

D'Agostino testified April 17 that "We're not hampered by saying the nation has to have a capability right now to make 50 or 80 pits per year in order to take care of the stockpile. That's great news for the country because we're not forced into making rash decisions on significant investments in a very short period of time. So we have time to evaluate this area."

Assistant Defense Secretary for Global Strategic Affairs Madelyn Creedon testified April 17 that CMRR's planned production capacity would be revisited. She said, "what is the future pit requirement, how big CMRR has to be, how much plutonium it has to hold -- those are all decisions that may in fact change...when we once again resume consideration of the funding and the design of the CMRR."

New START Resolution of Approval Provides the Path Forward

In addition to being misguided, Rep. Turner's bill is unnecessary because the December 2010 New START Resolution of Advice and Consent already provides recourse. The resolution's condition 9 declared a "sense of the Senate" that the United States is committed to providing the resources needed to maintain nuclear weapons at the levels "set forth in the President's 10-year plan provided to the Congress pursuant to section 1251 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 (Public Law 111-84)," otherwise know as the 1251 report.

Just in case Congress did not provide sufficient resources in the future, condition 9 of the resolution of ratification states that the President shall submit a report detailing how the administration would address the resource shortfall; the proposed level of funding required; the impact of the shortfall on the safety, reliability, and performance of U.S. nuclear forces; and whether "it remains in the national interest of the United States to remain a Party to the New START Treaty."

It is the responsibility of Congress to fund programs, and Congress did not fully fund the administration's request for 1251 report activities in FY2012, nor is it likely to add money in FY2013. The Pentagon said in March that it intends to submit the condition 9 report soon on how to deal with the shortfall and on the value of remaining a party to New START.

New START Still In U.S. Interests

New START remains in the U.S. national interest because the treaty reduces the threat to the United States from Russian nuclear forces, and the administration has managed to save money in FY2013 while still achieving its goal of modernizing the nuclear arsenal and production complex.

Future nuclear force reductions cannot be held hostage to annual congressional debates about the particulars of each and every component of the NNSA budget, which is higher than it was before negotiations on New START began. It remains in the U.S. national security interest to verifiably reduce excess Cold War U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals.

As the Pentagon's January 2012 strategy document Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense says: "It is possible that our deterrence goals can be achieved with a smaller nuclear force, which would reduce the number of nuclear weapons in our inventory as well as their role in U.S. national security strategy." It would also save money.

The major threats the United States faces today, such as proliferation, terrorism or cyber attacks, cannot be addressed by nuclear arms. Rather than asking American taxpayers to cough up yet more money for yesterday's weapons, Congress needs to focus on more cost-effective solutions that address the nation's future defense needs.--Tom Z. Collina and Daryl G. Kimball

###

The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today.

Description: 

Volume 3, Issue 6, April 20, 2012

In the next few weeks, the Republican leadership on the House Armed Services Committee is expected to try to block implementation of the New START Treaty unless the Obama administration agrees to further increase spending on the U.S. nuclear weapons infrastructure. This type of partisan "hostage taking" threatens to undermine U.S. national security, ignores budget reality, and defies common sense.

Op-Ed: Opponents of Nuclear Cuts Misread Trends

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By Greg Thielmann

The following piece was originally published in Roll Call on April 18, 2012.

The press recently reported that the Pentagon is preparing options for President Barack Obama as part of the Nuclear Posture Review implementation study. The mere notion of restructuring U.S. nuclear forces unleashed panicked reactions from Capitol Hill’s most ardent nuclear weapons enthusiasts.

With the president reaffirming in his visit to South Korea that he will seek to negotiate further reductions, the pro-nuclear camp will be up in arms. It shouldn’t be.

U.S. security will only be improved by further reductions. For the most part, opponents of nuclear cuts focus their concerns on Russia, but they have difficulty figuring out how to characterize the Russian threat more than 20 years after the end of the Cold War. In one moment, they cite Moscow’s surly rhetoric and stated intention of reinvesting in Russia’s strategic defense budget. In the next breath, they dismiss arms control efforts as unnecessary in light of Russia’s decline and as irrelevant for addressing more urgent threats from China, North Korea and Iran.

Policymakers need to engage in a serious discussion about what the U.S. nuclear arsenal can and should deter, but smart planning should be grounded in the reality that the U.S.-Russia relationship, while contentious, is no longer the zero-sum game of a prior era.

A prerequisite for that overdue debate is a sober and realistic accounting of the existing balance of forces — a process fiercely resisted by devotees of nuclear weaponry. Thirty-four Members of the House wrote to Obama, warning of “the growth in quantity and quality of nuclear weapons capabilities in Russia, the People’s Republic of China, India, Pakistan, North Korea and, perhaps soon the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

They declined to provide a time frame for this alleged “growth,” no doubt because the reduction in Russian forces during recent years has actually led to an overall reduction in the number of nuclear weapons possessed by America’s potential enemies.

In an attempt at resuscitating a debate he lost in 2010, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) declared in February that “Not a country in the world has reduced warheads since the signing of the New [Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty] except the United States,” but the latest data exchanged under the treaty shows a March 1 Russian warhead number lower than the initial count one year earlier — already below the New START limit. The U.S. remained 187 warheads above the limit.

Of course, any consideration of U.S. nuclear policy should start with an evaluation of Russian trends because the nuclear forces controlled by Moscow dwarf those of all other nuclear weapons states, except our own. Such consideration reveals a continuing decline from the enormous arsenal Moscow inherited from the Soviet Union.

While both parties are obligated to reduce operational warhead levels further before the New START’s 1,550 ceiling goes into effect in 2018, many U.S. and Russian experts predict that Russia’s actual warhead count may fall significantly below that. This is a trend we should encourage.

Rather than giving Russia an incentive to rebuild its nuclear forces after their numerical decline, it is in America’s security interest to safely follow a similar path, seizing the opportunity to eliminate unnecessary U.S. nuclear forces and using the savings to provide a boon to America’s fragile economic recovery.

The anxious Representatives’ letter also warned of China’s “ambitious” nuclear program. But China fields about 50 warheads on intercontinental systems, compared with the 1,737 deployed by the United States — a roughly 35-to-1 ratio. And China has no intercontinental bombers, no adequate strategic warning and no multiple warheads on its ballistic missiles.

An objective look at the nuclear balance and the narrowed function of nuclear weapons should lead to a number of important changes, including eliminating categories of targets only appropriate for nuclear war-fighting rather than deterrence and easing requirements for rapid launch capabilities, thus removing pressure on national command authorities to make hasty decisions.

Empowered with updated and modernized guidance, American planners can significantly reduce the number of weapons in the nuclear arsenal, both enhancing U.S. national security and saving billions of tax dollars in the bargain.

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The press recently reported that the Pentagon is preparing options for President Barack Obama as part of the Nuclear Posture Review implementation study. The mere notion of restructuring U.S. nuclear forces unleashed panicked reactions from Capitol Hill’s most ardent nuclear weapons enthusiasts.

Country Resources:

Band of Brothers Against the Bomb

Reviewed by David E. Hoffman

The Partnership: Five Cold Warriors and Their Quest to Ban the Bomb

By Philip Taubman

HarperCollins, 2012, 496 pp.

On the evening of October 12, 1986, as the Reykjavik summit between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev broke up, a huge crowd of journalists, including myself, waited expectantly, not knowing of the drama that had unfolded over the previous two days. When Secretary of State George Shultz took the podium at the press conference, I noticed the U.S. arms control negotiator, Max Kampelman, standing off in the wings. His face sagged with disappointment. Shultz then went on to describe how the two leaders had come close to the deal of the century—to eliminate all nuclear weapons—before breaking up in disagreement over limits on Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative.

Kampelman, a Washington lawyer and conservative Democrat who had worked for Senator Hubert Humphrey (D-Minn.), was Reagan’s chief negotiator at the Geneva arms control talks. I recall he was near tears. Many of us jumped to the conclusion Reykjavik was a colossal failure. In the years since, however, it has become clear that what began at Reykjavik eventually bore fruit. The summit was a significant turning point toward the end of the Cold War arms race.

I saw Kampelman again at an October 2006 conference at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution to examine the lessons of Reykjavik. It was a fascinating meeting that brought together many of the players from the Reagan years. Kampelman delivered a short paper, saying the world must get on with Reagan’s vision of eliminating all nuclear weapons. Kampelman pointed out that although the Cold War was over, nuclear terrorism and proliferation remained serious threats.[1]

At the time, Kampelman’s talk seemed a bit irrelevant and woefully idealistic. Yet, I learned from Philip Taubman’s new history, The Partnership: Five Cold Warriors and Their Quest to Ban the Bomb, that Kampelman’s paper was the start of something larger. He had published an op-ed in The New York Times on April 24, 2006, and was discussing the idea of eliminating nuclear weapons with Steven Andreasen, who had served on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration.

Before the Hoover conference, Shultz kept his distance from Kampelman’s idea. According to Taubman, after hearing Kampelman’s talk, Shultz suddenly declared he was in favor of abolishing all nuclear weapons, “the first time since the Reykjavik summit itself that Shultz had publically endorsed the idea.”

This moment led to an op-ed piece published in The Wall Street Journal on January 4, 2007, headlined “A World Free of Nuclear Weapons.”[2] Signed by Shultz, former Secretary of Defense William Perry, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and a former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), the article called for a new consensus to end global nuclear danger. The piece also reflected the involvement of Sidney Drell, a theoretical physicist and arms control specialist. (Drell and Kampelman did not sign the op-ed.)

The article outlined a series of interim steps, then declared, “We endorse setting the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.” For those who had followed these statesmen through their long careers, it was a startling shift, a change of direction that demanded some explanation. The core of Taubman’s book provides that explanation.

This is not a dense book about arcane arms control negotiations, but rather an accessible chronicle of each participant’s intellectual journey, based on interviews with all of them. The tone of the book is reflective and explanatory. Taubman reported for The New York Times for 30 years, including stints as bureau chief in Moscow and Washington, and is now a consulting professor at Stanford University.

Getting to Zero

Separate from the wise men but along a parallel track, a broadly based movement known as Global Zero began to galvanize public opinion worldwide toward a phased elimination of all nuclear weapons. The Global Zero movement deserves its own book; Taubman notes it only briefly.[3]

The Global Zero campaign and the wise men’s efforts sprouted from the same conclusion: the time has arrived to retire the Cold War nuclear overhang of weapons and launchers and to prevent other countries from pursuing and enlarging their own arsenals. President Barack Obama’s Prague speech in April 2009 endorsing the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world was in the same spirit, although Obama added, “This goal will not be reached quickly—perhaps not in my lifetime.”

The truth is that, despite the lofty statements by Obama, the wise men, and Global Zero, Russia and the United States still cling to absurdly high levels of nuclear warheads, far more than is necessary for the security of either country. U.S. military strategists know this, but do not often like to discuss it. Leaders of each country ought to be more frank, but for political reasons are not.

Obama may be proud of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia, which reduced the number of operationally deployed warheads on each side to 1,550, but he should be appalled that the United States still maintains another 2,800 or so in a strategic “hedge,” or reserve, not covered by the treaty. The reserve originally was justified by Perry in 1994 as necessary because of a “small but real danger that reform in Russia might fail.”[4]The hedge may have been prudent then, but has outlived its original justification and its usefulness. The size of the reserve could be reduced by half immediately. (The other justification for the reserve was to provide technical backup.) Yet, there is almost no discussion about this in public. As I read Taubman’s book, I kept wishing that the subjects would go beyond their periodic op-eds and speak out more forcefully as a group, as some of them have done individually. These men enjoy great credibility around the globe, and they are uniquely positioned to spread the message that security no longer rests on possession of massive nuclear stockpiles.

In my experience, both Russians and Americans have grown complacent about nuclear weapons, as if they disappeared with the Cold War, when they did not. The election year has frozen U.S.-Russian arms control; a dispute lingers on missile defense; the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty remains unratified by the United States; and the fate of nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea is uncertain.

The White House nuclear weapons implementation study, now being written, might be the next chance for a serious debate in the United States about dramatically lower levels of nuclear weapons, and that will not come until next year. Hopefully, it will not be timid.

Nuclear Mind-Set

Throughout the Cold War, nuclear weapons profoundly changed the lives and thinking of those who worked on them as designers, policymakers, or negotiators. At the dawn of the atomic age, it was the physicists. After the war, J. Robert Oppenheimer, who led the team that built and tested the first atomic bomb, warned of a nuclear arms race, the impossibility of defense against the bomb in war, and the need for international control of the atom.[5] In 1983, a time of deep tensions with Moscow, Reagan watched a made-for-television movie, The Day After, while at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland. In his diary, Reagan wrote of the film, “It has Lawrence, Kansas wiped out in a nuclear war with Russia. It is powerfully done...very effective & left me greatly depressed.”[6]

An important question raised by Taubman is whether the men in The Partnership feel any remorse about their past actions. Taubman addresses the subject, but struggles to find a definitive answer. “None of the five men would call their current effort an act of repentance for their leading roles in maintaining the Cold War nuclear balance of terror,” he writes. “Yet there is an undeniable patina of atonement inherent in their effort. Having witnessed the birth of the nuclear age in 1945 and devoted the best years of their lives to sustaining America’s nuclear might, they seem determined in their twilight years to convince the world that nuclear weapons must be abolished before it is too late to prevent the destruction of New York, Washington, London, or some other urban center.”

The evolution of the wise men has been gradual. Nunn is a good example. In his Senate years, he was a strong supporter of deterrence, but was kept up at night by worry about nuclear weapons accidents, and he worked to set up joint warning centers with the Soviet Union to prevent a disaster. Nunn also worried about the nuclear tripwire in Europe, where NATO forces relied on battlefield weapons to stop a potential Warsaw Pact conventional invasion. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Nunn gave a forceful Senate floor speech demanding action on legislation to help secure and dismantle the enormous stock of weapons left over. At first, his fellow senators balked, but Nunn persevered. The Nunn-Lugar legislation, approved and signed into law in 1992, was an example of real congressional foresight in global affairs.[7] Yet on the larger question of nuclear abolition, Nunn “warmed to it slowly,” Taubman says.

Perry “comes closest to a sense of expiation,” Taubman writes. “‘My generation was responsible for building up this fearsome nuclear arsenal,’ he sometimes tells his Stanford students. ‘I helped create these deadly weapons, and therefore I believe that I have a special responsibility to dismantle them.’”

Kissinger is in many ways the most conflicted and the one who seems to harbor the deepest doubts about the initiative. Taubman quotes a Kissinger friend as saying, “He doesn’t really believe it. He’d love to figure a way to get out of it.” Kissinger tells Taubman that he signed on because of his respect for the others and that he “might not have gone all that distance had I done it by myself.”

Taubman writes, “Henry Kissinger, after all, approved the development of multi-warhead clusters that could be loaded atop missiles and aimed at different targets, a fateful step that made the Cold War even more volatile by making land-based missiles vulnerable to attack.” Taubman also recalls that Kissinger “risked nuclear miscalculation when he and [President] Richard Nixon used American nuclear force exercises in 1969 to unnerve the Kremlin about American intentions in Vietnam and again in 1973 to keep Moscow from intervening in a Mideast war.” Kissinger also was the author of a best-selling 1957 book, Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy, that envisioned limited nuclear strikes as a strategy for deterrence or war-fighting. “Nuclear war should be fought as something less than an all-out war,” Kissinger wrote. “Limited nuclear war represents our most effective strategy against nuclear powers or against a major power which is capable of substituting manpower for technology.”[8] Does Kissinger still think that he was right about limited nuclear war?

“They were dedicated Cold Warriors,” Taubman concludes of the men in the partnership. “And by that yardstick, their present effort to eliminate nuclear weapons seems all the more improbable.”


David E. Hoffman is author of The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy, which won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction. He was a White House correspondent, Moscow bureau chief, and foreign editor of The Washington Post.


ENDNOTES


1. Max M. Kampelman, “Zero Nuclear Weapons,” in Implications of the Reykjavik Summit on Its Twentieth Anniversary: Conference Report, ed. Sidney D. Drell and George P. Shultz (Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 2007), pp. 97-104. See Max M. Kampelman and Steven P. Andreasen, “Turning the Goal of a World Without Nuclear Weapons Into a Joint Enterprise,” in Reykjavik Revisited: Steps Toward a World Free of Nuclear Weapons, ed. George P. Shultz et al. (Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 2008), pp. 429-447.

2. George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger and Sam Nunn, “A World Free of Nuclear Weapons,” The Wall Street Journal, January 4, 2007, p. A15.

3. See David E. Hoffman, “Global Heroes: How the Cold War’s Wise Men Went Anti-Nuclear,” Foreign Policy, December 2010, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/11/29/global_heroes.

4. Robert Burns, “Perry Says America Must Maintain Nuclear ‘Hedge’ Against Russia,” Associated Press, September 20, 1994.

5. See Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer (New York: Knopf, 2005).

6. Douglas Brinkley, ed., The Reagan Diaries (New York: HarperCollins, 2007), pp. 185-186.

7. For more on the origins of the Nunn-Lugar legislation, see David E. Hoffman, The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy (New York: Doubleday, 2009), ch. 17.

8. Henry A. Kissinger, Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy (New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 1957), p. 199.

On the evening of October 12, 1986, as the Reykjavik summit between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev broke up, a huge crowd of journalists, including myself, waited expectantly, not knowing of the drama that had unfolded over the previous two days. When Secretary of State George Shultz took the podium at the press conference, I noticed the U.S. arms control negotiator, Max Kampelman, standing off in the wings. His face sagged with disappointment. Shultz then went on to describe how the two leaders had come close to the deal of the century—to eliminate all nuclear weapons—before breaking up in disagreement over limits on Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative.

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