Wednesday, January 25, 2006
9:30 a.m.–11:30 a.m.
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
AMBASSADOR LINTON F. BROOKS,
ADMINISTRATOR, NATIONAL NUCLEAR SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY
CHAIRMAN, COMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL SECURITY AND ARMS CONTROL, NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
SENIOR POLICY ANALYST, RAND
DARYL G. KIMBALL,
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ARMS CONTROL ASSOCIATION
Federal News Service,
Washington , D.C.
DARYL G. KIMBALL: Well, good morning everyone. Please find your seats. It sounds like we have a little echo here. I’m Daryl Kimball. Welcome very much to the Arms Control Association’s winter panel discussion. This will be followed by our annual members’ luncheon today with Dr. Hans Blix, but we have a very good panel this morning on the subject of the future of the United States nuclear weapons stockpile. We have many Arms Control Association members here and friends. But for those of you who are not familiar with the Arms Control Association, we’re a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, which is dedicated to public education on the threats posed by nuclear, chemical, biological, and conventional arms and to promoting means by which we can effectively deal with the threats that they pose. I’m proud to say also that this year, 2006, is our 35 th anniversary in the business, and from the large turnout today, apparently arms control is still a hot topic and something we all need to pay attention to.
Since the founding of the Arms Control Association in 1971 to the present, we have been especially focused on the value and the obligation under Article VI of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to verifiably reduce and eliminate global nuclear weapons stockpiles. And today’s session is but the latest in a series of events and articles and reports that we have put together to encourage a fresh and forward-looking thinking on these issues. And as David Hobson, the influential congressman from Ohio, said last year at our event, – and I’m quoting – “I think the time is now for a thoughtful and open debate on the role of nuclear weapons in our country’s national security strategy.” And on that, I think there is very broad agreement. But as of now, there does not seem to be consensus on what the specific roles, if any, the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile serves in U.S. security policy today and into the future in the decades ahead. Nor is there agreement about the size, the composition of the stockpile and how it should be further adjusted given the overarching need to curb the spread of nuclear, chemical, biological weapons, to reduce the saliency of nuclear weapons, and to prevent nuclear terrorism.
Before we hear from our distinguished panelists, let me just highlight four key areas that have been in the forefront of the Arms Control Association’s thinking on this subject and I think are very important to think about as we look at the future of the U.S. stockpile in the decade ahead. First, how do we advance progress on verifiable, strategic nuclear disarmament beyond the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, which promises to reduce U.S. and Russian strategic deployed warheads to no more than 2,200 by the year 2012? That represents progress certainly in a relative sense, but keep in mind that those numbers are comparable to the warhead deployment numbers of the Cold War era, specifically the U.S. levels in the mid-1950s and the Soviets in the late 1960s. And keep in mind that if the START I agreement is allowed to expire in 2009, the ability of the United States and Russia to confidently verify compliance with their commitments will diminish considerably. So from ACA’s perspective, we do not see any credible threat scenario that warrants maintaining such large numbers of strategic warheads on high alert, 20 years after the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall. And as the report that we published last year on restructuring U.S. strategic forces by Dr. Sidney Drell and Ambassador Jim Goodby, recommends – we think the U.S. should pursue faster and deeper reductions, perhaps to 1,000 total warheads by the year 2010. And new negotiations either to extend START or to renew the verification procedures should begin soon.
Second, how can we verifiably reduce excess stockpiles of Cold War-era tactical nuclear weapons, which Russia has at least 3,500. The numbers are not exactly clear. The United States, itself, maintains several hundred of nonstrategic warheads, including some 400 maintained at six NATO countries in Europe. And as the former head of the Department of Energy’s Defense Nuclear Proliferation Office told Congress last year, a lost tactical nuclear warhead is a “low-risk, high-consequence” terrorism threat that keeps him up at night. It keeps me up at night sometimes, too. While both countries profess to support progress in reducing these tactical arsenals, each side blames the other for holding up progress. And as a result, many in Congress and in European parliaments are getting a bit impatient. And I’d note that last year Congress asked the Defense, State, and Energy Departments to provide reports on whether and how the U.S. should reduce the number of U.S. and Russian nonstrategic nuclear weapons and improve the security of Russian nonstrategic nuclear weapons, something that’s certainly in the bailiwick of, among other things, one of our guests today Ambassador Brooks. Now in the view of ACA, the U.S. could help break the impasse by thinking about how it could draw down its NATO tactical forces and retiring old systems, such as the W-80 warhead.
Third, should the United States continue to seek new capabilities – weapons capabilities – such as the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, for new nuclear missions including the possible preemptive use of nuclear weapons, as Jacques Chirac suggested in a speech a few days ago, or the use of such weapons against non-nuclear weapons targets? And I just say on this that I hope the administration’s forthcoming budget request finally recognizes that Congress does not support this course of action and will likely reject it again if asked to do so.
Finally, even though the Bush administration is making progress in reducing overall number of deployed U.S. warheads, it is also pursuing an expensive and ambitious program to revitalize the nuclear weapons research and production complex. How can we get back on track towards a more cost effective way to maintain a shrinking stockpile without resorting to nuclear testing? Last year, the administration proposed a new program dubbed RRW – Reliable Replacement Warhead – to replace existing warheads with new ones that it says can improve the reliability of the existing stockpile, reduce costs, all without resuming testing or creating new nuclear weapons capabilities. From my perspective and many in Congress, as we’ve seen, the jury is still out on the RRW program. It may be the wrong solution for a non-existent reliability problem, and perhaps without proper oversight it could create new uncertainties that could lead to renewed testing. It could lead to new cost burdens, and it could create the means to develop new warhead concepts for new nuclear missions at some point in the future.
So those are some of the issues that I hope we’ll discuss this morning. We have an excellent panel this morning to stir our thinking on these issues beginning with Ambassador Linton Brooks first on my right, the administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration. Ambassador Brooks has a long and distinguished career – held many high-ranking posts, not the least of which was being chief strategic arms negotiator for the START I agreement of 1991. And I want to especially thank you, Ambassador Brooks, for coming here to engage with us on this subject, and you’ve always kept the communication lines open with ACA. And that’s much appreciated. Next we’re going to hear from Dr. Raymond Jeanloz, who is professor of Earth and planetary sciences at the University of California – Berkley. He is also the chair of the National Academy of Science’s Committee on International Security and Arms Control. And that committee, as many of you know, has published several authoritative studies on the future of U.S. nuclear forces, earth-penetrating nuclear weapons, monitoring weapons and nuclear materials, which I would recommend to you. And last but not least, we have David Mosher, who is currently senior policy analyst at the RAND Corporation. He was for many years the principle analyst for national security issues with the Congressional Budget Office, and he is the recent co-author of a comprehensive study on improving U.S.-Russia nuclear safety.
Following all of their remarks, we’ll hear from you, the audience, for a question and answer session. But first, Ambassador Brooks, the podium is yours. I appreciate you coming, especially after a long trip from Russia. You can stay there, or you’re welcome to come to the podium.
AMBASSADOR LINTON BROOKS: I’m going to stay here if that’s okay. Thanks very much. I’m pleased to be here. I’m going to talk – I’m not going to talk about all four of the issues that were set forth. I can talk about some of them in the discussion. I want to talk about the overall stockpile and the infrastructure and where I think we’re going with that and how that supports the president’s goal of reducing nuclear weapons to the lowest level consistent with our security. I’m going to make two assumptions that many in this room will disagree with so might as well tell you them up front. First, I am going to assume that for the foreseeable future, we are going to need to retain nuclear weapons and that we’re going to need the capability to sustain and, if necessary, modernize them. I don’t believe that I will live to see the political conditions for abolition, and I don’t believe that, if I live to see the political conditions, that abolition would be technically verifiable in my lifetime. And so I’m assuming that the real issue that faces the United States is not whether we have nuclear weapons, but what kind and for what purpose and under what conditions. Secondly, I – and I’ll expand on this a little bit near the end – I don’t see any conflict between the plans that I’m going to describe for you and our strong support for nonproliferation. And I’ll explain why in a minute, but just to alert you to the two broad themes that many of you are not going to be completely sure I’m right on, we can start with those two.
The president made his position clear from the earliest days of the administration. In May of 2001 at the [ National Defense University], he said, “We can and will change the size, the composition, the character of our nuclear forces in a way that reflects the reality that the Cold War is over. I’m committed to achieving a credible deterrent with the lowest possible number of nuclear weapons consistent with our national security needs, including our obligations to our allies.” Well what have we done to meet that? We’ve done two significant things at least. The Treaty of Moscow, which you heard referred to, as of May of 2002, will reduce operationally deployed weapons to between 1,700 and 2,200 by December of 2012 down from about 5,300 deployed at the end of 2003. And while I take the point that many including me believe that that should not be the end, I also will say that those are levels that would have seemed fanciful at the time that I was involved in negotiation with START I and START II. I want to neither suggest that we should be satisfied, nor minimize the accomplishment. In addition, in May of 2004, the president reduced the total of U.S. stockpiled, non-deployed as well as deployed. By 2012, the stockpile will be down almost one half from the level of 2001. It will be the smallest total stockpile since the Eisenhower administration and be roughly a factor of four reduction since the end of the Cold War.
Now I submit to you that both of these are significant accomplishments, but I also agree, I suspect, with many in this room that further reductions are possible and desirable. And the key to making those reductions in my view is found in an important conceptual breakthrough in the administration’s Nuclear Posture Review of 2002. That review said a number of things. It said that other capabilities could substitute for functions traditionally assigned to nuclear forces – conventional capabilities, defense capabilities. And so it postulated a so-called new triad of offensive forces, nuclear, kinetic, and conventional defensive forces, and supporting our research and development infrastructure. And from the standpoint of the Department of Energy, the recognition of the critical role of infrastructure as an element of overall deterrence was the most fundamental and important change. And it’s the one that holds out the promise of additional reduction in the stockpile.
Let me tell you why. The president approved a significant reduction, as I’ve said, in 2004. But there is still a large number of non-deployed weapons that will be retained under the plan the president approved. They’ll be retained to hedge against technical problems. They’ll be retained as a hedge against geopolitical problems. Technical problems are a euphemism for finding out that some warhead doesn’t work so you need to maintain enough other warheads to compensate for that. Geopolitical is a euphemism for somebody else who decides that they’d like to restart a “strategic competition,” which is what administration officials call arm races. As we started to implement these concepts, we recognized that we could eliminate much of this non-deployed hedge, if we really had a responsive infrastructure. Once we demonstrate that we can produce warheads on a time scale in which geopolitical threats emerge – and that’s a time scale of years – then we don’t need to retain extra warheads to hedge against unexpected international changes. Once we can respond in a timely way to technical problems in the stockpile, we may no longer need to retain extra warheads as a hedge against such problems. So in 2002, we saw this concept of responsive infrastructure as the key not only to future effectiveness of the force, but also as key to additional reductions.
And as we in the Department of Defense take the first steps on the path toward a responsive infrastructure – and I’m going to say in a moment this is a very long journey in which we are just beginning – we have been aided by a new idea first formalized last year called the Reliable Replacement Warhead or RRW. The RRW concept relaxes Cold War design constraints. In the Cold War, we believed two things in the design world. One, we believed we needed the greatest yield for the smallest weight because we wanted to put a lot of warheads on a missile. And secondly, we believed that plutonium was a scarce and precious resource, and we needed to use as little as possible of it in each warhead. Now, neither of those makes any sense in today’s world. We still have the same missiles, but they carry far fewer warheads so there’s no particular premium on making those warheads light. And I’m spending money to get rid of plutonium not to conserve it. And so if we can take advantage of this practical change and relax the design constraints, then we could redesign existing warheads with replacement components that are easier to manufacture, safer and more secure, eliminate environmentally dangerous materials, and increase design margins, which would have the ancillary benefit of reducing the chance that we will ever have to resume nuclear testing.
Probably the most overworked word in Washington, at least in the national security business, is transformation. And transformation is used and abused to cover many things, but it’s just possible that, if – and remember, they call it research because you don’t know yet how it’s going to come out. But if the combination of a Reliable Replacement Warhead and a truly responsive infrastructure – and we see those as each enabling the other – comes to have the promise we think it’d have, this may actually justify the term transformational. Now that transformation will build on the Stockpile Stewardship program, and it’s important to understand that nothing we’re doing is a repudiation of stockpile stewardship. Stockpile stewardship is working. We are absolutely convinced today’s stockpile is safe and reliable. We are absolutely convinced that there is no requirement at this time for nuclear tests. Each year the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Energy formally reaffirm that judgment to the president based on the independent judgment of the three weapons lab directors and the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command. So stockpile stewardship is working. It is giving us a good understanding of the stockpile. It is enabling us to say that we could potentially make these changes.
Now the problem with what I’ve just said is that it takes time. We can change our declaratory policy in a day. I mean, the litany of assure, dissuade, deter, defeat that underlies the declaratory policy of the Nuclear Posture Review can be changed in a day. And we can change the targeting that underlies that in relatively brief time, maybe weeks. And in a year or so, we can improve integration of nuclear and non-nuclear offenses and of defenses. But the infrastructure and the stockpile change much more slowly, and full transformation of this infrastructure will take a couple of decades. Concrete example – most of us assume, although we don’t know yet, that the Reliable Replacement Warhead will require a manufacturing pitch. If everything works the way we hope – and I think an honest man would say that a track record of everything in my business – meetings, schedules – is not perfect. But if everything works the way we hope, early in the next decade, we might be able to produce 40 pits a year. So even if you accept the idea that you want to go to a stockpile half the size of the 2012 stockpile, to turn that over is going to be a very long process. And doing it more rapidly will have to await a restored pit production capability, which is at least 15 years away.
So this is going to take a long time, but it may actually be worth waiting for. Let me take you forward 20 or 25 years when the emerging vision of the nuclear weapons enterprise of the future has come to fruition. The deployed stockpile, almost certainly considerably smaller than today’s plans call for, has been largely transformed. Reliable Replacement Warheads have relaxed the design constraints imposed during the Cold War. As a result, they’re more easily manufactured with safer and more environmentally benign materials. Now these modified warheads have the same military characteristics, and they’re carried on the same delivery systems, and they hold at risk the same targets as the variants they replaced. But they’ve been redesigned for reliability, for security, and for ease of maintenance. And because of this in this future world, even though there’s nobody – almost nobody left who remembers a nuclear test, let alone actually worked on one, the confidence in the stockpile is very, very high. That’s because the Reliable Replacement Warhead concept is built around large design margins and therefore an insensitivity to uncertainty. And it’s because the continued tools of stockpile stewardship have let us understand nuclear phenomena from first principles. The deployed stockpile is backed up with a non-deployed stockpile, but it’s dramatically smaller than the one today or the one of 2012. We’ve met the responsive infrastructure objective to be able to repair and re-deploy warheads within a year if relatively minor problems are encountered. We’ve eliminated dangerous and environmentally difficult materials like conventional high explosives – beryllium – and that lets do away with the need for a large number of spare warheads to hedge against reliability problems.
Now the world of 25 years from now isn’t any more predictable than the world today. We still worry about a hedge against geopolitical changes, and we still worry about attempts by others to instigate an arms race. But instead of keeping that hedge in aging and increasingly obsolete spare weapons, the hedge is in the responsive infrastructure. We’ve met the goals established in 2004, being able to reduce additional warheads within the time of plausible geopolitical change. So we don’t need to keep large numbers of non-deployed warheads as a hedge. Our responsive infrastructure can also produce weapons with different or modified military capabilities. The design community has been revitalized by the RRW program, and it can adapt existing designs within 18 months and begin production of new design within four years, once again, goals that were established in 2004. So if Congress and the president in this future world direct, we can respond quickly to changing military requirements. The corollary is we don’t need to respond prematurely in the anticipation of those requirements.
Security is important in this future world just like it is today, but the transformed infrastructure has been designed with security in mind and more importantly new intrinsic features built into the growing number of Reliable Replacement Warheads – improve both safety and security. So the vision I’m giving you is a world where there’s a smaller, safer, more secure, more reliable stockpile backed up by a robust industrial and design capability to respond to changing technical, geopolitical, or military requirements. Now that’s not the only plausible future, but it’s the one we should strive for. It offers the best hope, seems to me, of achieving the president’s vision of the smallest stockpile consistent with our nation’s security and provides a hedge against an inherently unknowable future. Everybody has learned different things from the last 15-16 years of human history. What I and many of my colleagues have learned is we are very poor at predicting the future, and therefore we want to be able to respond rather than spend huge sums of money based on a particular assumption about the future. Now that’s why I think that we want to embrace this vision of transformation. I don’t want to underestimate the challenge of transforming the enterprise, but it’s the right step to take. The vision that I have given you is enabled by what we’ve learned from 10 years of experience of stockpile stewardship, from planning for and carrying out life extension, and from coming to grips with national security needs of the 21 st century in a Nuclear Posture Review. I hope you find it coherent. I believe it’s the right vision to guide our near-term planning.
But is it the right vision for our broader objectives? Some responsible critics of our policies have suggested that U.S. research and development weapons programs hamper our ability to advance global nonproliferation. I disagree with that. The major nonproliferation objective for the United States is to keep rogue states and terrorist groups from acquiring weapons of mass destruction. Our efforts to sustain and modernize U.S. nuclear forces don’t increase terrorist incentives to obtain those weapons. Those incentives are high and really unrelated to what we do in this area. They don’t have much impact on rogue states, whose proliferation activities march forward independently of the U.S. nuclear program. Now, what’s my evidence for that statement? Well, the last decade or so, we’ve seen very significant reductions in the number of U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons, reductions in alert levels, reductions in deployment, the suspension of testing by the five nuclear weapons states. There have been no new warheads deployed. There has been very little U.S. nuclear modernization, and there’s absolutely no evidence that any of that has had the slightest impact on North Korea or Iran in their covert programs to acquire nuclear capabilities. It seems to me much more plausible that those states are seeking such weapons in part to deter the United States from coming to the aid of friends and allies. And if anything, they’re responding to our overwhelming conventional superiority, not to what we may or may not do in the area of nuclear weapons. Similarly the deployment – the acknowledgment of the deployment is a more accurate way to say it – of weapons in South Asia doesn’t appear to me to have anything to do with what the United States or Russia do.
Now, we should be concerned as we go forward with how our actions can affect the international support among friends, allies, and partners on whom we depend for strengthened nonproliferation commitments. And I’m bothered by charges that our policies have harmed nonproliferation because I think our nonproliferation record is pretty good. And I think that our nuclear posture and our nonproliferation record are both mutually supportive and consistent with our obligation under Article VI [of the NPT]. In 1995, when the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty was indefinitely extended, we reiterated our commitment under Article VI to work toward the ultimate goal of eliminating nuclear weapons in the context of general and complete disarmament. We’ve made substantial reductions since then in the reliance of nuclear forces in our national security strategy. I’ve never much liked the term nuclear arms race, but whatever it is or was, it’s clearly been stopped. And as I described earlier, we are dramatically reducing our own nuclear forces.
I think these accomplishments are helping to realize the president’s vision of the lowest possible number of nuclear weapons consistent with national security. I think that our accomplishments also demonstrate our adherence to our nonproliferation commitments. Transforming the nuclear weapons complex to be more responsive will continue this trend while preserving our ability to respond. That’s why we’re committed to seizing the opportunity that technology is offering us. Thank you very much, and I look forward to the discussion. (Applause.)
KIMBALL: Thank you. Our next speaker is Raymond Jeanloz.
RAYMOND JEANLOZ: Thank you. While I get set up here, let me just say that I’ll be covering a lot of material, and I do have an electronic file, if anyone is interested to get the words right. I will be covering some material a little bit more quickly than I anticipated. Just have to get my computer to talk to me, and then we’re off and running.
Thanks very much for the invitation to come this morning. I have three areas of discussion that I want to cover: stockpile stewardship, the RRW program that you heard about, and also briefly the recent questions about the future of the stockpile. In the past few years, we’ve heard talk of the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, the Reliable Replacement Warhead, and so on in discussion of the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal. More general, there has been talk of transforming the enterprise, as we just heard, and of the United States making significant long-term investments in such infrastructure as a modern pit facility. It’s good that there are ongoing discussions about the U.S. arsenal, for we cannot let the responsibility of possessing such a nuclear arsenal stagnate due to lack of attention. However, the current discussions are severely limited by being overly narrow and by being pursued without the broader context of a long-term strategy for U.S. nuclear weapons policy.
The Cold War has been over for more than 15 years, yet many of the features of the arsenal and its potential use are legacies of that period, as we’ve heard. The mandate to U.S. military intelligence and law enforcement as of 9/11 to focus first and foremost on countering terrorism has not been thoroughly factored into the discussions. For these reasons, key individuals, including General Cartwright, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, have called for a national debate about our nuclear weapons arsenal. And I applaud the Arms Control Association and other organizations for responding to this call. The need is for a broad discussion informed by technical and military considerations and spanning the political spectrum, as well as the spread of views about arms control and international security.
To inform this discussion, let’s quickly review the past 10 years’ accomplishments. I come to you as a technical person with experience in science and engineering, an outsider not directly engaged in the nuclear weapons enterprise. I can only present my personal views based on experience as an advisor and external reviewer of many parts of that enterprise. With that background, I am pleased to say that the NNSA Stockpile Stewardship program has been an amazing success. I believe I’m in violent agreement with Ambassador Brooks on that. I had nothing to do with starting this program or creating it and can understand why there may have been concerns when it was first established. Even the most skeptical observers, however, have to acknowledge the overwhelming technical success of the program to date. It has indeed confirmed the U.S.’s ability to sustain our enduring nuclear weapons stockpile based on a scientific approach.
What supports this conclusion? Let me briefly review three points. First, there was the huge success in recapturing the ability to construct certifiable pits, the core of the first stage of a modern thermonuclear weapon at Los Alamos. Personally, I had no doubts that this would be possible, but I want to emphasize the magnitude of the accomplishment by noting that significantly new processes had to be developed. After all, Rocky Flats was shut down because its manufacturing processes were untenable and ultimately considered illegal. The successful transition to new people running new processes at a new location proves, as much as anything, that the U.S. nuclear weapons complex has significant resilience and capability for sustaining the legacy arsenal.
Second example bears on the ongoing effort to document the effects of aging of materials, components, and even systems within our arsenal. Advances in the basic science allowing us to understand plutonium, high explosives, and the like have been truly impressive. It’s not a matter of mindless technicians filling out checklists. To the contrary, there has been an enormous intellectual challenge in finding new ways of validating results that have previously been poorly characterized. What new experiments can really test, reinforce, or refute results from the past? And how can the assumptions imbedded in computer simulations be strenuously evaluated? The remarkable finding is that key materials making up the nuclear explosive package are far more stable and predictable than anyone would have anticipated. Recent developments reinforce the conclusion that plutonium pits and the U.S. stockpile are stable over periods of at least 50 to 60 years and probably much, much longer. To be sure, new phenomena may appear in the future, but these will be uncovered through ongoing work such as accelerated aging experiments. Meanwhile, the technical conclusion is that we do have time for a thorough and well informed discussion of U.S. nuclear weapons policy.
Finally, I want to point to the accomplishments of the life extension programs that were already alluded to. These involved individual weapons systems that are examined and refurbished so as to be stockpiled in our arsenal for another tour of duty. Humdrum to some, this activity has been at the heart of inserting more science into the U.S. nuclear weapons enterprise. The materials and components, as well as the processes associated with everything from testing to re-manufacturing of components have been thoroughly vetted and documented at a level that was previously just not possible. Many focus on delays and cost overruns, neglecting to acknowledge how profound this accomplishment really is. The enterprise has successfully established mechanisms by which objective approaches replace best guesses, engineering judgment, and such non-scientific concepts as “unknown unknowns”. Put in another way, the enterprise has undergone a major transformation and established quantitative guidelines that competent staff will be able to follow into the future. The performance margins of weapons systems are now quantified with uncertainties, and even estimates of the uncertainty of these uncertainties being established. Also, performance margins can be increased, and this is being done in the enduring stockpile as appropriate.
In this light, it is astounding to me the degree to which key individuals whether at a laboratory or in Washington have refused to acknowledge these accomplishments on a number of occasions. For example, there are still some who proclaim that the U.S. is unable to build a modern nuclear weapon, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. Meanwhile, we have gone a decade with the enduring stockpile being assessed each year as safe, reliable, and effective. Now, it’s our nation’s responsibility, as long as we have a nuclear arsenal, to ensure that it’s supported by capable people. Incompetence in this domain would be a disaster. It’s therefore central that the U.S. retain core capability and nuclear weapons technology. Stockpile stewardship has been remarkably successful, not only in maintain our enduring arsenal, but also in sustaining that technical capability.
So given the success of stewardship, is there a rationale for the RRW? In my view, the answer may be yes, but it’s too early, at least for me, to tell because the concept is as yet ill-defined for those of us on the outside. Congress has established the following characteristics for RRW: one, it’s to make the U.S. nuclear weapons enterprise less costly, more effective, and generally more efficient. Two, it’s to avoid requiring the nation to resume underground nuclear explosion testing – underground testing. Three, it’s to involve no new military requirements. That is, no new military missions are being considered. A rationale one can understand for RRW is that something new is needed in order to respond to the policy decision we’ve already heard of and supported by the Treaty of Moscow to significantly reduce the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal over the coming years. Given that stewardship has successfully demonstrated our country’s ability to sustain the enduring arsenal, the added requirements imposed by reducing or eliminating the need for a non-deployed responsive force – that is, reducing the total arsenal to 2,000 and perhaps smaller numbers thereafter – could well justify a new program such as RRW. In some sense, the smaller the arsenal, the greater the reliability required of each individual weapon as distinct from each class or designed weapon. The key motivation for RRW would therefore be to support the decision to significantly reduce the arsenal, and I believe you heard Ambassador Brooks talk about this as well.
Without that reduction, however, there is no widely accepted motivation as of yet for an RRW program. As citizens, we all want the enterprise to be as efficient and cost effective as possible, but it is unclear that a new program is the best approach for accomplishing this. Technical issues such as the presence of conventional high explosives in certain systems are, I believe, red herrings. Similarly, plutonium aging does not force us to a decision point at present. Along these lines, the claim that RRW will help maintain nuclear weapons design expertise is limited and, I believe, perhaps counterproductive. After all, if the condition is to avoid underground testing, the RRW has to be well within design parameters that have been thoroughly established through past nuclear explosion tests. Technically put, they have to be interpolated between rather than extrapolated from validated design parameters, no matter how much one enhances margins or performs high-end computer simulations. In my view, this means that the appropriate terminology is to label RRW not a new design or a re-design, but a limited modification of existing designs, that is, limited within experimentally established design parameters. To be sure, one is extending the concept of a modification from the region outside the nuclear explosive package to one deep inside the NEP, if that is feasible, which has yet to be determined.
I say this forcefully because it will not be up to the present laboratory directors, NNSA or DOD leadership, or even the current president ultimately to decide if an RRW has to be proven through an underground test. That will be the responsibility of a future generation and a future president. Therefore the only way for RRW as presently defined to succeed is to ensure that it’s not a new design, but is instead well within the design parameters that have a test pedigree. This approach is fully compatible with – may even depend on – the requirement of no new military missions. Best of all though, stockpile stewardship as demonstrated that the nuclear weapons complex is in principle up to the task of providing the necessary objective requirements that scientifically establish parameters, which could assure any responsible individual now or in the future that the RRW design does not require underground testing. To clarify, I don’t rule out the possibility that the U.S. will perform an underground test sometime in the future. There may be various reasons, not the least of which are purely political. My only point is that RRW can, if properly – if properly managed, be pursued without imposing the technical requirement for such testing in the future. I fear, however, that some who discuss RRW are not using the kind of language that would reassure one on this count.
Moreover – and we’ve heard about this – we have precious little objective analysis in my view of the influence exerted worldwide on attitudes about nuclear weapons, nuclear proliferation, and on global security, as we in the U.S. discuss or fail to discuss various options regarding our nuclear arsenal and policies. Why does our dialogue often amount to no more than personal opinions about whether and how what we in the U.S. do have influence on others? Why have we failed to develop a more complete and nuanced understanding on how pursuing new designs, reinvigorating our nuclear complex, and maintaining reliance on our nuclear deterrent does or does not contributed to global proliferation and insecurity? Given that RRW is connected with a greatly reduced stockpile, one can ask, where are we headed with the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal? The overarching strategy has yet to be debated, but it’s possible to lay out some of the key issues that need to be addressed. I would emphasize that it is in any case, I believe, essential for the U.S. to maintain core technical capability, knowledge, and expertise in nuclear weapons. This is so not only in order to ensure responsible stewardship of our future arsenal, whatever it becomes, but also to maintain awareness of the very real threats that can emerge worldwide, as we have heard.
The technology associated with nuclear weapons is inexorably spreading, and many new countries are likely to become latent nuclear-weapon states, that is, to have the capability to develop a nuclear arsenal even if they don’t have one within the coming generation. We all acknowledge that the enduring U.S. arsenal is a legacy of the Cold War. The conclusion that “we have the wrong arsenal” does not follow however. Of course we would build a different arsenal, perhaps no arsenal were we to start now in the post 9/11 era to consider arming ourselves with nuclear weapons for the first time. We now see many countries that can soon develop or acquire the requisite technologies, and the concept of latency increasingly blurs the separation between nuclear and non-nuclear states. In fact, there is only one characteristic of our present arsenal that we all agree is wrong, and that is its size. It is notable in this regard that Congress has repeatedly taken the position that no new military requirements are to be contemplated for our nuclear weapons.
More generally, Congress has acted on the basis that what we in the U.S. say and how we act does have a significant impact around the world. That said, if we take a total projected arsenal of say 2,000 as nominal status quo for the future, we can ask if there are any conditions under which we would feel compelled to increase it again. Presumably, this would happen only in response to a significant collapse in international relations. To answer that, one needs a clear idea of why the U.S. possesses a nuclear arsenal. The traditional response that it acts as the ultimate deterrent in case the existence of the nation is at stake needs reexamination. In the post 9/11 era focused on terrorism and quite appropriately concerned with nuclear proliferation, it’s not at all obvious that repeating the Cold War buildup would in any way be – (audio break, tape change) – and to the rest of the world. Who would assume other than that the U.S. could quickly reconstitute a small arsenal in an emergency and a substantial arsenal if international relations were in the process of dissolving?
I’m reminded of a senior member of one of the national security laboratories describing the ultimate with regards to the new triad’s responsive infrastructure that we heard about, namely that the U.S. would have no nuclear arsenal at all, but would have the capability to produce weapons if urgently needed. In fact, considering this hypothetical scenario that the U.S. abolishes its nuclear weapons, there would presumably be a period of time, perhaps extensive, during which weapons components would still exist. Would this represent a close approach to our stated obligations under Article VI of the NPT? Short of abolishing the stockpile, how small an arsenal is compatible with our 21 st century needs? Is 1,000 the right number as has been advocated in an Arms Control Association publication we heard about and also elsewhere in other publications in the past year. Or is 200 enough, a number comparable to or larger than the reported size of many other nuclear stockpiles? And what would we expect of our international partners in return for such reduced stockpiles? What specific technical requirements would need to be met within our own nuclear weapons arsenal and complex to allow us to contemplate such reductions?
In any case, evolution of stockpiles – ours, others – below 2,000 would presumably require a strategy for staging reductions. This has led to strong calls for much more enhanced transparency and for more straightforward accountability, eliminating, for example, the distinction between operationally deployed and responsive or reserve forces. The role of non-strategic weapons around the world also needs to be clarified, with a strong incentive to eliminate smaller nuclear systems that are perceived as being especially vulnerable to theft or loss. Of course, numbers are not the only consideration. Are there any post-Cold War scenarios under which the U.S. would need to launch a nuclear attack in less than, say, one day? How about one week or one month? What tradeoffs in fact exist between the size and constitution of our enduring arsenal and the anticipated time scales over which a decision would be made to use it? The logistics of platforms carrying these weapons is, of course, an important part of the calculus.
So to close, I’ve not come here to provide specific answers to these questions. My purpose instead has been to highlight the capability and resilience of the U.S. nuclear weapons enterprise, which gives us the opportunity, and I believe the responsibility, to thoroughly discuss post-Cold War nuclear weapons policy. I’ve touched on a few of these questions that need to be addressed openly and honestly as we and other nations of the world address the role of nuclear weapons in the 21 st century. Thank you. (Applause.)
KIMBALL: Thank you very much, Raymond. You remind me of one of my professors outlining the issues that I need to cover, but don’t have answers to. That was a very useful framework. Yes, it’s on the test. Next, David Mosher. Thank you, David.
DAVID MOSHER: Thank you, Daryl, very much. And thank you Arms Control Association for inviting me here today. Just to pick up briefly on something that Dr. Jeanloz said, he was talking a little bit about reducing forces. What does it mean in the future as we go to smaller and smaller numbers, reducing alert rates? I generally don’t stump stuff we’ve done, but Daryl raised it, so here’s my opening. We looked at this at RAND looking at sort of de-alerting, and what it might mean, and ended up really thinking it’s the relations [between] the major powers that really determine how successful you can be at reducing these things. Anyway, recommended to you, it’s on the RAND website if you’d like.
But the topic here today is the future of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Ambassador Brooks has laid out sort of the administration’s approach for how they will preserve the stockpile in the long term. What I’d like to do is step back a little bit here and challenge you to consider some of the underlying issues that determine what our stockpile is, what our arsenal is, why we have what we have today, and where it should be going. And I like to think of it in terms of what are the fundamental forces that are shaping what the arsenal is and how it might change over time.
The first, of course, is the international environment, or as Ambassador Brooks referred to them as, geopolitical problems. There could be also geopolitical opportunities, it depends. The second, of course, and I think this is fundamental, is what is the United States’ approach or philosophy or theory about deterrence? What deters? The third, of course, is the transparency and predictability that is in the arsenals of other countries today, our potential adversaries. And the key issue really is how sensitive is the U.S. arsenal to changes in any of those three? What effects the need to maintain an arsenal, to rebuild an arsenal, to re-capitalize an infrastructure? What’s required to hedge? All those are affected by those three.
As far as the international environment is concerned, today really we face no direct nuclear adversaries. We have some nuclear powers, but they aren’t direct adversaries of ours. There are some countries who are emerging nuclear adversaries, and they’re developing arsenals. They may have arsenals today, North Korea, for example, and Iran seems to be headed in that direction. Those changes are likely to occur slowly, that is, very small numbers of weapons. It’s going to take years for those capabilities to emerge. Others already have nuclear arsenals, and I’m thinking of China here. And they have the potential to become adversaries if we’re not careful. But they aren’t an adversary today, and hopefully they won’t be, although it’s something that we can’t lose sight of. And then there are – there is one other adversary or former adversary with a very large arsenal, and that is Russia. Some day, it’s possible that we may become more hostile toward each other, and that might change. But given the current state of Russia’s forces, and the economic situation there, that again won’t happen quickly even if a change were made today, which I don’t think is likely.
Each of those types of powers set different demands on our nuclear forces. But let’s be clear, our forces today are sized and structured largely to deal with the Russian threat. All these other cases are really lesser-included cases and will continue to be so for a long period of time. Lesser powers may create demands for niche capabilities, and I’m thinking here about those who advocate earth-penetrating weapons, the RNEP [Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator] is the acronym du jour. But it may. I’m leaving that on the table for a moment. But that’s the sort of thing it would affect, not the overall size, not the sort of infrastructure we need or the delivery mechanisms, et cetera.
Clearly, we need to address each of those possibilities, but to what degree? How do we handle that? Second, I want to turn to the U.S. philosophy of deterrence, and I’m focusing here largely on central deterrence, which in arms control parlance is the ability to deter attacks on your homeland. Again, that’s what our arsenal is largely structured for. The U.S. deterrent philosophy determines how sensitive the force, the nuclear forces, and the stockpile are likely to be to the inevitable changes in the international environment. If for some reason Russia began to resuscitate its force, must the U.S. follow suit? If so, how quickly? What are those time constants if you will in response? How quickly can Russia build up? What about a sharp buildup of Chinese ICBMs? If it happened in five years, to what number? How quickly would the U.S. have to respond? Would the United States have to respond given what its forces are today? If North Korea builds a small nuclear force, do we have to change our posture? Do we have to change the way our forces are structured or what our weapons are? And if so, how quickly?
All these get to this issue of responsive sensitivity that Ambassador Brooks was talking about. If you approach it from sort of the classic damage limitation approach, where the purpose of our forces is to limit damage to ourselves, to deny the other country’s war aims, then you become very sensitive or you are very sensitive to what happens to the other guy’s forces. If the Russians double the number of weapons that they have in silos, that increases the demand on our forces. You become sort of very sensitive, and not only does one silo increase the demand for a single warhead, but it’s multiple warheads, because you have survivable forces and you often – the way we think about these targets – you cross-target them. You have multiple warheads hitting a single high-value target. So a damage limitation, which has strong lineage in the Cold War, and really persists today to some degree, would make us very sensitive to what others do. And a U.S. response would have to be fairly rapid. If the key to our deterrence is destroying the other guy’s capability and we had a country that was roughly at parity and went high quickly, then we’d have to worry about that.
At the other end of the spectrum is what’s called or referred to as a minimum deterrent strategy. And that is where it’s the ability to respond in a variety of ways against – it could be cities. It could be value targets. It could be the economy. It could be military targets. You’re not trying to limit damage. You’re trying to punish or you’re trying to respond in that way. Then, the U.S. arsenal is fairly insensitive to exogenous changes. That is, it doesn’t matter whether China doubles or triples the size of its force. Much of what China has of value, and much of the things that we would want to hold at risk remain largely the same.
So the key question is what deters others and in what contexts? Now, I have a colleague who keeps telling me deterrence is a verb transitive. You deter someone from doing some particular thing. I’m talking about central deterrence here, so we’re talking about protecting the United States homeland here. But what deters Russia or what deters China may be different than what deters North Korea. So it’s not the same for all and we need to recognize that. Deterrence philosophy also determines another thing, which is how sensitive the U.S. is likely to be to changes in the reliability, or perceived changes in the reliability of the stockpile. That is, if our requirements for our nuclear stockpile, and Ambassador Brooks has talked about the military requirements on the stockpile, if we demand as we have during the Cold War and we continue to do today that we know that we have a very high confidence in what the yield of those weapons is, very high confidence in the reliability to get the very high damage expectancy criteria, to meet that criteria the military establishes, then you become very sensitive to any changes or perceived changes in the reliability of the stockpile.
Under a minimum deterrence view, however, you’re not so sensitive, that is, let me just sort of posit it this way. If an adversary is looking at the U.S. arsenal and saying, should I take action x, and thinking the U.S. might respond. If the adversary knew for certainty that that was a 95 percent reliability of those weapons and they were going to be effective to this very high criteria, would they be more deterred from doing it than if the reliability were 80 percent or 70 percent. That’s sort of the way the minimal deterrence approach would be on this.
So under damage limitation, very sensitive, and that’s sort of one level, one extreme, and at the other is this minimum deterrence, and there are places in between. The bottom line is that the deterrence philosophy determines how quickly we must respond to changes, and what types of hedges will be required. What do you do in the short term? Is it changing our deterrence posture, putting more forces at the ready, uploading warheads as things get worse, declaratory statements? On the longer term, is it producing new warheads? Is it building new missiles, new submarines? What is it that we need to do if things change, and how quickly and how substantially do we need to change that? It also determines, again, as Ambassador Brooks referred to a little bit is the issue of how large our active and inactive reserves must be, how large the production facilities have to be, how much they have to be able to churn out their capacity, if you will, in a given year, and how long we have to go from a facility that produces x weapons a year to one that produces 3x.
The third factor that I think affects the state of the arsenal and what we’re going to look at in the future and how sensitive we are to changes, is what is the degree of transparency about the nuclear forces of our adversaries and the stability in that? The degree to which a country can build up its nuclear forces in response to changes in that international environment, however they happen, can be, first of all, it can be moderated if they’re involved in some kind of arms control treaty. And we’ve seen evidence of that throughout the arms control era, where, for example, in the SALT II treaty, the United States although it had signed the treaty, did not ratify it, and still stuck with those levels to a large degree for a long time after that treaty was in place, despite a very marked shift in U.S.-Soviet relations. So it can provide a breaking action if you will or a moderating force on changes, even if the underlying geopolitical situation changes, particularly if it’s accompanied by effective monitoring. Now, SALT II didn’t have what we consider today effective monitoring, but START I certainly does. START II certainly would have very comprehensive monitoring as almost the golden ring, if you will, the golden standard certainly of on-site monitoring.
But even if a country ends up leaving a treaty, which countries do from time to time, the transparency from the treaty related activities leading up to that withdrawal would give us some confidence and some understanding of what that country is doing. A counterpoint here is North Korea. We have a country that has taken some steps to develop nuclear weapons. That’s clear. They’ve stated it. They have some fissile material that they can use for nuclear weapons. We know that. Do they have nuclear weapons? They might have a device. Do they have something that they could stick on the tip of a missile that would survive re-entry and actually do the things they would do? We don’t know. It’s an open question. But we certainly behave in many ways as if it has nuclear weapons. Transparency would help that to a large extent. Now, the North Koreans aren’t going to invite us in to see just how weak their arsenal is, but you get my point.
So transparency and predictability are essential for this and how sensitive we have to be to changes. But START I is going to end very soon. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of activity to replace that. And the Moscow treaty, the SORT treaty, doesn’t provide any verification mechanisms, onsite inspections. You can take advantage of START I as long as it’s around, but then it goes away. And the Moscow treaty, once it’s in force, automatically then goes out of force, so I refer to it as sort of one-night stand arms control, right? You get to the point. You say, all right, great night, but I’m not going to talk to you in the morning. We’ll see you later. Not exactly fair. There’s some things in the Moscow treaty that I think are critical, and one of them – and we talked about in our book – is that what they have done there is broken the “my weapons have to be like your weapons” and the political relationship has moved beyond having to worry about exact numbers of nuclear forces and parity and that sort of thing. And I think that was a marked – that was a very important step. But the lack of other things to that do raise questions about transparency beyond 2009.
So bringing these three factors together, I want to say something a little bit more concrete about the future of our arsenal. The current international situation has created a great deal of space for the United States to sort of feel its way into a new situation. And I think the Department of Energy is taking advantage of that. And much of what they would set up, sort of truth in advertising here, I think if they had asked me to come in and say how would we set this up in terms of the broad concepts, I think they have it right in the sense that there is flexibility. You don’t want to invest a lot in things today. You want to remain flexible. So I think they’ve done that. There’s no pressing nuclear adversary. We don’t have anything to fight over with Russia even if they were to increase their nuclear forces. Taiwan raises an interesting issue with China, a very challenging issue with China. But if you could make Taiwan go away, I don’t really see the opportunity for a nuclear competition there. Rapid changes, as I mention, are unlikely. Buildups will take a long time. So we have space.
The U.S. has the opportunity in this low pressure world to sort of think about what it is that deters in the central deterrence sense, move away, in my mind, from the very sensitive visions of deterrence, which are damage limitation, war fighting, in the central deterrence sense again, and move towards – and away from denial and more toward these other forms. It would reduce our sensitivity. It would allow DOE to take a more measured approach to the stockpile in absence of testing, an approach I would argue they’ve taken today. But it would give you even more time. And stockpile stewardship is still, despite the success we’ve had, I would argue is a concept that has not yet been proved. That is, we don’t know – no one can tell you today that we can maintain the stockpile forever, if that’s your goal, without testing. We just don’t know yet. We’re spending a lot of money and a lot of good brainpower trying to figure out whether we can do it. And it’s a worthwhile goal, but it is yet unproved. And I think we need to recognize that. And it would allow DOE to do the infrastructure recapitalization the way they do it in a very modest way.
The arsenal could be brought down below the SORT levels. I’ve heard numbers of 1,000 or 1,500. I get a little worried below 1,000 because things start getting dicey potentially with China. But certainly we could bring them down. And existing warhead types may be sufficient for the sorts of central deterrent missions that we’re likely to have. RNEP, we can handle that in Q&A. I think it’s not required, and I can talk about that later. But steps to improve the shelf life, as we’ve talked about today, could be very useful in stretching this out, but what you want to do – and that may be a Reliable Replacement Warhead. And I personally am sort of on the fence on that right now. Or it could be doing things more aggressively through stockpile stewardship. Now, it’s an interesting question of where one begins and the other ends, those things. But what you don’t want to do in the effort to improve the reliability of the warhead and the stockpile is create more uncertainty about the confidence that you’re going to have in the stockpile. So it’s the first do no harm rule, I would argue for these sorts of things. And there will be time to respond with large – you know, respond and build up large production facilities, if necessary.
So preserving agreements is very important. Preserve the arms control agreements we have today and try to get new ones where we don’t have them that help increase transparency. Again, it may be more in the Moscow Treaty mode in the sense that there is some flexibility about numbers. But transparency is important because it increases the time you have to respond in case there are problems. And recognize that the changes in the international environment are not all exogenous. Russia doesn’t wake up one day and decide to be hostile to the United States. China doesn’t decide one day that it’s relatively quite modest nuclear arsenal vis-à-vis the United States needs to be bigger. It may be things that the United States does and we need to recognize that. Things we do in the nuclear world, things we do in the missile defense world, things we do in the conventional military world – there are some who argue – I have a colleague who argues the United States is the revisionist power these days. And so countries are taking the actions they’re doing, according to him, because they are worried about stopping us from revisiting the status quo in their world. And also, you want to try to reduce the number of nuclear powers. So the real challenge, as I’ve mentioned, to deal with the sensitivity and try to get to the point where we’re not sensitive – and I think some of the things DOE is doing – but there’s some deterrence strategy things that also need to be addressed.
But one of the challenges – and I focused on central deterrence – one of the challenge is not central deterrence, but extended deterrence, and we’re starting to think this through at RAND, and it’s a real challenge these days. How do you convince allies and how do you convince regional adversaries that the U.S. is going to honor its commitments? This is a real challenge today. Can we convince the Japanese that we can use their facilities on their island if North Korea is able to strike Japan with nuclear weapons? I don’t know, but that’s a sales job. But I will tell you that the size of our arsenal and our ability to reconstitute quickly has very little to do with that in today’s world. And that’s it. Thank you. (Applause.)
KIMBALL: Well, I think we’ve given everyone a full menu of ideas to think about, and I’m sure that many of you have questions. We’ve quite a bit of time for some questions. What I would ask you to do is when you raise your hand and I identify you or I call on you, please identify yourself. Wait for the microphone. We’ve got to make sure – are we all right with the microphones in the back? All right. And please state your question briefly. We have a lot of people here. We have some people in the back. We will get to those folks in the back room to allow you to have a question too. So the floor is open for questions. Yes, sir, over here in the red tie? Thank you, Will.
QUESTION: My name is Norman Wolf. I’m retired, formerly working in the Nonproliferation Bureau in the State Department. I hope you’ll allow me just to make a quick comment, and that is just to say that it was my pleasure to work with Linton Brooks for about 20 years in many different capacities. I always found him to be a true professional driven by pragmatism, not ideology, even though I often time disagreed with him.
My question is to Ambassador Brooks, and that is, if I understood correctly, Frank Miller at the Carnegie Non-Proliferation Conference last fall – and Frank, for those of you who don’t know was in the NSC during the first Bush term – I think Frank said that he believed that the administration could and should agree to further reductions during the second term. And I guess my question to Ambassador Brooks is, as Frank is freed of administration constraints, he’s allowed to say what he actually thinks. But is that your position? Do you think that United States could agree to further reductions, or – and this is perhaps what bothers me – I couldn’t tell from your presentation whether you thought any further reductions would have to await the success of RRW?
BROOKS: The success of RRW, if you accept my logic, has nothing to do with the number of deployed weapons. It has to do with how much of a hedge you have to keep wherever you set that side. The question about the number of deployed weapons is really one for which in our system, the professional military and the Pentagon have the lead. You correctly captured the difference between what Frank can say and what is appropriate for me to say. I think there are colleagues of mine who believe that we’ll walk out of here with a different number. That is a separate question from whether or not that should be unilateral or negotiated. I think that the administration’s position has generally been that arms control of the kind that I did when you and I were in the same business, arms control regulates relations between adversaries. And since we are trying to build a relation with the Russian Federation that is not adversarial, there are many who I think would argue that even if you decide we can accept further reductions, we should just do it and not try and put it into a regulatory framework with the Russian Federation because that perpetuates the adversarial idea. So I think that it’s quite possible that the administration will conclude it wants to reduce its forces. I think it’s less likely that it will be real enthusiastic about some new extended negotiation with our Russian partners.
KIMBALL: And let me just put a finer point on the question, if I could before we go to the next person. I mean one of the issues that I brought up, that David Mosher brought up is that START I is going to expire in 2009. Ambassador Brooks, could you just tell us what is being done in general, what the general thinking is about that? And I mention that in part because President Bush yesterday in a Q&A session on a totally different topic was asked whether – something about stockpile reductions – and he mentioned the Moscow Treaty and he said that we are reducing to these numbers. It will be up to the next president to decide what to do. So my question is, you know, given that the deadline is 2009, a new president will be coming in, have a lot on his or her hands. What is the thinking now about what the U.S. and Russia should do to think about the START I expiration?
BROOKS: I’m not sure that we’ve addressed that in a systematic way, although with my current responsibilities, I wouldn’t necessarily be part of addressing that. So I’m not trying to be evasive – well actually, I am trying to be evasive. But I’m trying to be evasive in this particular case because I really don’t know the answer as opposed to because I know it but I’m not going to say it.
KIMBALL: Avis, please. Microphone is coming.
QUESTION: Avis Bowlen, adjunct professor at Georgetown. I have a question for Ambassador Brooks, and may I just endorse what Norm Wolf said about what a wonderful colleague he was to work with when we toiled in the fields of strategic arms control and other such ancient monuments. Ambassador Brooks, you were pretty categorical about not needing to test with the new warhead that we are working towards. Would that imply that at some future point, obviously not on this administration’s watch, that we might consider joining the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)? Would this be safe for us? A second related question – where does the RNEP fit into the RRW if it all? And finally, could I just make a comment for Mr. Mosher. I just want to come down, as I’m sure most people here would, squarely on the side of minimal versus sensitive deterrence. It seems to me that even at the height of the Cold War, much of that was frankly nonsense, highly technical analysis that had no basis in politics and sort of assumed that the Russians were sitting there somehow calibrating the sensitivity of our nuclear stockpile and our nuclear arsenal. And I think it’s even more nonsense today, and we should stay away from it. So just an editorial comment.
BROOKS: The role that RNEP and RRW have, and the way in which they fit together is both of them start with the letter R. Other than that they have nothing to do with each other. They have nothing to do with each other in importance, in capability, in concept, in technology. They are completely different. The nuclear earth penetrator was a proposal that, as has been pointed out by several of my colleagues, has not found favor on the Hill for deciding whether or not a future president could have a niche capability if he or she wanted. Congress has taken the position, the appropriations bill has taken the position – they authorized the bill to the different position – that we are so sure we don’t want that that we shouldn’t find out whether or not we can do it. That’s our system. Congress gets to make those choices. But it was a niche capability involving a particular warhead and has no particular transformational effects. The truth of the matter is that it’s the same thing we did 10 years ago with the B61-11 only better, and I suspect that the number of American who know what the B61-11 is would fit pretty comfortably into this room. And the number who care would fit into a somewhat smaller room. So the difference between RRW then is completely transformation.
With regard to testing, I think the position of this administration is very clear that we, once again – what we have learned rightly or wrongly is that it’s very difficult to know what you’re going to want to do in the future and that has led to the Treaty of Moscow, which is a more flexible approach to arms control than what you and I used to do that has led to a great reluctance to take a formal obligation not to test. And so I think this administration, the chances of changing its mind on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty are pretty close to non-existent. Whether or not a future administration would change its mind or whether we would simply have this capability preserved as our position now is as an ultimate hedge, I just don’t know. But I’m reasonably convinced. I mean it is a design constraint, both in the Congressional sense and in the technical sense that we not design this thing so that it requires testing. And we’re confident that we can do that, so I don’t know. It obviously, the more that people say, you know, it’s very hard to see any circumstances where you need to test, the easier it’s going to be for a future administration to decide it wants to change our position and ratify the CTBT. I will point out the last administration wanted to get it ratified and couldn’t, so that’s not just changing the administration.
Finally, I’d like to react to your comment to David Mosher. I agree that this refinement of three significant figure calculations and somehow that will influence an adversary’s decision to strike, it was always wacky. It was wacky when we were doing it. And I used to be involved in that. And most of us knew it was wacky. I think that, however, you don’t necessarily want to leap from there to the notion that only a minimum deterrent is required. And here is why, and this is an admittedly debatable point. Perceptions of power matter. If there were another country that had twice the arsenal of the United States at anything like the levels that we have been talking about, it almost certainly would make no practical difference. I mean God’s own truth is that if we go to 1,700 to 2,200 and we wake up on the morning of 2013 and find that somehow the Russians are still at 4,400, absolutely no difference in our security will result in any sort of objective measure. But the perception of power in the world will change. That may matter to you; it may not matter to you. But I think that you have to recognize that. That’s why I think that many of us believe that it’s not just the sort of narrow calculations of exchange ratios, but the perception. After all, I know of nobody who wants to see these things used, and relatively few people who actually expect they’ll be used in any large-scale sense. But the perception of power is still important. I think if you want to move toward a U.S. minimal deterrent, you need to wrestle with that attitude. You don’t need to agree with it, but you need to find the intellectual respectable counter to it that will captivate the American political system, and I’ve not seen that.
BROOKS: If everybody is going down, then I’m with you, but what I was respecting to was what I thought, Avis, was your sort of endorsement of minimal deterrence, which would clearly let us go well below 2,200. I mean if all you want to do is be able to blow up a series of cities and you put the residual warheads in something that survives, says the retiring submarine commanding officer, then you can clearly go to a very low level. Whether that’s desirable, I think is different.
KIMBALL: Raymond, did you want to say a word about whether it is technically possible to live under the test ban treaty? I think the National Academy wrote a report on that subject. And David, since you’ve been the subject of a lot of this, if you want to quickly say a word in your own defense.
JEANLOZ: Okay, so I was indeed a co-author of a national academy study that was released a few years ago. And my own view is that there the technical case is addressed, not the political or policy side so much, but the technical case. I would simply reinforce, in my view, I would simply state that their conclusions are strongly reinforced in the intervening years since that study has been done. Many of the conclusions, for example, about the capability of the Stockpile Stewardship Program, or some of the possible, if you want, technical advantages to the U.S. signing to a CTBT have been, if anything, been strengthened. None of the substantive conclusions have, to my knowledge, been weakened. It’s all gone in the other direction.
KIMBALL: David, quickly?
MOSHER: Yeah. Minimal deterrence – I guess, minimal deterrence is a particular manifestation of a deterrent philosophy that punishment is basically the way you deter people. It’s one that says a relatively low level of punishment is all you need. And there are those who subscribe to the punishment philosophy, if you will, who would argue that we need more than just a minimal number. We can argue what is minimal. To me, I use the term a little loosely and I apologize for that, but what I meant was a focus on punishment. I wasn’t saying three warheads is enough.
One of the interesting questions as you start to think about deterrence is, and getting back to – we’ve been doing this at RAND lately – getting back to the notion of MAD [mutual assured destruction], because inherent in sort of the assured or the minimal deterrent is this notion of assured destruction. What does assured destruction mean? We all have in our mind this McNamarian criteria that is extensive damage in the Soviet Union, both to economic, military, and social. But is it not assured destruction – it’s a big tautological – assured destruction is what stops the other guy from what it is you’re trying to deter him from doing. So in this context of – and again thinking about regional powers and potential nuclear wars in regional areas, what is the assured destruction criteria that North Korea has to have against the United States to stop us from getting involved? The same question goes for China. Is their 20 warhead capability to strike a few U.S. cities enough to give most presidents pause except for the highest possible stakes? So when you start to get away from central deterrence, if you will, deterring each other’s attacks on the homeland, things get sort of complicated about the numbers. And I don’t have any answers right now. Like I said, we’re still struggling with this, and I’m not sure we ever will. But it’s an interesting question, sort of what is assured destruction? What is your criteria, and therefore, how many weapons do you need for particular sorts of deterrence scenarios, if you will?
KIMBALL: Over here, Rebecca Johnson, please Will, in the red.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. Rebecca Johnson, the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy – and I would like to thank the panelists and ACA very much for a very interesting panel. I raise a question from across the pond. Britain is currently having a heating up debate about the future of British nuclear weapons, which of course, will, the options, very dependent on the U.S. So I have three short questions on that. One is, what kind of guarantees can the U.S. give that it would continue to produce sufficient numbers of the D-5 missile to the year 2055 to be able to supply the British arsenal, should that be the option? Secondly, what would be the U.S. attitude if, as part of their changing relationship, Russia and China were to want to enter into a nuclear cooperation agreement along the lines of the U.S.-U.K. agreement to perhaps enable China to benefit from Russia’s more advanced technology perhaps in missiles, just for the sake of argument. What would be the U.S. reaction to a development like that? And then finally, if the U.K. were to decide that it could consider winding down and moving towards a non-nuclear-based security towards the year sort of 2015, 2020, 24, what would be the likely reaction within the U.S. to that? Thank you.
KIMBALL: Let’s just take – since we have more hands popping up, let’s take one more question, and then we’ll let the panelists respond to the two sets. Dave Ruppe, please, here in the end, Will.
QUESTION: Thanks. Dave Ruppe from Global Security Newswire for Ambassador Brooks. You made the argument that reduced numbers of nuclear weapons would not necessarily affect the calculations of countries like North Korea or Iran in deciding whether to continue their nuclear programs. But a separate question is whether U.S. consideration or pursuit of new nuclear weapons capabilities, such as through RNEP or programs that may be happening at DOD might affect the calculus of those countries, perhaps cause them to feel more threatened and less likely to give up those programs?
KIMBALL: Alright. Well, let’s take these two questions. I think the first one was for anyone who wants to take a stab at the – and I think Rebecca wanted Ambassador Brooks to answer the particular one about the D5.
BROOKS: First of all, wrong Cabinet department to give assurances about missile production, but we’ve been cooperating closely with the United Kingdom under the 1958 agreement for 48 years and I see no reason to believe we won’t be cooperating closely with the United Kingdom under that agreement for another 48. So my assumption is that we will come to some kind of mutual agreements for whatever decision Her Majesty’s government makes. But I’m not responsible for the missile things. Our attitude if Russia and China were to enter into something like the 1958 agreement would be amazement and surprise because it means that the relations would have been transformed in a way that I find inconceivable. But they’re both sovereign states and if they want to enter into an agreement that is perfectly consistent with their international obligations, we might be surprised, but I don’t see that we’d have any standing to object.
And finally, I have enough trouble trying to help move U.S. policy and deal with my colleagues here who think that the United States should reduce forces. I’m not sure I’m the right person to pass judgment on attitudes toward the United Kingdom moving out of the nuclear weapons business. I’ll let one of my colleagues who aren’t encumbered by being in government comment on that if they want.
With regard to Korea and Iran and are they reacting to U.S. capabilities – my guess is they’re reacting to U.S. attitudes more than to U.S. capabilities. Certainly with regard to the specific question of the earth penetrator, I think it’s pretty good evidence that both of their efforts started long before this ever became a subject of discussion here. My own assessment is that both of those states have their own motivation. The broad U.S. attitude toward them is probably part of that motivation. But the specifics of U.S. capability are probably not because of the quite correct perception that the United States, compared to these states, has overwhelming military power. And I don’t think they wake up and they look at whether or not the DOD is developing a particular kind of standoff munition or whether I’m doing a particular kind of study on a penetrating case for a warhead, I don’t think that plays into their calculus. They look at our overall attitude toward them, and since both of them have features that make it unlikely that our attitude toward them is going to be entirely friendly, they are nervous. I think that is what has their programs and I think that it is a mistake to look for nuances in what we do as affecting what they do.
KIMBALL: Dr. Jeanloz, David Mosher, anything more in this area? Okay.
JEANLOZ: I would just like to make one passing comment. I agree – of course there is a discussion that is incipiently starting in the U.K. about the transformation of your enterprise, your nuclear weapons enterprise. I believe that we are well served by having some comparisons on the two sides of the Atlantic Ocean in that dialogue.
For example, there is quite a different approach in the U.K. in terms of transparency, the size of the arsenal and the view, for example, that given that size, which is public knowledge that I believe fits U.K. policy that it considers that it deters much larger arsenals including the Russian arsenals. These I think are very interesting perspectives that can help inform us, and by the same token I would like to think that we in the U.S. with our points of view and perspective to could have an interesting dialogue that will help serve the public discourse that I think is just as needed in the U.K. as it is here in the U.S.
KIMBALL: And if I could just take the privilege of the chair for a moment on the subject that you are addressing, Ambassador Brooks, on whether our actions have an influence on others. I would agree with you about Iran and North Korea, but I think one of the ways in which many of us are talking past one another is that to the extent that the United States is taking actions that reinforce the idea that nuclear weapons are usable, that may be used beyond some of these deterrent concepts that David is outlining, it does, it does certainly increase in a way that is hard to quantify – the salience of nuclear weapons, and that does have I believe some effects on world opinion and confidence in the regime. And so that is one of the things I think that merits more study by all of us as Ray Jeanloz was describing.
BROOKS: I agree completely that if the United States were acting in a way that suggests greater use of nuclear weapons or a greater reliance on nuclear weapons or greater saliency on nuclear weapons that that would have an international effect. Where you and I part company is I just don’t see how one gets that out of anything that this administration has done.
And I’m not trying to be confrontational; I just don’t see how you can make dramatic reductions, come up with a doctrine that substitutes nuclear – non-nuclear capabilities for nuclear capabilities and have nobody outside of me occasionally at fora like this paying any attention to nuclear policy in the administration and say somehow we are in a vast new buildup of nuclear saliency. It looks different from the inside.
KIMBALL: Okay, we have got several questions. I think Mr. Ota over here had his hand up. We’ll go to John Burroughs, who is over here. Alright.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. My name is Masa Ota with Kyodo News Japanese wire service. Thank you very much for interesting presentation today.
Question to Ambassador Brooks: You emphasized the significance of the responsive infrastructures. We saw the report issued by secretary of energy advisory board last year and the recommendation of the consolidation of the nuclear complex including the three laboratories. We will see the budget request I think next week on February 6 – 10 days away, anyway. So are you going to ask any budget request for pursuing, let’s see, a course of consolidation of nuclear complex based on this advisory board group? This is my first question.
And also a second question is regarding RRW – coordination with the tactical nuclear weapons, which I was – tactical – theater-sized nuclear weapons – we have still maybe around 500 nuclear weapons on the European Union or European Continent. And what kind of impact can you expect on the tactical nuclear posture in the next generation given by the result of the discussion of RRW? Thank you very much, Ambassador.
KIMBALL: And we’ll also take one more question from John Burroughs right there. Thank you.
QUESTION: I’m John Burroughs from the Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy. We have just had a morning’s discussion of the future of the U.S. stockpile without any mention of warhead dismantlement capabilities. And Congressman Hobson has insisted that NNSA do better on warhead dismantlement, and so, Ambassador Brooks, I wonder if you could speak to that and what is happening on that score.
Also I would like to ask whether there is anything being done regarding verification of warhead dismantlement, abilities to do that because I know that’s a difficult task that it was one time envisioned in strategic arms control.
BROOKS: The report of the secretary of energy advisory board is a thoughtful report. It would take by their estimate when – and advisory board estimates in these areas tend to be low – a billion-and-a-half dollars a year for the next several years. I think it is unlikely that we’re going to see those kind of increases.
There is a long tradition of administration officials not commenting on what is going to be in the president’s budget until the president releases it. We are working hard to figure out how to take the ideas of [advisory board] and others, but I don’t think it’s likely that you’ll see an automatic acceptance of everything in that report because I’m not quite sure how to afford it.
The Reliable Replacement Warhead research that we’re doing is focused initially on ballistic missile warheads for a couple of reasons, and specifically on submarine launch ballistic missile warheads. The question of tactical weapons – really you should think of it more the question of bombs is one we haven’t gotten to. And some of the ideas of Reliable Replacement Warhead I talked about – you can accept more weight and more volume – may not be as true for bombs because you have some other constraints.
So I don’t think we know yet the degree to which these concepts will apply well to gravity bombs. With regard, therefore, to tactical weapons, I think right now there is no connection. I mean, I think there are people who are thinking about the future of tactical weapons and there are people who are thinking about RRW, but right now those are fundamentally different issues.
Warhead dismantlement has been a problem for us for a couple of reasons. We do this at Pantex, which is also where we do life extension. I mean, basically the process starts the same way: You take the warhead apart; it’s just that – in life extension and then you put it back together later. Our throughput at Pantex has been significantly reduced since the height of the Cold War because I think of a greater emphasis on safety and security and there is a debate within the technical community about whether we have let the pendulum swing too far.
So our ability – the number of operations we do at Pantex is less than it’s been historically. Within that number what we have chosen to do up to now is to say we’ll do the life extension programs to meet our requirements for DOD and then we’ll fill in the peaks and valleys with dismantlement in order to keep a steady workload there.
The Congress has, as the question suggested, wants to see us move out more smartly on dismantlement. What we are hoping to do is actually get the throughput up at Pantex to something more approaching what it has been in the past, assuming we can do that with our current safety standards, and if we are, then we won’t be faced with the tension between life extension and dismantlement.
Right now my own view is that if I am faced with that tension, I am going to be biased toward the solution we have had in the past, which is meet our obligations of the Department of Defense and level load but we’re still wrestling with the question.
Because this administration has not focused very much on classic negotiated arms control, for the reasons that I talked about before about not seeing that as the appropriate vehicle for dialogue, I think we have not put the same emphasis on verification of warhead dismantlement that was true in the last couple of years of the previous administration. Nothing that I have seen in that area looks particularly promising.
It’s a piece of cake to verify warhead dismantlement; it just requires the kind of access that there is no chance of the Russians giving me and there is no chance of me giving them. And that is the problem. The problem is that we have not found any workable way to verify dismantlement while preserving what we still think of as important military secrets, and we are not spending very much effort on that because of the broader view that these kind of very detailed technical arms control agreements are not the future of our relationship with the Russian federation.
KIMBALL: Okay, we have got some other folks. The gentleman over here, please. We have got people waving their arms. I have a couple of more people in line; just a moment. Right here. Up front, Will – I’m sorry.
QUESTION: I’m Nick Kyriakopoulos. I am a professor of engineering in The George Washington University, and my question is addressed to all three members of the panel.
In your presentation you kept using the word deterrence and the implicit assumption was that we’re the good guys, somebody else is the bad guys, so we would like to deter the bad guys from hitting us. The reality, however, is if you take the position from the other side, whatever that side is, that they would like to deter us, then you enter into a situation which we engineers call positive feedback, that leads to instability.
Similarly, take the reality of today. You have the case, for example, of India and Pakistan, or you have the case in the Middle East. You have, again, an unstable condition where there is imbalances, and that leads to a possible arms race. Those have nothing to do with the U.S. nuclear stockpile.
And my question to the panel is in your development of however you are going to do the stewardship, or however you’re going to develop the future of stockpile, have you done a study that would say if those small imbalances persist, how will it affect our stockpile because right now your assumption have been that to have, whatever, 2,000 warheads based on the U.S.-Soviet union imbalance. That is not the reality anymore. Would someone care to address the question based on today’s realities and not the past realities? Thank you.
KIMBALL: While we think about that, we have one other question right here from Terri Lodge in the yellow turtleneck.
QUESTION: My former colleague when he used to do all of that detail, pesky arms control work, with the Arms Control Advocacy Collaborative, you mentioned – defined RRW several times in various ways, but keep talking about responsive infrastructure, and it seems to be a very elastic concept; it means everything from making weapons more reliable to perhaps being able to make a new weapon within four years I think you said. If you give us your, you know, sort of A-B-C definition currently of how the administration is thinking about that term.
KIMBALL: Okay. Why don’t we go ahead and deal with these two questions briefly if we can.
MOSHER: The deterrence question: We have thought a fair bit about what the effects of the instabilities you point out, which is sort of a fundamental force, if you will, of the existence of nuclear forces and the fact that we had an arms race and arms control during the Cold War. So we are intimately familiar with the pathology.
In that many of these countries have quite small arsenals or are likely to have quite small arsenals, it’s in our interest to damp down any arms racing that would get out of control either because it leads to nuclear use through crisis instabilities or because it leads to much-larger-than-necessary arsenals.
Whether to fix our arsenal – I mean, I’m of the view that the sort of size of our arsenal and how responsive we are and how – and we posture ourselves has really little to do with our involvement in those conflicts, to the extent we get involved at all. So I see them as fairly loosely coupled, if at all. There is an undesirable outcome to have lots of nuclear powers regardless of the size of our arsenal, it’s just not something we would like see – you know, Ken Waltz not with standing.
It’s something that I think we strive to minimize but I’m not sure that it has a direct effect on our arsenal and our posture really at this point. It is one of those lesser-included cases that I mentioned.
KIMBALL: Alright. Ambassador Brooks?
BROOKS: I agree with that. It doesn’t have an effect on the size. It might have an effect on the shape. I commend to those of you who have not read it – Keith Payne’s Deterrence in the Second Nuclear Age, which will, if you accept everything Keith says convince you that you should never use the word, “deterrence,” again because it’s, A, meaningless and, B, impossible.
Now, Keith draws some conclusion from that that are father than I would go, but he does make the point that figuring out what deters, you have to look at particular countries. It is the belief of some of us that the large arsenal we have, aimed at destroying an urban industrial infrastructure is not an appropriate deterrent for some potential adversaries, and therefore that one might want to look at other capabilities.
That has lead to the call for some kind of earth-penetrating weapon, a morass into which we have already sunk. And I think that if it has anything to do with our arsenal it is in the niche capabilities and much less in the size. Raymond was talking about a number of a thousand. Even at a thousand, I don’t expect to live to see anybody except Russia or maybe China comes anywhere near that number and so even if you went to a thousand warheads tomorrow, you would still have overwhelming superiority over any of the other sort of plausible people. So the numbers don’t matter.
With respect to the responsive infrastructure, there is some testimony from last year I will be glad to send you because I will probably get it wrong, but we have established a series of very specific criteria. I alluded to two of them: Be able to diagnose a problem and put a repair back in the system within a year; be able to conduct an underground nuclear test if required within 18 months, although, as I say, if this works the way we should, it probably isn’t going to matter whether we can do that; be able to modify a weapon within – modify capabilities within three to four years of a decision by the president to do so, and there are one or two others which, I’m sorry, I can’t remember, but I’ll be glad to send you it.
We said it with fairly little notice to congressional testimony but actually we did try to establish a series of criteria. The jury is still out on whether we can do any of that stuff, by the way. I mean, we certainly can’t do any of it today. We’re not going to be able to do any of it three or four years.
QUESTION: (Off mike.)
BROOKS: The RRW we believe will make it easier to do things because one of the things that holds you down now is the fact that these weapons basically weren’t designed with this kind of modification in mind. They used some materials which in our modern approach to environment require an awful lot of cumbersome safety precautions.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t take them. I’m saying that if you can avoid having to fool around with the precautions you have to take for beryllium, if you can work on multiple weapons in the same bay because you’re not using conventional high explosives, if you can do any one of a number of things, then you will be able to process more quickly modifications or correct of problems, and that is why we think RRW enables a responsive infrastructure and the same way a responsive infrastructure will let you actually move forward with an RRW. So we have – although the concepts were invented separately, we have come to believe that they are an important companion.
KIMBALL: We’ll be writing and analyzing the new acronym of the day, the RRW in Arms Control Today and elsewhere. So keep an eye on that. There is also a packet out there.
We are closing in on our closing time for this. I’m going to take three more questions. I want the questions to be brief please and if the panelists could also be brief in their answers, we have to move people to another room in a few minutes. So Will, if you could take Mr. Cohen and the young woman there, and then we have got one question in front. We’ll let Jonathan Medalia take the last question. So those two people please. Thank you.
QUESTION: I’m Avner Cohen, University of Maryland. My question is broad and to the three of you. What do you think could be the impact of Iran, its future trends, on the global trends of nuclear weapons, beyond just the U.S.; that is to say all of the five declared nuclear weapons and the three others. But what do you think they – you know, there is various scenarios one can see about Iran where it’s going to end within a few years, but what do you think would be the impact on the future trend of nuclear weapons?
KIMBALL: Identify yourself.
QUESTION: Okay. I am Diane Perlman. I am a political psychologist. I work on psychology of proliferation, conflict, escalation of cycles of violence, terrorism. And, anyway, I think deterrence is too – it’s too dangerous to base it on a – to leave into the realm of philosophy and their bodies of knowledge on escalation and dynamics. And while you’re focusing on who you deter and how you deter them, that simultaneous – what’s really going on is provocation, that when you have a symmetrical power – dynamics, intimidation.
KIMBALL: Ask your question. We are at the end of our time.
QUESTION: All right, just that in – that the underlying dynamics are more provocative of escalation while you’re focusing on deterrence and they’re bodies of knowledge about this.
KIMBALL: Okay. And Jonathan Medalia up here on the second row please.
QUESTION: I’m Jonathan Medalia with Congressional Research Service, and a question for the panel – working for Congress of course I notice their concern about cost issues. So I want to ask about life-extension program versus RRW. Clearly RRW has the potential to save a substantial amount of money, whether it’s security or reduced stockpile, ease of manufacture, ease of certification, what have you. On the other hand, there is a lot of expense to get there whether it’s increasing the – or redoing the infrastructure, especially if you do something like the consolidation of the nuclear production center. And there is also the cost of producing maybe a couple of thousand new warheads, give or take.
So I’m wondering if you could sort of weight the costs of LEP, life extension program, versus RRW, especially if you don’t get the billion-and-a-half dollar increment that the [conference] report talks about. Thank you.
KIMBALL: So Ambassador Brooks and Dr. Jeanloz if you could deal with that question and maybe David and I can take a stab at Iran.
BROOKS: First, the middle question – you’re absolutely right about needing to understand deterrence, provocation, escalation; the problem is that the literature on that is extensive and difficult to translate into – in my experience – into public policy terms.
With regard to LEP versus RRW, the hope is that we can go far enough in demonstrating that this concept will work, that we will be able to convince ourselves that we can dial back on some of the planned life extension programs and get the money that is now set aside for those to feed in to the complex. There is a certain chicken-and-egg aspect here, but that is the hope because I agree with you that significant increases are not likely.
JEANLOZ: I don’t have much more to add. I think it’s obvious that RRW as currently conceived cannot move forward unless a case can be made and I believe actually within the NNSA as well as externally, that this really does represent a significant enhancement in the effectiveness and efficiency of the whole enterprise – in the end, cost savings.
I will say that in my personal view, with all due respect, I have never felt it was a strong argument in favor of RRW for the laboratories or the enterprise to say, well, we have not really handled stockpile stewardship that well; we’re breaking the bank; we’re ruining ourselves. Therefore we need to start something new. To me that is not a very compelling argument. But that is certainly part of the discussion.
I can’t resist but make one comment regarding Iran. I think there is in the view of many, and I am among them, a serious threat to the nonproliferation regime that’s associated with a current state of affairs and where things look to be heading. And so I do think this is yet one more – not quantitative but qualitative impact along the lines – if I may make a somewhat distant analogy, it was also a qualitative impact when North Korea made its decisions to pull out of IAEA regime and so on. So that is my personal view and I know I’m not alone in that.
MOSHER: Let’s see, on the issue of saving dollars – I just want to touch on this briefly since I spent 10 years in the Congressional Budget Office. I agree with Raymond in the sense that when we left testing, we in a sense made a deal where we would spend money to preserve the stockpile – sufficient money to do so, and it’s a vast sum of money no matter how you look at it. And to hear my fellow panelists they have accomplished a lot.
Saving $10 million, $20 million, $40 million, maybe $100 million a year, even if it’s possible – and I haven’t seen – we don’t know what RRW is yet to know whether you can really save it. I just don’t think budget is the issue at this point. It’s preserving the stockpile, and I for one am willing to pay a premium, if you will, to try to avoid going to testing if that is what RRW does on increased stockpile stewardship, where we come down on that.
About Iran: Iran, like North Korea before it is – and India and Pakistan to some degree, is a real challenge to the nonproliferation regime, and what we may be seeing is the opportunity to test the Waltzian view that countries with nuclear weapons are a good thing – lots of countries – because they won’t attack each other and peace will reign, but nuclear reign will not rain.
I have always been a bit dubious of that proposition just because I think the mechanics of – you know, having the family atomics as they talk about it in Dune are nice but we have all kinds of stability issues, and it leads to problems that the U.S. and Russia spend a long time dealing with.
I don’t know exactly how it will affect us, and the stockpile and the forces. I think it is an open question, but I think what we really – where it is going to start to bite us is this concern – you know, we in a sense – the administration certainly seems to have accepted the fact that North Korea is a nuclear power. They aren’t ready to accept that yet with Iran, but Iran seems to be headed that way.
What is the next power and how do we stop those new powers from spreading technology to other countries? I don’t know that Iran would do it, but North Korea has certainly demonstrated a willingness to sell whatever they can for cash. Maybe it’s time to rethink the whole approach and try to get a handle on this earlier, but I don’t know that it goes directly to the sort of stockpile issues we were talking about and arsenal.
KIMBALL: I think Ambassador Brooks had another comment to make. We actually do have time for one or two more questions. For the luncheon upstairs they are still setting up the chairs, so I retract my earlier comment. But Ambassador Brooks on this subject.
BROOKS: First of all, I’m sure David didn’t mean to suggest that the administration has accepted North Korea as a nuclear power in the sense of welcoming it. (Laughter.) We believe it is entirely possible that they are in possession of some form of nuclear weapon.
The difference between Iran and North Korea, however, is this: North Korea is being universally condemned by essentially all other countries, and we are arguing over the tactics of reversing it. We’re hashing around whether we can get the United Nations Security Council to talk about Iran, and I think the United States view is pretty clear: It is time to refer Iran to the Security Council.
If there was ever a thing for which the Security Council was invented, this is it, and I think that those who would like to see proliferation chances reduced should be urging not domestic policymakers because we know where we are, but some of our colleagues in other countries to recognize that this is the time to stop or we will be facing the situation with Iran.
Of course there are no Iranian nuclear weapons; that is not the issue. Iran is unambiguously on a path toward them and now is the time to stop. And the answer to the blunt question of what happens if there is no penalty to be paid, then why wouldn’t you try – and so I think that moving to the Security Council is extremely important for the overall nonproliferation regime. I think that reversing the situation in North Korea is extremely important for the nonproliferation regime. You can argue about the tactics that the United States has chosen to taken both of those cases but I don’t think you can argue about the importance of succeeding in both of those because these are different from India and Pakistan. India and Pakistan didn’t take any obligations North Korea took an obligation and has renounced it. Iran wants to claim that it’s continuing to adhere to it when it’s clearly not. And those actions do threaten the regime and I think I’m with David; I’m not terribly interested in finding out whether lots and lots of nuclear powers increase stability because the penalty for being wrong is very high.
KIMBALL: Well, let me just make a couple of observations and a couple of clarifying remarks about the Iran situation. It’s a great question Avner. This is not the subject of the day, but it’s certainly going to be the subject of something that the Arms Control Association is going to do in a March session on Iran.
But since we have Hans Blix as our feature luncheon speaker upstairs, I feel obliged to note it is by no means clear if Iran is on a path to nuclear weapons. What is clear is that they are on a path to having the capability of producing material for nuclear weapons and there are strong reasons to suspect that they have been doing nuclear weapons research.
Now, one of the things that I think we have to be very clear minded about, as concerned as I am – as concerned as others here are about Iran’s intentions is that, you know, to the extent that the international community does choose to act – and I think it should – we need to have a clear basis for that action that everyone can agree on unlike the situation three years ago with Iraq.
Secondly, I think one of the things that we – the conventional view, Avner, is that if Iran does in the next few years require nuclear weapons capability, the biggest risk is not so much that Iran might attack a neighbor, or Israel, or necessarily threaten U.S. interests in the region, but it could be that other states in the region change their views on whether they should be nuclear or non-nuclear states.
And this could – this triggering event with Iran could be the unraveling of the system several years down the road if we do have a Saudi Arabia and Egypt or others. That is one person’s view.
Now, the last point of Iran is that it is I think important that the international community – it’s my personal view – take action through the Security Council. The question is what is the action. This is not clear. It is clear that there is no consensus between the P-5 about what to do at the level of the Security Council, what kinds of actions to take.
The Europeans are consulting with the Americans, the Chinese and the Russians as we speak. But one idea that I think is very useful – it’s an idea that comes out of the Carnegie Endowment and Pierre Goldschmidt wrote a paper about this is that there are ways the Security Council could help reinforce nuclear safeguards in the NPT itself in the event that a state does choose to withdraw from the NPT, or in the event that a state is found as North Korea and Iran were to be in violation of their safeguards agreements.
So I think we also have to think carefully about what is done at the Security Council and not simply think of the Security Council as the end of the game.
We do have time for one or two more questions. We’ll go with Francis Slakey (ph) here and the gentleman behind him with the glasses and I think that should be about all of the time we do have.
QUESTION: Given that we’re in this low-pressure situation that you described, Dave, that there is no urgency, it seems there is no urgency to make a decision about the future of the infrastructure, particularly given the success, the current success of stockpile stewardship. So I would like you all to comment on what you think the appropriate timeline is for making decisions. Is there a critical decision point where we have to decide between RRW and the life extension program?
And as a corollary, do you believe the given the magnitude of the questions as Dr. Jeanloz has said is Congress adequately engaged at this point to make that decision?
KIMBALL: Alright. And then one more question right there, Will. Thank you.
QUESTION: I’m Steven Coleky (ph) with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. My first question is most of our – I really appreciated the panel discussion but most of it has been within the framework of U.S. policy rather than looking at the kind of global impact of U.S. policy. And my question is will U.S. efforts to develop possibly new nuclear weapons, to enhance nuclear infrastructure send the wrong message not to just the Irans and North Koreas of the world but to other nuclear-capable states that may increase pressures for them to develop nuclear weapons, believing that the U.S. intends to have a permanent nuclear force.
The other question I have is since the U.S. doesn’t have any serious plausible competitor – nuclear competitor at this time that could exercise any kind of overwhelming force against us, does this not give us the space to perhaps put more resources into improving transparency, predictability, and additional arms control agreements that would strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation regime?
KIMBALL: Who would like to take maybe that last one and then we’ll go back to the first one that Francis did. Why don’t you go ahead.
MOSHER: On the last question, I tend to agree with Ambassador Brooks in the sense that there are things that the United States it’s doing – first, it’s overall – overwhelming conventional capability, it’s demonstrated ability to reach out and remove regimes, its ability to – and its seeming willingness to upset apple carts in the world, or at least that is the perception out there. That probably is 90 percent of what is making countries feel insecure to the extent they are.
What we do with our nuclear forces I think is secondary, and I think if you had discussions with the North Korean decisionmakers and the Iranian decisionmakers about why they are doing this, I would imagine a fair piece of what they are worried about is deterring U.S. activities in their region.
So to that extent what we do to nuclear forces is not a primary driver. Now, I don’t think it’s completely decoupled. I think there are things that we do that may make countries feel less secure, but to my thinking, most of what our nuclear force does tends to affect what their nuclear force might look like, whether they go to mobile missile technology, whether they bury things deeply so that we may not be able to get to them. It has that sort of effect.
Your question about without a competitor, it is a good opportunity to deal with some of the – I mentioned it in my talk – some of the arms control issues with nuclear powers. Unfortunately we’re having many unpleasant test cases of the nonproliferation piece that you’re mentioning. And I guess, I have to confess I haven’t thought enough about it to give you a good answer about what it is we should be doing at the moment in addition to trying to fight these particular forest fires.
I get the sense that this might be a good opportunity to rethink the whole nonproliferation regime and what it means and how do we get to the goal that we want, which is very few countries with nuclear weapons. And it may be the tools we have in place are largely the right ones that need to be tweaked. It may be we need a whole new way of thinking about the problem. I just haven’t thought enough about it, but it needs to be done. I guess that was it.
KIMBALL: Ambassador Brooks.
BROOKS: We ought to be a little careful about this no-serious-nuclear-competitor view. I sat and watched START I get signed in July of 1991 and the Soviet Union went away within six months, and I never saw it coming, and for all of the people who were saying, oh, it was inevitable, nobody who saw it coming ever bothered to tell me about it. (Laughter.)
And so what I’ve learned out of that is predicting the future of other countries is not always easy. It remains a fact that the Russian Federation could end the United States’ existence as a functioning society before we’re finished with lunch. I’m not suggesting that I regard that as a threat. The United States doesn’t regard that as a threat, but that capability is there and therefore one thing we have to do is hedge against an unlikely but not impossible return to a time when that would be a real capability.
It’s great to sit here and talk about transparency; it really is, okay, except the problem is that a lot of the people who you would like to be more transparent think that transparency is what the strong advocate in order to make sure that they have got a handle over the weak. And have a discussion with any of our colleagues from China on the point of transparency and you will get that speech in spades.
Even within the United States, there has been a great reluctance to be quite as open about total sizes of stockpiles. I mean, I have been using a lot of code words about the non-deployed things. There is actually a very precise number and I know what it is, and I have no intention of saying it because we as a country, despite pressure from some of our friends in Congress have decided we’re not going to release those kind of numbers.
So I think advocating transparency is good, but if you have got a little bit of an uphill fight here and you have got a huge uphill fight in other countries, and we ought to keep trying it, but we ought not to think that that is just, oh, if only I would wake up and endorse transparency it would happen because I think it’s not as clear that it will.
The Department of Energy does many things well but making major changes in its infrastructure on the historical record takes us a very long time. So the answer to when we should start on this is now even if you don’t think you need it for another 15 or 20 years because you’re not going to be able to get it for another 15 or 20 years no matter what you want; it’s just the historical record. Yeah, I know the Manhattan Project. That was a long time ago. We work on a more galactic time scale in my building now. (Laughter.)
And finally, no, Congress isn’t engaged enough. The number of people who could participate without scripted talking points on the Hill and the discussion that we have had in this room is not zero and there are some very thoughtful people. But we wouldn’t have to bring a whole lot more chairs to get them all here.
And I think that we should continue to encourage this debate and it is very – I am involved, as some of you know, in a thing that CSIS is doing called the project on nuclear issues, which is trying to develop a generation of the nuclear policy thinkers who are not, A, in the waning days of their life – read me – or, B, had their whole formulative way of thinking influenced by the Cold War – read me.
And what is striking is that we have got people from academia, we have got people from think tanks; we have got nobody from the Hill because it is not an important issue now. A nongovernmental organization could try to change that. It’s a little hard for the executive branch to carp that we’re not getting enough involvement of Congress, but you’re right.
KIMBALL : Well, on that, I think the Arms Control Association will take up your suggestion about getting Congress involved and continuing the debate. Please join me in thanking everyone here, the panelists – (applause) – for some excellent presentations. Thank you.