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– Hans Blix,
former IAEA Director-General

Russia

Strengthening Stability in Turbulent Times

A new report by a 21-member commission consisting of experts from Germany, Russia, and the United States, “Strengthening Stability in Turbulent Times,” recommends several new arms control and confidence-building-measures to reverse the deterioration in Russia’s relations with U.S. and European governments.

The immediate objective of the fifteen recommendations is to achieve a verified termination of the violent conflict in Ukraine, arresting the slide of NATO and Russia toward a potentially more dangerous situation. 

Posted: April 21, 2015

New START: Still Doing the Job

The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) between Russia and the United States was signed five years ago today. Last week, Washington released the latest data exchanged under the treaty on the numbers of U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons. Considering that Russia and the West are passing through the worst political-military crisis since the end of the Cold War, New START’s latest numbers are particularly welcome. President Barack Obama should further burnish U.S. nuclear disarmament bona fides by ordering an acceleration of the treaty reductions already programmed and announce it at...

Russia Completes CFE Treaty Suspension

Russia is suspending its participation in meetings of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty Joint Consultative Group (JCG), according to a Russian Foreign Ministry statement on March 10.

April 2015

By Kingston Reif

Russia is suspending its participation in meetings of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty Joint Consultative Group (JCG), according to a Russian Foreign Ministry statement on March 10.

The announcement marks a further pullback from the treaty that Moscow had largely abandoned in 2007. (See ACT, January/February 2008.)

In a March 11 interview with Interfax, Mikhail Ulyanov, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control, said Moscow’s suspension was not due to the deterioration in U.S.-Russian relations resulting from Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

“The issue was long overdue, long before the Ukraine crisis, before the current state of affairs in our relations with the West,” Ulyanov said.

According to Ulyanov, the United States “had forbidden its allies to discuss any substantive issues at the JCG. In those conditions there was not much sense in continuing our participation in the JCG.”

The CFE Treaty, signed at the end of the Cold War on Nov. 19, 1990, eliminated the Soviet Union’s overwhelming quantitative advantage in conventional weapons in Europe by setting equal limits on the number of tanks, armored combat vehicles, heavy artillery, combat aircraft, and attack helicopters that NATO and the Warsaw Pact could deploy between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ural Mountains.

The treaty was designed to prevent either alliance from amassing forces for a blitzkrieg-type offensive, which could have triggered the use of nuclear weapons in response.

Russia suspended implementation of the CFE Treaty in 2007, claiming it was responding to NATO member states’ decision to condition their ratification of the 1999 Adapted CFE Treaty on the resolution of a dispute over Russian military deployments in parts of Moldova and Georgia. But Moscow continued to participate in the consultative group, saying that it hoped that dialogue could lead to the creation of an effective, new conventional arms control regime in Europe.

Beginning in 2010, the Obama administration sought to resolve the CFE Treaty dispute through the development of a draft “framework” for new negotiations to strengthen the treaty regime. But the talks stalled, and in November 2011, the United States announced that it “would cease carrying out certain obligations” under the CFE Treaty with regard to Russia.

Ulyanov told Interfax that Russia would be unlikely to return to compliance with the CFE Treaty. The accord, created when the Warsaw Pact was still in existence, is “anachronistic” and “absolutely out of sync with the present realities,” he said.

Posted: April 1, 2015

Nuclear Cruise Missiles: Asset or Liability?

Description: 

The future of U.S. and Russian nuclear cruise missiles is at an inflection point.

Body: 
March 5, 2015 

The future of U.S. and Russian nuclear cruise missiles is at an inflection point. Russia's alleged testing of a ground-launched cruise missile has jeopardized not only the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, but other bilateral nuclear agreements as well, adding further strain to the U.S.-Russian relationship.

The U.S. allegation and Moscow's three counter charges should be resolved with the help of the treaty's Special Verification Commission, which was explicitly designed to deal with compliance issues. But the two countries need to take a broader look at nuclear cruise missiles.

New strategic cruise missiles are part of an unaffordable drive by Washington and Moscow to simultaneously modernize all three legs of their strategic arsenals. Given the increasingly marginal role that nuclear cruise missiles play in ensuring a U.S.-Russian balance and their destabilizing impact when deployed by emerging nuclear powers such as Pakistan, it is time to consider doing away with them entirely.

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Posted: March 5, 2015

Top Russian Official Backs New START

Russia’s ambassador to the United States reaffirmed his country’s commitment to the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty amid questions in both countries about the value of the agreement.

March 2015

By Kingston Reif

Sergey Kislyak, Russian ambassador to the United States, speaks at a conference in Washington sponsored by ExchangeMonitor Publications and Forums on February 18. (Courtesy of ExchangeMonitor Publications & Forums)Russia’s ambassador to the United States reaffirmed his country’s commitment to the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) last month amid questions about the value of the agreement from influential voices in both countries.

Speaking on Feb. 18 at a conference in Washington, Sergey Kislyak said, “I don’t foresee developments—I hope I am right—that would force at least Russia to reconsider its commitment” to New START. The treaty constitutes “a very serious undertaking, and we are taking it seriously,” he added.

Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, also spoke at the conference and reiterated the U.S. commitment to the treaty. “It is [in] times like these that arms control proves its worth,” she said, referring to the current tensions between the United States and Russia over Ukraine. “Arms control measures provide stability and predictability even when other things fall into disarray.”

New START, which entered into force in February 2011, limits the United States and Russia to 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear warheads; 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and long-range bombers; and 800 deployed and nondeployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers, and long-range bombers. Each side has until 2018 to meet the treaty caps. The pact also contains transparency and verification provisions, including on-site inspections, to ensure compliance.

Kislyak’s endorsement of New START comes on the heels of a recent warning by a high-ranking Russian Foreign Ministry official that Moscow could rethink its commitment to the agreement in light of allegedly hostile U.S. actions toward Russia.

“I am not ruling out the possibility that Washington could force us to…adjust our policy in this area,” Mikhail Ulyanov, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control, told RIA Novosti on Jan. 13.

“It would be quite natural, considering the unfriendly nature of U.S. actions [in regard to Russia],” he added.

The United States has condemned Moscow for annexing Crimea and supporting rebel forces in eastern Ukraine. Washington and many of its NATO allies have imposed sanctions against Russia and strengthened the alliance’s eastern defenses.

Ulyanov was not the first Russian official to suggest New START could be at risk due to tensions in the U.S.-Russian relationship over Ukraine.

Last March, shortly after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, unnamed Russian Defense Ministry officials told RIA Novosti and other Russian media outlets that Moscow was prepared to suspend its permission for the United States to carry out inspections as required under New START because “groundless threats to Russia from the U.S. and NATO regarding its Ukrainian policy are considered by us as an unfriendly gesture and allow us to declare a force majeure.” According to the protocol to New START, the only basis for the cancellation of inspections is “circumstances brought about by force majeure,” an unexpected event that is beyond the control of the inspected party.

Meanwhile, the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation in each of the past four years that would have threatened the U.S. ability to implement the treaty.

The version of the fiscal year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act that the House passed last year barred spending any money to carry out the reductions required by New START until Russia met a number of conditions, including “respecting the sovereignty of all Ukrainian territory.” But the Democratic-led Senate opposed this language, and the final bill merely requires a report from the Defense Department stating the reasons that continued implementation of New START is in the national security interests of the United States. (See ACT, January/February 2015.)

In a Feb. 19 interview, a Senate Republican staffer said the new Republican-led Senate would prefer not to “relitigate” New START. The staffer said that “curing” Russia’s violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty will likely be a higher Senate Republican priority, along with pressing ahead with U.S. nuclear weapons modernization plans and guarding against potential Obama administration proposals to reduce U.S. nuclear weapons below New START levels without a new treaty.

Posted: March 2, 2015

Most U.S.-Russian Nuclear Work Ends

After months of signals that U.S.-Russian nuclear security cooperation beyond 2014 was in jeopardy, most work in that area now has stopped.

March 2015

By Kingston Reif

Former Senator Sam Nunn (D.-Ga.), left, and Senator Richard Lugar (R.-Ind) attend a symposium in Washington on December 3, 2012, on cooperative threat reduction. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)After months of signals that U.S.-Russian nuclear security cooperation beyond 2014 was in jeopardy, most work in that area now has ended, according to news reports and Energy Department budget documents. But some limited work will continue in 2015, according to Energy Department officials.

In a meeting last December in Moscow, Russian officials informed their U.S. counterparts that Moscow was ending U.S. cooperation with Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear corporation, and U.S. access to Rosatom facilities, the Boston Globe reported Jan. 19.

Joint work to upgrade the security of eight Rosatom sites containing weapons-usable nuclear material “will not be completed with U.S. funding, due to Russia’s discontinuation of this joint work,” according to the Energy Department’s detailed justification of its budget request for fiscal year 2016. Joint work to sustain previous upgrades also is ending, said the document, which was released Feb. 2.

The document states that U.S. support for efforts to convert reactors in Russia that still use highly enriched uranium (HEU) to use low-enriched uranium will continue but be limited to the six pilot reactors that are part of a 2010 agreement between the Energy Department and Rosatom. “The U.S. role in additional reactor conversion cooperation in Russia is anticipated to be limited to only technical exchanges,” the document said.

The Globe article reported that the United States will also no longer provide money to install radiation detectors at Russian ports, airports, and border crossings to deter and detect nuclear smuggling.

Since the end of the Cold War, Russia and the United States have cooperated on an array of nuclear weapons dismantlement, material security, and nonproliferation activities inside Russia and the other states of the former Soviet Union. These efforts have been pursued primarily under the auspices of the U.S. Defense Department’s Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program and the Energy Department’s nuclear material security programs.

In June 2013, Russia and the United States agreed to a pared-down replacement for the old CTR agreement. The new arrangement allowed the Energy Department to continue nuclear security activities with Rosatom, but terminated activities involving the Russian Ministry of Defense. (See ACT, July/August 2013.) Many of the activities with Rosatom were scheduled to continue through 2018.

In a Jan. 22 statement, Rosatom said that it would “be ready to return to the cooperation when the American side is ready for that, and certainly, strictly on the basis of equality, mutual benefit, and respect.”

In a Feb. 19 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Energy Department spokesman Derrick Robinson said Russia will fund the security work the Energy Department had been planning to carry out.

Despite the end of work with Rosatom, some cooperative activities would continue, including the repatriation of Russian-origin HEU from third countries, security work with a number of non-Rosatom nuclear sites, and bilateral exchanges on topics such as nuclear security culture and transportation security, Robinson said.

Congress voted last December to withhold the Energy Department’s $92.3 million fiscal year 2015 budget request for nuclear material security work in Russia. (See ACT, January/February 2015.) It is not clear from the budget documents how much money, if any, the Energy Department requested for work inside Russia in fiscal year 2016.

In a Jan. 23 Washington Post op-ed, former Sens. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) described Russia’s decision to cut off most aspects of its nuclear security cooperation with the United States as “short-sighted” and “a major setback in the global effort to secure nuclear materials.”

Nunn and Lugar co-sponsored the legislation that established cooperative threat reduction efforts with Russia in the early 1990s.

Posted: March 2, 2015

White House Reviewing Nuclear Budget

March 2015

By Kingston Reif

After months of signals that U.S.-Russian nuclear security cooperation beyond 2014 was in jeopardy, most work in that area now has ended, according to news reports and Energy Department budget documents. But some limited work will continue in 2015, according to Energy Department officials.

In a meeting last December in Moscow, Russian officials informed their U.S. counterparts that Moscow was ending U.S. cooperation with Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear corporation, and U.S. access to Rosatom facilities, the Boston Globe reported Jan. 19.

Joint work to upgrade the security of eight Rosatom sites containing weapons-usable nuclear material “will not be completed with U.S. funding, due to Russia’s discontinuation of this joint work,” according to the Energy Department’s detailed justification of its budget request for fiscal year 2016. Joint work to sustain previous upgrades also is ending, said the document, which was released Feb. 2.

The document states that U.S. support for efforts to convert reactors in Russia that still use highly enriched uranium (HEU) to use low-enriched uranium will continue but be limited to the six pilot reactors that are part of a 2010 agreement between the Energy Department and Rosatom. “The U.S. role in additional reactor conversion cooperation in Russia is anticipated to be limited to only technical exchanges,” the document said.

The Globe article reported that the United States will also no longer provide money to install radiation detectors at Russian ports, airports, and border crossings to deter and detect nuclear smuggling.

Since the end of the Cold War, Russia and the United States have cooperated on an array of nuclear weapons dismantlement, material security, and nonproliferation activities inside Russia and the other states of the former Soviet Union. These efforts have been pursued primarily under the auspices of the U.S. Defense Department’s Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program and the Energy Department’s nuclear material security programs.

In June 2013, Russia and the United States agreed to a pared-down replacement for the old CTR agreement. The new arrangement allowed the Energy Department to continue nuclear security activities with Rosatom, but terminated activities involving the Russian Ministry of Defense. (See ACT, July/August 2013.) Many of the activities with Rosatom were scheduled to continue through 2018.

In a Jan. 22 statement, Rosatom said that it would “be ready to return to the cooperation when the American side is ready for that, and certainly, strictly on the basis of equality, mutual benefit, and respect.”

In a Feb. 19 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Energy Department spokesman Derrick Robinson said Russia will fund the security work the Energy Department had been planning to carry out.

Despite the end of work with Rosatom, some cooperative activities would continue, including the repatriation of Russian-origin HEU from third countries, security work with a number of non-Rosatom nuclear sites, and bilateral exchanges on topics such as nuclear security culture and transportation security, Robinson said.

Congress voted last December to withhold the Energy Department’s $92.3 million fiscal year 2015 budget request for nuclear material security work in Russia. (See ACT, January/February 2015.) It is not clear from the budget documents how much money, if any, the Energy Department requested for work inside Russia in fiscal year 2016.

In a Jan. 23 Washington Post op-ed, former Sens. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) described Russia’s decision to cut off most aspects of its nuclear security cooperation with the United States as “short-sighted” and “a major setback in the global effort to secure nuclear materials.”

Nunn and Lugar co-sponsored the legislation that established cooperative threat reduction efforts with Russia in the early 1990s.

Posted: March 2, 2015

Russia and the Big Chill

U.S.-Russian cooperation in the sensitive arena of nuclear weapons has not yet been seriously affected, but it is at risk, and further progress is on hold.

March 2015

By Daryl G. Kimball

Since the 2014 ouster of the pro-Russian president of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s persistent effort to annex and destabilize parts of Ukraine has undermined European security and the rules-based international order. The Ukraine crisis has sent already chilly relations between Moscow and the West to the lowest point in more than a quarter century.

U.S.-Russian cooperation in the sensitive arena of nuclear weapons has not yet been seriously affected, but it is at risk, and further progress is on hold. In July, the United States formally accused Russia of testing a ground-launched cruise missile in violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The dispute has made what is left of the bilateral U.S.-Russian nuclear dialogue even more difficult.

The Kremlin continues to say “nyet” to U.S. President Barack Obama’s 2013 proposal for a further one-third cut in U.S. and Russian deployed strategic warheads and delivery systems. Moscow argues that deeper cuts in strategic nuclear stockpiles must take into account U.S. strategic ballistic missile interceptors, conventional prompt-strike weapons, and the nuclear arsenals of other states.

Both sides continue to implement the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) and recognize their disarmament commitments under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), but there is no serious dialogue on follow-on measures.

A further escalation of the conflict in eastern Ukraine could set back the nuclear relationship still further. Mikhail Ulyanov of the Russian Foreign Ministry told RIA Novosti in January that Russia could revise its commitment to New START in response to “unfriendly” U.S. actions.

Some members of the U.S. Congress have already threatened to halt funding for implementation of New START to send a message to Moscow. Others want to accelerate costly U.S. nuclear force modernization plans and explore new types of nuclear weapons.

In a January letter to the Pentagon, two House Armed Services Committee leaders, Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) and Michael Turner (R-Ohio), even called for the possible deployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in NATO states on Russia’s border.

Rather than protect Ukraine or NATO, these radical steps would further undermine strategic stability and international security. Given the potential for a direct conflict between Russia and NATO, neither side should use nuclear weapons to send political messages or lower the threshold for nuclear weapons use.

Moscow’s actions in Ukraine require a unified response involving diplomacy, sanctions, and NATO conventional deterrence. But the new Russian challenge cannot be resolved with nuclear weapons or the buildup of U.S. nuclear capabilities.

Russia and the United States no longer are in the type of ideological competition they had during the Cold War, but they remain locked in a relationship of mutual assured destruction. The world’s daily survival still depends on the stability of nuclear command and control on both sides, mutual restraint, and effective government-to-government communication.

As Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said in a Feb. 18 address, “It is [in] times like these that arms control proves its worth. Arms control measures provide stability and predictability even when other things fall into disarray.”

New U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control measures are not coming soon, but it is in both sides’ interests to resume active discussions on new, creative proposals to reduce the size and enormous cost of their excess strategic and tactical nuclear arsenals and to resolve disagreements about missile defenses. Both countries deploy nuclear forces that are ready for prompt launch and in numbers that far exceed any common-sense deterrence “requirements.”

To begin, the two sides should jointly declare at the 2015 NPT Review Conference that they will begin formal negotiations within one year on a follow-on to New START, which expires in 2021. A follow-on agreement should aim to cut each side’s strategic deployed arsenals to fewer than 1,100 warheads and 500 launchers, including any conventional prompt-strike weapons.

Such talks can and should explore a wider range of issues, including transparency and confidence-building steps on tactical nuclear weapons and joint understandings on missile defense capabilities and deployments.

To build momentum, the two sides also could announce they will, in parallel, accelerate New START implementation to meet the treaty’s limits of 1,550 deployed warheads and 700 strategic launchers ahead of the 2018 deadline.

The two sides also should reiterate their commitment not to test, produce, or deploy missile systems prohibited by the INF Treaty—that is, those with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers—and agree to special inspections to resolve compliance concerns. Russia and the United States also could work together to engage other states in talks on limiting and eventually phasing out all nuclear-armed cruise missile systems. This would allow the two countries to forgo expensive modernization programs for such missiles and head off dangerous cruise missile buildups around the globe.

Today, as during the Cold War, effective, persistent nuclear arms control leadership is in the best interests of Russia, the United States, and the world.

Posted: March 2, 2015

Myanmar Ratifies Chemical Weapons Convention

Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which implements and verifies the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) , announced at the 48th Meeting of the OPCW Executive Council on January 21 that Myanmar, one of only six countries remaining outside of the Convention, had voted to ratify the treaty and would be submitting the instrument of ratification for Myanmar President Thein Sein’s signature and formal submission to the United Nations Secretary General as the CWC’s Depositary. This long-awaited step by Myanmar is most welcome and...

Hill Withholds Funds for Work in Russia

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

January/February 2015

By Kingston Reif

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Cruise Missile Funded

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

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

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

Meanwhile, the defense authorization bill dilutes provisions in the original House bill regarding the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), Russia’s alleged noncompliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, and the maintenance of U.S. Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) silos. The House bill barred the spending of any money to carry out the reductions required by New START until Russia met a number of conditions, including “respecting the sovereignty of all Ukrainian territory.” The final bill merely requires a report from the Defense Department stating the reasons that continued implementation of New START is in the national security interests of the United States.

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

Missile Defense Scrutinized

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

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

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

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

Posted: January 8, 2015

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