In today's edition of The Wall Street Journal, Vice-president Biden pens an op-ed entitled, "The President's Nuclear Vision," stating that the administration's fiscal year 2011 budget request to Congress will propose a $600 million increase in the National Nuclear Security Administration's nonproliferation and stockpile management programs budget (about 10% above current levels) and will seek an increase of approximately $5 billion over the next 5 years.
He writes in part: "Our budget request is just one of several closely related and equally important initiatives giving life to the president's Prague agenda. Others include completing the New START agreement with Russia, releasing the Nuclear Posture Review on March 1, holding the Nuclear Security Summit in April, and pursuing ratification and entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty."
What does it mean? ACA's interpretation is that the Obama administration's plan to increase long-term funding for the nuclear stockpile management program further underscores the fact that the United States can continue maintain a reliable arsenal without resuming nuclear testing or building newly-designed nuclear warheads.
Contrary to myth, the U.S. nuclear arsenal is not "degrading." In fact, a major effort to refurbish warheads and modernize the weapons complex has been underway for some time. Even without this additional funding, confidence in the ability to maintain U.S. warheads in the absence of nuclear test explosions has been increasing. Recall that:
Unfortunately, the administration's budget request will likely include funding for an unnecessary expansion of production capacity at a new Los Alamos plutonium lab and a new uranium facility at Oak Ridge. Ideally, the administration and Congress will focus the nuclear weapons laboratories' resources on core stockpile surveillance and maintenance tasks, refrain from research and development on new-design warheads, and guard against unnecessary alterations to existing warheads that could undermine their reliability.
The bottom line is that there is no technical or military reason to resume U.S. nuclear weapons testing or to pursue new warhead designs. At the same time, it is in U.S. national security interests to do all we can to prevent others from conducting nuclear tests, which could allow them to perfect new and advanced nuclear warhead designs.