Responding to the Jan. 20 WSJ op-ed, "How to Protect Our Nuclear Deterrent," by statesmen Shultz, Perry, Kissinger and Nunn, Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) claimed in a January 24th letter to the editor that the op-ed endorses "the recommendations of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the experts on the bipartisan Perry-Schlesinger Commission, who have urged significant and immediate funding to develop a modern warhead ..."
In reality, neither the Shultz, Perry et al op-ed nor the Perry-Schlesinger Commission endorse what Kyl calls a "modern warhead," which is a euphemism for a newly-designed nuclear warhead.
In the op-ed, Shultz and company write:
The three labs in particular should be applauded for the success they have achieved in extending the life of existing weapons. Their work has led to important advances in the scientific understanding of nuclear explosions and obviated the need for underground nuclear explosive tests.
...The United States must continue to attract, develop and retain the outstanding scientists, engineers, designers and technicians we will need to maintain our nuclear arsenal, whatever its size, for as long as the nation's security requires it.
Our recommendations for maintaining a safe, secure and reliable nuclear arsenal are consistent with the findings of a recently completed technical study commissioned by the National Nuclear Security Administration in the Department of Energy. This study was performed by JASON, an independent defense advisory group of senior scientists who had full access to the pertinent classified information.
The JASON study found that the "[l]ifetimes of today's nuclear warheads could be extended for decades, with no anticipated loss in confidence, by using approaches similar to those employed in Life Extension Programs to date."
In other words, there is nothing above, nor in the rest of the op-ed that suggests the four statesman believe maintaining the stockpile requires a resumption of nuclear testing or new warhead designs.
In response to a question on the matter at a January 22 public event in Washington last week, Secretary Perry was unambiguous:
"Previous op-eds that have focused on the issue of getting the major reductions needed have stated that while we - as long as nuclear weapons did exist, we needed to maintain a confident deterrent. What this op-ed focuses on is how you go about maintaining that deterrent in the meantime.
There have been suggestions that we needed - in order to maintain deterrence, we would need to be able to test nuclear weapons or we would need to be able to develop new nuclear weapons. And this op-ed was intended to make the point that, from a technical point of view, it's possible to maintain the deterrence without testing and without developing new weapons, but that it was imperative to maintaining a strong scientific, technological capability at weapons laboratories in the meantime.
So on the one hand, it was arguing for maintaining that scientific capability of laboratories. On the other hand, it was taking the position that if that were maintained, then the concerns over testing, the concerns over designing new weapons, was overblown."
Nowhere in the voluminous Perry-Schlesinger commission report, "The Strategic Posture of the United States" do the commissioners endorse newly-designed warheads. On the contrary, while the commission recommended an array of initiatives to maintain the nuclear arsenal under current U.S. policies, it found that, "The Life Extension Program has to date been effective in dealing with the problem of modernizing the arsenal."
Given Senator Kyl's inability to accurately portray the facts and the words of others, his fellow Senators should be careful not to rely on him for advice about how the nation should address important nuclear weapons policy issues.