Enough is Enough

Inside the Arms Control Association    
April 2024

Today, nearly 80 years after the start of the nuclear age, the United States has more than 5,000 nuclear warheads, including some 1,770 thermonuclear warheads deployed on 660 powerful, long-range missiles on land and at sea, and on strategic bombers. In addition, the United States retains some 200 "tactical" nuclear bombs on shorter-range aircraft. Use of just a fraction of these weapons, most of which are deployed on a prompt launch status, would lead to catastrophic devastation on a global scale.

As we reported in Arms Control Today this month, the Biden administration's $850 billion defense budget request for fiscal year 2025 calls for $69 billion for nuclear weapons operations, sustainment and modernization, an increase of 22 percent over the current year. Costs for key systems, including 400 new ICBMs, new nuclear-armed subs and bombers, plus the upgrades for all the warheads in the U.S. arsenal, are projected to total $756 billion over the next decade.

Despite this immense and expensive array of nuclear firepower, influential national security insiders, contractor lobbyists, defense-industry affiliated think tanks, and hawkish members of Congress are fretting that "America's enemies will become even more emboldened … while facing a hobbled and undersized American nuclear deterrent."

For example, a recent report by the Heritage Foundation calls for the next president to "make nuclear deterrent modernization a top national priority," by increasing the size of the arsenal by loading more than one warhead on the the ICBM force, directing the production of new nuclear systems, and directing the Air Force to examine the feasibility of making the future ICBM force road-mobile.

ACA is working hard to explain that increasing the number of U.S. nuclear weapons or adding new types of nuclear weapons would not effectively address threats from Russia, China or elsewhere, but rather would further fuel the dangerous action-reaction cycle that is already underway.

In addition, increasing the size of the U.S. nuclear force would add to the staggering $756 billion cost of the U.S. modernization plan over the coming decade and divert resources from more important human and national security investments.

We're also leading the way to rally support in the United States and around the globe for U.S. and Russian leaders to agree to maintain common sense limits on their massive strategic arsenals. These limits set by bilateral treaties and agreements were essential to reducing the global nuclear stockpiles during and after the Cold War.

With the risk of nuclear war already too high, spending on nuclear weapons going up, and governmental dialogue for nuclear arms control and disarmament stalled for now, we need your support and engagement to encourage a saner approach that emphasizes nuclear restraint and more energetic and effective nuclear disarmament diplomacy.

Take Action: Call on Congress to support nuclear arms control diplomacy 

Today, nuclear arms control and disarmament are more important than ever. Now is the time to call on your Representative and Senators to show there is bipartisan support for strong U.S. leadership for nuclear arms control.

Urge lawmakers to cosponsor a resolution introduced by Rep. Bill Foster in the House (H. Res. 1079) and Senators Ed Markey and Jeff Merkley in the Senate (S. Res. 593).

The resolution "calls on the Biden administration to continue to pursue nuclear arms control and risk reduction dialogue with the Russian Federation to maintain strategic stability, ensure the conflict in Ukraine does not escalate to nuclear use, and avoid an unrestrained nuclear arms race."

Please write to your Representative and Senators now. Remind them that a world without effective nuclear arms control diplomacy is a more dangerous world and urge them to act.

The Conflict in the Middle East, the Risk of Escalation, and Iran's Nuclear Program

The risk of a wider war in the Middle East has grown since Iran launched drone and missile attacks against Israel on April 13 in response to Israel's April 1 strike on an Iranian diplomatic compound in Damascus that killed senior military commanders and others.

"One miscalculation, one miscommunication, one mistake, could lead to the unthinkable–a full-scale regional conflict that would be devastating for all involved and for the rest of the world," warned UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at a Security Council meeting on April 18.

Some U.S. pundits have called on the U.S. to support Israeli strikes on Iran's sensitive nuclear facilities. On Thursday, a senior Iranian official warned that if Israel strikes Iran's nuclear facilities, Iran will strike Israel's nuclear weapons infrastructure.Former U.S. National Security Advisor Ambassador John Bolton speaking in Jerusalem, August 2018 (Photo: U.S. Embassy in Israel)

Later on Thursday, Israel's war cabinet authorized a fairly limited counterstrike directed at military sites in Iran. Whether the unprecedented round of state-on-state attacks is over is not yet clear.

In an analysis posted on our Arms Control Now blog shortly after the Iranian drone and missile barrage, ACA's director for nuclear nonproliferation policy, Kelsey Davenport, explains why retaliation against Iranian nuclear sites would be counterproductive.

The Financial Times cited her bottom line, which said that paper targeting Iranian nuclear sites "would be a reckless and irresponsible escalation that increases the risk of a wider regional war . . and is more likely to push Tehran to decide that developing nuclear weapons is necessary to deter future attacks."

ACA Supports Physicists Coalition's D.C. Engagement Days

Thirty-six scientists from 18 states gathered in Washington, April 14-16 for the Physicists Coalition for Nuclear Threat Reduction "D.C. Engagement Days" to meet with more than 50 House and Senate offices and urge forward-thinking and responsible action to:

  • Reduce the exploding costs of the U.S. nuclear weapons modernization program.
  • Help reinforce the norms against nuclear use, nuclear threats, nuclear testing, and nuclear buildups.
  • Show there is strong support for diplomatic engagement to head off an unconstrained and dangerous global nuclear arms race.

The project, led by the Coalition's policy and program coordinator, Chris Rostampour, with advice from the ACA policy staff and financial support from the Ploughshares Fund, is part of a broader effort to engage members of the physical sciences community in the public discourse about nuclear weapons.

Members with the Physicists Coalition for Nuclear Threat Reduction met with
50 Capitol Hill offices, including that of Sen. Cory Booker (NJ).

Since 2020, the Coalition's 15 project team members have delivered more than 150 colloquia on nuclear weapons policy and arms control and disarmament at institutions of higher education and laboratories in the United States and beyond, reaching thousands of graduate students and educators.

Since the Arms Control Association was founded in 1971, we have taken on some consequential issues. Despite being a small organization, we have been able to punch above our weight class and make a difference by catalyzing action, informing better policy decisions, and holding decision-makers accountable to reduce the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

ACA Joins Call for Implementation of U.S. Law with Respect to Arms Transfers to Israel

For many years, ACA has sought to ensure that conventional arms transfers by the United States and other countries are consistent with international and national laws designed to protect civilians in conflict.

In early March, we joined a prestigious group of organizations specializing in humanitarian assistance and international security in a letter to President Joe Biden "to express our deep concern regarding continued U.S. security assistance to Israel despite Israeli restrictions on humanitarian aid, an apparent violation of U.S. law."

The letter, endorsed by two dozen organizations, notes that Section 620I of the Foreign Assistance Act "… prohibits the United States from providing security assistance or arms sales to any country when the President is made aware that the government 'prohibits or otherwise restricts, directly or indirectly, the transport or delivery of United States humanitarian assistance.'"

In the letter, the organizations call on President Biden to "urgently comply with U.S. law, end U.S. support for catastrophic human suffering in Gaza, and use your leverage to protect civilians and ensure the impartial provision of humanitarian assistance."

Webinar: Addressing Current Chemical Weapons Compliance Challenges

On March 26, ACA and the Chemical Weapons Convention Coalition hosted a roundtable with Ahmet Üzümcü, former Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW); Fadel Abdulghany, head of the Syrian Human Rights Network, and New Zealand's Amb. to the OPCW, Susannah Gordon.

The webinar addressed how the international community should respond to Syria's ongoing failure to update its chemical weapons stockpile declaration and new allegations that Russia is using riot control agents in its war in Ukraine in violation of the CWC.

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