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“The Arms Control Association and all of the staff I've worked with over the years … have this ability to speak truth to power in a wide variety of venues.”
– Marylia Kelley
Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment
June 2, 2022
United States

Biden’s Disappointing Nuclear Posture Review


December 2022
By Daryl G. Kimball

Since the end of the Cold War, every U.S. president has conducted an in-depth review of the nation's nuclear strategy. Each study, including President Joe Biden’s 2022 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), has produced disappointing results. That is because they all maintain a dangerous reliance on the threat to use nuclear weapons to deter and, if necessary, respond to hostile attacks, including non-nuclear attacks, “that have a strategic effect against the United States or its allies and partners.”

A military aide carries the "nuclear football," which contains launch codes for nuclear weapons, while walking to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House October 3, 2022 in Washington, DC. President Biden is traveling to Puerto Rico on Monday, where he will outline a $60 million plan to help the island recover from Hurricane Fiona. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)The broad, ambiguous nuclear declaratory policy in the 2022 NPR walks back Biden’s pledge to narrow the role of U.S. nuclear weapons. In 2020 he wrote “that the sole purpose of the U.S. nuclear arsenal should be deterring and, if necessary, retaliating against a nuclear attack. As president, I will work to put that belief into practice, in consultation with the U.S. military and U.S. allies.” As far back as 1990, Biden, then a U.S. senator, argued that the “military rationale for ‘first use’ has disappeared.”

But the Pentagon-led 2022 NPR claims that the administration conducted a “thorough review of options for nuclear declaratory policy, including both no-first-use and sole purpose policies, and concluded those approaches would result in an unacceptable level of risk.” In reality, policies that threaten the first use of nuclear weapons carry unacceptable risks. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threats in the war against Ukraine and a Russian policy that reserves the option to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict with NATO underscore the dangers.

As Biden himself declared on Oct. 6, “I don’t think there’s any such thing as an ability to easily use a tactical nuclear weapon and not end up with Armageddon.” Nevertheless, his NPR, released two weeks after his “Armageddon” remark, leaves open exactly that possibility.

Biden’s NPR also rubber-stamps most of the long-planned multibillion-dollar program for modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal, which will cost at least $634 billion over the next decade. This includes 400 new land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, a new fleet of nuclear-armed strategic submarines, a new strategic bomber, a new air-launched cruise missile, a newly designed nuclear warhead (the W-93), and the refurbishment of other nuclear warhead types.

Biden’s NPR also endorses President Donald Trump’s initiative for the W76-2 lower-yield warhead on submarine-launched ballistic missiles. The weapon provides a nuclear war-fighting capability at the regional level using a missile system designed for retaliation against an all-out strategic attack on the United States. In 2020, Biden criticized the W76-2, saying it was a “bad idea” that makes the United States “more inclined” to use nuclear weapons. In 2022, his NPR endorsed that very weapon.

The 2022 NPR calls for the cancellation the $10 billion Trump-era plan for a nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile. But because the Pentagon delayed public release of the document for seven months, the administration failed to persuade the Democratic-led Congress to zero out research and development for the weapons system.

On the positive side, and in contrast to Trump, the 2022 NPR says the United States “will seek opportunities to pursue practical steps to advance the goals of greater transparency and predictability, enhanced stability, reduced reliance on nuclear weapons and, ultimately, a world without nuclear weapons.”

“Mutual, verifiable nuclear arms control offers the most effective, durable and responsible path to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our strategy and prevent their use,” the review asserts.

Indeed, effective nuclear arms control and disarmament diplomacy is more salient than ever as Russia and China seek to fortify their nuclear forces. In August, the Biden administration said it was ready to launch negotiations with Russia on an agreement or agreements to supersede the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which expires in 2026, and to engage China in a risk reduction and arms control dialogue.

Deeper cuts in the Russian and U.S. nuclear arsenals are essential to reduce the Russian nuclear threat, constrain a potential Chinese nuclear buildup, prevent an all-out nuclear arms race, and lower the risk of nuclear conflict.

In 2013, following completion of his NPR, President Barack Obama determined that the United States could safely reduce its deployed strategic nuclear weapons by up to one-third below New START levels. Even if the United States made this decision independently, it could still hold adversary targets at risk so as to deter nuclear attack. Ten years later, the rationale for a smaller force still holds. Any increase in the numbers of U.S. nuclear weapons would only make it more likely that Russia and China would substantially build up their nuclear forces over the coming decade.

Biden’s NPR falls well short of promises he made before becoming president. It sends muddled messages about the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. defense strategy at a time when all states should be deemphasizing nuclear weapons. In his remaining time in office, Biden needs to follow through on his call for effective nuclear arms control negotiations with major U.S. nuclear adversaries. That remains the best strategy to reduce nuclear arsenals and prevent nuclear war.

Since the end of the Cold War, every U.S. president has conducted an in-depth review of the nation's nuclear strategy.

Russia Delays Meeting on New START


December 2022
By Shannon Bugos

Russia unilaterally called off a meeting with the United States regarding implementation concerns with the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), a day before the two sides planned to convene in Cairo.

Moscow informed Washington on Nov. 28 of its decision to “unilaterally postpone” the meeting of the New START Bilateral Consultative Commission, which handles treaty implementation and verification concerns.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov attributed the decision to technical concerns, such as Russian claims of a U.S. failure to implement the treaty fully, and political reasons, including the war in Ukraine. Arms control is not “immune” to world events, he said on Nov. 29. “This is not a cancellation, but a postponement.”

The U.S. State Department reiterated its commitment to rescheduling the meeting as soon as possible.

One discussion topic would have been the nearly three-year pause in the treaty’s on-site inspections of nuclear weapon-related facilities, a hallmark of the New START verification regime. The two countries paused the inspections in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. On August 8, Russia further delayed resuming inspections by blocking treaty visits to its facilities.

New START is the last treaty limiting the U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals and provides unparalleled insight into Russian nuclear forces.

Russia called off the meeting with the United States a day before it was scheduled in Cairo.

 

Biden’s Nuclear Posture Straddles Obama, Trump Policies


December 2022
B​​y Shannon Bugos

The Biden administration finally released its long-awaited Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which maintains its predecessor’s focus on China and Russia as the top U.S. adversaries but largely reverts to the Obama era with a narrower declaratory policy and strong support for future arms control efforts.

President Joe Biden’s new nuclear policy asserts that the United States will face two major nuclear powers as strategic competitors and potential adversaries—China, headed by President Xi Jinping (L), and Russia, headed by President Vladimir Putin. (Photo by Alexandr Demyanchuk/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)“By the 2030s the United States will, for the first time in its history, face two major nuclear powers as strategic competitors and potential adversaries,” states the Biden administration NPR, referring to China and Russia. “This will create new stresses on stability and new challenges for deterrence, assurance, arms control, and risk reduction.”

Richard Johnson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and countering weapons of mass destruction policy, oversaw the administration’s review of U.S. nuclear policy, filling in after the ousting last year of Leonor Tomero. (See ACT, December 2021.)

“One of the most important aspects of this 2022 NPR is that we see it as comprehensive, and we see it as balanced,” Johnson said on Nov. 1. “There is just as much discussion in this document about the importance of nuclear deterrence, about our modernization of our nuclear triad, and also about things like arms control, risk reduction, strategic stability—all things that this administration…[wants] to regain the leadership role in.”

The Pentagon released the NPR and the Missile Defense Review on Oct. 27 as components of the department’s overall National Defense Strategy. The White House publicly released its National Security Strategy, which set the guidelines for the Pentagon’s documents, earlier in the month. (See ACT, November 2022.)

The White House transmitted the classified version of the National Defense Strategy to Congress in March, a month after Russia invaded Ukraine. (See ACT, April 2022.) The invasion, according to media reports, prompted the Pentagon to rewrite at least portions of the document and likely delayed its publication.

It casts China as “the most comprehensive and serious challenge” and Russia “as an acute threat.” To simultaneously deter both countries, the United States must continue modernizing the U.S. nuclear triad and infrastructure and reinforcing U.S. extended deterrence commitments, according to the strategy.

Last year, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the United States will spend $634 billion over the next 10 years to sustain and modernize its nuclear arsenal. (See ACT, June 2021.) The Pentagon’s top priority and most expensive modernization programs include the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine, the B-21 Raider strategic bomber, and the Sentinel intercontinental ballistic missile.

At the same time, the Biden administration has committed equally to “pursue a comprehensive and balanced approach that places a renewed emphasis on arms control, nonproliferation, and risk reduction to strengthen stability, head off costly arms races, and signal our desire to reduce the salience of nuclear weapons globally,” the NPR states.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “underscores that nuclear dangers persist and could grow,” the review states. Russian President Vladimir Putin has “conducted aggression against Ukraine under a nuclear shadow characterized by irresponsible saber-rattling, out of cycle nuclear exercises, and false narratives concerning the potential use of weapons of mass destruction,” it declares.

Given the size, diversity, and modernization of its nuclear arsenal, Russia remains a focus of U.S. arms control efforts. In February 2021, Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden extended for five years the last remaining U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control treaty, the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). (See ACT, March 2021.)

Moving forward, the review says, the Biden administration stands “ready to expeditiously negotiate a new arms control framework to replace New START when it expires in 2026, although negotiation requires a willing partner operating in good faith.” The U.S. Department of State paused the bilateral strategic stability dialogue on arms control after Russia invaded Ukraine. Whether the dialogue resumes or the two countries will launch a separate, more formal arms control negotiation forum remains unclear.

Any future Russian-U.S. arms control processes increasingly will need to account for China’s nuclear arsenal, the NPR advises. Beijing has refused thus far to engage on the issue. Even so, the Biden administration remains ready to talk with China in bilateral and multilateral forums on “a full range of strategic issues, with a focus on military de-confliction, crisis communications, information sharing, mutual restraint, risk reduction, emerging technologies, and approaches to nuclear arms control.”

The ongoing P5 process, in which the recognized nuclear-weapon states under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) meet to discuss their unique responsibilities under the treaty, also could be a venue for efforts “to deepen engagement on nuclear doctrines, concepts for strategic risk reduction, and nuclear arms control verification,” the review states.

Despite Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign pledge to adopt a “sole purpose” nuclear policy, the NPR emphasized the “fundamental role” of nuclear weapons. (See ACT, April 2022.)

Technicians at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. test load a new nuclear-capable weapons delivery system for the B-2 Spirit bomber. U.S. President Joe Biden’s new nuclear policy supports increased spending in such systems. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Devan Halstead)“The fundamental role of nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack on the United States, our allies, and partners,” the Biden NPR states, mirroring the Obama administration’s 2010 NPR. (See ACT, May 2010.) The policy was a disappointment within the arms control community, where many experts argue that a sole-purpose policy is a stronger declaration that the one and only role of U.S. nuclear weapons is to deter and, if necessary, retaliate against a nuclear strike.

Although the Biden review differs from the Trump administration’s 2018 NPR, which asserted a more expansive declaratory policy and lackluster support for arms control, the Biden NPR allows the Pentagon to keep a new low-yield warhead requested four years ago. The Trump administration wanted the low-yield W76-2 warhead, which the Navy deployed on some of its submarine-launched ballistic missiles in late 2019, to fill a perceived gap in the U.S. nuclear arsenal. (See ACT, March 2020.)

But the Biden administration reversed course on two other nuclear capabilities, and as a result, the 2022 review reflected the cancellation of the nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile and the retirement of the megaton class B83-1 gravity bomb. The Trump NPR attempted to reintroduce the former to the Navy and to postpone the retirement of the latter. (See ACT, March 2018.)

The Pentagon’s National Defense Strategy revolves around the concept of integrated deterrence, which also includes missile defense systems, as they “add resilience and undermine adversary confidence in missile use,” the 2022 Missile Defense Review states.

The Biden administration decided to maintain its predecessor’s approach of pursuing long-range missile defenses against possible limited nuclear ballistic missile attacks from North Korea or Iran and to rely on nuclear deterrence to defend against the larger, more sophisticated Russian and Chinese nuclear arsenals.

The Missile Defense Review made clear the Biden administration’s intention to move forward with developing the Next Generation Interceptor missile for the U.S. homeland defense system and “active and passive” hypersonic defense programs.

The document only vaguely references the Pentagon’s concept of a “layered” homeland missile defense architecture, which has faced much skepticism from Congress and the Government Accountability Office. For the first time in three years, the Department of Defense requested no funding for this system in fiscal year 2023 and specified no plans for future funding, likely signaling the administration’s desire to end the effort.

The review acknowledges “the interrelationship between strategic offensive arms and strategic defensive systems,” which stands as a notable statement for arms control. “Strengthening mutual transparency and predictability with regard to these systems could help reduce the risk of conflict,” according to the review. Future Russian-U.S. nuclear arms control likely will be impossible without Washington putting missile defense systems on the table for discussion, which it has long resisted. With this statement in the review, the Biden administration perhaps has hinted that it may contemplate some initial risk reduction measures with respect to U.S. missile defense systems.

The Biden administration’s Nuclear Posture Review focuses on China and Russia as the top U.S. adversaries.

Russian Delay of Scheduled Meeting on New START Irresponsible

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For Immediate Release: Nov. 29, 2022

Media Contacts: Daryl Kimball, executive director (202-463-8270 x107); Shannon Bugos, senior policy analyst (202-463-8270 x113)

(Washington, DC) – Russia elected not to show up for a meeting with the United States regarding ongoing implementation concerns with the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), a day before representatives of the two countries had planned to convene in Cairo, Egypt.

Moscow informed Washington Nov. 28 of its decision to “unilaterally postpone” the meeting of New START’s Bilateral Consultative Commission (BCC), which handles treaty implementation and verification concerns.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov attributed the decision to both technical and political reasons, including the war in Ukraine. Arms control is not “immune” to other events taking place in the world, he commented Nov. 29. Ryabkov emphasized to reporters that “this is not a cancellation, but a postponement.”

The U.S. State Department responded by reiterating the Biden administration’s commitment to rescheduling the meeting as soon as possible.

“Russia’s choice to postpone the BCC meeting with the United States is irresponsible, especially at this time of heightened tensions when dialogue between the world’s two largest nuclear powers is paramount,” says Laura Kennedy, a board member of the Arms Control Association and a former U.S. ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament.

“The Biden administration has taken the correct stance of communicating its willingness to reschedule the meeting at the earliest possible date, underscoring the U.S. commitment to effective arms control and maintaining strategic stability,” Kennedy added. “We hope and expect that Russia will reciprocate.”

One of the main topics on the table would have been the nearly three-year pause in the treaty’s on-site inspections of nuclear weapon-related facilities, a hallmark of the New START verification regime. The two countries agreed to pause the inspections in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. On August 8, 2022, Russia further delayed any resumption of inspections by blocking treaty visits to its facilities, until such time as there is a resolution for allowing Russia’s New START inspection teams to travel to the United States despite Western sanctions and restrictions on Russia due to the war in Ukraine.

“New START stands as the last treaty limiting the U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals and provides unparalleled insight into Russian nuclear forces that the U.S. military greatly values for posture and planning purposes,” says Shannon Bugos, a senior research analyst at the Arms Control Association. “Further delays of the BCC meeting are deeply regrettable, particularly as resuming inspections will likely help pave the way for dialogue on future arms control following New START’s expiration in 2026.”

The United States and Russia last held a BCC meeting in October 2021, the first since the coronavirus pandemic prompted a pause in the meetings. The meeting this month was slated to take place Nov. 29 through Dec. 6 in Cairo, Egypt, and would have marked the first meeting since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. Under New START, the two countries are obligated to hold two BCC meetings each year.

“Even during the worst periods of the Cold War, the United States and Russia recognized the value of maintaining common sense limits on the world’s most dangerous weapons,” Bugos added. “Today, more than ever, they must meet their shared responsibility to reduce their massive nuclear arsenals and avoid miscalculations that could lead to nuclear catastrophe.”

Description: 

Dialogue on Implementation of Arms Control Agreement in Mutual Interest

Country Resources:

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The U.S. Defense Budget and Russia’s War on Ukraine


November 2022
By Monica Montgomery

The Russian war on Ukraine has led to significant increases in U.S. defense spending this year in terms of direct war-related expenditures and the Pentagon’s base budget. Even before the war, however, the push to invest more in defense had been advancing with the backing of a majority in Congress concerned about rising threats from Russia and China. The conflict in Ukraine is certain to have a profound impact on this trend.

U.S. weapons transfers to Ukraine, such as this MK-19 automatic grenade launcher being aimed at Russian positions by Ukrainian soldiers near the front-line in the Donetsk region, are having a big impact on the U.S. defense budget.  (Photo by Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP via Getty Images)The areas of defense spending that need reevaluating in this new environment raise major questions with which Washington urgently needs to grapple. The challenge for lawmakers is clear. They must unlearn the ways in which defense spending has been determined in recent years, based on fuzzy strategies and bad-faith arguments by those who stand to benefit from a bloated defense budget, and relearn how to focus the spending on real security requirements and fixed goals.

Rising Defense Budget

Even before Russia invaded Ukraine in February, the U.S. defense budget had been trending upward at a greater rate than inflation or the risk climate would dictate. Last year’s bill to authorize defense-related spending and policies, the fiscal year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), increased the topline authorization level by $25 billion above President Joe Biden’s request, a request that was already billions more than the previous year. The initial votes to boost the defense budget took place months before Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian forces into Ukraine and even before there was widespread concern in Washington that Russian troop buildups along Ukraine’s borders could lead to direct conflict. In fact, discretionary dollars allocated for national defense programs have increased by an average of $23 billion annually during the administrations of Biden and President Donald Trump.1 Since the end of World War II, the United States has spent proportionally more on the military than it does now only during the 2009 and 2010 spending peaks of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Proponents of higher defense spending argue that these historic levels of spending are justified, and in the eyes of some, they are still insufficient. The United States is operating in a new strategic environment, they say, one with two near-peer strategic rivals in Russia and China; enduring threats from North Korea, Iran, and proxy terrorist groups; and new, emerging technologies and war-fighting domains. To these worried minds, the solution is obvious: a strong military bolstered by a robust defense budget to address all these threats simultaneously.

The prioritization of a strong national defense understandably receives widespread support within Congress and among the voters who sent them there, but how should the country define exactly what constitutes a strong national defense? The easiest metric is seemingly the amount of money set aside for the military. After all, it seems logical that a well-funded defense budget will ensure that U.S. national security strategy objectives are met. In theory, it is the president’s duty to outline a cohesive national security strategy and translate it into a budget. Congress will then work to fulfill its constitutional duty to translate the budget into real dollars, ensuring that the U.S. military receives adequate funding without wasting taxpayer dollars or crowding out other nondefense national priorities.

In practice, however, the defense budget is often increased year after year without solid grounding in a defined, workable strategy. Although the Biden administration’s National Security Strategy, released in October, emphasizes “shared challenges” that necessitate cooperation across international borders, the dominate focus is to “outcompete” rival major powers, namely China and Russia.2 This latest catchphrase of “strategic competition” also had been central to the national security strategy outlined by the Trump administration, but most policymakers and experts in Washington would be hard-pressed to define what the term actually means or how competition can be a security end goal in itself. What the strategic competition mindset does provide is a magic word to ensure that any program, regardless of its future relevance or utility, will be funded if the request is categorized as necessary to compete against China or Russia. Yet, competing with China and Russia in every corner of the globe would be very expensive, requiring ever-larger investments in operations, maintenance, and the retention of legacy platforms that detract from opportunities to right-size the military for the future and seek noncompetitive methods of addressing shared threats such as nuclear proliferation and climate change.3

Compounding this dynamic is the outsized influence exerted on the budget process by the service branches, with their parochial concerns; defense contractors and other powerful lobbies; and lawmakers who have strong interests in serving their districts and play lead roles in developing and approving spending.4 The result is a failure to effectively translate an already opaque defense strategy into dollars, leaving the government with an “everything but the kitchen sink” approach to crafting the budget and a misguided notion that if enough money is thrown at a threat, it can be defeated.

Support for Ukraine

Unsurprisingly, many lawmakers immediately seized the opportunity following the Russian invasion to call for boosting the U.S. defense budget beyond existing high spending levels. On the same day that Russian tanks first rolled into the Donbas region of Ukraine, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) concluded his statement regarding the invasion with a pitch not only for shoring up Ukrainian and NATO defenses, but also for increasing the base U.S. defense budget. “We need to rebuild our atrophied ability to deter and defend against aggression by these adversaries. That means we must invest more robustly in our own military capabilities to keep pace,” he said.5 Similar statements from many other members of Congress from both sides of the aisle followed in the weeks and months after the invasion.

Understandably, Congress, in unison with the White House, has been eager to supply Ukraine and frontline NATO allies with the necessary weapons and support to defend themselves against unprovoked Russian aggression. To do so, the United States has provided historic levels of military aid to Ukraine in the months prior to and since the start of the war, mostly through emergency supplemental appropriations. In total, the United States has provided $28 billion in defense aid for Ukraine in fiscal year 2022.6 Specifically, these funds have been used to subsidize, train, equip, and advise Ukrainian forces through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative; to replenish stocks of U.S. equipment sent to Ukraine; and to fund Department of Defense operations and personnel accounts, including covering costs related to additional U.S. troop deployments to Europe.7

Although much of this money has flowed directly to the frontline, a significant chunk has gone to the Pentagon and to defense contractors to cover costs related to U.S military support for Ukrainian forces.8 The most recent supplemental defense funding approved by Congress in late September also included some longer-term and less war-related spending, including for research and development accounts and for bolstering the U.S. domestic defense industrial base. As more needs and expenses accrue down the line, Congress can be expected to continue providing additional emergency funding for Ukraine for the foreseeable future in a similar manner, although the quantity and type of weapons that the United States should be providing persists as a source of debate.

As a result, justifying increases to U.S. defense spending through the regular appropriations and authorization processes to cover Ukraine-related costs should be seen as disingenuous double-dipping into the pockets of taxpayers because the supplemental emergency funding is covering those costs. Topline increases in the base budget have little or nothing to do with shoring up Ukrainian forces or replenishing U.S. stocks. Rather, they are exploiting Russian aggression to beef up the U.S. military. To this end, many of those calling for increases in the annual defense budget in response to the war are making a direct link between Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and a supposed weakness in the U.S. defense budget.9

This claim is unfounded. By some estimates, the U.S. defense budget in 2021 accounted for 38 percent of the world’s total military expenditures and was 12 times greater than the share of Russian spending on its own military.10 Based on these figures alone, it is difficult to imagine how anyone could argue credibly that a more robustly funded U.S. military would have stopped Russia from invading Ukraine. Moreover, the embarrassingly bad performance of the Russian military has highlighted what most experts already knew: there is already a huge qualitative gap between Russia and the West.

The strength of the U.S. military was not a factor in Putin’s calculus to invade Ukraine earlier this year, however warped that calculus may have been. That Russia has been careful thus far not to escalate the conflict in a way that would provoke direct U.S. and NATO intervention, combined with Putin’s reckless overreliance on nuclear blackmailing, underscores the comparative weakness of Russian conventional forces.11 Instead of inflating the threat posed by Russia, U.S. policymakers should conclude from Russia’s war failures that the United States needs to fundamentally modify its defense strategy to take into account the factors that allowed Ukraine to resist Russian aggression successfully without excessive spending.

Budget Inflation in 2022

Predictably, this lesson was not reflected in recent budget developments on Capitol Hill. In the fiscal year 2023 NDAA that is now making its way through Congress, the House voted to boost the defense topline by $37 billion while the Senate added $45 billion beyond the White House request, which already was higher than previously projected.

The increases in this year’s defense policy bills were endorsed by bipartisan majorities during markups in the relevant committees and were explained largely as responses to the war in Ukraine and to offset historic inflation at home. “War. Inflation. That’s it.… That sets the tone for more, more, more for the military,” said Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), who chairs a House Armed Services subcommittee and opposed the increase.12

An examination into the specifics, however, shows that funding related to inflationary pressures and Ukraine only account for a fraction of the overall increases. The bulk of programs receiving funding boosts came directly off the “unfunded priorities lists” developed by certain segments of the Pentagon and National Nuclear Security Administration, just as was done in the previous fiscal year when the defense budget also was increased. These lists, commonly referenced as “wish lists” or “risk lists” depending on one’s perspective, are a budget gimmick. They allow the military service branches, combatant commands, and various defense-related agencies to circumvent top civilian leadership at the White House and Pentagon by directly providing Congress with a list of so-called priorities that did not make it into the administration’s budget request and can be used as an easy road map for boosting the budget.13

Although the House and Senate amendments to increase defense expenditures differed in some areas, funding has been authorized to procure additional ships and aircraft, sustain legacy weapons systems that the services are trying to retire, invest in unproven missile defense technologies, and fund R&D projects and infrastructure upgrades that were not deemed priorities in the administration’s budget request. The utility of many of these programs for countering Russian aggression in the current conflict is unclear, and their impact on offsetting inflationary pressures at the Pentagon is nil. In fact, this stunt is exactly what Pentagon leaders warned Congress against doing, as expressed by Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks in May: “What we don’t want is added topline [funding] that’s filled with new programs that we can’t support and afford in the out-years and that doesn’t cover inflation…. That is my number one concern.”14

Although the House and Senate have yet to negotiate a final NDAA and appropriations package for 2023, the national defense discretionary topline figure likely will total more than $850 billion, even before accounting for any additional emergency supplementals related to Ukraine. Many lawmakers will be tempted to look at this large figure and conclude that it meets the mark of responding to Russian aggression in Ukraine and domestic inflation, but more spending does not necessarily equal more security. In fact, the specifics of this year’s overall boost reveal a continuation of congressional bad habits to fund the Pentagon in a manner inconsistent with its own wishes and at the expense of taxpayers.15

The Nuclear Budget

One area of the defense budget that is likely to be singled out as requiring bigger investments following the invasion of Ukraine is the nuclear weapons portfolio. Although Russia’s lagging conventional capabilities have been on full display in the war, so has its use of nuclear saber-rattling to project strength and deter outside intervention on Ukraine’s behalf. Putin’s threats to use nuclear weapons are cause for concern in themselves, but they also have provided fodder to nuclear hawks who would like to see the U.S. nuclear arsenal grow in quantity and capabilities.

The Pentagon aims to replace Ohio-class ballistic submarines, such as the USS Henry M. Jackson, pictured here in 2015, with the new Columbia-class submarine whose total acquisition costs have grown by more than $3.4 billion. (Photo by U.S. Navy)The total price tag for U.S. nuclear weapons sustainment and modernization plans could reach $1.5–2.0 trillion over 30 years. Although much of this spending already has been committed, there still are many opportunities to trim excess and avoid exacerbating a new arms race while maintaining a credible and reliable U.S. deterrent. Nevertheless, close watchers of the nuclear budget certainly will not be surprised if the total figure reaches the high end of the total estimate or increases even further.

Many of the modernization plans already have faced or are likely to face schedule delays and cost increases beyond their initial projections. For example, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported this summer that the estimated total acquisition costs for the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine program have grown by more than $3.4 billion since the congressional watchdog’s last annual assessment.16 Similarly, the Air Force’s total cost estimate for the long-range standoff weapons system, a new air-launched cruise missile being developed by Raytheon Technologies under a sole-source contract, has already ballooned by $5.4 billion, an increase of 50 percent from the service’s original estimate in 2016.17 The new cruise missile’s associated warhead, the W80-4, has been plagued by delays that could risk cost increases down the line.18

Spending on nuclear programs is likely to see a further uptick if the long-standing push to develop new U.S. nuclear weapons gains fresh momentum from Putin’s nuclear threats. This trend was already in process with the development and deployment of the W76-2 low-yield submarine-launched ballistic missile warhead that was added to existing modernization plans by the Trump administration. Despite Biden’s previous opposition to the weapon, his administration gave its endorsement to retaining the W76-2 warhead in the 2022 Nuclear Posture Review, deeming the geopolitical landscape too hostile to remove the warhead from U.S. submarines.

Moreover, the Biden administration’s sensible decision not to move forward with another Trump-era plan, for a new low-yield sea-launched cruise missile, was met with fierce criticism from Republicans. These lawmakers channeled comments from certain high-ranking military commanders who publicly disagreed with Biden’s decision, even though the Navy leadership itself opposed the program.19 This pressure led Democratic leaders of the House and Senate armed services subcommittees that authorize nuclear weapons spending to broker deals with their Republican counterparts to allow $45 million for R&D of the system to move forward in the 2023 defense authorization bill. Even such a relatively low level of funding for the missile and its associated warhead potentially could translate into full-scale development and production in coming years.

By the end of this decade, when modernization spending as now projected is set to peak, nuclear weapons could account for nearly 10 percent of total U.S. national defense spending.20 Nothing about the situation in Ukraine recommends such a course. If anything, Russia’s lack of military success, despite possessing the world’s largest nuclear arsenal, argues for less U.S. reliance on nuclear weapons for anything beyond deterrence. Instead of adding even more weapons and requirements to U.S. nuclear modernization plans, Congress needs to enforce greater oversight of the ballooning nuclear budget with the aim of keeping plans on schedule and on budget. To reduce nuclear escalation risks, the priority should be placed on negotiating with the Russians to ensure that the last remaining bilateral treaty regarding U.S. and Russian strategic arms, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, does not expire in 2026 without a plan to maintain its limitations and address additional areas of risk. History has proven that, even during periods of heightened dangers and tensions, the most sensible and urgent path forward requires difficult diplomacy.

The Path Forward

In recent years, there have been several efforts in Congress to interrupt the status quo budget process and rein in wasteful defense spending. The most visible one is the campaign, led primarily by progressive members of the House and Senate as part of the annual defense policy process, to implement a 10 percent cut in the defense budget that would be applied across the board, except for personnel and health programs. Other proposals have gained more traction, including amendments put forward on the floor to reverse just the increases added to the national defense budget topline in committee markups. Although these efforts all failed, they have provided important openings for an overdue debate on the trajectory of defense spending and the process that fuels it. More specifically, such initiatives have highlighted the inadvisability of simply mandating increases or decreases to the topline without solid strategic reasons.

Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.) (L) and Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) confer during a U.S. House Armed Services Committee hearing in April on the Biden administration’s fiscal year 2023 defense budget request. (Photo by Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)Lawmakers in both parties and from across the political spectrum have put forth proposals to enact more targeted cuts in expensive and controversial military programs, such as the F-35 fighter jet and the new Sentinel intercontinental ballistic missile, and to allow for the retirement of costly, unwanted platforms such as the Littoral Combat Ship. Finally, there has been a steady drumbeat of proposals that seek to root out waste, fraud, and abuse in the Pentagon and increase oversight of defense dollars. Specific proposals in this category include repealing the statutory requirements for unfunded priorities lists, imposing more penalties on the Pentagon until it passes a financial audit, and reforming acquisition laws to prevent private contractors from engaging in price gouging.

In sum, Congress does not lack proposals for scaling back bloat in the defense budget and making the Pentagon a more fiscally responsible and effective entity, all of which would enhance U.S. national security. Unfortunately, the majority of lawmakers do not appear keen to enact overdue reforms or harden their oversight of the Pentagon. These critical failings are likely to be exacerbated by hawkish lawmakers who will continue to point to Putin’s war on Ukraine, despite evidence of the Russian military’s serious shortcomings, as an easy excuse for pouring more money into every Pentagon account, including programs that do little to bolster U.S. national security.

This approach makes Americans less safe. Through blank checks and hyperfixation on competition, the defense budget overextends the military and allows for fiscal mismanagement at the Pentagon at the expense of readiness and efficiency. The current approach also provides little room to adequately address nontraditional threats such as climate change and pandemics, as well as the cooperative solutions needed across the U.S. government and with allies and adversaries to address them. This moment calls for a long overdue examination of how to spend smarter and center a defined, achievable strategy in U.S. budgetary decisions, not the other way around.

 

ENDNOTES

1. Stephen Semler, “Reagan’s Military Buildup vs. Pentagon Spending in the Trump-Biden Era,” Speaking Security Newsletter, No. 166, August 2, 2022, https://stephensemler.substack.com/p/reagans-military-buildup-vs-pentagon.

2. The White House, “National Security Strategy,” October 2022, pp. 11–12, https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/Biden-Harris-Administrations-National-Security-Strategy-10.2022.pdf.

3. Cornell Overfield, “Biden’s ‘Strategic Competition’ Is a Step Back,” Foreign Policy, October 13, 2021, https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/10/13/biden-strategic-competition-national-defense-strategy/; Becca Wasser and Stacie Pettyjohn, “Why the Pentagon Should Abandon ‘Strategic Competition,’” Foreign Policy, October 19, 2021, https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/10/19/2022-us-nds-national-defense-strategy-strategic-competition/.

4. Julia Gledhill and William D. Hartung, “Spending Unlimited,” TomDispatch, September 11, 2022, https://tomdispatch.com/spending-unlimited/.

5. Office of Senator Mitch McConnell, “McConnell on Putin Invading Ukraine: ‘The World Is Watching’ for America’s Response,” press release, February 22, 2022, https://www.mcconnell.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/pressreleases?ID=50ACBABF-06BF-4B40-A463-1687FA07D542.

6. Additional humanitarian funding has been provided from other nondefense accounts, so the $28 billion figure only represents programs under the purview of the Department of Defense.

7. For more on the specifics of the $28 billion provided in Defense Department funds to Ukraine so far, see Christina L. Arabia, Andrew S. Bowen, and Cory Welt, “U.S. Security Assistance to Ukraine,” Congressional Research Service in Focus, IF12040, August 29, 2022, https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF12040.

8. Steve Ellis, “Surprise: Today’s ‘Must Pass’ CR Bill Includes Defense Company Goodies,” Responsible Statecraft, September 30, 2022, https://responsiblestatecraft.org/2022/09/30/surprise-todays-must-pass-cr-bill-includes-defense-company-goodies/.

9. See Kori Schake, “American Must Spend More on Defense,” Foreign Affairs, April 5, 2022, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2022-04-05/america-must-spend-more-defense; Elbridge A. Colby, “More Spending Alone Won’t Fix the Pentagon’s Biggest Problem,” Time, March 28, 2022, https://time.com/6161573/us-defense-budget-strategy/.

10. Diego Lopes Da Silva et al., “Trends in World Military Expenditure, 2021,” Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, April 2022, https://www.sipri.org/sites/default/files/2022-04/fs_2204_milex_2021_0.pdf.

11. For a deeper discussion on these points, see Lyle J. Goldstein, “Threat Inflation, Russian Military Weakness, and the Resulting Nuclear Paradox: Implications of the War in Ukraine for U.S. Military Spending,” Costs of War Project, September 15, 2022, https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/files/cow/imce/papers/Threat%20Inflation%20and%20Russian%20Military%20Weakness_Goldstein_CostsofWar-2.pdf.

12. Connor O’Brien, “‘There Was Almost No Debate’: How Dems’ Defense Spending Spree Went From Shocker to Snoozer,” Politico, July 26, 2022, https://www.politico.com/news/2022/07/26/democrats-defense-spending-military-00048041.

13. For more on the history of and possible future for wish lists, see Andrew Lautz, “Congress Should Do Away With DoD Unfunded Priorities Lists, A Multibillion-Dollar Wish List Boondoggle,” National Taxpayers Union Issue Brief, March 31, 2021, https://www.ntu.org/library/doclib/2021/03/Congress-Should-Do-Away-With-DoD-Unfunded-Priorities-Lists-A-Multibillion-Dollar-Wish-List-Boondoggle.pdf.

14. Andrew Clevenger, “Pentagon to Work With Congress to Mitigate Inflation’s Budget Bite,” Roll Call, May 6, 2022, https://rollcall.com/2022/05/06/pentagon-to-work-with-congress-to-mitigate-inflations-budget-bite/.

15. For more information, see Ben Freeman and William Hartung, “Spending More and More for Less and Less at the Pentagon,” The Hill, April 15, 2022, https://thehill.com/opinion/national-security/3269553-spending-more-and-more-for-less-and-less-at-the-pentagon/.

16. U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Weapon Systems Annual Assessment: Challenges to Fielding Capabilities Faster Persist,” GAO-22-105230, June 2022, https://www.gao.gov/assets/gao-22-105230.pdf.

17. Kingston Reif, “New Cruise Missile Cost Rises,” Arms Control Today, September 2021, pp. 32–33.

18. Dan Leone, “Two-Year Delay for First W80-4 Warhead, but NNSA Says Will Still Deliver On-time to Air Force,” Nuclear Security & Deterrence Monitor, Vol. 26, No. 31 (August 4, 2022), https://www.exchangemonitor.com/two-year-delay-for-first-w80-4-warhead-but-nnsa-says-will-still-deliver-on-time-to-air-force-2/?printmode=1.

19. Shannon Bugos, “U.S. Defense Officials Balk at Biden’s Nuclear Budget,” Arms Control Today, June 2022, pp. 30–32.

20. Kingston Reif and Shannon Bugos, “Biden’s Disappointing First Nuclear Weapons Budget,” Arms Control Association Issue Brief, Vol. 13, No. 4 (July 9, 2021), https://www.armscontrol.org/issue-briefs/2021-07/bidens-disappointing-first-nuclear-weapons-budget.


Monica Montgomery is a policy analyst at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation focusing on issues involving nuclear arms control, nonproliferation, and the U.S. defense budget.

Must ever increasing military spending be the answer to new security threats?

U.S., Marshall Islands Grapple With Nuclear Legacy


November 2022
By Daryl G. Kimball and Chris Rostampour

Negotiators from the Marshall Islands are insisting that the United States address long-standing health and environmental problems created by U.S. nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific Island chain in their discussions on an agreement governing their relationship.

Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands was the site of 23 nuclear tests conducted by the United States from 1946 until 1958 that did untold damage to the coral reef and its inhabitants, who were forcibly relocated. (Library of Congress)The agreement, known as the Compact of Free Association, defines the terms of U.S. economic assistance, allows Marshallese to live and work in the United States, and grants the United States the right to operate military facilities in the region, including Kwajalein Missile Range. It also excludes activities by the militaries of other countries without U.S. permission.

U.S. and Marshallese representatives began negotiations earlier this year on renewing the 20-year-old compact, which expires in October 2023. In March, U.S. President Joe Biden appointed Joseph Yun as a special presidential envoy for the negotiations.

In September, the Marshallese delegation declared a pause in the negotiations until Washington shows greater willingness to address ongoing health, environmental, and economic issues resulting from Cold War-era testing in their homeland.

The 67 U.S. atmospheric nuclear weapons tests between 1946 and 1958—23 at Bikini Atoll and 44 at Enewetak Atoll—spewed radiation over the Marshall Islands and produced a total explosive power of 108.5 megatons (TNT equivalent). That was about 100 times the total yield of all atmospheric tests conducted at the Nevada Test Site in the United States.

As a result, islanders still suffer such health and environmental effects as elevated cancer rates and enduring displacement from contaminated areas. But to this day, the only individuals considered by the United States as exposed to radiation effects were those physically present at Rogelap, Ailinginae, or Utrok atolls at the time of the “Bravo” nuclear test on March 1, 1954.

The chair of the Marshall Island’s National Nuclear Commission, Alson Kelen, told Agence France-Presse, “We know the big picture: bombs tested, people relocated from their islands, people exposed to nuclear fallout. We can’t change that. What we can do now is work on the details for the funding needed to mitigate the problems from the nuclear legacy.”

The U.S. State Department released a statement on Sept. 23 saying that Yun is prepared “to continue to advance the discussions” with the government of the Marshall Islands.

At a two-day summit in Washington that ended Sept. 29 between the United States and representatives from 14 Pacific Island states, including the Marshall Islands, participants agreed to strengthen their partnership. Although the United States had reportedly objected to such language in the run-up to the meeting, the joint summit statement acknowledged “the nuclear legacy of the Cold War” and stated that “the United States remains committed to addressing the Republic of the Marshall Islands’ ongoing environmental, public health…, and other welfare concerns.”

Under the existing agreement, the United States is responsible for providing radiation-related health care services and continued monitoring and environmental assessments on the affected atolls. One area of particular concern is Enewetak, where less than 1 percent of the plutonium and associated transuranic radionuclides from testing activities at the atoll are contained in the Runit Dome structure, meaning that the rest of the radioactive contamination remains in the Enewetak lagoon.

In a speech at the United Nations on Sept. 21, Marshall Islands President David Kabua said his nation has a “strong partnership” with the United States but “it is vital that the legacy and contemporary challenges of nuclear testing be better addressed.” Underscoring the importance of the issue for Pacific islanders, the Marshall Islands, with the backing of Fiji, Nauru, Samoa, Vanuatu, and Australia, advanced a formal resolution at the UN Human Rights Council on Oct. 6 requesting assistance “in the field of human rights and to provide humanitarian assistance and capacity building” to the Marshall Islands’ National Nuclear Commission in advancing its national strategy for nuclear justice.

India, the United Kingdom, and the United States countered by saying the rights council was not the appropriate forum to discuss the issue. The U.S. delegate asserted that “the United States has accepted and acted on its responsibility to the people of the Republic of the Marshall Islands concerning nuclear testing” through the compact. Nevertheless, the resolution was adopted without a vote.

The Marshallese are pushing back against the U.S. failure to address problems resulting from U.S. nuclear tests.

Biden Urged to Halt Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia


November 2022
By Jeff Abramson

Following a decision by Saudi Arabia to reduce oil production, Democratic members of the U.S. Congress are pressuring President Joe Biden to halt or alter arms transfers and other military support to the kingdom, arguing that its policies now align with Russia.

Under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia broke with expectations that it would increase oil production, triggering a push by Democrats in the U.S. Congress to halt or modify arms sales to the kingdom. (Photo by Royal Court of Saudi Arabia / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)Although the Biden administration has indicated it is reviewing the Saudi-U.S. relationship, it had not detailed any specific changes related to weapons by late October.

Growing tensions between Washington and Riyadh reached what could be an inflection point when the “OPEC+” group of major oil-producing countries announced on Oct. 5 that a daily oil production decrease of 2 million barrels would begin in November, with Saudi Arabia and Russia accounting for more than half that reduction.

Democratic Reps. Tom Malinowski (N.J.), Sean Casten (Ill.), and Susan Wild (Pa.) responded that day by announcing plans to introduce a bill mandating the removal of U.S. troops and missile defense systems from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Four days later, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) ​said in an opinion essay in Politico that they would introduce legislation “that will immediately halt all U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia.” The proposal was later clarified to be a one-year halt. Meanwhile, on Oct. 10, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said the “United States must immediately freeze all aspects of our cooperation with Saudi Arabia, including any arms sales and security cooperation beyond what is absolutely necessary to defend U.S. personnel and interests.”

With Congress out of session, no votes were taken on that or other related legislation, such as a Yemen war powers resolution that has more than 115 co-sponsors in the House.

On Oct. 16, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in an interview on CNN that Biden wanted to work with Congress on revising the Saudi-U.S. relationship when it was back in session after the Nov. 8 midterm elections.

After Biden visited Saudi Arabia in July and was photographed fist-bumping Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, it was widely expected that the kingdom would take steps to reduce oil prices and ease economic pressure on countries supporting Ukraine in its war against Russia. Saudi Arabia defended its October decision to cut oil production, saying it was taken solely for economic reasons and that it was agreed by a group. On Oct. 15, the crown prince spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and announced $400 million in additional humanitarian assistance for the country.

Those arguments and actions have not silenced U.S. critics. In blasting the oil production cuts, Menendez said that
“[t]here simply is no room to play both sides of this conflict. Either you support the rest of the free world in trying to stop a war criminal from violently wiping…an entire country off the map, or you support him.”

At the start of his presidency, Biden said that the United States would no longer support Saudi “offensive” operations in Yemen and halted precision-guided munitions sales that had been notified during the final months of the Trump administration. Since then, his administration has informed Congress of more than $4 billion in weapons sales and services via the government-to-government Foreign Military Sales program, often arguing that they were “defensive” systems.

Congressional criticism of Biden’s new arms sales to Saudi Arabia appeared to be waning until the recent oil decision. Last December, a majority of Democrats voted in support of a resolution to disapprove of a $650 million sale of Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs) and associated launchers, but the effort ultimately failed on a 30–67 vote. (See ACT, January/February 2022.) In August, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced a resolution of disapproval against a $3 billion sale of Patriot missiles, but no senators co-sponsored the measure, and no votes were taken on it.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), frequently a leader on arms sales restraint toward Saudi Arabia, backed the administration in December on the AMRAAM weapons system sale. In a tweet thread Oct. 13, he said he now supported halting arms sales. He added that the Patriot systems should be removed and that “the Ukrainians are using (and need more) air-to-air AMRAAM missiles. These missiles are needed to defend against Russia’s criminal bombardment of civilians. The U.S. is scheduled to send 280 AMRAAMs to Saudi Arabia. These should be redirected to Ukraine.”

Some Democrats in Congress say Saudi Arabia is untrustworthy and should not be permitted to buy U.S. weapons.

U.S. Joins Call for Limits on Lethal Autonomous Weapons


November 2022
By Daryl G. Kimball

In a joint statement on Oct. 22, a diverse, cross-regional group of UN member states led by Austria and including the United States expressed concern about “new technological applications, such as those related to autonomy in weapons systems.”

The Sea Hunter, an autonomous unmanned surface ship launched in 2016. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency)The statement also emphasized “the necessity for human beings to exert appropriate control, judgment, and involvement...to ensure any use of force is in compliance with international law, particularly international humanitarian law, and that humans remain accountable for decisions on the use of force.” It was delivered by Alexander Kmentt, the Austrian director for disarmament, arms control, and nonproliferation, on behalf of 70 UN delegations.

Several major powers are developing and, in some cases, fielding various types of autonomous combat systems, including unmanned aerial vehicles, ground vehicles, surface vessels, and undersea vessels. Many of these weapons utilize artificial intelligence to improve capabilities to identify, track, and attack enemy targets.

The joint statement follows more than eight years of inconclusive discussions among the 125 states-parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) on the subject of lethal autonomous weapons systems.

In CCW discussions, held in Geneva, many have called for binding agreements to limit or ban these weapons systems, while the states that are building autonomy into certain weapons systems, including Russia and the United States, have resisted calls for a binding agreement and instead advocated for a less restrictive “code of conduct.” The CCW operates by consensus.

In their national statements delivered in October at the UN General Assembly First Committee, many of the signatories of the statement, including France, the United

Kingdom, and the United States, expressed support for the ongoing work of the CCW group of governmental experts on lethal autonomous weapons issues, which is chaired by Brazil. The Netherlands expressed the need for the experts group to produce “concrete results.”

The Oct. 21 joint statement indicates there is a growing concern among key states about the adverse impacts of lethal autonomous weapons systems and, as the statement suggests, growing support for action leading to the adoption of “appropriate rules and measures, such as principles, good practices, limitations and constraints,” including “through internationally agreed rules and limits.”

 

In a statement, UN member states stress that humans must remain accountable for decisions on using force.

 

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