"Though we have acheived progress, our work is not over. That is why I support the mission of the Arms Control Association. It is, quite simply, the most effective and important organization working in the field today." 

– Larry Weiler
Former U.S.-Russian arms control negotiator
August 7, 2018
United States

Biden, G-7 Must Deliver on Disarmament at Hiroshima

March 2023
By Daryl G. Kimball

In the midst of Russian nuclear threats in its war on Ukraine and an accelerating global nuclear arms competition, U.S. President Joe Biden and other leaders of the Group of Seven (G-7) industrialized states will convene for their 2023 summit in Hiroshima, Japan.

In this photo taken on August 6, 2021, the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, as it was known before 1945, and now called the Atomic Bomb Dome, is seen through the cenotaph at the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima as the city marks the 76th anniversary of the world's first atomic bomb attack. (Photo by YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP via Getty Images)The May 19–21 gathering creates a crucial opportunity for Biden and his counterparts to recognize the horrors of nuclear war and reaffirm the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons while pledging concrete steps to halt the arms race, guard against nuclear weapons use, and advance nuclear disarmament. Anything less would be a failure of leadership at a time of nuclear peril.

To his credit, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida chose Hiroshima, his home city, as the summit venue “to deepen discussions so that we can release a strong message toward realizing a world free of nuclear weapons.” In addition to the usual G-7 communique, Japan is proposing a separate joint statement on nuclear matters. Kishida told French President Emmanuel Macron in January that the leaders must “demonstrate a firm commitment to absolutely reject the threat or use of nuclear weapons.”

To do so, the G-7 statement should not only reaffirm that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” but also reiterate the powerful Nov. 16 statement by the Group of 20 countries that nuclear weapons use and threats of nuclear use are “inadmissible.” Agreement on such a statement may not be easy because all G-7 states, including host Japan, cling to nuclear deterrence strategies that depend on the threat of nuclear weapons use.

To be credible, the G-7 leaders also should pledge to follow through on their countries’ own, largely unrealized nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Article VI-related disarmament commitments, including to reduce the role, salience, and number of nuclear weapons. NPT obligations and commitments cannot be voided or delayed indefinitely.

In fact, pursuing disarmament is vital to preventing the international security environment from deteriorating further. With the last remaining Russian-U.S. nuclear arms control agreement expiring in 2026, the G-7 must urge the prompt resumption of talks to restore inspections under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and a new nuclear arms control framework.

To more effectively encourage China to exercise nuclear restraint, Biden and the rest of the G-7 should pledge not to support the development of new types of nuclear weapons, including U.S. sea-based nuclear-armed cruise missiles that Biden opposes but some U.S. and Japanese politicians claim are needed to counter China. Biden also should recognize China’s important role in strengthening the fragile nuclear order and invite President Xi Jinping to explore how the two nations can partner to address common nuclear nonproliferation challenges, including North Korea, and disarmament responsibilities.

In response to appeals from the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to engage their local communities to understand the reality of nuclear war, Japanese government sources say arrangements are being made for the G-7 leaders to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which U.S. President Barack Obama toured in 2016.

Any U.S. presidential visit to Hiroshima is symbolically and politically important. Serious reflection and engagement with atomic bombing and testing survivors should be a job requirement for the leader of any nuclear-armed state. The G-7 would be smart to acknowledge the harm of the U.S. atomic bombings in 1945, as well as the environmental damage created by the nuclear weapons production and testing activities by all nuclear-weapon states, and to reaffirm their obligation to fully address these devastating impacts.

Biden, who pledged in 2020 to “restore American leadership on arms control and nonproliferation…and work to bring us closer to a world without nuclear weapons,” must provide even bolder leadership. In addition to supporting the strongest possible G-7 statement, joining other leaders at the museum, and laying a wreath in honor of those who perished from the atomic bombings, Biden should make a separate address in Hiroshima or Nagasaki outlining his own vision for a new global nuclear restraint and disarmament dialogue.

Biden could use such a speech to reiterate his invitation to Russian President Vladimir Putin to hold serious talks designed to maintain commonsense limits on or, ideally, further reduce Russian and U.S. nuclear stockpiles and to elaborate on why such an approach is essential for U.S., allied, and global security. Biden could remind other nuclear-armed states, particularly China, France, India, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom, that they need to be part of the solution and urge them to freeze the overall size of their nuclear weapons stockpiles as long as the United States and Russia continue to reduce theirs.

At a time of unprecedented nuclear danger, Japan’s decision to bring G-7 leaders to Hiroshima is an obvious yet bold choice. To be successful, Kishida and Biden must make the Hiroshima summit more than a symbolic backdrop. It must be a catalyst for bold, effective disarmament action to ensure that no country suffers the horrors of nuclear war ever again.

In the midst of Russian nuclear threats in its war on Ukraine and an accelerating global nuclear arms competition, U.S. President Joe Biden and other leaders of the Group of Seven (G-7) industrialized states will convene for their 2023 summit in Hiroshima, Japan.

U.S., Marshall Islands Sign Deal on Nuclear Testing Impacts

March 2023
By Daryl G. Kimball

After months of wrangling, negotiators from the United States and the Republic of the Marshall Islands signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on a new Compact of Free Association agreement that will govern relations between the two nations for the next 20 years.

A satellite image of the craters caused by U.S. nuclear testing in 1946–1958 on Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands. When well water was detected as radioactive in 1977, islanders were forced to leave. They are still unable to safely return.  (Photo by Gallo Images/Orbital Horizon/Copernicus Sentinel Data 2021 via Getty Images)Joseph Yun, special envoy for compact negotiations, signed the MOU for the United States and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Kitlang Kabua signed for the Marshall Islands on Jan. 12 in Los Angeles. That same day, the United States also signed an MOU for a new compact with the island nation of Palau. On Feb. 10, the United States signed a similar MOU with the Federated States of Micronesia.

The funding provisions for the current agreements with the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia expire in September 2023 and for Palau in September 2024.

The extension of the compacts will guarantee the United States exclusive military rights over large areas in the Pacific region at a time of increasing tension and competition with China. The three island nations were formerly U.S. territories that came under the direct control and administration of the United States during World War II. Combined, they cover a maritime area larger than the continental United States, include some 1,000 islands and atolls, and have a population of approximately 200,000 people, according to the U.S. Congressional Research Service (CRS).

The MOUs outline key agreements expected to be reflected in the final compacts. Negotiations on an updated compact between the United States and the Marshall Islands, the details of which must still be hammered out, have been particularly contentious. (See ACT, November 2022.)

The new compact with the Marshall Islands will extend U.S. military basing rights at the Ronald Reagan Missile Defense Site on Kwajalein Atoll and U.S. security rights across the island chain. It also seeks to update and expand U.S. financial and technical assistance to the Marshall Islands, including for the health and environmental damage caused by the 67 atmospheric nuclear test explosions conducted between 1946 and 1958.

After World War II, the U.S. military forcibly displaced thousands of people in the Marshall Islands to allow for nuclear weapons testing and other military activities, which have severely damaged the health and environment and livelihoods of the Marshallese.

The U.S. nuclear test explosions totaled about 108.5 megatons, which is the equivalent of one Hiroshima-size bomb every day for 20 years and more than 100 times the total explosive power of all the atmospheric tests carried out at the Nevada Test Site. The nuclear tests caused severe and widespread fallout, including at levels that resulted in immediate, observable harm, such as hair loss, vomiting, diarrhea, and burning of the skin, and a greatly elevated longer-term cancer risk.

The Bikini and Enewetak atolls suffered the most severe direct physical devastation from the testing. Land, lagoons, coral reefs, and the oceanic environment remain contaminated over six decades later. A large radioactive waste disposal site, the Runit Dome in Enewetak Atoll, was created for radioactive waste from Marshall Islands testing and from the Nevada Test Site. It is leaking, and the Enewetak lagoon contains about 100 times more plutonium than the inventory under the Runit Dome.

Under the first compact with the Marshall Islands in 1986, a nuclear claims tribunal was established and mandated that the United States place $150 million in a trust fund to pay for the nuclear-related claims and awards. But the compact released the United States from legal liability for all further claims related to the nuclear testing program and its long-term impacts. The tribunal later concluded that the United States should pay $2.3 billion in claims.

This difficult experience has led the Marshall Islands negotiators to urge the United States to provide more financial and technical support to address ongoing health, environmental, and economic issues resulting from the Cold War-era testing in their homeland.

In a Sept. 29, 2022, joint declaration, the United States said it “remains committed to addressing the Republic of the Marshall Islands’ ongoing environmental, public health…and other welfare concerns.”

Yun said that, under the new MOU, the United States would pay “nuclear-affected communities’ health, welfare and development,” including building a new hospital, the Associated Press reported on Jan. 12.

Yun also said the amounts will be far greater than what the United States had provided in the past and that the Marshallese would be given control over how that money is spent.

Pursuant to past Marshall Islands compacts, the United States provided grant assistance worth approximately $661 million and $309 million on nuclear test-related assistance and compensation, respectively, between 1987 and 2003. During the second compact term, from 2004 to 2023, U.S. grant assistance and trust fund contributions totaled $722 million and $276 million, respectively, according to the CRS.

According to a copy of the U.S.-Marshall Islands MOU obtained by Arms Control Today, key agreements in the document include U.S. assistance of $50 million annually beginning in fiscal year 2024, $200 million over 20 years for joint health care programs and a new joint strategic health initiative, and funding for technical assistance and expertise to cope with the climate impacts that threaten the existence of the low-lying islands and for environmental programs.

In addition, the MOU provides for $10 million for improving accessibility to documents and information relating to the U.S. nuclear testing program, $5 million for a museum and research facility on that testing program, and $700 million for a “repurposed trust fund for priorities determined by the Marshall Islands in accordance with procedures to be mutually agreed.”

With the MOUs concluded, separate agreements regarding the services to be provided under U.S. law by U.S. federal agencies to the Marshall Islands, Palau, and Micronesia will be negotiated and become part of the final compact arrangements. The final compacts must be approved by the U.S. Congress.

The agreement will govern relations between the two nations for the next 20 years.

Pentagon Seeks to Facilitate Autonomous Weapons Deployment

March 2023
By Michael Klare

The U.S. Defense Department released an updated version of its directive on developing and fielding autonomous weapons systems that seems designed to facilitate the integration of such devices into the military arsenal.

The Sea Hunter, a prototype submarine-hunting drone ship that can cross the open seas without a human crew for months at a time, is among the autonomous weapons systems being tested by the U.S. Navy. (U.S. Navy photo)The original version of directive 3000.09, “Autonomy in Weapons Systems,” was published in 2012. Since then, the Pentagon has made considerable progress in using artificial intelligence (AI) to endow unmanned combat platforms with the capacity to operate autonomously and now seems keen to accelerate their deployment.

The new version of the directive was released on Jan. 25 and appears intended to make it easier to advance such efforts by clarifying the review process that proposed autonomous weapons systems must undergo before winning approval for battlefield use.

“Given the dramatic advances in technology happening all around us, the update to our autonomy in weapon systems directive will help ensure we remain the global leader of not only developing and deploying new systems, but also safety,” said Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks in announcing the new version.

When the original version was released 10 years ago, the development of autonomous weapons was just getting under way, and few domestic or international rules governed their use. Accordingly, that version broke new ground just by establishing policies for autonomous weapons systems testing, assessment, and employment.

Chief among these instructions was the mandate that proposed autonomous weapons “shall be designed to allow commanders and operators to exercise appropriate levels of human judgment over the use of force.” In consonance with this edict, the directive decreed that any proposed system be subjected to a rigorous review process intended to test its compliance with that overarching principle and to ensure that the system’s software was free of any glitches that might hamper its performance or cause it to act in an improper manner.

The meaning of “appropriate levels of human judgment” was not defined in the 2012 version, but its promulgation has allowed senior U.S. officials to insist over the years that the United States is not building self-governing lethal devices, or “killer robots” as they are termed by opponents.

In 2012, those requirements seemed a reasonable basis for regulating the development of proposed autonomous weapons systems. But much has occurred since then, including a revolt by Google workers against the company’s involvement in military-related AI research. (See ACT, July/August 2018.) In addition, there have been efforts by some states-parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons to impose an international ban on lethal autonomous weapons systems. (See ACT, January/February 2022.)

Such developments have fueled concerns within academia, industry, and the military about the ethical implications of weaponizing AI. Questions have also arisen about the reliability of weapons systems using AI, especially given the propensity of many AI-empowered devices to exhibit racial and gender biases in their operation or to behave in unpredictable, unexplainable, and sometimes perilous ways.

To overcome these concerns, the Defense Department in February 2020 adopted a set of ethical principles governing AI use, including one requirement that the department take “deliberate steps to minimize unintended bias in AI capabilities” and another mandating that AI-empowered systems possess “the ability to detect and avoid unintended consequences.” (See ACT, May 2020.) With these principles in place, the Pentagon then undertook to revise the directive.

At first reading, the new version appears remarkably similar to the first. The overarching policy remains the same, that proposed autonomous weapons systems must allow their operators “to exercise appropriate levels of human judgment over the use of force,” while again omitting any clarification of the term “appropriate levels of human judgment.” As with the original directive, the new text mandates a high-level review of proposed weapons systems and specifies the criteria for surviving that review.

But on closer reading, significant differences emerge. The new version incorporates the ethical principles adopted by the Defense Department in 2020 and decrees that the use of AI capabilities in autonomous weapons systems “will be consistent with” those principles. It also establishes a working group to oversee the review process and ensure that proposed systems comply with the directive’s requirements.

The new text might lead to the conclusion that the Pentagon stiffened the requirements for deploying autonomous weapons systems, which in some sense is true, given the inclusion of the ethical principles. Another conclusion is equally valid: that by clarifying the requirements for receiving high-level approval and better organizing the bureaucratic machinery for such reviews, it lays out a road map for succeeding at this process and thus facilitates autonomous weapons systems development.

This interpretation is suggested by the statement that full compliance with the directive’s requirements will “provide sufficient confidence” that such devices will work as intended, an expression appearing six times in the new text and nowhere in the original. The message, it would seem, is that weapons designers can proceed with development of autonomous weapons systems and ensure their approval for deployment so long as they methodically check off the directive’s requirements, a process facilitated by a flow chart incorporated into the new version.

A new directive lays out a road map for putting these new weapons into the field. 

U.S. Faces Wins, Losses With Hypersonic Weapons

March 2023
By Shannon Bugos

The U.S. Defense Department wrapped up one of its hypersonic weapons programs, the Hypersonic Air-Breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC), with a successful final flight test in January. But overall, the Pentagon’s accelerated drive for hypersonic capabilities is facing sharp criticism from internal and congressional budget analysts.

Artist’s rendering of the Hypersonic Air-Breathing Weapons Concept program which completed a final successful flight test in January. (Image by DARPA)“This month’s flight added an exclamation point to the most successful hypersonic air-breathing flight-test program in U.S. history,” boasted Walter Price, an Air Force deputy for the HAWC program, on Jan. 30.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Air Force collaborated on the program, which produced two hypersonic air-breathing cruise missile designs that DARPA will continue to mature through the More Opportunities With HAWC program established in fiscal year 2023. (See ACT, June 2022.)

The January test featured the Lockheed Martin-designed missile, which launched from a B-52 bomber and flew at speeds greater than Mach 5 and for more than 300 nautical miles.

But at the same time, the Pentagon’s numerous hypersonic weapons programs received sharp criticisms and lackluster reviews.

Nickolas Guertin, the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation, faulted the Air Force for testing the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon prototype without an approved master test plan or an operational demonstration plan. His Jan. 31 report said that the system has encountered hardware and software problems, leading to delays.

The report also examined the Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) program, which Guertin stated has yet to demonstrate an operational capability. The Navy plans to deploy CPS missiles on the Zumwalt-class destroyer in 2025 and the Virginia-class submarine in 2029. Ingalls Shipbuilding won a $10.5 million contract on Jan. 6 to equip the first two destroyers with missile launch tubes.

Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office concluded in a Jan. 31 analysis that the hypersonic weapons programs still must overcome significant technological challenges, such as mitigating extreme heat generated at high speeds in the atmosphere. The analysis compared hypersonic missiles to ballistic missiles equipped with maneuverable warheads, finding that hypersonic weapons likely would prove less survivable in a conflict and one-third more expensive to procure and field than ballistic missiles of the same range.

The report concluded that, “Given their cost, hypersonic weapons would provide a niche capability, mainly useful to address threats that were both well-defended and extremely time-sensitive (requiring a strike in 15 minutes to 30 minutes).”

“If time was not a concern, much cheaper cruise missiles could be used. If targets were time-sensitive but were not protected by defenses that effectively intercept incoming ballistic missiles in the middle of their flight, less costly ballistic missiles with maneuverable warheads could be used,” the report added.

The United States has accelerated its pursuit of hypersonic weapons systems in recent years to keep pace with China and Russia, according to defense officials. China is believed to have deployed a hypersonic glide vehicle system, the DF-17, in 2020. Russia deployed two capabilities, the Kinzhal hypersonic air-launched ballistic missile and the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, in 2017 and 2019, respectively.

The United States is developing only conventional hypersonic systems, while China and Russia are seeking dual-capable systems having conventional and nuclear capabilities.

On Jan. 4, Russian President Vladimir Putin dispatched a Russian frigate armed with a third new hypersonic weapons system, the sea-based Tsirkon cruise missile, on a voyage through the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Indian Ocean, marking the system’s first deployment.

Moscow also purportedly has made recent advancements with other new nuclear weapons delivery systems, such as the nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed torpedo Poseidon.

Russia has built the first set of production torpedoes and will “soon” deliver them to the Belgorod submarine, according to a Jan. 16 report by Tass, a state-owned Russian news agency. The Belgorod first entered service in July 2022. The status of the associated nuclear warheads remains uncertain.

Despite a successful test flight of one system, the Pentagon’s accelerated drive for hypersonic capabilities faces sharp criticism from critics. 

Japan to Purchase U.S. Tomahawk Missiles

March 2023
By Luke Caggiano

Japan plans to purchase several hundred U.S. Tomahawk cruise missiles as the country looks to strengthen its military capabilities amid heightened tensions with China and North Korea. Japan included more than $2 billion to buy and deploy the missiles in its record-setting defense budget for its fiscal year beginning April 1, The Wall Street Journal reported on Dec. 23.

Japanese Defense Minister Hamada Yasukazu (L to R), Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin participate in a news conference at the U.S. Department of State on January 11, days ahead of a White House meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.  (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)The missiles, which can hit targets up to 1,600 kilometers away, will bring Chinese and North Korean military bases within Japanese striking range.

Possessed exclusively by the United Kingdom and the United States, the Tomahawk system most recently saw action in 2018 when 66 missiles were used to strike chemical weapons facilities
in Syria.

Japan is expected to deploy the missiles beginning in 2026 aboard its Aegis naval destroyers. They will supplement Japan’s indigenous Type 12 surface-to-ship missile, which is currently being upgraded. The improved Type 12 missile systems are expected to be ready by 2026 and will be capable of striking sea and land targets up to 1,200 kilometers away, a significant increase from the missile’s original range of 200 kilometers.

The Tomahawk missile purchase follows the release of Japan’s new national security strategy, which highlights China as “the greatest strategic challenge in ensuring the peace and security of Japan” and assesses North Korea’s military activities as posing “a grave and imminent threat.”

With these threats as a reference, the new strategy calls for the development of a “counterstrike capability” in the event of an attack on Japan. According to the strategy, weapons such as the Tomahawk missile may be used to strike enemy missile bases “as long as it is deemed that there are no other means to defense against attack by guided missiles.”

The development of a counterstrike capability marks a significant change in the defense-oriented policy that Japan adopted following World War II.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin praised the planned purchase on Jan. 11 during a joint news conference with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and Defense Minister Yasukasu Hamada.

The United States “strongly endorse[s] Japan’s decision to acquire a counterstrike capability,” Austin said, “and we affirm that close coordination on employing this capability will strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance.”

Hayashi also highlighted plans to further strengthen U.S.-Japanese cooperation in outer space and cyberspace.

“We agreed on the importance of deepening our cooperation in the areas of space and cyber, the promotion of technological cooperation, [and] the further strengthening of information security,” he stated. “The fact that we were able to agree on the announcement of the applicability of Article V of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty on attacks on others in outer space was a significant achievement in terms of the reinforcement of deterrence capability of the alliance as a whole.”

Blinken noted that the attacks include those “to, from, or within space.”

The treaty article states that, in the event of “an armed attack against either party in the territories under the administration of Japan [both parties] would act to meet the common danger.” The decision to extend it to outer space was likely motivated by China’s recent development of anti-satellite weapons. The new understanding between Tokyo and Washington brings Japanese satellites under U.S. protection, making Japan the first non-NATO U.S. ally to gain this security assurance.

The U.S. ally aims to strengthen its military capabilities amid heightened tensions with China and North Korea. 


U.S. Cites Russian Noncompliance with New START Inspections

Russia has failed to fully comply with the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty ( New START ) because of its refusal to allow on-site inspections and to reschedule a meeting to discuss treaty concerns, according to a U.S. assessment released in January. Senior Russian officials have accused the United States of “politicizing nuclear arms control,” saying that Washington “would have to adjust its policy towards Russia to move to a constructive arms control agenda.” In August, Moscow prohibited U.S. on-site inspections of its nuclear weapons-related facilities subject to the treaty over...

"Challenges and Prospects for Further U.S.-Russian Nuclear Arms Control"



February 1, 11:00am-12:30pm U.S. Eastern Time
(via Zoom)

The last remaining treaty regulating the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals, the New Strategic Nuclear Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), will expire in 1,100 days -- on Feb. 5, 2026. Unless Washington and Moscow begin serious negotiations on a new nuclear arms control framework, Russian and U.S. nuclear arsenals will be left unconstrained for the first time since 1972.

At this special briefing, we heard from a senior White House official about the Biden administration's approach to the nuclear arms control impasse. Key experts will review the issues and potential solutions for maintaining constraints on the U.S. and Russian arsenals, analyze Russia's approach to nuclear arms control, and evaluate how the U.S. and Russian arsenals might grow if they are “unconstrained” after 2026. The briefing will include comments from a senior European official on the role of nuclear arms control in strengthening European security and the global nuclear nonproliferation system.

Opening remarks: Cara Abercrombie, deputy assistant to the president and coordinator for defense policy and arms control for the White House National Security Council


  • Amb. Steve Pifer, non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, and a William J. Perry fellow at the Center for Intl. Security and Cooperation at Stanford University
  • Hanna Notte, Senior Research Associate with the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP)
  • Matt Korda, Senior Research Associate and Project Manager for the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists

Closing remarks: Jarmo Viinanen, Ambassador, Strategic and Arms Control, Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Chair-designate of the 2023 Nonproliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee Meeting

Moderators: Daryl Kimball, executive director, and Shannon Bugos, senior policy analyst, Arms Control Association


In 1,100 days, the last remaining treaty regulating the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals, the New Strategic Nuclear Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) between the United States and Russia, will expire.

Country Resources:

Congress Boosts Defense Budget Beyond Biden’s Request

January/February 2023
By Shannon Bugos

For the second consecutive year, Congress deemed President Joe Biden’s proposed national defense budget insufficient to counter growing inflation and rising security threats, prompting lawmakers to increase the fiscal year 2023 defense authorization by $45 billion over Biden’s $813 billion request.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, was among the leading forces behind the 2023 National Defense Authorization Law.  (Photo by Oliver Contreras/AFP via Getty Images)“There were compromises made to get this bill across the finish line,” acknowledged House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) on Dec. 8. But “now more than ever, at a time when global democracy is under attack and the rules-based international order is being threatened, we need a strong national security and defense strategy, and this bill helps us deliver on that front.”

The House passed the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by a vote of 350–80 on Dec. 8, followed by an 83–11 vote in the Senate on Dec. 15. Biden signed the bipartisan legislation into law on Dec. 23. The NDAA totals $848 billion. An additional $10 billion of national discretionary defense spending falls outside of the armed services committees’ authority. The $858 billion defense topline is an increase of $80 billion, or 10 percent, over the 2022 national defense budget.

The New York Times, citing an analysis by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, reported on Dec. 18 that the new total means the Pentagon budget has grown 4.3 percent annually over the last two years, after inflation, compared to 1 percent in real dollars from 2015 to 2021. Military spending is on track to reach its highest level in inflation-adjusted terms since 2008–2011, during the peaks of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the newspaper said.

The chairpersons and ranking members of the House and Senate armed services committees settled on compromise NDAA text on Dec. 6. Although the House passed its version of the legislation in July, the full Senate did not and brought its armed services committee’s version to the negotiations. (See ACT, September 2022.)

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the armed services committee, described the Biden administration’s defense budget request, released in March, as “woefully inadequate.” (See ACT, June 2022.) The compromise bill corrects course by “prioritiz[ing] nuclear modernization amid Chinese nuclear breakout,” and stays “tough on Russia,” Inhofe stated Dec. 6.

Although the NDAA authorizes funding, appropriations bills allow for actual spending. The fiscal year 2023 defense and energy and water appropriations bills, which, on the whole, reflect the same budget levels in the defense authorization bill, passed through the Senate on Dec. 22 and the House on Dec. 23. Biden signed the omnibus appropriations legislation on Dec. 29.

For the most part, the 2023 NDAA either fully authorizes or boosts the requested budgets for U.S. nuclear weapons modernization programs, including delivery systems and warheads. In addition to mandating some reporting requirements to bolster congressional oversight on nuclear matters, the law adds funding for a new nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile (SLCM) and an associated low-yield warhead and allows only a partial retirement of the megaton B83 gravity bomb fleet. It fails to reverse language that undermines support for the international organization that monitors the world for signs of nuclear testing.

Nuclear Delivery Systems

The Biden administration requested no funding for the new nuclear-armed SLCM as it views the capability as unnecessary and potentially detrimental to other priorities.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks at the unveiling ceremony of the B-21 Raider at Northrop Grumman’s Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, in December. The high-tech stealth bomber can carry nuclear and conventional weapons and is designed to fly without a crew on board.  (Photo by Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images) Further developing this SLCM “would divert resources and focus from higher modernization priorities for the U.S. nuclear enterprise and infrastructure, which is already stretched to capacity after decades of deferred investments,” the White House noted in an administration policy statement in October.

Although Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro concur with this assessment, members of Congress from both parties and other defense officials do not.

“No one can tell in an uncertain world what we will need, but it’s important to keep this option available,” said Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), who led the House effort to insert funding for the capability, in July.

Gen. Mark Milley and Adm. Christopher Grady, chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, respectively, wrote in June that they see value in the nuclear-armed SLCM due to “its distinct contribution.”

The NDAA authorizes $25 million for the Pentagon to develop the missile and $20 million for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to develop the associated warhead, the W80-4 Alt SLCM.The law also requires reports on the concept of operations, operational implications, and costs of the capability, as well as a detailed, unclassified summary of the analysis of alternatives for the missile before the Pentagon can move into the development and demonstration phases.

Congress also authorized $6.2 billion, slightly more than the administration’s request, for construction and continued research and development on a future fleet of 12 Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines.

The Air Force, meanwhile, received an authorization of $4.9 billion for the B-21 Raider dual-capable strategic bomber, a decrease of $110 million from the request. On Dec. 2, the service unveiled the new highly secretive bomber, which will take its first flight in 2023 and is slated to be deployed later this decade. Six bombers are under construction, and the Pentagon plans to acquire at least 100 bombers total.

Lawmakers authorized $3.6 billion, slightly over the request, for replacement of the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and supporting infrastructure with the new Sentinel system. They banned any decrease in the number of deployed ICBMs, currently 400. Congress also authorized the requested $981 million for the new nuclear-capable, long-range standoff (LRSO) weapons system to replace the
air-launched cruise missile.

Nuclear Warheads

For the NNSA, Congress authorized the Biden administration’s requests of $672 million for the B61-12 gravity bomb, $680 million for the W87-1 ICBM warhead, and $1.1 billion for the W80-4 LRSO weapons system warhead upgrade.

Congress also approved the agency’s $241 million request for the controversial new high-yield submarine-launched ballistic missile warhead, the W93, and authorized the Pentagon to receive $97.1 million to develop the warhead’s aeroshell.

According to the 2022 Nuclear Posture Review, the Biden administration, reversing Trump administration policy, aims to follow through on retiring the megaton-class B83-1 gravity bomb, but Congress has now slowed that process. The NDAA only allows for the deactivation or retirement of up to 25 percent of the B83-1 fleet until the Pentagon submits a report to Congress. (See ACT, December 2022.)

Meanwhile, the NNSA program for producing plutonium pits for nuclear weapons received $500 million more than the administration’s $758 million request for the Savannah River Site location, while the Los Alamos site was authorized for the requested $1.6 billion.

According to an internal NNSA document, pit production is running more than a year behind schedule, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. NNSA Administrator Jill Hruby acknowledged last spring that the agency will not reach its goal of producing 80 pits a year by 2030.

Hypersonic Weapons

Congress also broadly threw its full support behind the Pentagon’s hypersonic weapons programs.

The Air Force’s air-launched hypersonic boost-glide vehicle, the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), received $47 million less than the request and the authorization for a total of $115 million. The system hit a major milestone Dec. 9 with the successful completion of its first all-up-round test, meaning a test of the full prototype operational missile, off the southern California coast.

“Following the ARRW’s separation from the [B-52H Stratofortress bomber], it reached hypersonic speeds greater than five times the speed of sound, completed its flight path and detonated in the terminal area,” an Air Force statement said. The service aims to conduct three more all-up-round tests before deciding whether to move into production.

Congress added $145 million to the requested $317 million for the Air Force’s Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile program.

As for the Navy, the service received a $20 million increase for the Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) program, bringing the total to $1.2 billion, and a $67 million increase for the Hypersonic Air-Launched Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare Weapon, for a total $160 million.

The Navy’s CPS program shares the common hypersonic glide-body vehicle with the Army’s Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW), which could enter the field in 2023. Congress authorized $1.1 billion for the Army’s hypersonics program, an increase of $50 million above the request, to account for the National Hypersonic Initiative, which will improve coordination and address any development gaps among the hypersonic weapons programs.

In late October, the Pentagon conducted two test launches of rockets, each carrying about a dozen different experiments, meant to inform continued development of the CPS and LRHW systems.

The NDAA also requires a report on the ARRW, CPS, and LRHW programs to assess their respective costs, schedules, and potential alternatives.

Various hypersonics programs overseen by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency received substantial increases in the authorized budget. Glide Breaker jumped from $18 million to $38 million, Tactical Boost Glide from $30 million to $65 million, and Operation Fires, which was in line to be zeroed out, received $42 million. The MoHAWC hypersonic air-launched cruise missile program was authorized for its requested $60 million.

Missile Defense

The NDAA authorized the Pentagon’s efforts for hypersonic missile defense at $518 million, a 1.3 percent increase above the request.

The Space Force landed $830 million for its effort to build a satellite system to track missiles, including hypersonic weapons, which marked a 30 percent increase from the request. This effort includes plans by the Space Development Agency, now part of the Space Force, for the development of a tracking layer.

Congress also authorized the requested $2.8 billion for the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense weapons system based in Alaska and California, which includes $1.8 billion for the Next Generation Interceptors.

Lawmakers boosted the budget requests for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile system by $165 million to $587 million to buy 15 additional interceptors and for the Aegis ballistic missile defense system by $245 million to $2 billion.

Risk Reduction

The NDAA contains a slight $13 million increase above the $354 million request for the Cooperative Threat Reduction program to account for inflation. In each of the previous two fiscal years, Congress significantly boosted the program’s budget by more than $100 million. This program is aimed at reducing threats from weapons of mass destruction and related challenges, including the spread of dangerous pathogens such as COVID-19.

The NDAA omitted language originally in the House version that would have repealed the restriction, imposed by the 2018 NDAA, on funding the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, which oversees the systems in place to detect signs of nuclear testing across the world.


For the second year, Congress deemed the president’s proposed national defense budget insufficient to counter growing inflation and rising security threats.

UN Diplomats Spar Over Iranian Drone Sales

January/February 2023
By Kelsey Davenport

The United States expressed its regret over the UN secretary-general’s failure to initiate an investigation into evidence that Iran is supplying Russia with drones in violation of a UN Security Council resolution.

Activists protested at the Iranian embassy in Kyiv in October after the shelling of Ukrainian territory by kamikaze drones, which Iran supplies to Russia. (Photo by Yevhenii Zavhorodnii/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images)The United States, along with France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, requested in October that Secretary-General António Guterres investigate the drone transfers as part of his mandate to report on implementation of Security Council Resolution 2231. The request followed an Oct. 17 letter from Ukraine to Guterres accusing Iran of transferring the drones to Russia in violation of the resolution.

Resolution 2231 was passed unanimously in July 2015. In addition to endorsing the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), it prohibits Iran from transferring nuclear-capable ballistic missiles and drones, as well as certain materials and technologies relevant for building those systems, until October 2023 without approval from the Security Council.

The secretary-general is charged with reporting twice a year on the status of the resolution and has investigated evidence of illicit missile transfers in the past. But his Dec. 12 report said only that the UN Secretariat is “examining the available information” and will report any findings to the Security Council “as appropriate.”

Robert Wood, the U.S. alternative representative to the United Nations, told the Security Council during a Dec. 19 meeting that, for the past seven years, the UN mandate to report on Resolution 2231’s implementation “has been clear and unquestioned.” The failure to open an investigation “is not acceptable,” and there must “be some degree of accountability for openly violating” council resolutions, Wood said.

Vassily Nebenzia, Russian ambassador to the UN, disputed Guterres’s authority to conduct an investigation under the resolution and said Russia shared its legal analysis regarding this issue with the secretary-general. Nebenzia said on Dec. 19 that any “pseudo-investigations are legally null and void” and that Guterres must not “succumb to pressure of Western states.”

Iran has admitted to selling drones to Russia, but denied that its actions violate the resolution’s provisions. In a Nov. 5 statement, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said Iran “sold a limited number of drones” to Moscow but the transfer took place prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Amirabdollahian said that if Ukraine proves that Russia used Iranian drones in the war in Ukraine, “we will not remain indifferent to this issue.”

In two letters to Guterres in October, Iran said that it “has never produced or supplied” materials and technologies that “could contribute to the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems” and argued that Resolution 2231 only restricts the transfers of items that could contribute to such systems.

The resolution uses the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) export control lists to define the materials and technologies that Iran is prohibited from transferring without Security Council approval. The MTCR seeks to limit the spread of missiles and drones capable of delivering nuclear warheads, which the regime defines as systems that can carry a 500 kilogram payload more than 300 kilometers.

Sergiy Kysltsya, Ukrainian ambassador to the UN, said that the drones transferred to Russia fall into the categories covered by the MTCR export control list and therefore violate the resolution. He invited UN experts in October to examine drones and drone debris recovered and open an investigation.

Barbara Woodward, UK ambassador to the UN, expressed support for such a visit and encouraged Guterres to “examine and report” any evidence of transfers inconsistent with the resolution. She also strongly cautioned Iran “against any further deliveries of weapons to Russia” and said that transferring short-range ballistic missiles would “constitute a serious escalation.”

In the Dec. 12 report, Guterres called for the United States and Iran to return to compliance with the JCPOA, but the diplomatic stalemate appears likely to continue.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell met Amirabdollahian in Jordan on Dec. 20 and said that both agreed to “keep communication open” and to restore the JCPOA on the “basis of Vienna negotiations.” The parties last met in Vienna in August, and those meetings informed the draft agreement to restore the JCPOA that Borrell described as “final” and circulated to the parties on Aug. 8. (See ACT, September 2022.)

Prior to the Dec. 20 meeting, Borrell told the EU Foreign Affairs Council that “we do not have a better option than the JCPOA to ensure that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons” and that although Iran’s nuclear escalation is “of great concern, we have to continue engaging as much as possible in trying to revive this deal.”

But there does not appear to be any progress on resolving the issues that prevented the parties from reaching an agreement based on Borrell’s August draft.

Iranian officials remain adamant that an agreement to restore the JCPOA cannot happen until the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) closes its investigation into past Iranian nuclear activities that should have been declared under Iran’s legally binding safeguards agreement.

The United States and the European parties to the deal have made clear they will not pressure the IAEA to prematurely end the investigation. (See ACT, December 2022.)

IAEA officials, including the head of the safeguards department, Massimo Aparo, traveled to Tehran on Dec. 18 to continue discussions about the investigation. The IAEA did not comment on the meetings, but Iranian officials described them as businesslike.

Kamal Kharrazi, head of Iran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, said that resolving the safeguards issue could “break the ice” on the stalled JCPOA negotiations.

Even if there is progress on the safeguards issue, the political space for reaching an agreement to restore the JCPOA is narrowing.

Iran’s transfer of drones to Russia and brutal crackdown against peaceful protesters has shifted U.S. and European focus away from the JCPOA. Iran’s nuclear advances also continue to erode the nonproliferation benefits of a restored accord.

Antje Leendertse, German ambassador to the UN, said on Dec. 19 that the “prospects for a sustainable diplomatic solution” have been “fading in recent months.” She cited Iran’s nuclear escalation and support for Russia’s “brutal and unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine.”

Nebenzia said that the JCPOA remains the “best tool” for strengthening the nonproliferation regime and it must “become fully functional again as soon as possible.”

He accused the United States and Europe of using the drone transfer allegations to undermine the JCPOA. The allegations were “first made the moment the Vienna talks entered the final stage,” which clearly shows “who is simply politicizing the discussion,” he said.


The United States expressed regret over the UN secretary-general’s failure to initiate an investigation into evidence that Iran is supplying Russia with drones for its war against Ukraine. 

U.S. Said Mulling Cluster Munitions Request

January/February 2023
By Gabriela Rosa Hernández

Ukraine has pushed the United States to provide its armed forces with cluster munitions warheads, and the Biden administration has not rejected the request, according to CNN, even though the weapon is banned by more than 110 countries.

Part of a cluster bomb is seen in the village of Shevchenkove, Ukraine, after attacks by Ukrainian and Russian forces in October. (Photo by Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)Cluster munitions are gravity bombs, artillery shells, and rockets that fragment into small bomblets or grenades. They are controversial and widely shunned because they can inflict devastating harm on civilians.

Russian forces have used these weapons in attacks throughout Ukraine, resulting in numerous civilian casualties. Ukraine allegedly also has used them in its attempt to defend against Russia’s brutal assault, although far less than Russia. (See ACT, October 2022.)

CNN reported on Dec. 8 that senior Biden administration officials have been fielding Ukrainian requests for cluster munitions for months and “have not rejected [them] outright.”

Asked about the status of Ukraine’s request, a U.S. State Department spokesperson told Arms Control Today by email on Dec. 19 that “[w]e are not in a position to comment on internal deliberations regarding specific systems requested by Ukraine.”

The spokesperson reiterated the Biden administration’s commitment that, “as a general matter, we will continue to provide Ukraine with security assistance for as long as it takes and will continue to work with Allies and partners to identify and provide Ukraine with additional capabilities.”

“As Russia’s war against Ukraine has evolved, so too has U.S. military assistance, and we will continue to calibrate our assistance to align with Ukraine’s current and future battlefield needs,” the spokesperson said.

On Dec. 21, President Joe Biden hosted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the White House as Congress prepared to pass a giant annual spending package that includes an additional $44 billion
for Ukraine.

CNN said the administration has not taken the cluster munitions request off the table as a last resort in case Ukrainian munitions stockpiles run dangerously low. Russian forces are bolstering their defenses as the war enters a second year, and U.S. officials believe the conflict could enter a stalemate, The New York Times reported on Dec. 21.

“Providing banned cluster munitions to Ukraine or any other country is a flagrant rejection of the Convention on Cluster Munitions [CCM] and a blatant disregard for civilian lives.

Such a move risks exacerbating the existing humanitarian disaster in the country,” Hector Guerra, director of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines - Cluster Munition Coalition, said in a statement Dec. 19.

He called on states-parties to the CCM, which bans the weapons, to “react urgently to the prospect of further civilian harm from cluster munitions in the Ukraine conflict.”

“Any support for the country should be contingent upon unconditional respect for international humanitarian law and repudiation of any use of indiscriminate weapons,” he said.

According to CNN, Ukrainian officials have lobbied for dual-purpose improved conventional munitions compatible with the U.S.-provided High Mobility Artillery Rocket System and the 155mm howitzer. Ukrainian officials say the munitions would increase the capacity of the Ukrainian military by enabling more effective attacks on larger concentrations of Russian forces and equipment. The Ukrainians also claim that they would not use them in civilian populated areas as Russia has.

Asked by Arms Control Today to comment on Russia’s use of cluster munitions in Ukraine and the strategic considerations behind Ukraine’s request for cluster munitions, a spokesperson at the Ukrainian embassy in Washington said in a Dec. 13 email that “Russia’s use of these weapons is a part of their tactic aimed to threaten people, make them flee, capture the land, [and] force Ukraine to negotiations through terror. It’s the same tactic as the airstrikes on our energy infrastructure and leaving people to freeze to death in winter.”

Granting Ukraine access to cluster munitions would require the Biden administration to override a U.S. law that generally restricts the transfer of cluster munitions that result in more than a 1 percent rate of unexploded ordnance.

As stockpiles of U.S. munitions dwindle, Kyiv has told Washington that it could use U.S. cluster munitions sitting in storage, CNN reported.

Some cluster munitions disperse only two bomblets while others can spread up to hundreds of submunitions over a large area. These weapons are designed for use against massed formations of troops and armor or broad targets, such as airfields. But cluster submunitions sometimes fail to explode on impact and can kill or maim civilians who later encounter them. These unexploded submunitions may remain dangerous for decades.

In Ukraine, Russia’s short-range BM-21 Grad launchers are capable of firing cluster munitions warheads, although they usually carry unitary warheads. Longer-range systems such as the Smerch multiple rocket launcher, the Tochka, and Iskander ballistic missiles can also fire a cluster munitions warhead. Ukraine inherited some of these systems and a stock of cluster munitions including the Tochka and Smerch multiple rocket launchers, according to The Economist.

The 110 states that ratified the CCM include former cluster munitions producers France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. Russia, Ukraine, and the United States have not signed the treaty.

The Biden administration has not rejected Ukraine’s request for U.S. cluster munitions to defend against Russian forces, according to CNN.


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