Experts Urge Real Reductions of Nuclear Forces
For Immediate Release: June 4, 2004
Press Contacts: Daryl Kimball, (202) 463-8270 x107 Wade Boese, (202) 463-8270 x104
(Washington, D.C.): The Department of Energy announced yesterday that it had delivered an overdue and classified report to Congress on how many nuclear weapons the United States will keep in the future. While the Energy Department claims the U.S. nuclear stockpile "will be the smallest it has been in several decades" under the proposed Bush administration plan, experts at the Arms Control Association (ACA) said it still far exceeds U.S. security needs and reflects outdated Cold War-era thinking about nuclear weapons.
Few details about the new stockpile plan, which pertains to both deployed and stored warheads, have been made public.
What is known, however, is that U.S. operationally deployed strategic warheads will be reduced from the several thousands existing today to between 1,700 to 2,200 by the end of 2012 as called for by the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), which the United States and Russia signed in May 2002. It is also apparent that the United States, under the new stockpile plan, will retain thousands of additional warheads in storage and is hedging toward building more warheads in the future. According to the Energy Department, the stockpile will be supported by a "responsive infrastructure," including plans for a new facility to make key nuclear bomb components, research into new nuclear weapon designs, and a heightened readiness to resume nuclear testing.
"The reality is that administration's nuclear stockpile plan does not significantly alter the number of existing nuclear warheads and delivery systems and therefore only marginally affects the residual nuclear potential of the United States and Russia," charged Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association. He explained that SORT did not require the destruction of a single warhead or delivery vehicle-only that they be stored apart, which means the United States will be preserving "thousands of reserve warheads that are costly to maintain and could be redeployed relatively quickly, making it difficult to predict total force levels over the next decade."
"The United States and Russia should not be making sleight-of-hand reductions, but actually destroying nuclear weapons and delivery systems," Kimball recommended. "Reductions coupled with preparations to build new nuclear weapons does not inspire confidence that this administration is serious about reducing the long-term role of nuclear weapons in U.S. security policy," Kimball added.
The United States currently deploys approximately 6,000 strategic nuclear warheads on its triad of land-based missiles, submarines, and bombers. Its entire nuclear force numbers approximately 10,000 total warheads. Russia currently deploys roughly 5,000 strategic nuclear warheads out of an estimated arsenal of some 20,000 total nuclear warheads.
Two years ago, the Pentagon indicated it planned to store up to 2,400 nuclear warheads in a state of readiness, enabling them to be returned to service within weeks, months, or at most three years after being removed from deployment. This so-called responsive force would constitute only part of the U.S. nuclear warhead reserve. It is unclear to what extent this proposal made it into the recently recommended stockpile plan.
Kimball stated, "It is in the U.S. national security interest to undertake more rapid and real cuts in its nuclear weapons stockpile to set an example for Russia. The nuclear threat from Russia today is that one of its thousands of warheads could be accidentally launched or stolen by terrorists so the United States should create the conditions necessary for Russian leaders to feel secure enough to dismantle their arsenal to the greatest extent possible. The administration's stockpile plan does not do that."
"The nuclear stockpile plan coupled with this administration's other nuclear weapons policies falls far short of President Bush's rhetoric that he would reduce U.S. reliance on nuclear weapons and cut those forces to the lowest level possible," said Wade Boese, research director of the Arms Control Association. "The administration is missing a grand opportunity to signal to other countries that nuclear weapons are not essential for security. Rather than eliminating thousands of obsolete, excess weapons, the administration continues to cling to them," he added.
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The Arms Control Association is an independent, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to promoting public understanding of and support for effective arms control policies