Cameron’s Oct. 19 address marked the conclusion of a broad reassessment of British strategic and defense policy. The National Security Strategy, published Oct. 18, assessed threats and set strategic priorities; the Strategic Defense and Security Review, released the following day, detailed the steps that the government will take in accordance with those priorities.
Volume 1, Number 3
Eighteen years after the last U.S. nuclear test, it is abundantly clear that maintaining the reliability of existing U.S. nuclear warheads does not depend on a program of nuclear test explosions. Over the past decade the U.S. Life Extension Program has successfully refurbished major warhead types, and with sufficient resources can continue to do so indefinitely.
The 2008 National Defense Authorization Act requires the next secretary of defense, in consultation with the secretaries of energy and state, to conduct a comprehensive review of the nuclear weapons posture of the United States. (Continue)
The Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) as envisioned by the Bush administration is effectively dead. This past fall, for the second year in a row, the Democratic Congress zeroed out funding for the RRW program despite Bush administration claims that extending the life of the current warhead types in the U.S. nuclear stockpile would, at some distant point in the future, lead to a sharp uptick in aging-related defects. (Continue)
In an October 28 speech to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace entitled "Nuclear Weapons and Deterrence in the 21st Century," Secretary of Defense Robert Gates noted the continued importance of U.S. nuclear weapons for deterring possible opponents and for reassuring allies that they do not need to develop their own weapons. He argued that, to carry out these responsibilities, a Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) as well as a modernized complex for nuclear weapons that would allow the building of new weapons without nuclear explosion testing are needed. (Continue)
As lawmakers rushed to leave
The top U.S. military commander in charge of deployed nuclear forces is speaking out against the current state of the nuclear weapons enterprise and advocating for new warheads and the infrastructure and people to produce them. Meanwhile, Congress recently appointed a group of 12 experts to evaluate the appropriate roles for nuclear weapons in future U.S. security policy. (Continue)
Lawmakers last year dealt what many thought was a knockout blow to research into a new type of nuclear warhead, but the Bush administration is seeking to raise the program off of the canvas with renewed funding in its fiscal year 2009 budget request. (Continue)
In a trio of bills passed recently, the Democratic-controlled Congress ordered several reviews of key Bush administration defense and nuclear policies, setting the stage for possible future course changes. Lawmakers also dealt a more immediate reversal to administration plans by nearly eliminating all funding for a new nuclear warhead. (Continue)
The jury is still out on whether the United States can develop a new nuclear warhead without using a test explosion to verify its performance, a leading scientific panel has concluded, urging further study. Meanwhile, two key congressional protagonists in the debate surrounding the controversial initiative announced they will not seek re-election next year. (Continue)