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former IAEA Director-General

Issue Briefs

Presidents Need Flexibility on Nuclear Arms Reductions

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President Obama announced on June 19 in Berlin that a new review of U.S. nuclear deterrence requirements found that "we can ensure the security of America and our allies, and maintain a strong and credible strategic deterrent, while reducing our deployed strategic nuclear weapons by up to one-third" below the limits established by the 2010 New START Treaty. "And," the President added, "I intend to seek negotiated cuts with Russia to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures."

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Volume 4, Issue 8, July 26, 2013

President Obama announced on June 19 in Berlin that a new review of U.S. nuclear deterrence requirements found that "we can ensure the security of America and our allies, and maintain a strong and credible strategic deterrent, while reducing our deployed strategic nuclear weapons by up to one-third" below the limits established by the 2010 New START Treaty. "And," the President added, "I intend to seek negotiated cuts with Russia to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures."

This is good news. As part of a long bipartisan tradition, further reductions to U.S. and Russian nuclear forces would be a welcome step toward making the United States safer, cutting the Russian arsenal, and redirecting U.S. defense dollars to higher priority needs.

It was President Ronald Reagan who, in 1986, shifted U.S. policy away from ever-higher nuclear stockpiles--which peaked at about 30,000 nuclear warheads--and started down the path of reductions that continues today. U.S. and Russian arsenals have now been reduced by more than two-thirds. U.S. Presidents Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush all contributed to reducing the nuclear threat.

This impressive progress was made through a combination of formal agreements and informal understandings, as the situation required, some requiring congressional approval, some not. To get the results we want and need, such presidential flexibility on nuclear arms reductions must be preserved.

Congress Out of Step
But some Republicans in Congress are seeking to take this flexibility--which previous Republican Presidents enjoyed--away from President Obama. They have responded to the Berlin speech by demanding a firm commitment from the White House to seek Senate approval for any new agreement, while others accused the administration of pursuing "unilateral disarmament" and are seeking to block funding for any further nuclear reductions, even under New START.

For example, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), chairman of the House Armed Service Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, introduced an amendment approved by the full House this week that would block funding for implementation of New START. He claims the treaty is "tearing down our nuclear deterrent" and that "the president must not be allowed to unilaterally weaken our defenses."

In fact, under New START the United States will keep over 1,550 nuclear warheads, and Russia is reducing faster than we are. Constraints on New START implementation would infringe on the Pentagon's flexibility to implement the treaty and could lead the U.S. to miss the treaty's 2018 implementation deadline, prompting Russia to rethink its own commitment to the treaty and build up its forces. Walking away from current efforts to reduce Russian nuclear stockpiles would be counterproductive.

The House also approved an amendment by Reps. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) and Rogers to prohibit funding for any nuclear weapons reductions that occur outside a legally-binding treaty or a congressional executive agreement, even though past Presidents have pursued nuclear arms reductions with and without formal agreements.

Congress deserves to be consulted, but it should not put unnecessary roadblocks in the way of more cost-effective and appropriately-sized U.S. and Russian nuclear forces, whether that is through existing treaties or new reductions.

Reality Check
There is nothing "unilateral" about the President's approach. President Obama made it very clear that he intends to seek "negotiated" cuts with Russia. In the report to Congress explaining the latest revisions to U.S. nuclear weapons employment guidance, the Pentagon notes that even though "Russia and the United States are no longer adversaries," the President and the Defense Department still "place importance on Russia joining us as we move to lower levels of nuclear weapons."

The President's stated goal is to reduce U.S. and Russian nuclear forces by up to one-third below the New START limit of 1,550 deployed strategic warheads. This is a very modest proposal and hardly a rush to global zero. Even at 1,000 strategic nuclear weapons, the United States and Russia would still maintain over 80% of the globe's nuclear weapons. And, as an Anniston [Ala.] Star editorial from July 25 notes, "even with proposed reductions we still have the capability to reduce enemy cities to rubble within a few hours."

In an attempt to cast doubt on further negotiated nuclear reductions with Russia, some congressional Republicans also claim that Moscow is not complying with the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. However, recent Pentagon and State Department reports find no evidence of Russian noncompliance with the INF Treaty.

Treaty or Informal Understanding?
The more serious concern, as recently expressed by 24 Republican senators in a June 19 letter to the White House, is whether or not the administration will produce a treaty "subject to the advice and consent of the Senate."

In the past, the United States has often reduced its nuclear forces through formal bilateral treaties (INF, START I, SORT, New START) and parallel, reciprocal measures.

The primary example of the latter is President George H.W. Bush's bold Presidential Nuclear Initiative in 1991 to remove thousands of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from forward deployment as the Soviet Union began to break up. Days later, Moscow reciprocated, reducing the risk that these weapons would fall into the wrong hands. No formal treaty was ever negotiated or signed, nor did the administration seek the approval of Congress.

Even in the case of the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT, or the "Moscow Treaty"), it is worth recalling that President George W. Bush initially set out to reduce U.S. forces without a formal agreement. As he said in 2001: "We don't need an arms control agreement to convince us to reduce our nuclear weapons down substantially, and I'm going to do it."

In their June 19 letter, the 24 Senate Republicans point out that in 2002 then-Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and then-Ranking Member Jesse Helms sent a letter to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell stating that: "With the exception of the SALT I agreement, every significant arms control agreement during the past three decades has been transmitted pursuant to the Treaty Clause of the Constitution ...we see no reason whatsoever to alter this practice."

President Bush ultimately agreed to negotiate and submit the SORT Treaty for Senate advice and consent in part because Russia wanted a treaty, even if it was a very simple one. Had Russia not wanted a formal agreement, Bush would likely have reduced U.S. nuclear weapons unilaterally, as his father did before him.

In their letter to the White House the 24 Senators also note that the resolution of ratification for New START states that "further arms reduction agreements obligating the United States to reduce or limit the Armed Forces or armaments of the United States in any military significant manner may be made only pursuant to the treaty-making power of the President..." (emphasis added).

This does not, however, rule out the option of mutual nuclear reductions in the absence of a formal agreement. First, the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs of Staff have already determined that one-third of the U.S. strategic nuclear warheads now deployed are in excess of military requirements. Thus, such a reduction would not have a significant impact on U.S. security.

Second, an informal U.S.-Russian understanding that each side would reduce its nuclear forces would not be legally binding and is therefore not an obligation subject to congressional approval.

What Matters Is the Result
The bottom line is that the process of reducing U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals is complex and Congress should be careful not to try to restrict the President's options to achieve results that are in the best interests of the nation, which is to reduce excess U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals in a stable and verifiable way. Treaties may be the best way, but they are not the only way.

As the State Department's International Security Advisory Board's Nov. 27, 2012 report suggests, Russia and the United States could seek additional reductions on the basis of a mutual understanding rather than a formal treaty. Such an understanding "can be quicker and less politically costly, relative to treaties with adversarial negotiations and difficult ratification processes," the board wrote.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell recently said that, "we can reduce nuclear weapons without having a negotiation."

Verifiable, reciprocal cuts in U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles will make every American safer by reducing the nuclear firepower that can be delivered within minutes across the globe, while allowing resources to be devoted to more pressing security needs. Further reductions would also improve the international consensus to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and enhance cooperation to address the threats from North Korea and Iran, and put pressure on other states--including China--to join in the reduction process.

Significant budget savings can also be achieved if President Obama eliminates the current "requirements" for Cold War-sized nuclear forces. An assessment by the Arms Control Association identifies about $40 billion in taxpayer savings over the next decade if the United States right-sizes its nuclear force to about 1,000 strategic deployed nuclear warheads.

For its part, Russia will be hard pressed to maintain 1,550 strategic warheads unless it continues its own expensive modernization of its aging nuclear delivery systems. Rather than induce Russia to build up, it is in the security and financial interests of both countries to eliminate their excess strategic nuclear forces.

The existing New START Treaty already provides a solid framework for verification and monitoring through intrusive inspection and data exchanges. Deeper, mutual reductions in deployed strategic nuclear weapons can be achieved through reciprocal actions made on the basis of the best national interests of each country.

As George Shultz, Bill Perry, Henry Kissinger, and Sam Nunn wrote in March: "A global effort is needed to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons, prevent their spread, and ultimately end them as a threat to the world. It will take leadership, creative approaches and thoughtful understanding of the perils of inaction."

The White House needs flexibility to lead and be creative--a one-size-fits-all approach will not cut it. We must not let the process and politics get in the way of the substance: reducing nuclear dangers and increasing U.S. security.--TOM Z. COLLINA

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today

Posted: July 26, 2013

Understanding the 2013 Arms Control Compliance Report

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The 2013 Arms Control Compliance Report [1] issued by the U.S. State Department on July 12 showed little change in the assessments of U.S.-Russian arms control treaty compliance provided by last year's report.

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Volume 4, Issue 7, July 17, 2013

The 2013 Arms Control Compliance Report [1] issued by the U.S. State Department on July 12 showed little change in the assessments of U.S.-Russian arms control treaty compliance provided by last year's report.

Covering the period ending on December 31, 2012, the report provides no obvious basis for the conclusion rendered in a recent amendment adopted by the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) that Russia was "in active noncompliance with existing nuclear arms obligations."

The vague public charge repeatedly made by HASC Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon appears to refer to more specific allegations in the press that a missile recently tested by Russia is a violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Yet neither the Compliance Report nor the July 10, 2013 "Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat" assessment of the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) identifies any Russian intermediate-range ballistic missiles, which the INF Treaty defines as missiles with a range of 500 km to 5,500 km.

No Russian INF Missiles
With regard to the INF Treaty, the 2013 Compliance Report registers no issues of concern during the reporting period. This month's NASIC missile threat report says explicitly that "neither Russia nor the United States produce or retain any MRBM [1,000-3,000 km range] or IRBM [3,000-5,500 km range] systems..." The NASIC report lists no Russian SRBM [<1,000 km range] with a range over 280 km.

Moreover, the missile threat report, the product of three Defense Department intelligence agencies, covers missiles under development, as well as those deployed. The absence of any Russian INF-category missiles in the report strongly implies that those observed in flight tests from Kapustin Yar to Sary-Shagan (in October 2012 and June 2013) were the "New ICBM" NASIC lists with a range of 5,500+ km, and as "not yet deployed ."

With regard to the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), the 2013 Compliance Report certifies that Russia is in full compliance with the terms of the 2010 treaty. As in the case of every previous U.S.-Soviet or U.S.-Russian nuclear limitation treaty, implementation-related questions have been raised by both sides in the designated commission for discussing these issues, according to the report, and discussions are ongoing.

Russian Skies Not Completely Open
The 2013 report identifies four concerns, two of them new, regarding Russia's fulfillment of its obligations under the Open Skies Treaty. This treaty establishes a regime for conducting unarmed observation flights by States Parties over the territories of other States Parties.

Specifically, the State Department report says that Russia has imposed: 1) restrictions on access by Open Skies aircraft to three areas: over Chechnya; in an air traffic control zone around Moscow; and along the border of Russia with South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two regions of Georgia that only Russia recognizes as independent countries; 2) air traffic control restrictions around Moscow that prevented flights or flight segments from taking place; and 3) airfield closures in support of holidays. Russia, the report notes, has also failed to provide a first generation duplicate negative of processed photographic film. Only the latter concern appears headed toward resolution, anticipating that Russia's future use of digital cameras will eliminate the need for negatives.

Through a Glass Darkly: BWC/CWC
The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) section raises concerns about compliance with a number of countries, but conclusions are usually tentative or qualified. For example, "It remains unclear if Russia has fulfilled its obligations under Article II..." and  "Syria may be engaged in activities that would violate its obligations under the BWC if it were a State Party to the Convention." These constructions are not surprising given the absence of a verification mechanism for the treaty.

As in last year's report, the United States assesses that Russia's Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) declaration is incomplete with respect to chemical agent and weapons stockpiles. In the absence of additional information from Russia, the United States is unable to ascertain whether Russia has declared all of its CW stockpile, all CW development and production facilities. Both the United States and Russia were unable to meet the convention's deadlines for eliminating chemical weapons (CW) stockpiles and facilities. In the "U.S. Compliance" section of the 2013 report, the authors artfully report only that the United States "continues to work towards meeting its CWC obligations with respect to the destruction of...[CW] and associated CW facilities."

Rogue's Gallery
Although the vast majority of states parties to arms control agreements are said to be complying with their commitments, the actions of North Korea, Iran, and Syria are   conspicuous for including multiple instances of noncompliance.

As in last year's report, the 2013 report again found North Korea to be in violation of its obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and in noncompliance with its International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Safeguards Agreement before its announced withdrawal from the NPT in 2003. North Korea's continued nuclear program development was judged to be in violation of UN Security Council resolutions and of Pyongyang's commitments under the 2005 Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks.

Iran and Syria were said to be in violation of their obligations under the NPT and their IAEA Safeguards Agreements. As before, Iran was also cited for violating its obligations under relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

In light of the U.S. assessment that Syria has used nerve gases against its domestic opposition in recent months, it is worth mentioning that Syria is not a party to the CWC, which prohibits such use. Moreover, although Syria is a party to the 1925 Protocol Against the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, that treaty does not prohibit use of chemical weapons within a state's own borders in a civil conflict. The Syrian case provides a dramatic reminder that absent arms control treaties and their verification mechanisms, the prospects for deterring, detecting and reversing behaviors unacceptable to the international community are much diminished.

An Encouraging Word on Burma
The concern expressed in last year's report about Burma's compliance with the NPT has eased. The 2013 report notes that Burma announced in November 2012 that it agreed to sign on to more intrusive IAEA inspection procedures, such as the Additional Protocol and that it would abide by certain UN Security Council resolutions on nonproliferation.

Compliance with the Global De Facto Nuclear Test Moratorium
The 2013 Compliance Report notes North Korea's 2013 nuclear weapons test explosion, but does not report any violation of the nuclear test moratoria, which have been declared by each of the five NPT nuclear weapon states since 1996, and by India and Pakistan beginning in1998.

Taking Arms Control Compliance Seriously
Compliance reports provide not only an important snapshot of contemporary issues regarding the implementation of arms control agreements; they also supply a valuable measure of progress over time and of relative performance between states parties. It is encouraging to see the Obama administration re-establishing executive branch fidelity to the congressional mandate for yearly reports--particularly after the previous administration managed to produce only two over an eight-year period.

Reviewing the content of the 2013 Compliance Report offers a reminder that adequate verification provisions and consultative mechanisms are prerequisites to meaningful monitoring and resolution of compliance issues. There is thus a symbiotic relationship between verifiable arms control agreements and conscientious efforts to monitor and report on compliance.

Although the U.S. Government's contributions to evaluating compliance are invaluable, any report by an individual national government can be subject to inherent limits on objectivity. Additional insights can be gained from such independent elaborations as the "2010-2013 Report Card" of the Arms Control Association on progress made by 11 key states in 10 universally-recognized nonproliferation, disarmament, and nuclear security categories. In this assessment, there are no straight "A"s to be seen. --GREG THIELMANN

1. 2013 Report on Adherence to and Compliance With Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments; Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance; Washington, DC, July 2013.

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today

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Posted: July 17, 2013

Scale Back the B61 Nuclear Bomb

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This week, House and Senate appropriators will vote on how much money to spend on the B61 gravity bomb, a $10 billion program to upgrade a weapon that President Obama said last week he wants to reduce. Given the high cost of this effort, the declining military justification, and the fact that less expensive alternatives exist, Congress should scale back this program dramatically.

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Volume 4, Issue 6, June 25, 2013

This week, House and Senate appropriators will vote on how much money to spend on the B61 gravity bomb, a $10 billion program to upgrade a weapon that President Obama said last week he wants to reduce. Given the high cost of this effort, the declining military justification, and the fact that less expensive alternatives exist, Congress should scale back this program dramatically.

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) plans to extend the service life of 400 B61 bombs for an estimated cost of $10 billion, or $25 million per bomb. NNSA is requesting $537 million for the program in fiscal year 2014, a 45 percent increase over the 2013 appropriation.

This is just the beginning of an expensive series of Life Extension Programs (LEPs) in the pipeline. According to the FY2014  Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan, NNSA wants to upgrade four additional warhead types between now and 2038, each of which will cost more than the B61. All told, NNSA plans to spend more than $65 billion on upgrading five warhead types over the next 25 years, requiring a significant increase in annual funding.

Given the current fiscal climate, such spending plans are not realistic. For example, the GOP-controlled House Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee voted last week to cut the administration's request for NNSA weapons activities by $193 million. The subcommittee had specific concerns about the life extension programs, and required NNSA to prepare a report on alternatives to its plans. The House and Senate Energy and Water subcommittees are expected to complete their bills this week.

Moreover, NNSA's plans do not reflect the reality that U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals are declining in size. President Obama announced just last week in Berlin that deployed strategic nuclear weapons can be reduced by one-third below New START treaty levels while ensuring a strong strategic deterrent. He said that he intends to seek negotiated strategic nuclear reductions with Russia.

Tactical B61s: No Need

President Obama also said in Berlin that he will "work with our NATO allies to seek bold reductions in U.S. and Russian tactical weapons in Europe." The B61 is the only U.S. nuclear weapon in Europe, with about 180 stored in five NATO countries. It would be a waste of scarce resources to spend billions of dollars upgrading B61 tactical (or short range) bombs that may soon be retired.

With the Cold War over, the Warsaw Pact long gone, and the threat of a Soviet land-attack across central Europe no longer a possibility, there is no military justification for keeping B61 tactical bombs in NATO. These weapons should be returned to the United States and kept in secure storage. We can continue to reassure our NATO allies, and deter any nuclear weapons threat against NATO with nuclear weapons based in the United States and on submarines at sea.

Ruud Lubbers, Dutch prime minister from 1982 to 1994, recently confirmed that B61s are still stored in the Netherlands and said that the bomb is "an absolutely pointless part of a tradition in military thinking."

Strategic B61 Life Extension: Less Costly Alternatives

In addition to the tactical bombs, another 200 B61s are carried by strategic (or long range) B-2 bombers based in the United States, and while they may be reduced in the future, most are likely to remain in service. But even in this case, NNSA's $10 billion, gold-plated life extension plan can be scaled back. There are cheaper options that would save billions of dollars.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chair of the Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee, said in April that NNSA has studied another option for the B61 LEP that would cost billions less. This option, known as the triple alteration or "triple-alt," would replace only three key bomb parts that are said to be nearing the end of their useful lives in the next ten years.

B61 bombs, like all modern nuclear weapons, have certain parts that have a predictable service life and are replaced on a regular basis. The triple-alt plan would replace the bomb's neutron generator, power source, and radar system. This plan would extend the life of B61 bombs for another 10 years, according to NNSA, and would cost approximately $3 billion, according to the Defense Department.

In contrast, the scope of NNSA's $10 billion LEP goes well beyond these three components and involves replacing hundreds of other parts, such as switches, foams, cables, and the bomb's uranium secondary. Many of these parts can wait until we have a better idea of how many B61 bombs are needed for the future. In all likelihood NNSA will be able to reduce the number of bombs to be upgraded, and save money.

Spending $10 billion on upgrading 400 B61 bombs would be a tremendous waste of taxpayer dollars. Instead, we can delay the tactical bomb upgrades for a year or more to see if progress can be made in removing B61s from Europe. As for the strategic version, we should be able to scale back the effort significantly. The scope and cost of the B61 LEP can be reduced by half or more, saving billions of dollars.--TOM Z. COLLINA

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today

Posted: June 25, 2013

Renewed U.S.-Led Nuclear Weapons Risk Reduction Steps Are Necessary and Overdue

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Fifty years after the Cuban missile crisis brought the world to the brink of a nuclear holocaust, the threats posed by the bomb have changed, but still hang over us all. Today, there still are nearly 20,000 nuclear weapons, and nine nuclear-armed states. More countries have access to the technologies needed to produce nuclear bomb material, and the risk of nuclear terrorism is real.

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Volume 4, Issue 5, June 14, 2013

Fifty years after the Cuban missile crisis brought the world to the brink of a nuclear holocaust, the threats posed by the bomb have changed, but still hang over us all. Today, there still are nearly 20,000 nuclear weapons, and nine nuclear-armed states. More countries have access to the technologies needed to produce nuclear bomb material, and the risk of nuclear terrorism is real.

The massive nuclear arsenals of the United States and Russia-the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War-have been reduced through successive arms control agreements. Yet, deployed U.S. and Russian nuclear forces still exceed 1,500 strategic warheads each, far more than necessary to deter nuclear attack.

Last year in South Korea, President Barack Obama declared that "[t]he massive nuclear arsenal we inherited from the Cold War is poorly suited for today's threats, including nuclear terrorism." He noted that his administration is reviewing U.S. nuclear strategy but that we can "already say with confidence that we have more nuclear weapons than we need."

The administration's review of nuclear strategy, completed some 18 months ago, may soon be finalized. The President may also finally outline his 2nd term nuclear risk reduction objectives, including plans for further nuclear reductions with Russia, ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and steps to secure vulnerable nuclear materials.

U.S. leadership is critical on all of these initiatives. Action by President Obama is overdue.

On June 17, Obama will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the margins of the G-8 Summit in Northern Ireland. They will discuss ways to resolve concerns about U.S. missile defense plans and continue cooperative programs to lock-down sensitive nuclear materials. The two leaders could also conclude months of talks designed to reach a new framework agreement for cooperative threat reduction efforts to dispose of many excess Cold War weapons and materials. If a breakthrough on missile defense cooperation and data-sharing can be achieved it could open the way for further U.S.-Russian nuclear reductions beyond the 2010 New START treaty.

Further Nuclear Reductions Are In Order

Even after the 2010 New START agreement, the United States and Russia still possess more than 95% of the world's nuclear weapons. Further, verifiable, reciprocal cuts in U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles will make every American safer by reducing the nuclear firepower that can be delivered within minutes across the globe, while allowing resources to be devoted to more pressing security needs.

Further U.S.-Russian nuclear reductions would also improve the international consensus to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and enhance cooperation to address the threats from North Korea and Iran, and put pressure on other states-including China-to join in the disarmament enterprise.

Nuclear Overkill
The 2010 Nuclear Posture Review Report states that: "the fundamental role of U.S. nuclear forces is to deter nuclear attacks against the U.S. and our allies and partners" and not to "fight and prevail" in a nuclear war. As Ronald Reagan said in 1985: "a nuclear cannot be won and must never be fought."

A "limited" nuclear attack involving just 300 nuclear weapons could kill 75 million Russians immediately and millions more in the weeks and months to follow. The United States can and should reduce its arsenal to 1,000 deployed strategic warheads or fewer-a level than is still more than enough to deter any current or potential adversary and is only 300 warheads fewer than the United States was prepared to agree to during the New START negotiations four years ago.

Next Steps With Russia
President Obama has an opportunity to work with Russia to reduce each side's arsenal to 1,000 or fewer nuclear weapons through a new treaty that takes into account all types of warheads and delivery systems-deployed, nondeployed, strategic, and tactical.

As a November 2012 report from the secretary of state's International Security Advisory Board suggests, with New START verification tools in place, further reciprocal U.S.-Russian nuclear reductions need not wait for a formal follow-on treaty.

If necessary, the presidents could achieve similar results--and more rapidly--through parallel, reciprocal reductions of strategic warheads--to well below 1,000 within the next five years, which could be verified under New START.

Further talks between the United States and Russia should also lead to controls on tactical nuclear weapons. More than 20 years after the end of the Cold War, there is no military rationale for Russia to maintain some 2,000 tactical nuclear bombs, many of which are on obsolete naval and air defense systems. Nor is there any military requirement for the U.S. to keep 180 air-delivered nuclear bombs in Europe, which could cost billions to refurbish.

The High Cost of Excess Nuclear Weapons
Further nuclear reductions would also allow the United States to scale back costly schemes for building a new generation of strategic nuclear delivery systems and rebuilding tactical nuclear bombs. The savings could be used for more pressing national needs.

According to a 2012 study by two Stimson Center researchers, U.S. spending on nuclear weapons is approximately $31 billion per year. The projected costs for maintaining and modernizing the current U.S. nuclear force will increase those costs in the coming decade.

The Navy is currently planning for 12 new nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines to carry more than 1,000 nuclear warheads into the 2070s, at a total cost of almost $350 billion. The Air Force wants a new, nuclear-armed strategic bomber that would cost at least $68 billion, as well as a new fleet of land-based ballistic missiles that would cost billions more. Current plans call for upgrading about 300 units of the tactical version and about 100 of the strategic version of the B61 nuclear warhead at an estimated cost exceeding $10.4 billion.

In July 2011, then-Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright explained that "... we have to recapitalize all three legs [of the nuclear triad], and we don't have the money to do it."

Significant cost reductions can only be achieved if Obama eliminates the current "requirements" for Cold War-sized nuclear forces. A 2013 assessment by the Arms Control Association identifies $39 billion in taxpayer savings over the next decade if the United States right-sizes its nuclear force to 1,000 or fewer strategic deployed nuclear warheads.

Reducing the Risk of Accidental Nuclear War
The President should also follow through on promised action to eliminate the outdated requirements to maintain a large portion of U.S. strategic forces to be ready to launch within minutes, and thereby increase the time available for the President to make decisions involving nuclear forces in a time of crisis.

In 2008, Obama said: "Keeping nuclear weapons ready to launch on a moment's notice is a dangerous relic of the Cold War. Such policies increase the risk of catastrophic accidents or miscalculation. I believe that we must address this dangerous situation-something that President Bush promised to do when he campaigned for president back in 2000, but did not do once in office. I will work with Russia to end such outdated Cold War policies in a mutual and verifiable way."

A reliable and credible nuclear deterrent does not require the ability to retaliate immediately but only the assurance that U.S. nuclear forces and command-and control systems would survive an initial attack.

Strong, Bipartisan Support for Deeper Nuclear Reductions
A wide-range of experts support further reductions to bloated U.S. and Russian nuclear forces.

In April 2012, Gen. James Cartwright, commander of U.S. nuclear forces under President George W. Bush, called for making deep reductions in the U.S. nuclear arsenal and removing the threat of a pre-emptive "decapitating" strike against Russia. Cartwright suggests a nuclear force of 900 total strategic weapons by 2022. The 450 deployed warheads would be off alert, requiring 24 to 72 hours to become launch ready. In the report, "Modernizing U.S. Nuclear Strategy, Force Structure and Posture," Cartwright and his co-authors (former Reagan administration arms control negotiator Richard Burt, former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), former U.S ambassador Thomas Pickering, and retired Gen. Jack Sheehan) conclude that current U.S. and Russian arsenals "vastly exceed what is needed to satisfy reasonable requirements of deterrence."

In a March 7, 2011 Wall Street Journal oped, former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry, and former Sen. Sam Nunn argued that: "Reducing the number of operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles with verification to the levels set by the New Start Treaty is an important step in reducing nuclear risks. Deeper nuclear reductions and changes in nuclear force posture involving the two nations should remain a priority. ... the U.S. and Russia-having led the nuclear buildup for decades-must continue to lead the build-down. The U.S. and its NATO allies, together with Russia, must begin moving away from threatening force postures and deployments."

These nuclear force reductions are consistent with reductions in nuclear forces achieved under previous administrations. For example, during the George W. Bush administration's eight years, the total U.S. arsenal dropped from about 10,500 warheads to just over 5,000-about 50 percent fewer.

Cooperation on Missile Defense and Data-Sharing Is in U.S. and Russian Interests

Since 2011, U.S. and Russian leaders have failed to make progress in their ongoing talks on missile defense cooperation and data sharing, largely due to Russian concerns about U.S. plans for deployment of Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) IIB long-range interceptors in Poland by 2022, which some Russian military officials believe might threaten a portion of Russia's land-based, nuclear-armed ballistic missiles. These concerns have led Russia to resist further progress on offensive nuclear reductions.

But on March 15, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced the effective cancellation of the program, citing congressional funding cuts and significant technical problems. Congress had cut the funding, and the program was plagued with significant technical problems. The Obama administration's latest budget request contains no funding for the SM-3 IIB missile program, and administration officials have told Congress there are no plans to revive it.

With the decision to terminate the program, there is no other U.S. missile interceptor capability in place or under development for Europe that could plausibly threaten Russian strategic missiles. U.S. ground-based strategic interceptors in Alaska and California are limited in number-currently 30, potentially 44 by 2017-and still are not capable of defeating ballistic missiles equipped with countermeasures such as those that Russia deploys.

Instead, U.S. missile defenses will have only a limited capability to counter short- and medium-range missiles from Iran and North Korea and a handful of unsophisticated, long-range missiles that those two states might field in the years ahead.

These realities should open the way to a legally binding Russian-U.S. agreement for the regular exchange of information on missile defense programs. Such an agreement would help Russia verify U.S. claims about its missile defense capabilities and should be accompanied by a joint presidential statement clarifying that the two countries' missile interceptor programs do not threaten each other's security.

In recent weeks, U.S. and Russian officials have exchanged updated proposals.

Sharing of missile defense data is a commonsense, bipartisan idea. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan suggested that both countries abandon the concept of mutual assured destruction by agreeing to eliminate all offensive ballistic missiles within 10 years while researching and jointly developing strategic missile defenses.

In May 2001, President George W. Bush called for "a new cooperative relationship," including in the area of missile defense. In 2004 the Bush administration began seeking a defense technical cooperation agreement with Russia that would have addressed a broad range of cooperative research and development activities, including missile defense.

The 2008 report of the bipartisan Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States found that the United States should "strengthen international cooperation for missile defense...with Russia."

The data-sharing agreement now under discussion would enhance strategic stability and opportunities for U.S.-Russian cooperation on missile defense and joint early-warning procedures.

Moving Forward on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

Since the days of Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, a ban on nuclear testing has been a U.S. national security objective. Today, a legally binding, verifiable ban on all nuclear testing remains a key part of a comprehensive, effective U.S. nuclear risk reduction strategy.  

It has been twenty years after its last nuclear test and the United States no longer needs or wants a resumption of testing. Yet by failing to ratify the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), Washington has denied itself and others the treaty's full security benefits.

President Obama has consistently expressed support for U.S. reconsideration and ratification of the CTBT, which prohibits all nuclear test explosions anywhere. In 2009, he said his administration would pursue "immediate and aggressive" steps to secure ratification. Unfortunately, the administration has not yet launched the kind of effort necessary to secure U.S. ratification and global entry into force.

That Was Then, This Is Now
Since the Senate's brief debate on and rejection of the CTBT 13 years ago, the arguments raised by treaty opponents have been addressed; and a wide range of national security leaders, including former skeptics, now support the treaty.

On March 8, George Shultz, secretary of state under Ronald Reagan, said, "Yes, I clearly think we should ratify that treaty. A senator might have been right to vote against it when it was first put forward and right to vote for it now."

The technical and strategic case for the CTBT is stronger than ever. Today, the U.S. Stockpile Stewardship Program is more successful and better funded than ever before. Even with mandatory cutbacks in U.S. federal spending, the U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories will continue to have approximately 10 percent more funding for maintaining and extending the service lives of existing U.S. nuclear warhead types than they did prior to 2009.

The combination of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization's International Monitoring System and U.S. national monitoring capabilities, along with tens of thousands of civilian seismic monitoring stations, ensures that no potential CTBT violator could be confident that a nuclear explosion of military utility would escape detection. With the treaty in force, there would also be the option of short-notice, on-site inspections.

With the CTBT in force, established nuclear-weapon states, including China, would not be able to proof-test new nuclear warhead designs; newer nuclear-armed nations, including North Korea, would find it far more difficult to build more-advanced warhead types; and emerging nuclear states, such as Iran, would encounter greater obstacles in fielding a reliable arsenal.

Siegfried Hecker, the former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, has underscored that "it is critical to erect as many barriers as possible to the resumption of testing. Ratification of the CTBT and its entry into force is the most important such barrier."

U.S. ratification is essential to close the door on nuclear testing. Action by Washington would likely trigger reconsideration and ratification of the treaty by China, India, and Pakistan, which also must ratify the CTBT before the treaty can formally enter into force.

White House Effort Overdue
To begin, it is important that President Obama announce the appointment of a senior, high-level White House CTBT coordinator, or task force, within the next several weeks. This would help to engage Senators in private conversations on the issues surrounding the CTBT; field their questions, and provide updated assessments regarding the value of the treaty; and communicate that the President is serious about his previous statements on the CTBT.

Bottom Line

Doing nothing is not a prudent option. As Kennedy once suggested, we must work faster and harder to abolish nuclear weapons before they abolish us. In the months ahead, President Obama must re-energize the nuclear risk reduction enterprise and U.S. policymakers must overcome petty partisan politics to help address today's grave nuclear challenges. --DARYL G. KIMBALL


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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today.

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Posted: June 14, 2013

East Coast Missile Defense: A Rush to Failure

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This week, the GOP-controlled House of Representatives will debate and vote on its annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which, among other things, would provide up to $250 million to build a missile defense site on the U.S. East Coast by 2018. This is a bad idea for a number of reasons, and would ultimately lead to a rushed, ineffective system wasting billions of taxpayer dollars.

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Volume 4, Issue 4, June 10, 2013

This week, the GOP-controlled House of Representatives will debate and vote on its annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which, among other things, would provide up to $250 million to build a missile defense site on the U.S. East Coast by 2018. This is a bad idea for a number of reasons, and would ultimately lead to a rushed, ineffective system wasting billions of taxpayer dollars.

If the full House approves an East Coast site, which is likely, the Senate Armed Services Committee, which marks up its bill this week, should not. Like last year, the Senate's cooler heads should oppose a new missile defense site that the Pentagon does not want.

The Pentagon: We Don't Need Another Site

The Pentagon says that there is no military requirement for an East Coast site. At a May 9 Senate Armed Services Strategic Subcommittee hearing, Madelyn Creedon, Assistant Defense Secretary for Global Strategic Affairs, said that the East Coast is already "well protected" by the 30 missile defense interceptors now based in Alaska and California, and the administration's plan to field another 14 interceptors in Alaska by 2017 "provides additional protection" against "anything from North Korea as well as anything from Iran, should that threat develop." Iran does not yet have a long-range missile capable of reaching the United States.

The Pentagon: We Can't Use Additional Funds

Even though the Defense Department does not support an East Coast site, last year Congress directed the Pentagon to explore options for where such a site might be located. In May 8 testimony before the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Missile Defense Agency director Vice Adm. James Syring said he does not need additional funding in fiscal year 2014 because his agency already has funds to assess possible locations, which will be narrowed down to three by the end of the year. After that, an environmental review would last up to two years, he said. Rather than deciding now that the system should be deployed, Congress should wait for the Pentagon to finish its review.

The System Would Not be Effective Against Real-World Threats

To field an East Coast site by 2018, a rush by any measure, the Pentagon would have to use the same technology now deployed on the West Coast, the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system. But the existing technology needs to be scrapped, not replicated. The GMD system has not been "successfully" tested since 2008, with two failures in 2010.

According to a 2012 National Research Council report, the GMD system "has serious shortcomings, and provides at best a limited, initial defense against a relatively primitive threat." The NRC report recommends replacing the GMD system with an entirely new technology, which could take a decade or more to develop.

Moreover, the GMD system has not been proven effective at distinguishing real threat warheads from decoys or debris. As Pentagon Director of Operational Testing Michael Gilmore testified May 9, "If we can't discriminate what the real threatening objects are, it doesn't matter how many ground-based interceptors we have; we won't be able to hit what needs to be hit."

A Third GMD Site Would Be Expensive

The United States has already spent about $40 billion on the (ineffective) GMD system on the West Coast. The Congressional Budget Office has conservatively estimated that a new site would cost $3.6 billion over five years. The NRC report says that the total 20-year cost for a new system at two sites would be $19-25 billion.

Given current fiscal realities, requiring the Pentagon to buy a weapon system it does not need would force it to cut other, higher priority goals, such as solving the discrimination problem. Building a costly third GMD site using outdated, ineffective technology to counter a long-range missile threat that does not exist is not in the best interests of U.S. national security.

Missile Defense Cooperation Is a Bipartisan Goal

In addition, the House NDAA would prevent any executive agreement dealing with missile defense, presumably including agreements to share missile defense information with Russia. This is self-defeating, because the United States stands to benefit from missile defense cooperation.

For example, U.S.-Russian missile defense cooperation could include the sharing of missile launch early-warning information. The Pentagon has been interested in gaining access to data from Russian radars located northwest of Iran, such as the Voronezh radar in Armavir, that could provide useful tracking information to NATO on an Iranian missile launch toward Europe.

Given that early-warning data sharing would improve the United States' and NATO's ability to detect missile launches, it is puzzling that some in Congress oppose providing early warning, detection, and tracking information to Russia. Moscow is highly unlikely to provide this information to the U.S. and NATO unless there is a two-way flow of data.

Despite the concerns of some in Congress that the Obama administration might provide classified information about missile interceptor systems to Moscow, U.S. officials have been clear that they have no such plans. On May 9, Vice Adm. Syring said in response to a question,"I have not declassified any information to give to Russia and I have not been asked to declassify any information to give to Russia." At the same hearing, Creedon said "we have no ability to share any classified information with Russia nor any intent to share any classified information with Russia."

Moreover, U.S.-Russian efforts to cooperate on missile defense have enjoyed bipartisan support, with roots in the Reagan administration's offer to share missile defense technology with the Soviet Union. In 2004, the George W. Bush administration began seeking a Defense Technical Cooperation Agreement (DTCA) with Russia. This agreement would have addressed a broad range of cooperative research and development activities, including missile defense.

Further Bilateral Reductions Are In the U.S. National Interest

The House NDAA also proposes to block implementation of the 2010 New START Treaty between the United States and Russia, as well as further reductions beyond New START. Once again, this is self-defeating as nuclear arms reductions, with a long bipartisan tradition, serve to increase U.S. national security.

It was President Ronald Reagan who, in 1986, shifted U.S. policy away from ever-higher nuclear stockpiles--which peaked at about 30,000 nuclear warheads--and started down the path of reductions that continues today. U.S. and Russian arsenals have now been reduced by more than two-thirds, and the world is safer for it.

If the House NDAA provisions to block funding to implement New START were to become law, Russia would likely halt its nuclear reductions as well, risking the treaty's collapse. This would allow Moscow to rebuild its nuclear forces above the treaty ceiling of 1,550 deployed strategic warheads and increase the number of nuclear weapons aimed at the United States.

Moreover, the inspection system established under the treaty could collapse, depriving the U.S. of crucial data exchanges and on-site inspections of Russian forces, undermining transparency and strategic stability.

At the same time, the House NDAA would prohibit further nuclear arsenal reductions unless approved by the Senate as part of a treaty. While a treaty may be the ideal way, depending on circumstances, to implement further arms reductions, there are other ways.

For example, in 1991 President George H.W. Bush announced unilateral reductions in U.S. tactical nuclear weapons and did not seek congressional approval. Similarly, President George W. Bush reduced the U.S. nuclear stockpile by more than 50 percent, saying in 2001, "We don't need arms control negotiations to reduce our weaponry in a significant way."

B61 Is Already Overfunded

The House bill would provide $581 million for the B61 Life Extension Program (LEP), $44 million above the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)'s fiscal 2014 request, which is already a 45 percent increase over fiscal 2013.

Instead of increasing funding for the B61, Congress should scale it back. NNSA is planning to extend the service life of 400 B61 gravity bombs for an estimated cost of $10 billion, or $25 million per bomb. But NNSA's gold-plated plan would replace hundreds of parts in each bomb that do not need to be replaced now. NNSA has a cheaper option for the B61 LEP that would cost just $1.5 to 2 billion, or 80 percent less, and replace only the parts that need replacement due to aging. There is no reason to spend the extra $8 billion, especially as some NATO allies are calling for the bombs deployed in Europe to be removed and given that the 180 B61s stored in Europe are not militarily useful or necessary today.

Time to Stop Playing Games

It is time to stop playing political games with U.S. nuclear weapons policy. Continued, verified reductions of excessive U.S. and Russian arsenals will enhance U.S. security by reducing the nuclear threat.

As the Pentagon said in January, "It is possible that our deterrence goals can be achieved with a smaller nuclear force, which would reduce the number of nuclear weapons in our inventory, as well as their role in U.S. national security strategy."

Gen. James E. Cartwright, the retired vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and commander of U.S. nuclear forces in the George W. Bush administration, said last year that U.S. deterrence requirements could be achieved with a total arsenal of 900 strategic nuclear warheads.

The major threats the United States faces today, such as proliferation, terrorism or cyber attacks, cannot be addressed with nuclear weapons. Rather than demanding American taxpayers cough up yet more money for programs that we don't need, Congress needs to focus on more cost-effective solutions that address the nation's future defense requirements.--Tom Z. Collina

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today.

Posted: June 10, 2013

Closing the Deal on a Robust Global Arms Trade Treaty

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Diplomats from the United States and over 100 other countries will meet in at the United Nations in New York this month for the "final" meeting to negotiate a legally-binding, global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).

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Volume 4, Issue 3, March 13, 2013

Diplomats from the United States and over 100 other countries will meet in at the United Nations in New York this month for the "final" meeting to negotiate a legally-binding, global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).

When completed, ATT has the potential to reduce the unregulated and illicit flow of weapons and ammunition into conflict zones that are fueling wars and enabling human rights abuses against civilians.

The March 18-28 diplomatic conference will start from the draft Arms Trade Treaty that emerged from the July 2012 negotiating forum. The treaty would:

  • establish legal prohibitions on arms and ammunition transfers that contribute to war crimes;
  • require that all states put in place national regulations on international arms transfers;
  • set forth common international standards for approval of the transfers; and
  • mandate regular reporting on arms transfers.

Human rights, development, security, religious organizations, and relief organizations on every continent--including the International Committee of the Red Cross--are working together to press key governments--including the United States--to help close the deal on a robust and effective treaty "with the highest possible standards."

In response to a Feb. 19 letter from 36 nongovernmental organizations to President Barack Obama, a White House spokesperson told Reuters Feb. 25:

"The U.S. objective is to bring other countries in line with existing U.S. best practices, which will have a positive humanitarian impact and reduce the chances that illicit arms flow to terrorists and those that would commit human rights violations."

The United States was among a handful of states that failed to join consensus on the treaty after a month-long conference in July 2012 saying "more time was needed" to complete the process.

Now, months later, President Obama has a chance to help close the deal on a robust, effective Arms Trade Treaty.

Years in the Making

Efforts to secure the ATT have been underway for more than a decade. In November 1999, with the support of then-Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), the U.S. Congress approved the International Arms Sales Code of Conduct Act. It required the President to begin negotiations on a multilateral regime on arms export criteria and restricts U.S. arms transfers to countries that do not observe certain fundamental values of human liberty, peace, and international stability.

International efforts to negotiate a global Arms Trade Treaty began in 2006. Pressure for action has come from a core group of states including Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Finland, Japan, Kenya, and the United Kingdom. Since 2009, the United States has supported efforts to negotiate an ATT.

To finalize the treaty at this month's conference, states must approve the final text by consensus. However, the rules also allow the treaty to remain on the UN General Assembly's agenda, meaning a vote to endorse the treaty could be called if some states block consensus at the March conference.

The Need to Act

Thousands of civilians around the globe are slaughtered each year by weapons that are sold, transferred by governments or diverted to unscrupulous regimes, criminals, illegal militias, and terrorist groups.

The ongoing conflicts in Syria and Mali--like recent wars in Sudan, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Congo--vividly underscore the urgent necessity of common-sense rules to prevent the international transfer of weapons.

The unregulated arms trade increases the availability of small arms and ammunition in conflict zones. According to a 2012 report published by Oxfam, more than $2.2 billion worth of arms and ammunition has been imported since 2000 by countries operating under 26 UN, regional, or multilateral arms embargoes in force during this period.

While the United States and a few other countries have relatively tough regulations governing the trade of weapons, many countries have weak or ineffective regulations, if they have any at all. Only 52 of the world's 192 governments have laws regulating arms brokers, and less than half of these have criminal or monetary penalties associated with illegal brokering.

The patchwork of laws allows irresponsible arms brokers--such as the notorious Victor Bout--to operate on the margins of the international regulatory system and circumvent the jurisdiction of countries like the United States.

Main Elements of the Proposed ATT

The current draft text of the ATT would require all states-parties to adopt basic regulations and approval processes for the flow of weapons across international borders, establish common international standards that must be met before arms transfers are authorized, and require annual reporting of such transfers. The July 2012 draft treaty:

  • requires that states "shall establish or update, as appropriate, and maintain a national control list" and "shall designate competent national authorities in order to have an effective and transparent national control system regulating the international transfer of conventional arms." (Currently only 90 countries have international arms transfer regulations;)
  • prohibits arms transfers to states if the transfer would violate "obligations under measures adopted by the United Nations Security Council acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, in particular arms embargoes;" other "relevant international obligations;" or would be "for the purpose of facilitating the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, [or] war crimes constituting grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions;"
  • prohibits an arms transfer if the state determines there is an "overriding risk" that the transfer could be used to "commit or facilitate a serious violation of international humanitarian law," "a serious violation of international human rights law," or an act of terrorism;
  • requires that states "shall establish and maintain a national control system to regulate the export of ammunition for conventional arms under the scope" of an ATT and shall apply the authorization criteria and prohibitions established by the treaty prior to authorizing any export of ammunition;
  • requires that each state "shall take the appropriate measures, within its national laws, to regulate brokering taking place under its jurisdiction for conventional arms under the scope" of an ATT; and
  • allows for entry into force when 65 states ratify the treaty.

Key Issues and Challenges

Although the proposed ATT has drawn support from the vast majority of UN member states, several potential obstacles could complicate the March 18-28 negotiations:

  • The short amount of time (10 working days) will require states to limit their proposed adjustments and clarifications to the draft treaty; and
  • Hard-core treaty opponents could stymie efforts to finalize the text simply by creating delays. A small group calling themselves the "Friends of the ATT," including Iran, Syria, Venezuela, and others, has emerged. All these states have expressed strong reservations about the treaty.

A number of states are pressing for small but important adjustments that would strengthen the treaty.

In a Feb. 19, 2013 letter to President Obama, 36 U.S. human rights, development, security, and religious organizations wrote: "The United States, as the world's leading arms supplier, has a special responsibility to provide the leadership needed for an ATT with the highest possible standards for the transfer of conventional arms and ammunition."

ATT supporters have identified three key issues upon which Obama's leadership is particularly important:

Banning Arms for Atrocities--the United States can help strengthen Article 3 of the draft treaty text to ensure it prohibits arms transfers that will aid and abet war crimes, genocide, or crimes against humanity and to perpetrators of a consistent pattern of serious violations of international human rights law.

Currently, the draft treaty would prohibit authorization of conventional arms transfers "for the purpose of facilitating" genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes as defined by the Geneva Conventions of 1949. A small number of states, particularly Russia, which continues to resupply the Assad regime in Syria with weapons during that country's civil war, have expressed concerns about the effect of this core provision of the treaty on their ability to provide arms to their allies.

ATT supporters are seeking to strengthen that section of the treaty and/or modify it to ensure it is not interpreted in a way that may undermine existing understandings of international humanitarian law.

Stronger Human Rights Risk Assessment--the United States can help to strengthen the requirement in the treaty to ensure that arms exporters rigorously assess the risk of a proposed export being used to commit or facilitate a serious violation of international human rights, humanitarian law or acts of terrorism.

Including Ammunition in the Treaty--the flow of ammunition helps to feed and prolong conflicts and armed violence. The draft ATT under consideration would require that each state "establish and maintain a national control system to regulate the export of ammunition for conventional arms under the scope of this Treaty." This provision is fully consistent with U.S. law and practice.

Several African states are expected to press for the inclusion of ammunition in the scope of the treaty in a way that mandates import and export regulation. The Obama administration has not yet expressed its support for including ammunition in the scope section of the treaty, even though the United States already licenses the import and export of conventional arms and ammunition under the Arms Export Control Act. But because of a law passed in 1986 that restricts reporting on the importation of ammunition, U.S. officials continue to tell other delegations that they oppose the inclusion of ammunition in the scope section of the treaty.

Failure by the United States to support the compromise language already in the draft treaty requiring the regulation of ammunition exports could unravel the talks in March.

Closing the "Gift" Loophole--Chinese diplomats have objected to possible changes to the current text that would explicitly apply the treaty guidelines and prohibitions to state-to-state "gifts" of conventional weapons. Other states are concerned that transfers labeled as gifts could create a loophole in the treaty.

The NRA's Myths and the Realities of the ATT

Unfortunately, here in the United States, the value of an ATT has been obscured by the misleading lobbying efforts of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its proxies in Congress who allege that the treaty will clash with legal firearms possession in the United States. That is not the case.

In July 2012, the NRA's CEO Wayne LaPierre told the UN "the NRA wants no part of any treaty that infringes on the precious right of lawful Americans to keep and bear arms."  He said "any treaty that includes civilian firearms ownership in its scope will be met with the NRA's greatest force of opposition."

Allegations that an ATT would infringe on the right of U.S. citizens to legally possess firearms amount to irresponsible demagoguery. Claims by the NRA and its allies that they will block an ATT that affects domestic gun ownership are little more than cynical fundraising ploys given the fact that the treaty would not do so.

Such measures are undeniably outside the scope of the treaty and the Obama administration has repeatedly stated that it opposes any infringement on national gun ownership rights.

The 2009 UN General Assembly resolution establishing the ATT negotiation process explicitly acknowledges the exclusive right of states "to regulate internal transfers of arms and national ownership, including through national constitutional protections."

Nevertheless, some of the NRA's arguments have been echoed in letters circulated by Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and signed by 55 other senators beginning in 2010. Although both letters recognize the security and humanitarian benefits of the treaty, the Moran letter expresses concern that the ATT might monitor certain internal arms transfers.

This year, a group of 76 Congressional members have introduced a resolution opposing the Arms Trade Treaty as a threat to Second Amendment guarantees.

However, a February 26, 2013 analysis from the American Bar Association Center for Human Rights concludes such concerns are unfounded. Under the proposed ATT, "the United States retains the discretion to regulate the flow of weapons into and out of the United States in a manner consistent with the Second Amendment," according to the analysis.

Another objection cited by skeptics is the inclusion of small arms and light weapons in the treaty. This argument ignores the fact that the U.S. government already controls the export and import of small arms and light weapons and their ammunition. It is in the interest of the United States to ensure that other states are required to follow similar practices. The Obama administration--and the vast majority of other governments--are on record in support of including small arms and light weapons in the scope of the treaty.

Some Congressional skeptics have incorrectly suggested that the ATT would prevent arms deals with U.S. allies Israel or Taiwan. With or without the ATT, the United States will continue to make its own determinations regarding whether a proposed arms sale meets the existing U.S. criteria for arms transfers.

The United States sometimes attaches conditions on certain arms transfers to reduce the risk that U.S. supplied weapons are used in a manner inconsistent with U.S. or international guidelines. The only arms transfers that are to be expressly prohibited under the ATT are those that facilitate the commission of genocide, war crimes, or to countries that are subjected to a UN arms embargo.

Advocates of legal civilian gun possession should recognize the value of an ATT in reducing the carnage created by illicit and irresponsible international arms transfers and the responsibility to protect civilians who are threatened by conflicts fueled by the irresponsible arms trade.

Bottom Line: The Responsibility to Protect

The Arms Trade Treaty will not, by itself, prevent all illicit and irresponsible arms trafficking, but it will help reduce the enormous toll of armed conflict around the globe.

As then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a July 2012 speech at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial on preventing the mass slaughter of civilians, there must be a new emphasis on prevention. She said we can "directly pressure those who organize atrocities and cut off the resources they need to continue their violence."

In a speech before the UN Security Council on Feb. 13, 2013, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on states to conclude the Arms Trade Treaty:

"We all have a responsibility to protect. Violence against civilians is unquestionably abetted by the free flow of weapons. We urgently need a robust and comprehensive agreement that addresses the humanitarian impact of the poorly regulated trade in arms."

Congress should support the Obama administration's effort to secure an effective Arms Trade Treaty that raises the arms transfer standards of other states closer to those of the United States.

No one, except maybe illicit arms dealers and human rights abusers, should oppose common-sense international law regulating the arms trade.--Daryl G. Kimball

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today.

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Posted: March 11, 2013

Threats to Block Russian-U.S. Nuclear Cuts Are Ill-Founded

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In his State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama reiterated that the United States will continue to seek to reduce the size of the still-bloated U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals. Obama said the United States would "engage Russia to seek further reductions in our nuclear arsenals."

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Volume 4, Issue 2, March 7, 2013

In his State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama reiterated that the United States will continue to seek to reduce the size of the still-bloated U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals. Obama said the United States would "engage Russia to seek further reductions in our nuclear arsenals."

According to recent news reports from the Center for Public Integrity and The New York Times, the Obama administration, backed by the Defense Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has determined that the number of deployed strategic warheads in the U.S. arsenal can be lowered to 1,000-1,100, in tandem with further Russian reductions, while still ensuring U.S. security and savings scarce defense dollars.

Senators' Concerns Based on Faulty Assumptions
Unfortunately, two key Republican leaders in the Senate have responded by saying they will not consider a new arms control treaty unless the administration meets unrealistic and vague demands for spending tens of billions of dollars on a Cold War-sized strategic nuclear force during a time of budget austerity.

Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, wrote in a Feb. 26 op-ed that, "no arms-control treaty is likely even to get a vote in the Senate" until the U.S. has a modern nuclear infrastructure "capable of responding to any future challenges to the country's strategic interests."

And, contrary to the conventional wisdom and the assessments of military planners about the type of nuclear force needed to deter 21st century nuclear dangers, Corker and Inhofe assert that a smaller nuclear force would be insufficient to deter threats against the United States or its allies.

In practical terms, the U. S. ability to deter nuclear threats would not be diminished in any way if the United States were to reduce its deployed nuclear weapons stockpile as the administration is proposing.

The 2010 New START treaty limits the U.S. and Russian arsenals to 1,550 deployed strategic warheads each by 2018. Each side has thousands more non-deployed and/or non-strategic warheads. Further reductions are prudent and sensible.

Other than Russia, the only potential U.S. adversary with a long-range nuclear capability is China, which has no more than 50 to 75 single-warhead intercontinental ballistic missiles, according to the Pentagon. If the United States reduces its deployed strategic arsenal by one-third, Washington would still maintain an overwhelming numerical edge of more than 10-to-1 over China.

As a Defense Department strategy review released in Jan. 2012 determined: "It is possible that our deterrence goals can be achieved with a smaller nuclear force, which would reduce the number of nuclear weapons in our inventory as well as their role in U.S. national security strategy."

Corker and Inhofe also assert without any evidence that "as America rushes to disarm," some potential adversaries may be encouraged "to acquire or expand their nuclear arsenals."

In reality, the United States is not rushing to disarm and another round of bilateral U.S.-Russian arms reductions would more likely discourage--not encourage--Russia to forego planned strategic nuclear force modernization of its own, create new opportunities to begin verifiable cuts in Russia's sizeable Cold War-era stockpile of tactical bombs, and open up options to prod other nuclear-armed states, particularly China, to take a more active role in the nuclear risk reduction process.

Nuclear Modernization Funding Myths and Realities
The central argument of the Corker-Inhofe op-ed is that the Obama administration is not meeting its political commitments to fund the U.S. nuclear weapons infrastructure.

This assertion misrepresents the New START debate of 2010 and the nature of the commitments the administration made to the Senate regarding future funding for Department of Defense and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) nuclear weapons projects over the next decade. The administration made clear in its Nov. 2011 report to Congress on future nuclear weapons spending (known as the Section 1251 report) that its budget "projections" are not "fixed in stone" but were most accurately described as a "snapshot in time" that will be "evaluated each year and adjusted as necessary." There was a clear understanding that the budget projections would change.

Nevertheless, Corker and Inhofe try to assign blame to the Obama administration for Congress' decision to appropriate $770 million less for NNSA weapons activities than originally proposed by the Obama administration. But the administration requested $7.6 billion for fiscal year 2013, a 5 percent increase over the previous year at a time of declining budgets. Moreover, it was House Republicans that cut the administration's full budget request for fiscal 2012. Congress holds the purse strings, not the White House.

Corker and Inhofe's arguments ignore the reality that the long-term funding estimates for the nuclear triad and the nuclear weapons complex were developed before the 2011 Budget Control Act passed, before the "super-committee" failed to agree on a path forward, and before mandatory "sequestration" budget cuts went into effect on March 1.

The new and more restrictive fiscal environment will require Congress and the administration to make smarter, less costly choices about how to maintain U.S. nuclear forces. Demands to increase NNSA funding each year for the next decade are unrealistic.

Going forward, the administration and the Congress will need to work together to ensure the nuclear weapons labs and NNSA are focused on the highest priority stockpile maintenance tasks, the most important and cost-effective warhead life extension strategies, and only the most important infrastructure revitalization projects.

Not only have the fiscal realities changed, but some of the technical assumptions behind the 2010 plans for modernizing the nuclear weapons complex have also been revised, which, in turn, open up possibilities for budget savings.

The proposed plutonium facility at Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico is a good example. When it was first designed, NNSA estimated that the facility would need to support 50-80 plutonium parts per year. But since then we have learned that the parts last decades longer than originally thought, meaning that fewer parts would need to be produced each year.

Now, the NNSA believes it can avoid building a new $6 billion facility and, instead, maintaining the U.S. nuclear arsenal with the plutonium lab facilities that already exist at much lower cost.

The two Senators also assert that "any changes" to U.S. missile defense plans, as may be necessary to secure Russian support for arms reductions, "will be a clear nonstarter for the U.S. Senate."

The Obama administration has said repeatedly that it will not agree to binding limits on missile interceptor capabilities. But not all missile defense plans work out as expected, and changes to the current plan are going to be necessary and are prudent.

The Pentagon's own analysis has found that the missile defense system planned for Europe to intercept future long-range missiles from Iran, known as the SM-3 IIB, may not be effective, and that "modifications are needed" to how the system would operate and where it would be based.

U.S. Nuclear Policy and Proliferation
Corker and Inhofe also erroneously claim that the Obama administration's "drive toward zero" nuclear weapons has failed because it has not led Iran and North Korea to abandon their nuclear ambitions.

To be clear, the Obama administration and proponents of right-sizing the U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles do not claim that further superpower nuclear arms reductions would directly lead other states, such as Iran, to give up their nuclear ambitions. Such a direct link is overly simplistic.

As then-Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher said in a speech in Omaha on July 29, 2010:

"We are not so naïve as to believe that problem states will end their proliferation programs if the United States and Russia reduce our nuclear arsenals. But we are confident that progress in this area will reinforce the central role of the NPT and help us build support to sanction or engage states on favorable terms to us. Our collective ability to bring the weight of international pressure against proliferators would be undermined by a lack of effort towards disarmament."

Progress on U.S. and Russian arsenal reductions are an essential part of building international support to reduce a range of nuclear risks. We depend on other nations to protect weapons-usable materials, support economic sanctions and enforce trade embargoes. And those nations, including our closest allies in NATO and elsewhere, support continued U.S. and Russian arsenal reductions.

Encouraging Russian Hardliners
By resisting further negotiated U.S.-Russian nuclear reductions, Corker and Inhofe are aligning themselves with nationalist forces in Moscow who believe Russia is still locked in a Cold War struggle with the United States and must build new nuclear weapons systems to counter superior U.S. nuclear and conventional military capabilities.

A more sensible and prudent approach, as President Obama has suggested, is to pursue further verifiable reductions in all types of U.S. and Russian nuclear weaponry.

But if defenders of the nuclear status quo in Washington make that too difficult, reciprocal reductions of strategic forces below New START levels should be considered and pursued.

As the State Department's International Security Advisory Board's Nov. 27, 2012 report suggested, Russia and the United States could seek additional reductions on the basis of a mutual understanding rather than a formal treaty. Such an understanding "can be quicker and less politically costly, relative to treaties with adversarial negotiations and difficult ratification processes," the board wrote.

Such thinking is not without precedent. President George W. Bush was prepared to go even further in 2001 with significant unilateral reductions to the deployed U.S. strategic arsenal. "We don't need arms control negotiations to reduce our weaponry in a significant way ... and, at the same time, keep the peace," Bush said on Nov. 13, 2001. The United States and Russia would later codify mutual reductions (to less than 2,200 strategic deployed warheads) through the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty.

Bottom Line
As George Shultz, Bill Perry, Henry Kissinger, and Sam Nunn recently wrote: "A global effort is needed to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons, prevent their spread, and ultimately end them as a threat to the world. It will take leadership, creative approaches and thoughtful understanding of the perils of inaction."

In the months ahead, U.S. policymakers must overcome petty partisan politics to support sensible measures that help address today's grave nuclear challenges.--Tom Z. Collina and Daryl G. Kimball

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today.

 

Posted: March 7, 2013

Administration Poised to Trim Costly Nuclear Weapons Excess

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According to a new report published today by the Center for Public Integrity, the Barack Obama administration has determined that the United States can further reduce its nuclear force while maintaining a strong deterrent against any threat. The report cites administration sources who say the reductions will not occur immediately nor would they be undertaken unilaterally, but they suggest the administration will seek to pursue deeper nuclear arms cuts in tandem with Russia.

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Volume 4, Issue 1, February 8, 2013

According to a new report published today by the Center for Public Integrity, the Barack Obama administration has determined that the United States can further reduce its nuclear force while maintaining a strong deterrent against any threat. The report cites administration sources who say the reductions will not occur immediately nor would they be undertaken unilaterally, but they suggest the administration will seek to pursue deeper nuclear arms cuts in tandem with Russia.

Further reductions in the U.S. arsenal have been expected for some time. The Pentagon's Jan. 2012 strategy document, "Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense," found: "It is possible that our deterrence goals can be achieved with a smaller nuclear force, which would reduce the number of nuclear weapons in our inventory as well as their role in U.S. national security strategy."

In a March 26, 2012 speech President Obama said:

"My Administration's nuclear posture recognizes that the massive nuclear arsenal we inherited from the Cold War is poorly suited for today's threats, including nuclear terrorism. So last summer, I directed my national security team to conduct a comprehensive study of our nuclear forces.  That study is still underway.  But even as we have more work to do, we can already say with confidence that we have more nuclear weapons than we need. I firmly believe that we can ensure the security of the United States and our allies, maintain a strong deterrent against any threat, and still pursue further reductions in our nuclear arsenal."

Budget Realities

The decision to seek further U.S. nuclear force reductions will not only help reduce excess Russian and U.S. nuclear stockpiles and reduce nuclear risks, but as the Center for Public Integrity report notes, the administration's decision "opens the door to billions of dollars in military savings."

If Congress and the White House are serious about reducing the growing federal deficit, they must seize the opportunity to scale-back costly schemes for building a new generation of strategic nuclear delivery systems and rebuilding tactical nuclear bombs. The Department of Defense is on the verge of making major, long-term decisions worth hundreds of billions of dollars about how many new missiles, submarines and bombers the nation needs for the next 50 years. Overbuying now would have adverse budget implications down the road.

Existing U.S. Navy plans call for 12 new ballistic missile submarines with a lifetime cost of almost $350 billion. The Air Force is seeking up to 100 new, nuclear-armed strategic bombers that would cost at least $68 billion, as well as a new fleet of land-based ballistic missiles (price unknown). The Pentagon and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) have been pursuing a costly, $10 billion plan for upgrading B61 nuclear bombs in Europe, which may no longer be there by the time the upgrades are finished.

With an unlimited federal budget, some might argue that these new programs should continue until it is clear how much further the U.S. and Russia might reduce their nuclear stockpiles. But given the current budget crisis, it simply makes no sense to build major weapons systems that we can't afford and that the United States clearly does not need.

The United States spends about $31 billion annually, according to independent estimates, to support an arsenal of about 1,700 deployed strategic warheads and associated delivery systems-missiles, submarines, and bombers-and to maintain the other warheads (including non-deployed and non-strategic) in the active nuclear stockpile, which total approximately 5,000 weapons.

The 2010 New START Treaty will take the United States down to 1,550 deployed strategic warheads by 2018; Russia is already below that level.

Other than Russia, the only potential U.S. adversary with a long-range nuclear capability is China, which has no more than 50 to 75 single-warhead intercontinental ballistic missiles, according to the Pentagon.

After signing New START, President Obama said he would pursue a new treaty with Russia to further reduce strategic weapons, as well as seek new limits on tactical weapons and warheads in storage.  According to the latest Center for Public Integrity report, the administration has determined it can and will reduce U.S. strategic forces to 1,000-1,100, or about one-third below New START levels.

Modest Nuclear Cuts Produce Major Budget Savings
There are several pathways that the administration and the Congress can reduce the U.S. nuclear arsenal and save billions. The following are some potential options:

  • Right-size the Strategic Sub Fleet. The strategic submarine program is where the big money is, and the United States can safely reduce the size of the force. In January 2012, the Pentagon said it would delay deployment of the new replacement submarine (called the SSBNX) by two years, from 2029 to 2031, saving $6-7 billion over the next 10 years. Without a reduction in the size of the force, however, the overall cost of the program will remain the same (or even rise) and take resources away from the Navy's other high-priority shipbuilding projects.

    By reducing the existing Ohio-class nuclear-armed sub fleet from 14 to 10 or fewer boats and building no more than eight new nuclear-armed subs, the United States could save up to $18 billion over 10 years. By revising Cold War-era prompt launch requirements and increasing the warhead loadings on each submarine, the Navy could still deploy the same number of strategic nuclear warheads as currently planned under New START (about 1,000) at sea on a smaller fleet of eight subs.

    Procurement of the first new SSBNX can be delayed until 2024 and its deployment postponed until the Ohio class fleet is reduced to seven in 2033. Savings include personnel costs, procurement costs from pushing back the SSBNX purchase dates, and operations and management costs saved by   reducing the current Ohio class fleet.
  • Delay Spending on New Strategic Bombers. The United States can postpone work on a new $68 billion, nuclear-armed strategic bomber fleet. There is no rush to field a fleet of new bombers given the Pentagon's plan to retain 60 of the existing nuclear-capable, long-range B-2 and B-52 bombers into the 2040s. Delaying development of the new bomber would save $18 billion over the next decade.
  • Trim the ICBM Force. The Air Force can trim the land-based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) force from 450 to 300 or fewer by cutting one squadron at each of the three Air Force bases where such missiles are deployed. This move would save approximately $360 million in operations and maintenance costs in the coming fiscal year and $3-4 billion over the next decade.

    As for a new ICBM, in January the Air Force requested proposals to build a new force starting in 2025, including the possibility of basing the missiles on underground railcars, or above ground on trucks. Another option is to keep the current Minuteman III until 2075.
  • Scale Back the B61 Tactical Nuclear Bomb. The White House and Congress must enforce greater budgetary discipline for the B61 bomb life extension program (LEP). According to a 2012 Pentagon audit, the cost of upgrading about 400 bombs is estimated to exceed $10.4 billion, or roughly $25 million each. This is an increase of $6 billion over the NNSA's original estimate.

    It is possible that a future agreement between Russia and the United States would, as the Senate has directed, address tactical nuclear weapons, which could reduce or eliminate these warheads. Thus, B61 tactical bombs might not be deployed a decade from now, when the proposed rebuilding program would be complete. There is time to reevaluate the LEP plan and scale it back, or to delay the program into the mid 2020s.

Fresh thinking is in order. The United States does not need and cannot afford an oversized nuclear arsenal. Programs that address low-priority threats can be scaled-back to make room for more pressing national priorities and reduce the deficit.

By revising outdated nuclear war-fighting plans, President Obama is opening the way for lower U.S.-Russian nuclear force levels, reductions involving the world's other nuclear-armed states, and much needed federal budget savings.--Daryl G. Kimball and Tom Z. Collina

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today

Posted: February 8, 2013

Time Is Now to Act on Treaties to Guard Against Nuclear Terrorism

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As the 112th Congress enters its final days, one of its critical priorities should be approving implementing legislation for two treaties that help raise the barriers against nuclear terrorism.

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Volume 3, Issue 15, December 3, 2012

As the 112th Congress enters its final days, one of its critical priorities should be approving implementing legislation for two treaties that help raise the barriers against nuclear terrorism.

For more than a decade, U.S. defense and security leaders have warned that nuclear terrorism poses a severe threat to American security. The 9/11 Commission report stated, "The greatest danger of another catastrophic attack in the United States will materialize if the world's most dangerous terrorists acquire the world's most dangerous weapons."

During the 2004 presidential debates, the two candidates agreed that "the biggest threat facing the country is weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a terrorist network." At the Cooperative Threat Reduction symposium in Washington, D.C., December 3, President Obama reiterated that "nuclear terrorism remains one of the greatest threats to global security."

The task now is for the United States and other key countries to implement the action steps necessary to get the job done.

At the first 2010 nuclear security summit in Washington, the Obama administration announced the acceleration of U.S. efforts to complete ratification procedures for the two treaties. It urged other countries to do the same.

Congress needs to act on the treaty legislation before it so that U.S. law will align with the norms Washington has been seeking to internationalize. The treaties, the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, and the 2005 amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials, are common sense measures that enhance the world's ability to prevent incidents of nuclear terrorism and punish those responsible.

The amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials will add standards of protection for the storage and use of nuclear materials and strengthen existing measures for materials in transport, but the United States and other countries have to ratify the amendment before it can enter into force.

The International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism creates an important legal framework to investigate, prosecute and extradite those who commit terrorist acts with dirty bombs, nuclear material or against nuclear facilities. Such a framework is necessary for effective international action against nuclear terrorists.

As Andy Semmel, a senior State Department official under George W. Bush, recently noted that these treaties "would strengthen the ability of the United States and, ultimately, the international community, to fight the threat of nuclear and radiological terrorism and help prevent nuclear proliferation."

By approving these measures, the United States will set a positive example that can influence the actions taken by other nations and help achieve the ambitious goals that the United States endorsed at the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit in March 2012. One of these goals is entry into force of the amendment for the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials by 2014.

After strong backing for the treaties from the president and his predecessor, the House of Representatives finally passed compromise implementing legislation earlier this year with broad bipartisan support. House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Michigan) urged prompt passage of their bill in a November 14 letter to the Senate leadership. They explained in the letter that they had "worked together closely, in consultation with the Departments of Justice and State, to carefully craft bipartisan legislation to finally achieve implementation of the critical treaties."

However, rather than facilitating swift Senate action on the treaties, Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) slowed the process in the Judiciary Committee by seeking amendments on issues his Republican colleagues in the House had already set aside.

The Grassley amendments are peripheral to the requirements for effective action against nuclear terrorism at home and potentially counter-productive for spurring other states to adopt necessary measures. His insistence on imposing the death sentence in terrorism cases is especially ill-advised considering opposition from most of the world's democracies and ironic from a senator whose own state eliminated capital punishment from its laws in 1965.

Without fast-track treatment by the Senate of the bipartisan bill from the House, there will be no action on the treaties in the current Congress and possibly none in the next. And U.S. inaction will have a negative impact on progress against nuclear terrorism by other countries. As terrorist groups ramp up their attempts to acquire nuclear material, failure to expeditiously support international measures to cope with this threat is irresponsible.

Members of the current Congress confront an enormous challenge in quickly overcoming the rancor of the election campaign to attend to the nation's business over the few weeks remaining in the current session. Passing the bipartisan legislation from the House on the nuclear terrorism treaties would be an excellent start.--GREG THIELMANN

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today.

Posted: December 3, 2012

No Going Back: 20 Years Since the Last U.S. Nuclear Test

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On September 23, 1992, under the surface of the Nevada Test Site, the United States conducted its 1,030th--and last--nuclear weapon test explosion. At the time, there were serious questions about whether the United States could indefinitely extend the service lives of its nuclear warheads without regular nuclear testing.

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Volume 3, Issue 14, September 20, 2012

On September 23, 1992, under the surface of the Nevada Test Site, the United States conducted its 1,030th--and last--nuclear weapon test explosion. At the time, there were serious questions about whether the United States could indefinitely extend the service lives of its nuclear warheads without regular nuclear testing.

But today, with the help of two decades of hard data and problem-solving through the nuclear weapons Stockpile Stewardship Program, those questions have been answered. As Bruce T. Goodwin, principal associate director for weapons at Livermore National Laboratory told The Washington Post in November 2011: "We have a more fundamental understanding of how these weapons work today than we ever imagined when we were blowing them up."

It is now widely recognized that the United States no longer has any need for, nor any interest in, conducting nuclear explosive tests.

Four presidential administrations have determined that it remains in the U.S. national security interests to refrain from resuming nuclear explosive testing: George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The more time passes the more it becomes clear: the days of U.S. nuclear testing are over.

The Test Ban and Stockpile Stewardship

The 1992 U.S. testing halt was triggered by Congressional approval of the Exon-Hatfield-Mitchell 9-month test moratorium legislation--a bipartisan initiative that was prompted by the end of the Cold War, the closure of the Soviet test site in Kazakhstan in 1989, and Russia's unilateral test moratorium announced on October 5, 1991.

The Senate approved the measure on August 3, 1992 by a 68-32 vote. The House adopted it on September 24 by a 224-151 margin. The legislation limited the number and purpose of any additional testing and set a September 30, 1996 end date for U.S. testing.

On July 3, 1993, after an extensive interagency review, President Bill Clinton nnounced he would extend the U.S. moratorium and pursue multilateral negotiations for a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Negotiations began in 1994 and concluded in mid-1996. The treaty, which was opened for signature in September 1996, prohibits "any nuclear weapon test explosion," provides for an extensive global monitoring system and the option for short-notice, on-site inspections to detect and deter surreptitious nuclear weapons testing.

Before signing the CTBT on September 24, 1996, President Clinton created the Stockpile Stewardship Program to maintain the U.S. nuclear arsenal in the absence of nuclear test explosions. Before the program would be able to show concrete results, the Senate rejected the CTBT in 1999 after a hasty and abbreviated debate, in part because some senators were concerned that the new approach might not work.

Now, the stewardship program has proven so successful over the years that many informed observers who were initially skeptical believe that the United States does not need nuclear tests.

As Linton Brooks, former director of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) under President George W. Bush, said in November 2011, "as a practical matter, it is almost certain that the United States will not test again... I have been in and out of government for a long time.  And in recent years I never met anybody who advocated that we seek authorization to return to testing."

And George Shultz, President Ronald Reagan's Secretary of State, said in April 2009, "[Republicans] might have been right voting against [the CTBT] some years ago, but they would be right voting for it now, based on these new facts.... [There are] new pieces of information that are very important and that should be made available to the Senate."

That Was Then, This Is Now

During the Congressional debate on the proposed nuclear test moratorium legislation in June 1992, then-Rep. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) argued: "... as long as we have a nuclear deterrent, we have got to test it in order to ensure that it is safe and it is reliable."

Times have changed since 1992 and many of the old assumptions and beliefs about nuclear weapons and nuclear testing no longer apply. We now have almost two decades of experience with the Stockpile Stewardship Program, which has exceeded all expectations.

The recent National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report, "The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty--Technical Issues for the United States," lays out a compelling technical case, based on the latest information, that the United States does not need nuclear tests to maintain its arsenal.

The NAS report finds that "The technical capabilities for maintaining the U.S. stockpile absent nuclear-explosion testing are better now than anticipated" when the NAS issued its previous report in 2002, and that "the United States has the technical capabilities to maintain a safe, secure, and reliable stockpile of nuclear weapons into the foreseeable future without nuclear-explosion testing."

The technical strategy for maintaining the U.S. nuclear stockpile without explosive testing has been in place for almost two decades. Since 1994, each warhead type in the U.S. nuclear arsenal has been determined to be safe and reliable through a rigorous annual certification process. The Stockpile Stewardship Program includes nuclear weapons surveillance and maintenance, non-nuclear and subcritical nuclear experiments, and increasingly sophisticated supercomputer modeling.  Life extension programs have successfully refurbished existing types of nuclear warheads and can continue to do so indefinitely.

A 2009 study by JASON, the independent technical review panel, concluded that the "lifetimes of today's nuclear warheads could be extended for decades, with no anticipated loss in confidence."

Arguments for resuming U.S. nuclear testing have become weaker and weaker with time, as the stockpile is certified year-after-year and more warhead types have their service lives extended.

Moreover, NNSA has more resources than ever before to perform core stockpile stewardship work. Since 2009, funding for the nuclear weapons complex has increased by 13%. The Obama administration's $7.6 billion budget request for fiscal year 2013 would boost NNSA weapons programs funding even more, by 5% over last year's appropriation of $7.2 billion.

As Sen. Dianne Feinstein noted at a March 21, 2012 appropriations committee hearing, "Regarding nuclear weapons activities, I believe the fiscal year 2013 budget request provides more than sufficient funding to modernize the nuclear weapons stockpile."

Nevertheless, some die-hard CTBT critics say that the United States might someday need to test to develop a new type of nuclear weapon. First, there is no military requirement for new types of nuclear weapons.

Second, in the exceedingly unlikely event that nuclear testing is needed in the distant future, the United States has the option to exercise the CTBT's "supreme national interest clause" and withdraw from the treaty.

Given that the United States already has the most advanced nuclear arsenal in the world, setting off another round of global nuclear tests would only serve to undermine U.S. security by helping other nuclear-armed states improve their nuclear capabilities.

Time To Finish The Job

The CTBT has now been signed by 183 nations and ratified by 157. The treaty has already improved U.S. and global security. Both Russia and China halted nuclear testing as a result of the CTBT and only one nation (North Korea) has conducted nuclear tests since 1998.

In order for the CTBT to formally enter into force, however, it must still be ratified by the remaining eight "holdout" states listed in Annex 2 of the Treaty.

Ratification by the United States and China is crucial. By signing the treaty and ending nuclear testing, Washington and Beijing have already taken on most CTBT-related responsibilities, yet their failure to ratify has denied them-and others-the full security benefits of the Treaty.

U.S. ratification would reinforce the taboo against testing and prompt other key states--such as China, India, and Pakistan--to ratify the treaty. Without positive action on the CTBT, however, the risk that one or more states could resume nuclear testing will only grow.

Nuclear testing is a dangerous and unnecessary vestige of the Cold War that the United States rightly abandoned in 1992. After 1,030 tests, the United States does not need further nuclear explosive testing, but those who would seek to improve their arsenals do.

It is past time to take another look at the CTBT. The Senate has a responsibility to reconsider the treaty and to do so on the basis of an honest and up-to-date analysis of the facts and the issues at stake. --TOM Z. COLLINA and DARYL G. KIMBALL

For more information, see:

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today

Posted: September 20, 2012

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