Login/Logout

*
*  

ACA’s journal, Arms Control Today, remains the best in the market. Well focused. Solidly researched. Prudent.

– Hans Blix,
former IAEA Director-General

Issue Briefs

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

Sections:

Description: 

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.

Body: 

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


###

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.

Subject Resources:

Posted: June 14, 2013

East Coast Missile Defense: A Rush to Failure

Sections:

Description: 

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.

Body: 

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

###

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

Sections:

Description: 

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).

Body: 

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

###

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.

Subject Resources:

Posted: March 11, 2013

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

Sections:

Description: 

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."

Body: 

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

###

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

Sections:

Description: 

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.

Body: 

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

###

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

Sections:

Description: 

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.

Body: 

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

###

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

Sections:

Description: 

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.

Body: 

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:

###

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

IAEA Board of Governors Calls on Iran to Cooperate with IAEA, But Tehran Continues to Balk

Sections:

Description: 

After years of denying any need to respond to international concerns about suspected nuclear weaponization work, Iran finally engaged in discussions earlier this year with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on a plan to address its alleged weapons-related activities. After months of on-and-off talks, however, Iran has still refused to agree to the IAEA's proposal for a "structured approach" to that investigation.

Body: 

Volume 3, Issue 13, September 18, 2012

After years of denying any need to respond to international concerns about suspected nuclear weaponization work, Iran finally engaged in discussions earlier this year with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on a plan to address its alleged weapons-related activities. After months of on-and-off talks, however, Iran has still refused to agree to the IAEA's proposal for a "structured approach" to that investigation.

In response to the impasse and to findings of the agency's latest quarterly report on Iran's nuclear program, the IAEA Board of Governors approved a resolution 31-1-3 on Sept. 13 that faults Iran for failing to address UN Security Council demands to suspend its uranium enrichment activities and to cooperate with the IAEA's investigation about its suspected weapons-related experiments.

IAEA-Iran Talks

Earlier this year, senior IAEA officials met with Iranian officials in Tehran to discuss a way forward on the issue. Since those initial January and February meetings, however, Iran has refused to allow the IAEA to begin with an initial step of visiting the Parchin military site, which is suspected to have been involved in warhead-related high explosives testing prior to 2004.

Subsequent discussions between the agency and Iranian officials have not yielded progress on the "structured approach." IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano called the lack of progress "frustrating." Iran also appears to have systematically demolished the suspected facility at the Parchin military site.

At the most recent round of discussions on August 24, Iran's Ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, said that Iran would agree to a framework if the IAEA shared documents with Tehran outlining the evidence of the alleged weapons-related activities. He also said the "structured approach" must take into account Iran's national security considerations.

What Is the "Structured Approach" and What Is In Dispute?

In a February 20, 2012 IAEA document, the agency identifies the kinds of actions Iran needs to take to address suspected weapons-related activities and ensure that there is no ongoing warhead development work. The specific topics that the IAEA wants to address were laid out extensively in the agency's November 2011 report, including:

  • High-explosives experiments with nuclear weapons implications;
  • Neutron initiation and detonator development;
  • Work to fit a nuclear warhead on a missile, along with arming, firing and fusing mechanisms;
  • And Iranian procurement activities related to its alleged warhead work.

Iran's Ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, distributed a version of the Feb. 20 document to members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) that contains Tehran's suggested revisions to the IAEA's proposed work plan. In distributing the document to NAM states, Iran was apparently trying to demonstrate its how close the two side are to an agreement and how reasonable Iran is being.

A close reading of the document, however, reveals that Iran is seeking to place unreasonable limits on the agency's ability to carry out its job.

While any country would have a legitimate need to protect information that is not relevant to the IAEA's investigation, Iran's counter-proposals to the Agency's proposed work plan would place undue limitations on the agency's work that will make it more difficult to determine whether Iran has carried out or still maintains a warhead development program.

Any access that Iran is willing to provide is a step in the right direction and should be encouraged, but the international community should make clear that token measures will only drag out the investigation rather than close the case. Three issues in particular stand out in the document that Soltanieh circulated.

The IAEA Should Avoid a "One and Done" Approach

Iran's responses to the agency show that it would like to prevent the IAEA from adequately following up on any information it obtains during the course of its investigation. Iran has suggested removing a clause stating, "Follow up actions that are required of Iran to facilitate the agency's conclusions regarding the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program will be identified as this process continues."

Iran also inserted language specifying that, after steps are taken on each issue the agency wishes to address, that issue "will be considered concluded."

Iran's proposed approach risks that, even if the agency does not receive sufficient information from Iran during its initial investigation, Tehran will try to assert that particular aspects of the case are closed and refuse to answer any follow-up questions. Iran's suggestions would preclude any efforts to go back to topics that the agency previously investigated should new information arise. Such limitations do not match up with what Soltanieh describes in his communication to the NAM states as a "proactive and cooperative approach."

Strictly Sequencing the Issues Investigated Only Delays the Process

The Feb. 20 document says that steps to address the IAEA's questions should be completed in time for the agency's June 2012 meeting, "if possible." Such a quick timeframe would be welcome, particularly as tensions over the issue increase.

But Iran's opposition to potentially addressing some of the IAEA's questions in parallel unnecessarily delays the process. If Iran's nuclear program is purely peaceful, there is little reason to drag out the investigation in such a way and rejecting any parallel investigations does nothing to address legitimate concerns about protecting access to information unrelated to Iran's nuclear program.

More importantly, because many of the activities that the IAEA is investigating appear to be interlinked, it would be natural for the agency to seek to address multiple issues at once if information it obtains is relevant to them.

Verifying the Completeness of Iran's Declarations

Section C of the Feb. 20 document details steps the IAEA requests Iran take to ensure that it has a firm grasp of all the nuclear-related activities being carried out in the country. These steps are hardly new. Most of them either stem from provisions of Iran's safeguards agreement that Tehran unilaterally suspended (a requirement to provide early design information of nuclear facilities under so-called Code 3.1), or the agency's Additional Protocol (allowing access to undeclared sites).

Unlike the rest of the document--which is focused on Iran's alleged warhead work--the actions requested in Section C are directly related to ensuring that Iran's known nuclear activities are not being diverted for possible weapons use. Achieving agreement on these steps would provide some of the most vital assurances that Iran's nuclear activities will not be misused. However, the appearance of bracketed text suggests that this section may be subject to extensive negotiation. Iran has refused to provide many of these measures for several years.

The Importance of Transparency

The November 2011 IAEA report and accompanying annexes make a convincing case that Iran was indeed involved in a comprehensive nuclear weapons program prior to 2004, some elements of which have likely continued. Iran's full and complete cooperation with the agency would likely bear this out, demonstrating that Iran's claims that it has pursued a peaceful nuclear program all along have been false.

Tehran does not appear to be ready to either make such an admission, or to be confronted with more conclusive evidence of such activities. Iran's leaders should understand that their failure to address the agency's concerns only undermines Tehran's claim that it is simply pursuing a peaceful nuclear program and it undermines the credibility of the Supreme Leader's fatwa against nuclear weapons.

The international community should also make clear that, while additional transparency on Iran's part is positive, half measures will not alleviate suspicions. The agency has a job to do, and it should continue to pursue of answers to questions raised over the course of its investigation.

At the same time, the leadership in Tehran is unlikely to decide that it can fully address the IAEA's concerns and verifiably end any ongoing warhead work absent a diplomatic process aimed at producing a comprehensive resolution to the nuclear impasse. Unfortunately, the talks between Iran and the P5+1 nations--China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States--have stalled out.

Following the U.S. election in November, both sides must be prepared to overcome the gaps in their respective positions and resume the effort on the basis of new and more creative proposals.

In the course of a renewed diplomatic dialogue, Iran must be convinced of two things: 1) that continuing down a path toward nuclear weapons will only result in increasing isolation and diminished security; and 2) that genuine and meaningful cooperation will be met by an easing of pressure, rather than an escalation. Iran should not be at risk of being punished for coming clean.

Answering the IAEA's questions will be a critical step en route to a broader, comprehensive arrangement. A deal that that allows Iran's to enrich uranium only to normal reactor-grade levels, limits its enrichment capacity and stockpile to realistic civilian purposes, and grants the IAEA more extensive access and monitoring, in exchange for a phased lifting of international sanctions related to its nuclear activities is still within reach.

Note: This Issue Brief is an updated version of ACA's March 2, 2012 Issue Brief written by Peter Crail.

###

 

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

Country Resources:

Subject Resources:

Posted: September 18, 2012

Nuclear and Missile Systems We Can't Afford, Don't Need

Sections:

Description: 

If the Congress and the White House are serious about reducing the booming federal deficit, they must work together to scale back previous schemes for a new generation of strategic nuclear weapons delivery systems and unnecessary spending on a ground-based missile defense system that doesn't work for a threat that doesn't exist.

Body: 

Volume 3, Issue 12, July 18, 2012

If the Congress and the White House are serious about reducing the booming federal deficit, they must work together to scale back previous schemes for a new generation of strategic nuclear weapons delivery systems and unnecessary spending on a ground-based missile defense system that doesn't work for a threat that doesn't exist.

It has been more than two decades since the end of the Cold War, yet the United States maintains--and is poised to rebuild--a costly strategic nuclear triad that is sized to launch far more nuclear weapons than necessary to deter nuclear attack against the U.S. or its allies.

Today, the United States deploys some 1,737 strategic nuclear warheads, while Russia deploys some 1,492 strategic nuclear warheads. Each side has thousands more warheads in reserve.

Other than Russia, the only potential adversary with a long-range nuclear capability is China, which has no more than 40-50 warheads on intercontinental ballistic missiles. The United States' has more than 30 times as many. Just one U.S. nuclear-armed submarine--loaded with 24 missiles, each armed with four 455-kiloton warheads--could kill millions.

As the Pentagon's new defense strategy correctly asserts, "It is possible that our deterrence goals can be achieved with a smaller nuclear force...."

However, current plans call for 12 new nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines to carry more than 1,000 strategic nuclear warheads into the 2070s, at a total cost of almost $350 billion.

The Air Force is seeking a new, nuclear-armed strategic bomber that would cost at least $68 billion, as well as a new fleet of land-based ballistic missiles. Modernization and operation of the United States' 450 Minuteman III land-based ballistic missiles would cost billions more.

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

In a time of budget austerity, these ambitious and expensive schemes for a new generation of strategic nuclear weapons delivery systems can and must be scaled back in manageable, cost-effective way.

Likewise, U.S. ballistic missile interceptor programs should be cost-effective, proven through real-world testing, and sized to address threats that actually exist. The fiscal year 2013 budget request would already provide $9.7 billion for all ballistic missile defense programs, and the administration projects spend another  $47.4 billion for these programs from 2013 to 2017.

The administration's missile defense budget includes $903 million for operating 30 ground-based interceptor (GBI) missiles in Alaska and California to deal with a potential limited limited, long-range missile attacks from North Korea or Iran, neither of which have successfully tested such missiles. The system failed in their last two intercept tests, in January and December 2010. The MDA plans to have 52 GBI missiles by 2017.

Despite the GBI program's severe shortcomings and high-costs, some would have the taxpayer spend even more on the program than the administration has requested.

There are four principal ways in which the president and the Congress can trim unnecessary strategic nuclear force modernization programs and trim excess spending from the unproven Ground-Based Mid-Course strategic missile interceptor program--and still retain more than enough megatonnage to deter nuclear attack by any current or future adversary.

1. Rightsize the Strategic Nuclear Sub Fleet

The first step is to reevaluate and reduce the size of the future nuclear-armed strategic submarine force. In January 2012, the Pentagon said it would delay procurement of the proposed Ohio-class replacement nuclear-armed submarine (SSBNX) by two years, starting in 2031 not 2029, which could save some $6-7 billion in the next ten years.

However, without a reduction in the size of the force, the overall cost of the program will remain the same, and take resources away from the Navy's other priority shipbuilding projects. The Pentagon has requested $565 billion for the SSBNX program for fiscal 2013.

By reducing the Trident nuclear-armed sub fleet from 14 to 8 or fewer boats and building no more than 8 new nuclear-armed subs, the United States could save roughly $27 billion over 10 years, and $120 billion over the 50-year lifespan of the program.

Furthermore, by changing prompt launch requirements developed during the Cold War and increasing the number of missile tubes and warhead loadings on each submarine, the Navy could still deploy the same number of strategic nuclear warheads at sea on a smaller, 8 sub fleet, as currently planned under the New START treaty (about 1,000).

2. Postpone Work on a New Strategic Bomber

Second, work on a new strategic bomber should be delayed. There is no rush to field a fleet of new bombers given the Pentagon's plan to retain 60 of its existing nuclear-capable, long-range B-2 and B-52 bombers into the 2040s, which will already cost approximately $4 billion to refurbish over the next 4 years. Delaying work on the new bomber program would save $18 billion over the next decade and approximately $292 million in fiscal year 2013 alone, according to the Pentagon.

3. Trim the Cold War ICBM Force

For additional savings, the Pentagon should reduce its land-based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) force from 420 to 300 by cutting one squadron at each of the three Air Force bases where such missiles are deployed and foregoing a follow-on missile program to replace the existing force. This move would save approximately $360 million in operations and maintenance costs in fiscal 2013 alone and far more in future years.

Prudent U.S. strategic nuclear force reductions could also induce Russia to further reduce its deployed strategic nuclear arsenal, which is already 200 warheads fewer than the United States, and prompt Moscow to delay or cancel some of its own costly plans for modernizing its strategic nuclear delivery systems.

4. Don't Spend More Taxpayer Money for Ground-Based Mid-Course Missile Interceptors That Don't Work

The United States already has two GMD sites on the west coast, with 30 interceptors deployed in California and Alaska, to counter a potential, limited long-range ballistic missile volley from a rogue state. Neither Iran nor North Korea has yet deployed long-range missiles that could reach the United States.

The administration's budget request also includes $1.5 billion for the European Phased Adaptive Approach, which involves the SM-3 interceptor system to handle potential attacks involving short- and medium-range missiles from Iran. Iran does have such missiles.

Spending even more for the GBI system--which has not had a successful intercept test since 2008; has had two flight test failures in 2010; and cannot yet deal with decoys--is not prudent. Because the GBI cannot be relied upon to work in real-world conditions and because Iran and North Korea has not successfully tested long-range missiles, pouring more money into the program doesn't improve U.S. national security and drains resources from other, higher priority programs.

More Security for Less Money

Fresh thinking is in order. Programs that address low-priority threats must be scaled back to make room for more pressing national priorities and reduce the deficit. Smart reductions in spending on unnecessary new nuclear weapons systems would enhance U.S. security.--DARYL G. KIMBALL

###

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.

Subject Resources:

Posted: July 18, 2012

The Arms Trade Treaty and the NRA's Misleading Rhetoric

Sections:

Description: 

The ongoing conflict in Syria-like recent wars in Burma, Congo, Liberia, Sudan, and Sierra Leone-underscores the urgent need for common standards for international transfers of conventional weapons and ammunition, as well as legally-binding requirements for all states to review exports and imports--particularly for arms transfers that could lead to human rights abuses or violate international arms embargoes.

Body: 

Volume 3, Issue 11, July 11, 2012

The ongoing conflict in Syria-like recent wars in Burma, Congo, Liberia, Sudan, and Sierra Leone-underscores the urgent need for common standards for international transfers of conventional weapons and ammunition, as well as legally-binding requirements for all states to review exports and imports--particularly for arms transfers that could lead to human rights abuses or violate international arms embargoes.

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.

The patchwork of national laws, combined with the absence of clear international standards for arms transfers, increases the availability of weapons in conflict zones. Irresponsible arms suppliers and brokers can exploit these conditions to sell weapons to unscrupulous governments, criminals, and insurgents, including those fighting U.S. troops.

For example, in 2010 Italian authorities revealed that the Italy-based smuggling ring of Alessandro Bon sent multiple shipments of military sniper scopes and other military goods via a Romanian front company through Dubai to Iran in violation of a UN arms embargo. This equipment, in turn, found its way into the hands of insurgents fighting NATO forces in Afghanistan.

In response to this global problem, U.S. diplomats and representatives from some 190 countries are meeting at the United Nations to hammer out a legally-binding, global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) by July 27. The treaty would address all types of conventional weapons transfers, from naval ships and attack helicopters to small arms and light weapons.

The Arms Trade Treaty won't stop all illicit international arms transfers, but it is a common sense effort that can improve U.S. and global security because it can help reduce irresponsible international arms transfers and hold arms suppliers more accountable for their actions.

Second Amendment Nonsense

Unfortunately, the National Rifle Association (NRA) and some of its allies are engaging in a misleading lobbying effort alleging that the still-to-be-negotiated treaty will clash with legal firearms possession in the United States. It won't.

The ATT will only apply to international export, import, and transfer of conventional weapons. Nevertheless, the NRA's executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre spoke today before a nearly empty hall at the UN and tried to argue that the treaty will regulate or even deny domestic gun-ownership by U.S. citizens and undermine the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

This follows months of misleading lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C. A statement posted in March on the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action Web site characterized attempts to draft the ATT as "insidious efforts to use supranational authority to destroy our nationally-recognized and protected right."

The NRA's chief lobbyist, Chris Cox, wrote a July 2 op-ed for The Daily Caller alleging that the ATT "could seriously restrict your freedom to own, purchase and carry a firearm."

That's wrong and the NRA knows it. The regulation or registration of domestic gun ownership is clearly outside the scope of the treaty.

The UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty currently underway was established by UN Resolution 64/48 in 2009. The resolution, which establishes the framework for negotiations, explicitly acknowledges "the right of States to regulate internal transfers of arms and national ownership, including through national constitutional protections on private ownership, exclusively within their territory."

The NRA also ignores the fact that the Obama administration has repeatedly stated that it opposes any infringement on national arms transfer and ownership.

The Department of State Web site lists "Key U.S. Red Lines" on the ATT, including:

  • upholding of the Second Amendment;
  • no restrictions on civilian possession or trade of firearms, and
  • no dilution of sovereign control over issues involving the private acquisition, ownership, or possession of firearms.

Furthermore, the Obama administration succeeded in getting other states to agree that the UN conference can only produce an Arms Trade Treaty text on the basis of consensus, which allows the United States to prevent it from crossing any of its "red lines."

As Galen Carey, Director of Government Relations for the National Association for Evangelicals summed it up at a June 26 briefing for reporters: "Some critics claim--wrongly, in my view--that an Arms Trade Treaty would threaten our second amendment rights.  In fact, the framework for the treaty negotiations specifically excludes any restrictions on domestic gun sales or ownership.  This issue is a red herring."

Mischaracterizing U.S. Senate Views

LaPierre also claimed today in his address at the UN that: "already 58 Senators have objected to any treaty that includes civilian arms."

That's a distortion of two separate July 2011 letters from Senators on the ATT.

A letter authored by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) and signed by 44 other Senators to President Barack Obama "... encourages your administration to uphold our country's constitutional protections of civilian firearms ownership."

The 45 Senators who signed the Moran letter don't say they will oppose a treaty that includes the undefined term, "civilian firearms," they say: "... we will oppose ratification of an Arms Trade Treaty ... that in any way restricts the rights of law-abiding U.S. citizens to manufacture, assemble, possess, transfer or purchase firearms, ammunition, and related items."

A separate July 16, 2011 letter authored by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana) and signed by 12 other Democratic Senators actually expresses support for the ATT. They write: "We support efforts to better regulate the international trade of conventional weapons .... We should not allow the unregulated trade of these weapons to continue fueling conflict and instability in nations around the world." Their concern is simply that "the Arms Trade Treaty must not in any way regulate the domestic manufacture, possession or sales of firearms or ammunition."

The Senators' concerns about private gun possession are unfounded because the ATT will not regulate and would not affect domestic gun ownership rights and regulation and the Obama administration has made it clear it will not support a treaty that would.

Fox News Questions LaPierre's Claims

In a July 5 interview on Fox News, the NRA's Wayne LaPierre went so far as to say that the proposed treaty "says to people in the United States turn over your personal protection and your firearms to the government, and the government will protect you."

Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly reminded LaPierre that the treaty is about "global arms sales" not "domestic sales." She reminded the viewers that, "...the administration has said we support this but it doesn't infringe on our Second Amendment rights here. As a practical matter you tell us, to gun owners watching this program right now, what would it mean for them?"

LaPierre went on to make the make the incredible claim that: "Right now it would affect every handgun, rifle and shotgun American citizens own."

Kelly asked: "How?"

In response, LaPierre suggested that: "It sets up global agencies, data centers, tracking, monitoring, surveillance, supervision, it institutionalizes the whole UN gun plan within the bureaucracy of the United Nations with a permanent funding mechanism."

In reality, the ATT would require individual governments to set up national systems to review and license imports and exports of conventional weapons--not internal arms transfers or arms registration.

Nor would the ATT set up a "global agency." In the view of the vast majority of states--including the United States--the treaty would establish an "implementation support unit" consisting of no more than 3-4 persons and they would be directed by the member states of the treaty, not the UN. This small unit would be funded out of the UN's general budget.

It's not surprising that LaPierre could not back up his claim that the ATT "would affect every handgun, rifle, and shotgun American citizens own" with any specific facts--because the allegation that ATT poses a threat to U.S. Second Amendment rights is not grounded in reality.

What explains all the hyperbole? In his Fox News appearance, Mr. LaPierre provided a clue. He said: "I hope everyone joins the NRA as an act of defiance against this UN plan."

In other words, the NRA's false claim that the ATT threatens the legal rights of U.S. citizens to possess firearms may really just be a cynical ploy designed to funnel more donations to the already wealthy organization.

The "More Guns to Sudan" Argument

NRA lobbyist Chris Cox makes the Orwellian argument in his July 2 oped that the ATT would undermine the security of civilians in Sudan threatened by the authoritarian regime in Khartoum.

Cox writes that the government officials negotiating the ATT "... ought to see how far their gun-confiscation agenda resonates with hundreds of thousands of defenseless Sudanese men, women and children who live in constant fear of being beaten, raped, sold into slavery or murdered."

In reality, the ATT is not a gun confiscation plan, and the ATT has the support of influential Sudanese leaders who have their people's best interests in mind and the experience to understand what works and what doesn't in their country. One such individual is Bishop Elias Taban, the President of the Sudan Evangelical Alliance, who was once forced to become a child soldier in the Sudanese Liberation Movement.

In a July 10 interview with The Christian Post, Taban explained that in Sudan "in most cases even if you have weapons you will not be able to defend yourself."

The problem in the Dafur and Nuba mountains region of Sudan is that the population is under assault from the government's overwhelming firepower, which consists of tanks, artillery, armored personnel carriers, machine guns, military aircraft, helicopters, and bombs, all of which is supplied by weapons manufacturers in Belarus, China, and Russia.

Galen Carey, who served for over 25 years as an overseas missionary in Mozambique, Croatia, Kenya, Indonesia and Burundi noted that "As Christians, as humanitarians who support evangelical work, we try and make sure that supplies and weapons do not fall into the wrong hands."

"When we lived in Burundi, we actually were at a Bible study when the town was shelled by rebels who had taken control of some of the hills outside the town, and so there were shells landing all around us. So it is not only just local people, but also missionaries and humanitarian workers and even military who are threatened by this loose control of weapon."

Carey says he believes that it is perfectly legitimate for the government to use weapons for self-defense and to keep the peace, but not to wreak violence and harm others.

The purpose of the Arms Trade Treaty is to make it harder for unscrupulous government suppliers and arms brokers to transfer conventional weapons and ammunition across international borders in violation of international arms embargoes and to governments committing human rights abuses and to criminal gangs and terrorists.

The Small Arms and Light Weapons Issue

The one serious issue raised by the NRA, as well as some members of Congress, is whether the ATT negotiators should include small arms and light weapons within the scope of the treaty.

The NRA's misplaced fear that the ATT will affect "civilian" firearms has led them to suggest excluding small arms and light weapons from the treaty. Some members of Congress have expressed concerns that by including small arms and light weapons in the treaty, it becomes "too broad" and is therefore unenforceable.

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.

Today, only 90 countries report having basic regulations on the international transfer of small arms and light weapons. Only 56 countries control arms brokers and only 25 have criminal penalties associated with illicit brokering.

That is why the Obama administration--and the vast majority of other states--is on record in support of including small arms and light weapons in the scope of the treaty.

Furthermore, illicit transfers of small arms and light weapons are a big part of the problem that demands action by responsible states. The British government estimates that at least 400,000 people are killed by illegal small arms and light weapons each year.

The only states joining the NRA in opposition to including small arms and light weapons are a few not so honorable arms exporters and importers--China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, and Venezuela--who would rather be able to continue to sell and buy conventional weapons without common-sense global standards.

The Bottom Line

Allegations that an ATT would infringe on the right of U.S. citizens to legally possess firearms amount to irresponsible demagoguery. No one, except maybe illicit arms dealers and human rights abusers, should oppose common-sense international standards for regulating the global arms trade.--DARYL G. KIMBALL AND WYATT HOFFMAN

Additional Resources

###

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 11, 2012

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Issue Briefs