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Issue Briefs

Opponents of U.S. Nuclear Cuts: Still Being Chased by the Russian Bear?

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Volume 3, Issue 1, February 24, 2012

Last week, the press reported on Defense Department options for Presidential guidance that were being prepared as part of the Nuclear Policy Review implementation study. The notion that the President might consider deep cuts in U.S. nuclear forces unleashed some intemperate reactions that brought to mind Shakespeare's most famous stage direction (in "The Winter's Tale"): "Exit, pursued by a bear."

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Volume 3, Issue 1, February 24, 2012

Last week, the press reported on Defense Department options for Presidential guidance that were being prepared as part of the Nuclear Posture Review implementation study. The notion that the President might consider deep cuts in U.S. nuclear forces unleashed some intemperate reactions that brought to mind Shakespeare's most famous stage direction (in "The Winter's Tale"): "Exit, pursued by a bear."

Just as thespians have struggled over the years with staging the bear's pursuit of Shakespeare's character Antigonus, critics of further reductions in U.S. nuclear weapons have difficulty figuring out how to represent the Russian bear following the end of the Cold War. The U.S. nuclear deterrent is still primarily sized and shaped by, and oriented against, the Russian Federation. Moscow's strategic forces still retain the ability to annihilate the United States. And even though the ideological conflict is over and Russia now contains far fewer targets and weapons than did the Soviet Union, Cold War assumptions and calculations still govern nuclear force planning.

The critics of nuclear cuts ratchet back and forth on Russia - in one moment warning of the threat, citing Moscow's surly rhetoric and stated intention of re-investing in Russia's strategic defense budget - and in the next breath, dismissing U.S.-Russian arms control efforts as unnecessary and irrelevant for addressing more urgent threats from a powerfully resurgent China, a nascent nuclear North Korea, and a recalcitrant and potentially nuclear Iran.

Policymakers need to engage in a serious discussion about what the U.S. nuclear arsenal can and should deter. This dialogue must absorb the new reality of an often contentious, but no longer zero-sum U.S.-Russian relationship. It must re-examine the archaic premise that the United States needs to maintain not only a capability to assure the survival of its retaliatory forces in the event of a Russian first-strike, but also to launch a pre-emptive first-strike against Russia.

Reality Check

However, a prerequisite for that fundamental and overdue debate is undertaking a sober and realistic accounting of the existing balance of forces. That has not yet been done by the vocal critics of nuclear cuts. Thirty-four Republican members of the House of Representatives wrote to President Obama last week, referring to "the growth in quantity and quality of nuclear weapons capabilities in Russia, the People's Republic of China, India, Pakistan, North Korea and, perhaps soon the Islamic Republic of Iran..." The Representatives did not provide a time frame for this "growth," no doubt because the reduction in Russian strategic forces during recent years has actually led to an overall decline in aggregate numbers of nuclear weapons possessed by America's potential enemies.

The U.S. House members also cited the "...ambitious nuclear weapons modernization programs of Russia, communist China, Pakistan and others..." In this context, it would seem relevant to mention that China's "ambitious" program has added, over the last three decades, about 30 warheads that could reliably reach the United States. China now fields some 40-50 warheads on intercontinental systems, compared to the 1,790 deployed by the United States that could reach China.

China's strategic nuclear systems are relatively less sophisticated and diverse than those of the United States. China's newest-class ballistic missile submarine, which will provide the sea-based leg of its nuclear deterrent, is very noisy, according to an unclassified report of the Office of Naval Intelligence. These strategic submarines would thus be very vulnerable to stalking and destruction by much quieter U.S. attack submarines. Moreover, China has no intercontinental bombers, no adequate strategic warning, and no multiple warheads on its ballistic missiles - four decades after MIRVs were first deployed by the United States.

The Shrinking Bear

In a February 16 Senate Floor speech, Sen. Jon Kyl continued his jihad against the New Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty (New START) by noting: "Not a country in the world has reduced warheads since the signing of the New START treaty except the United States." In so doing, Kyl focuses on a slight uptick in Russia's deployed warhead count from six months earlier, ignoring a slight numerical reduction in the number of Russia's deployed ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers over the same period. More importantly, he obscures the long-term trend line, which shows Russia today with some 300 warheads fewer than two years ago and projects further reductions of similar magnitude over the next few years, putting Russia well below New START's warhead ceiling.

It is appropriate to consider carefully Russian nuclear force trends when considering future U.S. nuclear policy. After all, Russian strategic forces dwarf those of all other countries against which U.S. nuclear weapons could be used. U.S. and Russian strategic forces together contain over 90 per cent of all nuclear weapons in the world. Moreover, Russia is the only country, which has any counter-force capability against the U.S. nuclear deterrent.

However, such consideration reveals a conspicuous and continuing decline in Russian strategic forces from the robust base Moscow inherited from the Soviet Union. Because the warhead-rich SS-18 and SS-19 ICBMs are reaching the end of their service lives and the new Bulava SLBM has suffered delays, the decline promises to last for years, even if Moscow moves forward with development and deployment of a new, heavy, multiple-warhead ICBM.

The latest figures exchanged under New START show that Russia had 1,566 warheads on deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs, and deployed heavy bombers (counted-as-one for each aircraft)--224 less than the United States. While both parties are obligated to reduce operational warhead levels further before the treaty's 1,550 ceiling enters into effect in February 2018 many U.S. and Russian experts predict that Russia's warhead count may fall significantly below that ceiling. For example, Russian academician Alexei Arbatov, says Russia's New START accountable warhead count could total only 1,000-1,100 within the decade as the deployment of new systems fails to keep pace with the retirement of legacy systems.

What is to be done?

Rather than induce Russia to build up its strategic nuclear forces, it is in the security and financial interests of both countries to pursue further, parallel reductions in such forces. An updated look at the nuclear balance and the narrowed function of nuclear weapons proclaimed by President Obama should lead to a number of important changes in nuclear policy guidance:

  • Entire categories of targets -- only appropriate for nuclear war-fighting rather than deterrence -- should be eliminated from U.S. nuclear war plans.
  • Overblown requirements for damage expectancy should be scaled back.
  • Requirements for rapid launch capabilities should be eased, removing pressure from national command authorities for hasty decisions and reducing overall force requirements - for example, for the number of SSBNs on station.

Empowered with updated presidential guidance, force planners can responsibly and significantly reduce the number of weapons in the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

"Chased by a bear" may work as stage direction for dramatic performances to an early 17th Century English audience, which was accustomed to bear baiting as public entertainment. It is less suitable as a framework for U.S. nuclear policy in the 21st Century, which needs to be based on honest assessments of nuclear threats and an accurate understanding of the limited role of nuclear weapons. The bear chase is over.--Greg Thielmann

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

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Posted: February 24, 2012

Time to Rethink and Reduce Nuclear Weapons Spending

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Volume 2, Issue 16, December 2, 2011

The supercommittee’s Nov. 21 failure to reach agreement on a deficit reduction plan has triggered deep, automatic reductions in future U.S. defense spending. At the same time, some in Congress are finally beginning to examine how much the United States plans to spend on nuclear weapons in the years ahead.

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Volume 2, Issue 16, December 2, 2011

The supercommittee’s Nov. 21 failure to reach agreement on a deficit reduction plan has triggered deep, automatic reductions in future U.S. defense spending. At the same time, some in Congress are finally beginning to examine how much the United States plans to spend on nuclear weapons in the years ahead.

Through it all, one thing is clear: the changing security environment and increasing budget pressure mean that the United States can and should spend less on nuclear weapons than previously planned.

The automatic reductions, known as “sequestration,” will double the amount of money the Pentagon must cut from its projected budget growth, from about $450 billion to roughly $1 trillion, over the next decade. These cuts could get derailed before they take effect in 2013, but that outcome is impossible to predict. The Pentagon and Congress have to plan for these reductions, and they should start now.

Where should the budget cuts come from? For starters, we should stop funding excessive, Cold War-era nuclear weapon systems and capabilities that do not help address current or likely security threats.  As the Obama administration noted in its 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), “The massive nuclear arsenal we inherited from the Cold War era of bipolar military confrontation is poorly suited to address the challenges posed by suicidal terrorists and unfriendly regimes seeking nuclear weapons.”

The most pressing security threats we face today, such as terrorism and cyber attack, simply cannot be addressed with nuclear weapons. The United States does not need to continue to deploy as many as 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads as is allowed under the New START treaty to deter nuclear attack from Russia or any other nuclear-armed state, nor does it need to spend hundreds of billions over the next decade to rebuild the nuclear “triad.”

At the same time, the Obama administration is re-examining the fundamental purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons and how many the country really needs. This review, called the NPR Implementation Study, will likely alter obsolete nuclear deterrence requirements and clear the way for further reciprocal nuclear reductions with Russia.

Even though current nuclear delivery systems will remain operational for another 20-30 years, key decisions on their replacements are being made right now.

Major procurement decisions should be informed by the results of the administration’s review of nuclear forces. To its credit, Pentagon officials told Congress last month that “no decisions have been made with respect to future force sizing or the modernization plans for nuclear delivery systems; such decisions will be informed by the Administration’s ongoing review of deterrence requirements."

Rather than build a new, more expensive version of the nuclear triad from the 1960s, we must recognize that the world has changed. The Cold War ended 20 years ago, but U.S. and Russian arsenals far exceed what is necessary to deter nuclear attack. According to the State Department, as of Sept. 1 the United States deployed 1,790 warheads on 822 strategic delivery vehicles, and Russia deployed 1,566 warheads on 516 strategic delivery vehicles. Each side possesses thousands more warheads in storage.

No other nuclear-armed country deploys more than 300 strategic warheads; China has no more than 40 to 50 warheads on intercontinental-range missiles. Nevertheless, both Russia and the United States currently plan to spend scarce resources to modernize and deploy excessive numbers of nuclear weapons for decades to come.

The United States can save at least $45 billion over the next 10 years and still maintain a formidable and survivable nuclear force.  Here’s how:

Rightsize the submarine force: Current Navy plans call for 12 new ballistic missile submarines—each with 16 nuclear-armed missiles—to replace the existing fleet of 12 operational Trident subs. Each new sub would cost an average of $7 billion; the entire fleet would cost $350 billion to build and operate over 50 years. The United States can rightsize the current and future ballistic missile submarine fleet from 12 to 8 and save $27 billion over 10 years (and $120 billion over the life of the program). Eight operational boats would allow the Pentagon to deploy the same number of sea-based warheads (about 1,000) as planned under New START.

Delay the new strategic bomber: The Air Force plans to retain 60 nuclear-capable, long-range B-2 and B-52 bombers into the 2040s, but has begun research on a new nuclear-capable heavy bomber, which could cost $50 billion or more to build. It would carry a new air-launched, nuclear-capable cruise missile. There is no rush to field a new bomber given that the Pentagon’s plan to deploy 60 heavy bombers under New START will be be achieved with existing aircraft. Delaying this program would save $18 billion over the next decade, according to the Pentagon.

For additional savings, the Pentagon could consider reductions to its land-based strategic missile force. The Air Force plans to maintain a force of up to 420 land-based missiles through 2030, and wants to buy a follow-on missile in the future. An additional $8 billion could be saved by “eliminating” the land-based missile leg of the nuclear triad, according to the Pentagon. Short of elimination, these missiles could be reduced and the follow-on missile program cancelled.

The Bottom Line

Wasting billions on an excessive nuclear force does nothing to help convince nations, such as Iran or North Korea, or terrorist actors to abandon their pursuit of dangerous weapons.

Nevertheless, “defense hawks” in Congress are calling the sequestration “dangerous” and the military services are lining up to protect their pet programs, such as the new ballistic missile submarine.

Fresh thinking is in order. The automatic reductions, although large, are achievable if done smartly. National security can actually be enhanced through greater budget discipline. Programs that address low priority threats must be scaled back to preserve more pressing national security needs.

As Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said Nov. 11, “The amount of money we’re spending on maintaining nuclear weapons, modernizing nuclear weapons, is not in keeping with the modern world. It’s much more a Cold War remnant.”

For the good of the country, it is time to fundamentally rethink federal spending on nuclear weapons. –Tom Z. Collina and Daryl G. Kimball

Posted: December 2, 2011

The IAEA's Iran Report: Assessment and Implications

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Volume 2, Issue 15, November 8, 2011

The IAEA report and annex released today provides disturbing and “credible” additional details regarding Iranian nuclear warhead development efforts that have allowed Tehran to acquire some of the expertise needed to build nuclear weapons, should it decide to do so.

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Volume 2, Issue 15, November 8, 2011

The IAEA report and annex released today provides disturbing and “credible” additional details regarding Iranian nuclear warhead development efforts that have allowed Tehran to acquire some of the expertise needed to build nuclear weapons, should it decide to do so.

The broad outline in the IAEA’s latest report on the military dimensions of Iran’s program is not new, but rather, provides greater detail regarding weapons-related activities outlined in previous public reports.

The IAEA report and annex reinforce what the nonproliferation community has recognized for some time: that Iran engaged in various nuclear weapons development activities until 2003, then stopped many of them, but continued others.

The activities documented in the IAEA report, including research related to nuclear warheads, underscore that Tehran’s claims that it is only seeking the peaceful use of nuclear energy are false.

Iran’s warhead work also contradicts its obligation not to pursue nuclear weapons under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), under which states parties commit “not to seek or receive any assistance in the manufacture of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.”

The report suggests that Iran is working to shorten the timeframe to building the bomb once and if it makes that decision. But it remains apparent that a nuclear-armed Iran is still not imminent nor is it inevitable.

The report should prompt greater international pressure on Tehran to respond more fully to the IAEA’s questions, allow for more extensive inspections of its nuclear facilities, engage more seriously in talks on its nuclear program, and to agree to confidence building steps to help resolve the crisis.

Comparison of the IAEA’s Findings with Public U.S. Intelligence Assessments

Because the IAEA report is based largely on intelligence the United States and other IAEA member states have been sharing with the agency for some time, in addition to the agency’s own investigations, the information in the report likely provides greater insight into current U.S. assessments about Iran’s nuclear program.

The U.S. intelligence community appears to stand by the judgment made in the 2007 NIE that Iran had a nuclear weapons program that was halted in the fall of 2003. Moreover, in his testimony before a Senate committee in March 2011, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper confirmed that the intelligence community still had a high level of confidence that Iran has not yet made a decision restart its nuclear weapons program.

Because the weapons program is believed to refer to the series of projects the IAEA report details, Clapper’s statement is not inconsistent with the notion that some weapons-related R&D has resumed which is not part of a determined, integrated weapons-development program of the type that Iran maintained prior to 2003.

Consistent with the finding of the 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, the IAEA report says that a comprehensive weapons program (known as the AMAD Plan) “was stopped rather abruptly pursuant to a ‘halt order,’” in late 2003, but that some of the program’s activities were resumed later. Key personnel are still involved in those renewed activities apparently tying up loose ends regarding their prior research and development work.

Summary of Key IAEA Findings on Weapons-Related Activities

The IAEA deserves credit for continuing to press the issue and to present this important information to the IAEA Board of Governors in spite of Tehran’s unwillingness to cooperate with the investigation. This resolve helps to bolster the integrity of the agency and show that countries cannot simply get away with nonproliferation violations by denial and obfuscation.

According to the report, Iran was engaged in an effort prior to the end of 2003 which ran the full range of nuclear weapons development, from acquiring the raw nuclear material to working on a weapon they could eventually deliver via a missile. Just as important as the type of work being carried out is how that work was organized. The series of projects that made up Iran’s nuclear program appears to have been overseen by “senior Iranian figures” and engaged in “working level correspondence” consistent with a coordinated program.

Key components of this program include:

  • Fissile Material Production: As documented in previous reports, Iran ran an undeclared effort to produce uranium-tetrafluoride (also known as Green Salt), a precursor for the uranium used in the enrichment process. The affiliation between this project and other projects directly related to warhead development suggests that Iran’s nuclear weapons program included both fissile material production and warhead development. Although the report does not detail a uranium enrichment effort as part of the AMAD Plan, the secret nature of the Natanz enrichment plant prior to 2002 suggests that it was originally intended to produce the highly enriched uranium (HEU) for weapons.
  • High Explosives Testing: Iran’s experiments involving exploding bridgewire (EBW) detonators and the simultaneous firing of explosives around a hemispherical shape points to work on nuclear warhead design. The agency says that the type of high explosives testing matches an existing nuclear weapon design. Iran admits to carrying out such work, but claims it is for conventional military purposes and disputes some of the technical details.
  • Warhead Design Verification: Iran carried out experiments using high explosives to test the validity of its warhead design and engaged in preparatory work to carry out a full-scale underground nuclear test explosion.
  • Shahab-3 Re-entry Vehicle: Documentation reviewed by the IAEA has suggested that, as late as 2003, Iran sought to develop a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on the Shahab-3 missile. Confronted with some of the studies, Iran admitted to the IAEA that such work would constitute nuclear weapons development, but Tehran denies carrying out the research.

The IAEA admits that it has less information regarding warhead-related work Iran has continued to pursue since 2003, but the report has provided some insight into the type of activities that Iran subsequently resumed, which seems to be focused on warhead design verification. The fact that the agency was able to detail some of the organizational changes that have taken place since 2003, including the current position of the person who formerly oversaw the AMAD Plan, suggests that intelligence agencies still have considerable insight into Iran’s nuclear program. Tehran will likely be concerned about its inability to hide such important information and will likely engage in further restructuring following this report, which may delay its efforts once again.

Considering the IAEA's reliance on intelligence information from states, it went through considerable length to demonstrate why it thought this information was credible. It was not just a matter of acquiring consistent information from over 10 countries, but it seems some of the most incriminating evidence comes from the AQ Khan network, which Iran admits it relied upon. The information from the Khan network includes details about nuclear warhead designs the network gave Iran that match up to the research and experiments detailed in the intelligence information.

The IAEA Board of Governors Needs to Respond

The report will be considered by the IAEA Board of Governors at its next meeting Nov. 17-18, along with a draft resolution censuring Iran for violating its nonproliferation commitments. The Board’s 35 members cannot ignore Iran’s warhead development activities or Tehran’s refusal to cooperate with the IAEA’s investigation into that work. It must also insist that Iran improve its cooperation with the agency prior to the next board meeting.

A consensus response is unlikely given existing divisions among the 35 countries, and in particular, Cuba’s current membership on the board. Beijing and Moscow have also unfortunately played an unhelpful role prior to the release of the report by calling on Director-General Yukiya Amano to limit the information detailed it contains.

However, it is important that the board’s response receives support from as many countries as possible to demonstrate to Tehran that it cannot engage in work directly related to nuclear weapons with impunity.

In particular, developing countries on the IAEA Board of Governors should no longer treat the Iran nuclear issue as a test case for preserving the right to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Rather, it is time that all states insist that Iran stop abusing that right for the development of a nuclear weapons capability and take meaningful steps to cooperate with the IAEA and suspend enrichment work, particularly enrichment of uranium at the 20% level.

Rights and Responsibilities

Iran cannot complain that Western states are trying to deny the Islamic Republic its nuclear “rights.” The U.S. position, consistent with the 2006 offer by the P5+1, has been that Iran could resume enrichment some time in the future after it re-establishes confidence with the international community that it is not pursuing nuclear weapons.

As Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton explained it to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on March 1, 2011, it is the U.S. Government's position is that "under very strict conditions" and "having responded to the international community's concerns," Iran would have a "right" to enrich uranium under IAEA inspections.

In response to the IAEA’s report, the international community should redouble efforts to implement existing UN Security Council-mandated sanctions on Iran’s nuclear and missile sectors and, if Iran remains unwilling to cooperate with the IAEA and ignore the Security Council, further isolate Iran diplomatically and economically.

Maintain Pressure and Engage

In response to the report, the White House has appropriately underscored that the United States continues to focus on using diplomatic channels to pressure Iran to abandon its sensitive nuclear activities.

To keep open the option for an effective negotiated resolution to the crisis, President Barack Obama should also reiterate the willingness of the United States and its P5+1 partners to follow-through on the recent letter from the EU’s Catherine Ashton to Iran’s leaders offering to engage them in further talks to address the nuclear program.

Continuing pressure through targeted sanctions against Iran’s nuclear and missile sectors, coupled with the pursuit of a negotiated agreement to resolve serious concerns over Iran’s sensitive nuclear activities and to limit its uranium enrichment capacity provides the best chance of preventing a nuclear-armed Iran.

Talk of military strikes against Iranian nuclear and military targets is unhelpful and counterproductive. Military strikes by the United States and/or Israel would only achieve a temporary delay in Iran’s nuclear activities, convince Iran's leadership to openly pursue nuclear weapons, rally domestic support behind a corrupt regime, and would result in costly long-term consequences for U.S. and regional security and the U.S. and global economy.

Ultimately, resolving the nuclear issue will require sufficient pressure and inducement to convince Iran that it stands more to gain from forgoing a nuclear-weapons option and much to lose from any decision to build them. –PETER CRAIL, DARYL G. KIMBALL, GREG THIELMANN

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Posted: November 8, 2011

Science Replaces Nuclear Tests

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Volume 2, Issue 14, November 3, 2011

A front-page story in today’s Washington Post (“Supercomputers Offer Tools for Nuclear Testing--and Solving Nuclear Mysteries”) illustrates how far the U.S. Stockpile Stewardship Program has come since nuclear explosive tests ended in 1992. Scientists at the three U.S. national laboratories now have a deeper understanding of nuclear weapons than ever before.

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Volume 2, Issue 14, November 2, 2011

A front-page story in today’s Washington Post (“Supercomputers Offer Tools for Nuclear Testing--and Solving Nuclear Mysteries) illustrates how far the U.S. Stockpile Stewardship Program has come since nuclear explosive tests ended in 1992. Scientists at the three U.S. national laboratories now have a deeper understanding of nuclear weapons than ever before.

“We have a more fundamental understanding of how these weapons work today than we ever imagined when we were blowing them up,” Bruce T. Goodwin, principal associate director for weapons at Livermore National Laboratory, told the Post. Goodwin is in agreement with National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) administrator Thomas D'Agostino, who in 2008 said, "We know more about the complex issues of nuclear weapons performance today than we ever did during the period of nuclear testing."

It’s time for U.S. national policies to catch up with the science. The Senate voted against the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1999, in large part because the stewardship program was as yet unproven. Now, with two decades of experience, the Senate can ratify the CTBT with full confidence that the stewardship program can keep the U.S. arsenal safe and reliable.

Countries with nuclear weapons, such as China, India and Pakistan, cannot create advanced nukes without further nuclear test explosions. Without nuclear tests, Iran could not confidently build warheads for delivery by ballistic missiles. The CTBT would also improve America’s ability to detect, deter, and confront any nation that attempts to break the global taboo against nuclear testing. 

Stockpile Stewardship Passes the Test, Again

Almost 20 years after the last U.S. nuclear test explosion, it is clear that the existing arsenal can be maintained indefinitely, without nuclear test explosions and without pursuing new warhead designs.

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, a high-level independent technical review panel, concluded that the "lifetimes of today's nuclear warheads could be extended for decades, with no anticipated loss in confidence."

And as the National Academy of Sciences concluded in 2002, the stewardship program “provides the technical capabilities that are necessary to maintain confidence in the safety and reliability of the existing seven types of nuclear warheads in the active stockpile, provided that adequate resources are made available...and are properly focused on this task."

Stewardship Program Adequately Funded

Since fiscal year 2010, the Obama administration has requested, and the Congress has granted, significant increases for NNSA nuclear weapons activities, upping the budget by 10% to $7.0 billion from the previous year. Longer term, the administration has laid out an unprecedented $88 billion, ten-year plan for the nuclear weapons complex from 2012 to 2021. Then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates noted in 2010 that, "These investments, and the... strategy for warhead life extension, represent a credible modernization plan necessary to sustain the nuclear infrastructure and support our nation's deterrent."

On December 1, 2010, the then-directors of the three U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories wrote that they were "very pleased" with the administration's budget plan. Lawrence Livermore director Dr. George Miller, Los Alamos director Dr. Michael Anastasio, and Sandia director Dr. Paul Hommert said that the increased funding plan provides "adequate support" to sustain the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

For fiscal year 2012, the Obama administration is requesting $7.63 billion for NNSA weapons activities. Congress is likely to increase NNSA funding again, but not as much as the administration wants. The Republican-led House appropriations committee increased funding for NNSA weapons activities to $7.13 billion, and the Senate approved a similar increase to $7.19 billion.

However, these minor reductions in the President’s proposed NNSA budget will not prevent NNSA from completing its primary mission.  As House Energy and Water Subcommittee Chair Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) said in June:

“Yes, ‘Weapons Activities’ is below the President’s request, but this request included hundreds of millions of dollars for construction projects that are not ready to move forward, capabilities that are secondary to the primary mission of keeping our stockpile ready, and, yes, slush funds that the administration has historically used to address its needs…The recommendation before you eliminates these weaknesses and it is responsible.”

Life Extensions: Be Conservative

Beyond funding questions, NNSA needs to ensure that the national labs are focused on the highest priority stockpile stewardship tasks. For example, the labs should only pursue cost-effective, technically conservative warhead life extension strategies that minimize unnecessary changes to already well-understood and proven warhead designs.

From fiscal year 2011 to 2031, NNSA plans to spend almost $16 billion on Life Extension Programs (LEPs) to extend the service life and in some cases modify almost every warhead in the enduring stockpile. This includes an estimated $3.7 billion on the W88 warhead, $3.9 billion on the B61 bomb, $4.2 billion on the W78 warhead, $1.7 billion on the W76 warhead, and $2.3 billion on the W80-1 warhead.

Some enhancements for safety and security may be warranted, but there is a risk. For years, stockpile managers and designers have preached design-change “discipline,” noting that an accumulation of unnecessary design and materials modifications could undermine confidence in warhead reliability.

For example, the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee warned in September that efforts to modify the B61 bomb with “untried technologies” should “not come at the expense of long-term weapon reliability. New safety and security features should be incorporated in weapon systems when feasible, but the primary goal of a life extension program should be to increase confidence in warhead performance without underground nuclear testing.”

As a result, the Senate reduced the B61 LEP budget request by more than $43 million. Former weapons designer Bob Peurifoy, a retired Sandia National Laboratory vice president, said that NNSA’s plans to change the B61 are “risking a very reliable system.”

The NNSA and Congress need to review the current life extension program to ensure that enthusiasm associated with extensively modifying warheads does not get out of hand. Marginal improvements in weapons security and safety should not come at the expense of long-term weapon reliability.  —Daryl G. Kimball and Tom Z. Collina

Posted: November 2, 2011

New START for Less Money

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Volume 2, Issue 13, October 13, 2011

Next month the congressional “super committee” is expected to propose major reductions in federal spending. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Oct. 11 that the Pentagon will reduce projected spending by more than $450 billion over the next ten years as a result of Congress’ debt agreement, and that "every program, every contract and every facility will be scrutinized for savings.”

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Volume 2, Issue 13, October 13, 2011

Next month the congressional “super committee” is expected to propose major reductions in federal spending. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Oct. 11 that the Pentagon will reduce projected spending by more than $450 billion over the next ten years as a result of Congress’ debt agreement, and that "every program, every contract and every facility will be scrutinized for savings.”

Congress must now tackle the question of how large the spending reductions will ultimately be and what programs will get the axe. The size of the reductions could double depending on what the super committee decides to do. And, according to Panetta, some of the biggest savings will come from “reduced levels of modernization in some areas.”

The same day as Panetta spoke, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) announced that he and 64 other House members had signed a letter to the super committee asking for major reductions to nuclear weapons programs. Reducing “outdated and unnecessary nuclear weapons,” they wrote, would “allow us to continue funding the national defense programs that matter most.”

Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, shot back later that same day that “what Mr. Markey proposes amounts to unilateral disarmament of the [United States].”

A closer look at what Rep. Markey and his colleagues propose reveals that Rep. Turner’s accusation is off the mark. In fact, both congressmen should be able to agree that the Pentagon could save tens of billions of dollars on new strategic submarines and bombers while still fielding as many nuclear warheads as already planned. Doing so would also allow Russia to scale back its modernizations plans, making both sides safer.

Under the recent U.S.-Russian New START treaty, both nations are limited to 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear warheads. Outgoing Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn said Oct. 5 that defense planners are looking to stay at New START limits “but to do it in a more fiscally responsible fashion.”

For example, Rep. Markey pointed to the Navy’s new $350 billion nuclear-armed submarine program as a prime target for spending cuts, saying that, “reducing America’s submarine fleet from 14 to 8 and delaying procurement of new submarines will save $27 billion over the next ten years.”

At $29 billion per boat, this is the most expensive nuclear weapons program by far. If the Navy were to rightsize the force to 8 subs, it could save $27 billion over 10 years and $120 billion over the life of the program. And we wouldn’t have to give up any nuclear firepower to do it. Eight operational boats would allow the Pentagon to deploy the same number of sea-based warheads (about 1,000) as planned under New START.

Is this “unilateral disarmament”? Hardly.

Key to this plan is the fact that the Navy has extra space on its missiles. Each Trident missile deployed on subs can carry up to 8 nuclear warheads, but the Navy currently loads each with 4 or 5. So, if we made more efficient use of the space on each missile, the Navy could buy fewer missiles and subs.

And this extra space costs big money. Is it worth $120 billion to buy four subs and 64 missiles just to have warhead slots that are unlikely to ever be used? No. Those billions could buy a lot of body armor for troops in the field.

Maintaining an expensive “upload potential” may have made sense during the Cold War when the Pentagon wanted the ability to expand its nuclear force quickly in case of unforeseen threats. But today there is no threat that would justify expanding the U.S. arsenal. Moreover, upload capacity will still exist on strategic missiles and bombers.

Meanwhile, the Air Force wants a new strategic bomber that would cost at least $50 billion in procurement alone. But its current strategic bombers (B2s and B52s) are being modernized to last until 2040. There is no rush to field a new bomber, and the Pentagon’s plan to deploy 60 bombers under New START can be achieved with existing aircraft. Delaying this program would save almost $4 billion over the next decade.

The budget saving potential from U.S. nuclear forces is so compelling that Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) recently proposed reducing nuclear weapons spending by $79 billion over ten years, in part by curtailing and delaying the new submarine and bomber programs.

Russia has already cut its nuclear forces below New START, and would need to rebuild some systems if it wants to maintain these levels. But just like us, Moscow has better things to do with its scarce resources.

To reduce the deficit, Republicans and Democrats will need to put away the alarmist rhetoric and make some tough choices. This one, however, is just common sense.  By being more efficient in how it fields warheads, the Pentagon can maintain a New START force and save tens of billions over ten years and more than $100 billion beyond that.  If policy-makers are serious about reducing defense budgets, this is one example of fiscal responsibility that we cannot afford to ignore. --Tom Z. Collina

Posted: October 13, 2011

Time for the Test Ban Treaty Is Now

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Volume 2, Issue 12, September 12, 2011

A Reply to Jim Woolsey and Keith Payne

The United States signed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) fifteen years ago, and the treaty now has 182 members. Russia and China stopped nuclear explosive testing as a direct result of the CTBT and only one nation (North Korea) has conducted a nuclear test since 1998. The CTBT has halted the regular practice of nuclear explosive testing, reducing the nuclear danger to the United States, its allies, and the world.

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Volume 2, Issue 12, September 12, 2011

A Reply to Jim Woolsey and Keith Payne

The United States signed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) fifteen years ago, and the treaty now has 182 members. Russia and China stopped nuclear explosive testing as a direct result of the CTBT and only one nation (North Korea) has conducted a nuclear test since 1998. The CTBT has halted the regular practice of nuclear explosive testing, reducing the nuclear danger to the United States, its allies, and the world.

The United States was able to confidently sign the CTBT in 1996 because it already has the most sophisticated and well-tested nuclear arsenal, having conducted more nuclear detonations—1,054 from 1945 to 1992—than all other nations combined. Moreover, the United States remains the world’s unquestioned conventional weapons superpower. Today, there is no technical or military rationale for the United States to resume nuclear testing, and Washington gains an important constraint on nuclear proliferation by preventing testing by others.

Nevertheless, in a stunning example of grabbing a national security defeat from the jaws of victory, the United States has signed but not yet ratified the CTBT, which has slowed progress toward entry into force. U.S. leadership is essential to trigger ratifications by the eight other states necessary for formal entry into force, and this spring the Obama administration reiterated its support for reconsideration of the CTBT and prompt entry into force of the treaty.

In a May 10 address, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher pledged to take the time necessary to brief senators on key technical and scientific advances in the U.S. stockpile stewardship program and nuclear test monitoring that have occurred since the Senate's brief consideration of the treaty in 1999.
 
"We are committed to taking a bipartisan and fact-based approach with the Senate," Tauscher said.

Indeed, the case for the CTBT has grown stronger over the last decade. As 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."

As the Obama administration provides updated information, senators have a responsibility to take a serious look at the merits of the treaty in light of the new evidence and not rush to judgment on the basis of old or misleading information.

Unfortunately, some CTBT opponents continue to make the same old tired arguments against the treaty, such as the Sept. 8 op-ed, “Reconsidering the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty,” by Jim Woolsey and Keith Payne. It is time to put these misleading claims to rest.

Here are the top four reasons to support U.S. CTBT ratification:

1. The Test Ban Makes America More Secure: Ignoring abundant evidence to the contrary, Woolsey and Payne make the usubstantiated claim that ratification of the CTBT would not strengthen efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons. Woolsey and Payne’s views are at odds with a growing list of bipartisan leaders who agree that the CTBT provides an important constraint on the ability of other states to threaten American security.

 As Dr. Sigfried Hecker, former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, said in 2009, "the single most important reason to ratify the CTBT is to stop other countries from improving their arsenals."

For example, with additional nuclear testing China could perfect smaller warhead designs and thereby put multiple warheads on its relatively small arsenal of strategic ballistic missiles, increasing the nuclear danger to the United States.

 Potential nuclear-armed states like Iran could use nuclear test explosions to perfect more advanced, smaller nuclear warhead designs that could fit on ballistic missiles. Given Tehran's advancing uranium-enrichment and missile capabilities, it is important to establish additional barriers against a sophisticated Iranian nuclear weapons capability in the years ahead.

Does it make sense to forego the CTBT and leave the door open to the resumption of nuclear testing by Russia, China and others states? Surly not. As Gen. John Shalikashvili, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, concluded in his 2001 report on the CTBT, "For the sake of future generations, it would be unforgivable to neglect any reasonable action that can help prevent nuclear proliferation, as the Test Ban Treaty clearly would."

Preventing nuclear testing not only denies proliferators an important tool to develop more threatening warheads, but the CTBT is vital to broader U.S. nonproliferation goals. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) would probably not have been extended indefinitely in 1995 without the pledge from the United States and the other original nuclear powers to stop testing and conclude CTBT negotiations by the end of 1996.

If Washington continues to block the CTBT, the United States will have less leverage to strengthen nuclear safeguards, tighten controls on nuclear weapons-related technology, and isolate states that don't follow the nonproliferation rules. 

CTBT proponents do not claim that an end to U.S. testing or 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 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."

In other words, the CTBT won’t by itself stop proliferation, but we can’t improve our chances of stopping proliferation and reducing the nuclear threat without the CTBT.

To date, 182 states have signed the CTBT. All of the United States' major allies, including all members of NATO, support the CTBT. They expect and even encourage the United States to act.  After nearly 20 years without nuclear testing, the United States' friends and foes have no doubt that the U.S. nuclear arsenal is effective and reliable.

As recently as April 29, 2011, the foreign ministers of 10 key U.S. allies—Australia, Germany, Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates—issued a statement calling on "all states which have not yet done so to sign and ratify the CTBT… We believe that an effective end to nuclear testing will enhance and not weaken our national as well as global security and would significantly bolster the global non-proliferation and disarmament regime."

2. The U.S. Does Not Need Nuclear Test Explosions: As National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) head Thomas D'Agostino said in an April 2011 interview, the United States has "a safe and secure and reliable stockpile. There's no need to conduct underground [nuclear] testing."

The technical strategy for maintaining the effectiveness and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile without explosive testing has been in place for more than a decade. 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 NNSA 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."

The 2002 National Academy of Sciences panel report on "Technical Issues Related to the CTBT" found that the current Stockpile Stewardship Program provides the technical capabilities that are necessary to maintain confidence in the safety and reliability of the existing seven types of nuclear warheads in the active stockpile, "provided that adequate resources are made available...and are properly focused on this task."

The Obama administration's unprecedented $88 billion, 10-year plan for upgrading the nuclear weapons complex should give senators even greater confidence that there is a long-term strategy and more than enough funding to continue to maintain the U.S. arsenal effectively. The administration's long-term weapons complex budget plan represents a 20 percent increase above funding levels during the George W. Bush years.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates noted in 2010 that: "These investments, and the... strategy for warhead life extension, represent a credible modernization plan necessary to sustain the nuclear infrastructure and support our nation's deterrent."

On December 1, 2010, the directors of the three U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories wrote that they were "very pleased" with the administration's budget plan. Lawrence Livermore director Dr. George Miller, Los Alamos director Dr. Michael Anastasio, and Sandia director Dr. Paul Hommert said that the increased funding plan provides "adequate support" to sustain the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

 Minor cuts and cost savings in the NNSA budget will not change the fact that the NNSA weapons activities budget, now at $7 billion, provides more than enough to get the job done.

Even so, Woolsey and Payne write that “no one knows what types of nuclear weapons may be needed in the future…” and that the United States should in effect block entry-into-force of the CTBT in deference to this unknowable possibility. But in the exceedingly unlikely event that nuclear testing is needed in the distant future, the United States has the option of exercising the CTBT's "supreme national interest" withdrawal clause.

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

3. The CTBT Is Verifiable: Woolsey and Payne correctly point out that “the CTBT’s International Monitoring System [IMS] provides some impressive detection technology.” Indeed, under the CTBT, no would-be cheater could be confident that a nuclear explosion of sufficient yield to possibly threaten U.S. security would escape detection. But 

CTBT critics often ignore the fact that the IMS is not the only means of test monitoring and treaty verification. U.S. national technical means of intelligence (national seismic and radiation detection stations, spy satellites, human intelligence, and other tools) are extremely capable and data from these sources can be employed to verify treaty compliance.

The CTBT International Monitoring System provides for monitoring stations inside Russia, China, and other sensitive locations, including some places where the United States could not gain access on its own. By establishing a legally-binding ban on testing and providing additional international test monitoring capabilities, the CTBT gives the United States additional tools to resolve compliance concerns and address potential violations.

North Korea has provided two recent real-world tests of United States and global monitoring capabilities. In October 2006, the international monitoring system easily detected North Korea’s relatively low-yield (0.6 kiloton) nuclear explosion at 22 seismic stations and had a solid estimate of its location within five hours of the event. Tell-tale radioactive gases from this test were detected by South Korea, the U.S., and 4,600 miles away in Yellowknife, Canada, at one of the international monitoring network’s noble gas monitoring stations.

The second test by North Korea on May 25, 2009, with a yield of a few kilotons, was detected by a total of 61 international seismic stations. Some have suggested that because the international monitoring network did not detect radionuclide particles from the second North Korean test explosion, the system failed.

But, in fact, the seismic evidence alone would have provided a firm basis for on-site inspections (OSIs). The CTBT sets a limit of 1,000 square km for the inspected area, and the seismic data located the test well within this limit. According to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), “The data would have provided a clear lead to the inspection team regarding where to look.”

On-site inspections in response to signs of a suspicious event would be an important deterrent against potential clandestine nuclear testing, but would only be available once the treaty enters into force. The treaty also permits information from national technical means of verification to support an on-site inspection request.

Woolsey and Payne, however, suggest that because the CTBT requires 30 of 51 nations on the CTBTO's Executive Council to agree to an OSI, states unfriendly to the U.S. could block them. In reality, the CTBT’s on-site inspection provisions were established to balance the need for rapid response to a suspected test against the possibility of “frivolous or abusive” inspections. The approval of 30 out of 51 members of the Executive Council was designed to give nations like the United States. and Israel confidence that inspections would be approved as needed, but not by a small minority with questionable motives.

4. Zero Means Zero: Woolsey and Payne repeat another misleading claim that the CTBT does not define "nuclear test explosion" and therefore some states such as Russia believe low-yield "hydronuclear" tests are permitted. The negotiating record, however, is clear: Article I of the CTBT bans "any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion" and all signatories of the treaty understand that means zero nuclear test explosions.

In 1999, the United States' CTBT negotiator, Amb. Stephen Ledogar, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the subject and said:

“I have heard some critics of the Treaty seek to cast doubt on whether Russia, in the negotiation and signing of the Treaty, committed itself under treaty law to a truly comprehensive prohibition of any nuclear explosion, including an explosion/experiment/event of even the slightest nuclear yield. In other words, did Russia agree that hydronuclear experiments would be banned, and that hydrodynamic explosions (which have no yield because they do not reach criticality) would not be banned?"

Ledogar went on to say: "The answer is a categoric 'yes.' The Russians, as well as the other weapon states, did commit themselves. That answer is substantiated by the record of the negotiations at almost any level of technicality (and national security classification) that is desired and permitted. More importantly for the current debate, it is also substantiated by the public record of statements by high level Russian officials...."

As the Russian government explained to the Duma when it ratified the CTBT in 2000: "Qualitative modernization of nuclear weapons is only possible through full-scale and hydronuclear tests with the emission of fissile energy, the carrying out of which directly contradicts the CTBT." 

 It is clear to all parties that the CTBT establishes a “zero-yield” prohibition on nuclear test explosions.

Doing Nothing Is Unwise

Woolsey and Payne’s arguments amount to a “do-nothing” approach that would deny the United States the benefits of CTBT ratification. Without positive action on the CTBT, the risks of a resumption of nuclear testing will only grow. U.S. ratification, however, would reinforce the taboo against testing and prompt other hold-out states—such as China, India, and Pakistan—to ratify or reconsider the treaty.

Nuclear testing is a dangerous and unnecessary vestige of the Cold War that the United States rightly rejected two decades ago. The United States does not need nuclear weapons test explosions, but those who seek to improve their arsenals do. U.S. action on the CTBT would build support for updating and strengthening the global nonproliferation system at a critical juncture. The Senate’s reconsideration of the CTBT should be based on an honest and up-to-date analysis of the facts and the issues at stake. –TOM Z. COLLINA and DARYL G. KIMBALL

Posted: September 12, 2011

Strengthening U.S. National Security Through the Global Arms Trade Treaty

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Volume 2, Issue 11, August 12, 2011

Each year, thousands of civilians around the world are slaughtered by weapons sold to unscrupulous regimes and  transferred to illegal militias and criminals. In addition to the human toll, this cycle of violence undermines economic development and political stability in often fragile regions.

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Volume 2, Issue 11, August 12, 2011

Each year, thousands of civilians around the world are slaughtered by weapons sold to unscrupulous regimes and  transferred to illegal militias and criminals. In addition to the human toll, this cycle of violence undermines economic development and political stability in often fragile regions.

As the world's top conventional arms exporter with one of the most robust export control systems, the United States--along with its allies and partners--stands to benefit from tougher, global standards for the arms trade.

The successful negotiation and adoption of a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) to regulate international weapons transfers would bolster both the security interests of the United States and its efforts to promote human rights and stability abroad.

In December 2006, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 61/89 "Towards an Arms Trade Treaty: establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms," leading to expert discussions on the proposition. In 2009, UN member states, led by the UK and co-authors, including Australia, endorsed a resolution to negotiate "a legally binding instrument on the highest possible common international standards for the transfer of conventional arms." At the insistence of the United States, the negotiating conference must agree on the treaty text by consensus.

Now, some five years after the process began, the possibility of securing a uniform framework to monitor and regulate the international arms trade is within reach. Last month, from July 11-15, delegations from more than 100 governments, including the United States, met for the Third Preparatory Committee meeting on the treaty.

Momentum for the treaty accelerated with statements from global investors with over $1.2 trillion in assets, an international group of armed violence survivors, and representatives from the arms industry. Member states plan to meet for four weeks in mid-2012 to finalize the text of the ATT.

Toward an Effective Arms Trade Treaty

The United States needs to be out front pushing for a meaningful, bullet-proof Arms Trade Treaty. By preventing military equipment, including small arms and light weapons, from reaching the hands of terrorists, criminals, and human rights abusers, an ATT would assist U.S. partners and allies abroad in their efforts to protect human rights, promote stable democracies, and help build more secure and productive societies.

The ATT now under consideration should require states-parties to enact laws regulating the export, import, transfer, and brokering of arms. These regulations should apply to all major military equipment and small arms that are transferred from one party to another across international borders.

The ATT should also call on states to identify possible criteria for denial of international arms transfer licenses; this list should address human rights, security, and development concerns. In addition, a strong treaty should require member states to regularly and publicly report on their arms sales and purchases, transfer approvals, and the reasons for license denials.

To be effective, the ATT needs to be comprehensive and cover not only the many types of arms transfers--such as sales, gifts, and transfers of technology--but it must also include the weapons themselves, their components, and their ammunition.

The effectiveness of the ATT will be diminished if states-parties negotiate a final text that is unnecessarily narrow in scope and fails to include sufficient requirements for the effective implementation of its goals.

The National Security Logic of an Arms Trade Treaty

Work on the ATT began in 2006 and the United States has participated in the process since 2009. Speaking in February 2010, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher explained the security rationale for the United States' support for the Arms Trade Treaty:

"[S]table societies and secure environments are the best places for the growth of freedom and prosperity." She said that "robust and vigorous regulation and enforcement would make it much more difficult for terrorist groups or rogue nations to destabilize regions or support terrorist activity."

Enemies of the United States benefit from two consequences of a poorly regulated arms trade: the perpetuation of chaos in the host state where they seek refuge, and the increased availability of military material with which they can arm themselves.

The risk of high-quality military goods reaching insurgents fighting U.S. troops and allies abroad is not an abstract, theoretical danger. One recent well-reported case involves the Italy-based smuggling ring of Alessandro Bon, which sent multiple shipments of military sniper scopes and other military goods to Iran, in violation of a UN arms embargo. German troops in Afghanistan subsequently recovered two of the scopes after being fired upon by snipers, leading to renewed scrutiny of Iran's arms smuggling capabilities.

The ATT would assist state authorities investigating similar cases in several ways. According to news reports based on Italian court documents, a Romanian front company set up by the Bon syndicate and an alleged Iranian intelligence operative helped facilitate at least one shipment of sniper scopes. The transfers were also initially routed through Dubai in order to dispel suspicions. An ATT that requires states-parties to license or otherwise regulate the activities of brokers and importers could aid in the prevention of similar operations.

While some states do currently require licenses for the transit of arms shipments through their territory, others only require verification of export and import documentation or details of the planned physical journey of the arms. A global ATT could help standardize these requirements so that third-countries must make a separate sovereign judgment on the wisdom of granting an arms shipment passage through their territory, based on the same predetermined criteria that exporters must apply.

Arms brokers are primarily responsible for the spread of illegal arms to the world's war zones. As the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a July 2011 statement:

"If the activities of brokers are not controlled, then the Arms Trade Treaty will be easily undermined by the activities of unscrupulous brokers operating outside of any regulatory framework or from the territory of member states with little or no controls in place."

Arms Trade Treaty Myths and Realities

Here in the United States, the value of the ATT has been overshadowed by misleading lobbying efforts on the part of the National Rifle Association to misrepresent the treaty's potential effect on domestic gun ownership.

Some of these concerns are reflected in two recent letters addressed to the White House and State Department, circulated by the offices of Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Jon Tester (D-Mon.), and signed by 55 other senators. While both letters sympathize with the security and humanitarian goals of the treaty, their primary assertion is that the still-to-be-negotiated treaty will clash with the constitutional right of U.S. citizens to possess firearms. That is not the case.

The Moran letter claims that certain states have called for internal arms transfers to be regulated in order to effectively combat trafficking. While some states might seek such provisions, such measures are undeniably outside the scope of any possible treaty text. The 2009 UN General Assembly resolution establishing the Arms Trade Treaty negotiation process explicitly acknowledges the exclusive right of states "to regulate internal transfers of arms and national ownership, including through national constitutional protections." Notwithstanding the separate concerns expressed by Sen. Moran and his colleagues regarding the perceived constitutional implications of this choice of words, it is abundantly clear that the vast majority of negotiating parties recognize the "exclusive right" of states to regulate internal arms transfers.

In other words, the ATT will not regulate domestic sales of firearms. Its focus is instead on the control of the internationaltrade in conventional weapons in order to keep them out of the hands of human rights abusers, organized criminal enterprises, and terrorists.

A second concern outlined in the Moran letter relates to the inclusion of small arms and light weapons and their ammunition within the scope of the treaty. The Moran letter claims that this potentially makes the treaty too "broad" and therefore unenforceable.

This argument ignores the fact that the U.S. government, through the Department of State's Directorate of Defense Trade Controls and the Department of Justice's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, already controls the export and import of small arms and light weapons and their ammunition. Given that small arms are the most basic tool for insurgents, belligerents in low-intensity conflicts, terrorists, and criminals, the inclusion of these items in the ATT is essential to its effectiveness. It is in the interest of the United States and its allies to ensure that other states are following similar practices and have a legal mandate to implement effective export and import controls on small arms and light weapons.

Raising Global Standards to Meet U.S. Rules

The potential to raise other countries' international arms trade standards to the same level as that of the United States is a core benefit of the ATT. As Undersecretary Tauscher has noted, the United States possesses one of the "most comprehensive sets of requirements in the world" for the approval of arms exports. By leveling the playing field, an ATT would provide a framework for committing other states involved in the international weapons market to hold to the same requirements.

The right to deny or approve any export, import, or transfer would ultimately remain with the sovereign states-parties. While many provisions of the treaty are still to be fleshed out, this basic principle will not be altered. The chairman's working paper that has emerged from the preparatory committee meetings is not a draft treaty but rather an all-inclusive amalgamation of states' views and opinions that must now be fine-tuned and formalized in the course of the next year, before and during the treaty conference in 2012.

That more than half the U.S. Senate has expressed an interest in the proposed treaty and its potential security windfall is naturally a welcome development. But at this early stage, allegations that an arms trade treaty would infringe upon the right of U.S. citizens to possess firearms are misleading and unwarranted.

Time for Serious Dialogue, Not Demagoguery

Advocates of responsible, legal civilian gun possession should recognize the value of the ATT as a tool to reduce the carnage created by illicit and irresponsible international arms transfers to dictators and terrorists and to conflict-zones where civilians are literally caught in the cross-fire.

The ATT is not, as Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) recently misconstrued it, "... a bunch of bureaucrats at the United Nations dictating our liberties and freedoms." Rather, the Arms Trade Treaty is a responsible approach to a severe global problem that is being led by important and serious U.S. allies, including the United Kingdom, a major arms exporter, which has been a strong proponent of the ATT from the very beginning. As the U.K.'s Ambassador John Duncan said in February 2007, "We do not see the treaty ending the arms trade, but a treaty should be about making sure the arms trade is conducted responsibly and to make sure it is carried out with due regard to the impact that it has."

As Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in October 2009, "The United States is committed to actively pursuing a strong and robust treaty that contains the highest possible, legally binding standards for the international transfer of conventional weapons."

As the ATT states-parties work to finalize a treaty by next year, the Obama administration and the Congress should work together to produce such an outcome. -XIAODON LIANG AND DARYL G. KIMBALL

See ACA's ATT Resource Page for more information.

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Posted: August 12, 2011

Iranian Missile Messages: Reading Between the Lines of "Great Prophet 6"

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Volume 2, Issue 10, July 12, 2011

In light of justifiable concerns about Iran’s potential as a nuclear weapons state, the country’s latest military exercise, ending last week, provided some grounds for qualified relief. Although the official commentary was predictably defiant in tone, the overall choreography and the weapons actually fired bespoke neither the intent nor a current operational capability for Iran to strike at Israel or Europe. The absence in the exercise of systems likely to serve as nuclear weapons delivery vehicles belies contentions that Tehran is moving rapidly to achieve such a capability.

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Volume 2, Issue 10, July 12, 2011

In light of justifiable concerns about Iran’s potential as a nuclear weapons state, the country’s latest military exercise, ending last week, provided some grounds for qualified relief. Although the official commentary was predictably defiant in tone, the overall choreography and the weapons actually fired bespoke neither the intent nor a current operational capability for Iran to strike at Israel or Europe. The absence in the exercise of systems likely to serve as nuclear weapons delivery vehicles belies contentions that Tehran is moving rapidly to achieve such a capability.

“Great Prophet 6” Fireworks
In a ten-day extravaganza of martial events, dubbed “Great Prophet 6,” Iran conducted a prodigious number of missile launches, showcasing a variety of ballistic and cruise missiles, including some new missile types and a newly displayed silo basing mode. The live-fire exercises provided useful training for the troops and stimulated national pride among the population. Such displays of missile prowess also help Iran’s clerical government rally domestic support behind efforts to defy UN sanctions and send a warning message to potential aggressors.

Missiles Are the Measure
Missiles are the premier weapon of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran’s ballistic missiles, in particular, occupy an iconic place in the power pantheon – they are fast to employ, hard for an enemy to locate and attack prior to launch, difficult to intercept in flight, and can potentially serve as a vehicle for delivering nuclear weapons to targets far from the country’s border. Iran already has medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) in its arsenal, which can reach targets not only in neighboring states, but also in Israel. Moreover, given the heavy concentrations of U.S. troops in the region, even Iran’s shorter-range missiles can easily and quickly put the lives of U.S. soldiers at risk.

Anti-shipping cruise missiles – along with mines – provide one of Iran’s most credible deterrent threats, because they enable Tehran to effectively exploit its geographical position by threatening to interrupt maritime traffic through the Strait of Hormuz, which carries a third of all the world's seaborne traded oil. Such a disruption, even short-term, would have incalculable effects on the international economy.

Iranian missile forces loom large in relative significance because of inadequacies in Iran’s air and ground forces. These forces “are sufficient to deter or defend against conventional threats from Iran’s weaker neighbors…but lack the air power and logistical ability to project power much beyond Iran’s borders or to confront regional powers such as Turkey or Israel,” according to a recent official U.S. assessment. [1] U.S. domination of the seas and skies in any military confrontation drives Iran into a disproportionate reliance on threatening to use missiles to level the odds. Even so, the practical utility of Iranian missiles is primarily limited at present to being an instrument of intimidation or terror when targeted against cities, given that Iran’s ballistic missiles lack accuracy against point targets and Iran’s cruise missiles are not suited to land-attack.

By acquiring nuclear warheads for its medium-range ballistic missiles, Iran could gain the ability to destroy specific targets. The deployments of missile defenses in Israel and the Persian Gulf are unlikely to give the defenders confidence that nuclear devastation would be averted in the event of an actual Iranian nuclear missile attack. Moreover, missile defenses are likely to spur rather than retard Iranian efforts to improve their missiles. Fortunately, Tehran would also be aware that its use of nuclear weapons would provoke retaliation that could result in its annihilation as a nation – a risk disproportionate to any conceivable gain.

What Did the Exercise Actually Demonstrate?
The majority of missiles launched over the course of the exercise were either short-range, battlefield weapons, such as the solid fuel Fateh 110 or cruise missiles, such as the Tondar and Khalije Fars that were claimed to be effective against ships and fixed targets in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman. Of some two dozen missiles fired, only one was a medium-range missile with sufficient power and available space to carry a future nuclear warhead, the liquid fuel Shahab 3, a derivative of North Korea’s No Dong MRBM. Yet the Shahab 3’s range of approximately 1,000 km (with a 750 kg warhead) is not sufficient for it to reach Israel from a secure position in Iran. Iran has developed an advanced version of the Shahab 3, the Ghadr 1, to extend the system's range. This was accomplished by lengthening the airframe, using high-strength aluminum, and changing the shape of the missile’s warhead section. Yet the Ghadr 1 did not appear in the recent exercises.

The Iranian media also displayed, for the first time, underground missile silos, allegedly loaded with liquid fuel Shahabs. However, outside experts doubt the accuracy of the descriptions provided in the video coverage of the exercise and question whether Iran has any MRBMs operationally deployed in silos. In any case, such missiles would be far more likely to survive attack in a mobile basing mode than in fixed silos, which can be located in advance and effectively destroyed with little warning by the precision weapons available to the United States.

Iranian television reported further that Iranian forces had been equipped with a new, long-range radar system, the Ghadir, which was featured in the exercises.    

What Was the Intended Message?
Based on the statements of Iranian military leaders and reports in Iran’s media, the main messages of “Great Prophet 6” for friends and foe were: that Iran’s strength is increasing in spite of the UN sanctions; that Iran is not dependent on other nations for its defense; that Iranian missiles could not be effectively preempted or intercepted; and that any attack on Iran would be met with devastating retaliation.

The new radar and missile silos were offered as evidence than Iran cannot be disarmed and that retaliation was inevitable. The salvo launches of missiles were a reminder that missile defenses can be overwhelmed by numbers. The longer-range Shahab 3 symbolized Iran’s reach across the Middle East region, far beyond its own borders. Each of the systems displayed were described as the product of Iranian scientists and engineers, independent of reliance on foreign purchases or technical assistance.

Reading Between the Lines
There are, however, other conclusions to be drawn from Iran’s flexing of missile muscles.  For those seeking to prevent or dissuade Tehran from developing nuclear weapons, the most important question is how much progress the exercises demonstrate toward Iran developing and deploying the missiles, which would carry nuclear warheads.

Realistically, medium-term delivery boils down to two existing systems: the liquid fuel, single stage Ghadr 1 MRBM, an advanced derivative of the Shahab 3, and the solid fuel Sejjil 2 MRBM, a two-stage system with sufficient range to target Israel from launch sites throughout Iran, but not yet operational. Neither missile was flown during “Great Prophet 6.”

The only MRBM launched was announced to be a Shahab 3, an unlikely candidate for fulfilling Iran’s likely nuclear delivery capability aspirations. It is possible that the Iranians foresee using the Ghadr 1 as a nuclear weapons platform, in spite of the disadvantages inherent to liquid fuel mobile missiles – in terms of their limited mobility and greater vulnerability to attack.

It is more likely that the Iranians see the Sejjil 2 as the preferred carrier for a possible future nuclear warhead. Iran is apparently feeling no need to exercise its only operational missile suited for the nuclear mission and the missile best suited for the nuclear mission has not yet reached an operational status appropriate for exercising. Thus, if the U.S. Government is correct in assessing that Tehran has not yet made a decision to build nuclear weapons, there would appear to be time for dissuading it from doing so.

A Long-Range Missile Threat Not Yet in Sight
In a 1999 National Intelligence Estimate, the U.S. intelligence community projected that Iran could test an ICBM within “a few years.” Most analysts predicted back then either “even odds” or a “likely chance” that Iran would test an ICBM by 2010. However, in 2009, senior military and defense officials testified to Congress that shifting from deployment of strategic interceptors to Europe in a third site to a program for deploying theater interceptors in a “Phased Adaptive Approach” was appropriate since the Iranian ICBM threat was evolving more slowly than previously thought.

The Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis reported to Congress in 2011 that Iran was fielding increased numbers of SRBMs and MRBMs, “continuing to work on producing more capable MRBMs, and developing space launch vehicles, which incorporate technology directly applicable to longer-range missile systems.” [2] The still unofficial Report on Sanctions of the UN Panel of Experts completed in May 2011 revealed that the Iranians had conducted two unannounced tests of the Sejjil 2 MRBM (in October 2010 and February 2011) [3] in addition to the five flight tests it had conducted since 2007. (A senior Iranian Republican Guard Corps Commander recently confirmed two previously unannounced “1,900 km-range” missile flights tests in February.)

The Iranians launched their second satellite in May 2011, using the Safir Space Launch Vehicle (SLV) and predicted that it would be followed by another satellite launch in the summer. Unlike the larger Samorgh SLV that had been displayed as a mockup in February, conversion of the Safir SLV to a ballistic missile would still only deliver a nuclear-sized payload about 2,100 km, according to the IISS Strategic Dossier, [4] roughly the same as the Sejjil 2 MRBM.

This summer’s “Great Prophet 6” exercise provides more evidence that, while Tehran makes steady progress on augmenting its stocks of enriched uranium and while R&D work continues on its most likely MRBM candidate for being able to deliver a future nuclear weapon within the region, Tehran’s present military focus is on demonstrating and enhancing its conventional capability to deter and defeat a preventive attack on the Islamic Republic itself. It has not flight-tested, or indeed even asserted a need for, an IRBM or ICBM – the missile categories most relevant to threatening the territories of NATO Europe and the United States.

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Notes

1. Unclassified Report on Military Power of Iran (Congressionally Directed Action), April 2010, p.7

2. Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions, Covering 1 January to 31 December 2010, p.3

3. Panel of Experts Established Pursuant to Resolution 1929 (2010), Final Report, p.26, http://www.innercitypress.com/1929r051711.pdf

4. The International Institute for Strategic Studies: “Iran’s Ballistic Missile Capabilities: A Net Assessment,” May 2010, p.31

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Posted: July 12, 2011

Sorting CTBT Fact From Fiction

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Volume 2, Issue 9, June 20, 2011

After 1,030 U.S. nuclear test explosions, there is simply no technical or military rationale for the United States to resume nuclear explosive testing. At the same time, it is in the U.S. national security interest to prevent nuclear weapons testing by others.

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“Reconsidering the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty: Sorting Fact From Fiction”

Volume 2, Issue 9, June 20, 2011

After 1,030 U.S. nuclear test explosions, there is simply no technical or military rationale for the United States to resume nuclear explosive testing. At the same time, it is in the U.S. national security interest to prevent nuclear weapons testing by others.

A growing list of bipartisan leaders agree that by ratifying the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the United States stands to gain an important constraint on the ability of other states to build new and more deadly nuclear weapons that could pose a threat to American security.

As Dr. Sigfried Hecker, former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, said in a 2009 interview, "the single most important reason to ratify the CTBT is to stop other countries from improving their arsenals."

A new round of nuclear weapon test explosions would allow China to perfect smaller warhead designs and allow it to put multiple warheads on its relatively small arsenal of strategic ballistic missiles -- a move that could allow it to increase its nuclear strike capability.

Without nuclear weapon test explosions, potential nuclear-armed states like Iran would not be able to proof test the more advanced, smaller nuclear warhead designs that are needed in order to deliver such weapons using ballistic missiles. Given Tehran's advancing uranium-enrichment and missile capabilities, it is important to establish additional barriers against a sophisticated Iranian nuclear weapons capability in the years ahead.

As Gen. John Shalikashvili, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, concluded in his 2001 report on the CTBT, "For the sake of future generations, it would be unforgivable to neglect any reasonable action that can help prevent nuclear proliferation, as the Test Ban Treaty clearly would."

Engaging on the Technical Issues
Earlier this spring, the Obama administration reiterated its support for reconsideration of the CTBT. In a May 10 address outlining the national security value of the CTBT, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher pledged to take the time necessary to brief Senators on key technical and scientific advances in the U.S. stockpile stewardship program and national and international nuclear test monitoring that have occurred since the Senate's brief consideration of the Treaty in 1999.

"We are committed to taking a bipartisan and fact-based approach with the Senate," Tauscher said.

As the administration provides updated information on key technical issues related to the CTBT, Senators have a responsibility to take a serious look at the merits of the Treaty in light of the new evidence that has accumulated over the past decade and not rush to a judgment on the basis of old information.

Stuck in A Time Warp
Unfortunately, some anti-CTBT critics are stuck in the past and are only too willing to ignore key facts concerning the Treaty. Some, including commentators at the Heritage Foundation and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), have even suggested that the U.S. needs to resume nuclear testing.

A May 26 Web Memo from The Heritage Foundation claims that "nothing has changed" over the past decade and any effort to reconsider the merits of the treaty is an "attack" on the Senate.

Such hyperbole defies common sense and is out of step with current technical and geopolitical realities.

As Senator Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) noted in a statement released immediately following the October 13, 1999 vote on the CTBT: "Treaties never die, even when defeated and returned to the Executive Calendar of the Senate. Therefore, we will have another chance to debate the CTBT. And, it may well be that if my concerns ... can be alleviated, and if the potential for stockpile stewardship during the next decade can be realized, I will be able to vote for a CTBT in the future."

That Was Then, This Is Now
In the decade since the Senate last considered the CTBT, Senator Domenici and 58 other Senators have retired; only 41 Senators who debated and voted on the CTBT in 1999 remain.

Over the years, significant technical advances in the U.S. stockpile stewardship program and verification and monitoring capabilities have been achieved, and the value of the treaty to U.S. efforts to counter the spread of the bomb has grown.

As Ronald Reagan's Secretary of State George Shultz 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."

The Senate's understanding of the issues surrounding the CTBT should be based on an honest and up-to-date analysis of the facts rather than the myths and misperceptions from the last century that are being repeated by some CTBT critics. The following is a brief reality check:

1. Stockpile Stewardship Works: The nuclear weapons laboratory directors report they now have a deeper understanding of the nuclear arsenal and a wider range of tools and techniques to maintain an effective stockpile. Nevertheless, the Heritage Foundation charges "the U.S. nuclear weapons complex has grown weaker."

Those who are in a position to know say, unequivocally, that the arsenal can be maintained without nuclear test explosions and without pursuing new warhead designs. In 2008, Thomas D'Agostino, who was then George W. Bush's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Administrator, said:  "We know more about the complex issues of nuclear weapons performance today than we ever did during the period of nuclear testing."

The technical strategy for maintaining the effectiveness and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile has been in place for more than a decade. 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 NNSA's 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."

The 2002 National Academy of Sciences panel report on the "Technical Issues Related to the CTBT" found that the current Stockpile Stewardship Program provides the technical capabilities that are necessary to maintain confidence in the safety and reliability of the existing seven types of nuclear warheads in the active stockpile, "provided that adequate resources are made available...and are properly focused on this task."

Not only do the nuclear weapons laboratories have a deeper understanding of the arsenal than they ever did during the days of nuclear test explosions, but they also have more resources than ever.

The Obama administration's unprecedented $88 billion, 10-year plan for upgrading the nuclear weapons complex should give senators even greater confidence that there is a long-term strategy and more than enough funding to continue to maintain the U.S. arsenal effectively. The administration's long-term weapons complex budget plan represents a 20 percent increase above funding levels during the George W. Bush years.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates noted in 2010 that: "These investments, and the... strategy for warhead life extension, represent a credible modernization plan necessary to sustain the nuclear infrastructure and support our nation's deterrent."

On December 1, 2010, the directors of the three U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories wrote that they were "very pleased" with the administration's budget plan. Lawrence Livermore director Dr. George Miller, Los Alamos director Dr. Michael Anastasio, and Sandia director Dr. Paul Hommert said that the increased funding plan provides "adequate support" to sustain the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

The administration's $7.6 billion request for NNSA weapons activities for fiscal year 2012 is almost 19 percent higher than the $6.4 billion appropriated by Congress for fiscal year 2010. Minor cuts and cost savings in the NNSA budget will not change the fact that the NNSA weapons activities budget, now at $7 billion, provides more than enough to get the job done.

The success of the program requires that nuclear weapons labs and NNSA are focused on the highest priority stockpile maintenance tasks and pursue conservative warhead life extension strategies that minimize unnecessary and expensive alterations to already well-understood and proven warhead designs.

2. New Nuclear Testing Is Unnecessary and Unwise: Contrary to myth, maintaining the reliability of proven U.S. nuclear warhead designs does not (and has never) required a program of nuclear test explosions.

According to the 2002 National Academies of Science (NAS) panel that included three former nuclear weapons lab directors, age-related defects mainly related to non-nuclear components can be expected, "but nuclear testing is not needed to discover these problems and is not likely to be needed to address them."

Nevertheless, the Heritage Foundation's Peter Brookes recently argued in a New York Post oped that the CTBT would "further compromise ... the arsenal by ending our ability to test ... if necessary." That sounds a lot like the old assertion made in 1992 by then-Rep. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) that "[A]s 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."

Mr. Kyl may have had legitimate concerns back in 1992, but it is now abundantly clear that nuclear explosive testing is a vestige of the past that is no longer needed or wanted by the United States.

As NNSA Administrator Thomas D'Agostino put it succinctly in an April 2011 interview: "we have a safe and secure and reliable stockpile. There's no need to conduct underground [nuclear] testing."

In the exceedingly unlikely event that the president of the United States decides to resume nuclear testing, the United States has the option of exercising the CTBT's "supreme national interest" withdrawal clause.

However, given that the United States already has the most advanced and deadly nuclear arsenal in the world, another round of global nuclear tests would undermine U.S. security by  helping other nuclear-armed states improve their nuclear capabilities.

3. The CTBT Is Effectively Verifiable: Despite a decade of advances in national and international monitoring capabilities, the Heritage Foundation argues that "extremely low-yield tests are not likely to be detected by the IMS," or International Monitoring System.

This argument misses the point on verification and implies that low-yield tests are worth the high risk of getting caught.

Those countries that are most able to successfully conduct such clandestine testing already possess advanced nuclear weapons of a number of types and could add little, with additional testing, to the threats they already pose to the United States. Countries of lesser nuclear test experience and/or design sophistication would be unable to conceal tests in the numbers and yields required to master advanced warheads. Under the CTBT, no would-be cheater could be confident that a nuclear explosion of sufficient yield to possibly threaten U.S. security would escape detection.

CTBT critics also often ignore the fact that the IMS is not the only means of test ban monitoring and verification. U.S. national technical means of intelligence (national seismic and radiation detection stations, spy satellites, human intelligence, and other tools) are extremely capable and data from these sources can be employed to verify treaty compliance.

The U.S. national monitoring capabilities will be even more effective with the CTBT in force-with its global verification and monitoring network and the option of short-notice on-site inspections-than without it. The CTBT provides for monitoring stations inside Russia, China, and other sensitive locations, including some places where the United States could not gain access on its own. By establishing a legally-binding ban on testing and providing additional international test monitoring capabilities, the CTBT gives the United States additional tools to resolve compliance concerns and address potential violations.

4. Zero Means Zero: Another misleading charge from the Heritage Foundation and other critics is the claim that the CTBT does not define "nuclear test explosion" and therefore some states such as Russia believe low-yield and "hydronuclear" tests are permitted. A June 16 blogpost on the Heritage web site, called "Nuclear Weapons Testing Remains Necessary," states without any supporting evidence that "Russia and China ... claim that low-yield nuclear weapons tests ... do not constitute a violation of the treaty."

Wrong again. The record is clear: Article I of the CTBT bans "any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion" and all signatories of the treaty understand that means zero nuclear test explosions.

In 1999, the United States' CTBT negotiator, Amb. Stephen Ledogar, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the subject and said: "I have heard some critics of the Treaty seek to cast doubt on whether Russia, in the negotiation and signing of the Treaty, committed itself under treaty law to a truly comprehensive prohibition of any nuclear explosion, including an explosion/experiment/event of even the slightest nuclear yield. In other words, did Russia agree that hydronuclear experiments would be banned, and that hydrodynamic explosions (which have no yield because they do not reach criticality) would not be banned?"

Ledogar went on to say: "The answer is a categoric 'yes.' The Russians, as well as the other weapon states, did commit themselves. That answer is substantiated by the record of the negotiations at almost any level of technicality (and national security classification) that is desired and permitted. More importantly for the current debate, it is also substantiated by the public record of statements by high level Russian officials...."

As the Russian government explained to the Duma when it ratified the CTBT in 2000: "Qualitative modernization of nuclear weapons is only possible through full-scale and hydronuclear tests with the emission of fissile energy, the carrying out of which directly contradicts the CTBT."

5. The Test Ban and Nonproliferation: Ignoring abundant evidence to the contrary, CTBT critics at the Heritage Foundation make the absurd claim that ratification of the CTBT wouldn't strengthen efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons and would actually encourage U.S. allies to pursue their own nuclear weapons.

Preventing nuclear testing not only denies proliferators a tool to develop new types of warhead, but the CTBT is a vital to broader U.S. nonproliferation goals. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) would not likely have been renewed indefinitely in 1995 without the pledge from the U.S. and the other original nuclear powers to stop testing, support the CTBT, and conclude test ban negotiations by the end of 1996.

If Washington continues to hesitate on the CTBT, the United States will have less leverage to strengthen nuclear safeguards, tighten controls on nuclear weapons-related technology, and isolate states that don't follow the nonproliferation rules.

CTBT proponents do not claim that an end to U.S. testing or 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 Ellen Tauscher, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, 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."

To date, 182 states have signed the CTBT. All of the United States' major allies-including all members of NATO-support the CTBT. They expect and even encourage the United States to act on the CTBT.  After nearly 19 years without nuclear testing, the United States' friends and foes have little doubt that the United States nuclear arsenal is effective and reliable.

Nevertheless, the Heritage Foundation's latest blogpost "Nuclear Weapons Testing Remains Necessary" suggests that allies that rely on the credibility of the U.S. nuclear deterrent would be "incentivized to develop their own nuclear weapons capabilities" if the United States ratified the CTBT.

Really?  Our actual allies don't seem to agree.

As recently as April 29, the foreign ministers of 10 key U.S. allies-Australia, Germany, Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates-issued a statement calling on "all states which have not yet done so to sign and ratify the CTBT."

"We believe that an effective end to nuclear testing will enhance and not weaken our national as well as global security and would significantly bolster the global non-proliferation and disarmament regime," their statement added.

Bottom Line
Nuclear testing is a dangerous and unnecessary vestige of the last century that the United States has already given up. By ratifying the CTBT, the United States stands to lose nothing and gain an important constraint on the nuclear weapons capabilities of others that could pose a threat to U.S. security.

The Senate's reconsideration of the CTBT should be based not on myths from the past, but on an honest and up-to-date analysis of the facts and the issues at stake. - DARYL G. KIMBALL

Posted: June 20, 2011

Opening Pandora’s Box

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Description: 

Assessing the “Military Option” for Countering Iran’s Nuclear Program

Volume 2, Issue 8, June 10, 2011

Neither sanctions, cyber sabotage, nor off-and-on multilateral diplomacy has yet convinced the government of Iran to end its pursuit of activities that could give it the capability to build nuclear weapons some time in the next few years.

Iran continues to produce and stockpile low enriched uranium in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions that have repeatedly called for a suspension of its sensitive nuclear fuel cycle activities while a diplomatic solution is pursued. Despite increasingly tougher international sanctions, Tehran is expanding its nuclear infrastructure without fully complying with its International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards obligations. On June 9, Tehran announced its intent to accelerate its enrichment of uranium at the 20% level, substantially closer to that needed for bomb material.

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Assessing the “Military Option” for Countering Iran’s Nuclear Program

Volume 2, Issue 8, June 10, 2011

Neither sanctions, cyber sabotage, nor off-and-on multilateral diplomacy has yet convinced the government of Iran to end its pursuit of activities that could give it the capability to build nuclear weapons some time in the next few years.

Iran continues to produce and stockpile low enriched uranium in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions that have repeatedly called for a suspension of its sensitive nuclear fuel cycle activities while a diplomatic solution is pursued. Despite increasingly tougher international sanctions, Tehran is expanding its nuclear infrastructure without fully complying with its International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards obligations. On June 9, Tehran announced its intent to accelerate its enrichment of uranium at the 20% level, substantially closer to that needed for bomb material.

Not surprisingly, some policy makers and commentators argue that the United States should consider-or threaten-the use of force to stop or damage Iran’s nuclear program. However, a closer examination of the limitations and severe costs and consequences of “the military option” suggest that for all intents and purposes it is neither serious nor prudent.

Military Experts Advise Against

It is no accident that some of those who have had to professionally consider the option of using a “preventive” attack to counter Iran’s potential acquisition of nuclear weapons are among the least enthusiastic about seeing it exercised. Meir Dagan, former head of Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence service, referred last month to the possibility of an Israeli Air Force attack on Iranian nuclear facilities as “the stupidest thing I have ever heard.”[1] Dagan later claimed that Israel’s last military chief of staff and the just-retired director of internal security were like-minded in opposing any such “dangerous adventure.” [2]

U.S. military leaders and senior defense officials, who possess many more assets than Israel to apply to such a task, sound no more enthusiastic. Former CENTCOM Commander Adm. William Fallon was conspicuously opposed while he had responsibility for U.S. forces in the region. Continued advances in Iran’s nuclear program have apparently not changed Fallon’s mind. He said at an American Iranian Council symposium June 7 that the best strategy would be to set aside the use of force against Tehran. [3]

While serving as 5th Fleet commander in the Persian Gulf, now retired Vice Adm. Kevin Cosgriff also warned publicly about the negative consequences of a preventive attack. Moreover, it is no secret that outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen and outgoing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates have expressed strong reservations about resorting to the “military option.” Members of Congress and the public would be well advised to take heed.

Unfortunately, “leaving all options on the table” has become standard political trope in Washington with regard to Iran’s nuclear program. In this context, the “military option” means an unprovoked “preventive” attack to eliminate Iran’s future nuclear weapons capability. But such an attack would not stop Iran’s program, and the international consequences would be severe.

It Won’t Work

The first point to consider in evaluating the military option is whether or not an aerial assault would be able to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. David Albright and Jacqueline Shire of the Institute for Science and International Security noted in a 2007 article that such a scenario was built on “a false promise because it offers no assurances that an Iranian nuclear weapons program would be substantially or irreversibly set back.” [4] There is even less doubt today that Iran would retain its relevant human capital and production base following an attack, and would still be able to launch a crash program to develop a bomb.

Experts differ on how long an aerial assault would set Iran back-from a couple of years to as much as five years-but most agree the setback would not be permanent. This reality helps explain why Vice JCS Chairman Gen. James Cartwright agreed with Sen. Jack Reed’s statement in 2010 Senate testimony that: “(T)he only absolutely dispositive way to end any (Iranian nuclear weapons) potential would be to physically occupy their country and to disestablish their nuclear facilities.” [5]

In this context, it is instructive to look anew at the conventional wisdom about Israel’s 1981 raid on Iraq’s Osirak reactor. Generally regarded as a spectacular success, the attack did indeed delay Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapons program. But Iraq’s determination to succeed was strengthened, its commitment of personnel and resources skyrocketed, [6] and its success at hiding its activities from the IAEA and Western intelligence collectors increased.

Of course, 2011 is a far cry from 1981 and Iran is not Iraq. But in most respects, Iran is considerably less vulnerable to a single strike than Iraq was and much further along in mastering the nuclear fuel cycle. So it is realistic to assume that an attack on Iran can offer only delay, not prevent acquisition of nuclear weapons.

A Complex, Costly Operation

Iran’s nuclear infrastructure is not limited to one well-defined facility that could be damaged with a quick, surgical strike. Because Iran’s nuclear facilities and support network is extensive and geographically dispersed, any military operation against it would probably require a “major air campaign,” lasting days or weeks, according to Jeffrey White, Defense Fellow at the Washington Institute and former career analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency, speaking at an Arms Control Association briefing on June 7.

White added that the target list would likely extend far beyond Iran’s 25 declared nuclear facilities and related sites to include air defense sites, command-and-control nodes, and ballistic and cruise missile launchers. Beyond the strike assets, additional resources would be required for personnel recovery and post-strike battle damage assessments. A campaign of this magnitude would necessarily involve phases, allowing some Iranian assets not initially hit to be removed and hidden before being struck. The United States would soon confront difficult decisions concerning the need to go back in and re-attack surviving facilities or to disrupt the reconstruction of those that had been destroyed.

Little International Support

Few other countries would support a U.S. preventive attack and even fewer would participate in it, according to Career Ambassador Thomas Pickering at the June 7 Arms Control Association briefing. “Aside from Israel, no countries would be waiting in line to join (a U.S. attack),” said Pickering, who previously served as U.S. ambassador to Israel and five other countries, including Russia and India. Even those Arab governments that would welcome a diminution of Iranian power, including most of Iran’s Sunni neighbors in the Persian Gulf, would keep their enthusiasm well under wraps, avoiding provocations to popular sentiment in the face of yet another U.S. attack on a Middle Eastern Muslim country.

All of the countries whose continuing logistical support is critical to U.S. combat capabilities in the region-Afghanistan, Iraq, Russia, and Pakistan-are strongly opposed to a U.S. attack on Iran.  A precipitous reaction to an attack from any one of them could easily cripple U.S. war efforts. China, which has increased its trade with Iran even after the imposition of UN sanctions, as well as Russia, would strongly oppose use of force and likely would block any effort to secure UN Security Council authorization for military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Creating All the Wrong Incentives for Iran

According to Rand Corporation analyst Alireza Nader, the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, currently absorbed in a huge and divisive power struggle between Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, would be quickly reunited by an outside attack.

Nader, who also spoke at the June 7 Arms Control Association briefing, noted that Iran’s “very nationalistic” population, which is overwhelmingly supportive of Iran’s nuclear program and jealous of Iran’s sovereignty, would likely demand retaliation for a Western attack.

Such retaliation could take a number of forms, from ballistic missile attacks against U.S. military bases in the region and the cities, ports, and oil terminals of U.S. allies in the Gulf to missile and rocket attacks against Israel. The Jewish state could be attacked by Iran directly or indirectly through Tehran’s ally Hezbollah and ally of convenience, Hamas. Iran could also use the IRGC to attack U.S. troops indirectly by aiding and provoking Shia militias in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Energy Insecurity

A more direct target would be the petroleum tankers passing through the Strait of Hormuz, which carry nearly 40% of the world’s total traded oil. Iran’s regular and IRGC Navy elements have several methods for laying mines in the shipping channels of the narrow strait. Iran’s mobile anti-ship missiles on its Persian Gulf coast could do “a lot of damage” to shipping and be very difficult to hunt down, according to the Washington Institute’s Jeffrey White. Restoring safe passage for shipping could take days or weeks.

Delays and uncertainties in the supply of oil from the Persian Gulf and spiking insurance rates for tankers passing through the Strait of Hormuz would exert strong upward pressure on the price of oil-with a potential of quadrupling prices at the pump in the United States, according to some experts. Although Iran would have a disincentive for hurting the oil traffic on which much of its economy depends, it seems unlikely that it would tolerate military action against Iranian vessels without striking back at those ships vital to the economies of the United States and its Persian Gulf allies.

A Third Ground War?

As noted by Pickering, even a military attack on Iran with the narrowly defined objective of incapacitating Tehran’s nuclear weapons capability would run a serious risk of mission creep. Once engaged militarily, there could be pressures for incursions of U.S. ground forces to deny territory for missile launches against shipping, to rescue captured pilots, to aid anti-regime uprisings, or to secure nuclear materials. For the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, already stressed from a decade of conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, such additional commitments would raise serious questions about long-term sustainability and personnel retention.

If using military force cannot foreclose Iranian nuclear weapons potential and the consequences of a preventive attack are so onerous that security officials have already taken this option off the table, it makes no sense to pretend otherwise. Indeed, as Fallon warned at the June 7 American Iranian Council event, extended public discussion of the military option against Iran could harm prospects for alternative resolution to the nuclear problem. [7]

Sit on the Box and Use Your Head

U.S. security officials continue to testify to Congress that Tehran’s leaders have not yet decided to build and deploy nuclear weapons. Iran experts, like RAND’s Alireza Nader, believe it is not too late to dissuade Iran from taking such a course. Sanctions are in place, which impose heavy costs on Tehran’s refusal to open Iran up to more transparent cooperation with the IAEA, and they have been sustained while maintaining solidarity among the Permanent Members of the Security Council.

The United States needs to continue looking for diplomatic pathways to expanding IAEA access to Iranian nuclear capabilities and personnel, and stop rattling Pandora’s box as if it contained a key to the Iranian nuclear puzzle.-GREG THIELMANN

_______

Notes

1. Yossi Melman, “Former Mossad chief: Israel air strike on Iran ‘stupidest thing I have ever heard’,” Haaretz, May 7, 2011.


2. Ethan Bronner, “Former Spy Chief Questions Israeli Leaders’ Judgment,” The New York Times, June 3, 2011.


3. Elaine M. Grossman, “Former Diplomat, Admiral See U.S. Strike Against Iran as Unlikely,” Global Security Newswire, June 8, 2011.


4. David Albright and Jacqueline Shire, “A Witches’ Brew? Evaluating Iran’s Uranium-Enrichment Progress,” Arms Control Today, November 2007, p. 10.


5. Hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, April 14, 2010.


6. See, for example: Bennett Ramberg, “Preemption Paradox,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July/August 2006, p. 51.


7. Elaine M. Grossman, “Former Diplomat, Admiral See U.S. Strike Against Iran as Unlikely,” Global Security Newswire, June 8, 2011.

 

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Posted: June 10, 2011

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