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"In my home there are few publications that we actually get hard copies of, but [Arms Control Today] is one and it's the only one my husband and I fight over who gets to read it first."

– Suzanne DiMaggio
Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
April 15, 2019
Tom Z. Collina

Poll: Americans Want To Stay In Nuclear Arms Control Agreements

News Source: 
Defense One
News Date: 
May 20, 2019 -04:00

Creedon Takes Office at NNSA

Tom Z. Collina

Madelyn Creedon was sworn in on Aug. 7 by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz as the principal deputy administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semiautonomous part of the Energy Department.

Creedon, who was confirmed by the Senate on July 23, will assist NNSA Administrator Frank Klotz in the management and operation of the NNSA, according to an NNSA statement. President Barack Obama nominated her last November. (See ACT, December 2013.)

She most recently served as assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs, overseeing U.S. nuclear forces and missile defense policy.

The administration is still seeking confirmation of other senior officials for positions dealing with nuclear weapons policy, including Adam Scheinman, currently senior adviser to the State Department’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, to be special representative of the president for nuclear nonproliferation; Frank Rose, deputy assistant secretary of state for space and defense policy, to be assistant secretary for arms control, verification, and compliance; and Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, the top nuclear proliferation and defense policy official on the National Security Council (NSC), to be deputy secretary of energy.

On July 28, the Senate confirmed Brian McKeon, who had served as NSC staff director, as the principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy. The Senate had held up McKeon’s nomination over concerns that he had withheld information from Congress regarding Russia’s alleged violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. (See ACT, April 2014.)

Madelyn Creedon was sworn in on Aug. 7 by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz as the principal deputy administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semiautonomous part of the Energy Department.

White House Reviewing Nuclear Budget

Tom Z. Collina

Faced with increasing pressure to reduce military spending, the White House is overseeing an interagency review of multibillion-dollar plans to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal, an Obama administration spokesman said in August.

This review will inform the administration’s fiscal year 2016 budget request to Congress, Ned Price of the National Security Council (NSC) said in an Aug. 22 e-mail to Arms Control Today. The NSC staff is leading the review, Price said.

The budget request is to be submitted to Congress early next year.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan, independent report commissioned by Congress and the Defense Department and released July 31 calls the administration’s plans to rebuild the nuclear arsenal “unaffordable” and a threat to “needed improvements in conventional forces.”

The report, “Ensuring a Strong U.S. Defense for the Future” by the National Defense Panel, which focuses primarily on broader defense issues, finds that current plans to modernize all three legs of the nuclear triad—land-based missiles, submarines, and bombers—would have a “substantial cost” of $600 billion to $1 trillion over 30 years. Although the panel supports retaining the triad, it states that “the merits of some aspects of this expensive recapitalization can be debated.”

The panel, co-chaired by former Secretary of Defense William Perry and retired Gen. John P. Abizaid, former commander of U.S. Central Command, says that the U.S. nuclear arsenal “could be reduced” if future arms control agreements required that. Either way, the United States will have to stop the “neglect” that has existed since the end of the Cold War and make some “reasonable decisions” about modernization of delivery systems and life extension of nuclear warheads, the report says.

The administration and Congress should “urgently and jointly” conduct a nuclear review to “examine the intellectual underpinnings of our strategic deterrence policy” and to “find cost-efficient ways to modernize the force,” the report says.

Big Plans, Smaller Budgets

Military spending is slowing at the same time as the departments of Defense and Energy are making long-term decisions about how many new missiles, submarines, bombers, and nuclear warheads the United States will build over the next 50 years.

The Navy wants to buy 12 new, nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines with a total production cost of about $100 billion. The Air Force is seeking up to 100 new, nuclear-armed strategic bombers that are expected to cost at least $55 billion, as well as a new fleet of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles and air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs). The Energy Department’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is pursuing a $60 billion plan to upgrade five nuclear warhead types, including the B61 gravity bomb. (See ACT, May 2014.)

In June 2013, President Barack Obama announced he would pursue a new agreement with Russia to reduce strategic nuclear weapons, and the U.S. military leadership has determined it can reduce the number of deployed strategic warheads to 1,000-1,100, or about one-third lower than the levels set by the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Russia showed little interest in further arms reductions, even before U.S.-Russian relations worsened over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and actions to support rebels in Ukraine.

At the same time, the administration’s nuclear modernization plans have started to run into trouble as the 2011 Budget Control Act’s limits on defense spending have begun to bite. For example, the defense budget still needs to be cut by $115 billion for fiscal years 2016-2019 to meet the act’s requirements.

As a result, the administration has had to delay producing the Navy’s new submarines by two years, delay certifying the new bombers to carry nuclear weapons, delay developing a new nuclear-armed ALCM by three years, delay rebuilding nuclear warheads, and cancel plans to build a new warhead production facility in New Mexico.

Questions on New Cruise Missile

Seeking to cut spending, Congress has begun to scrutinize administration budget requests for nuclear weapons more closely. Last year, the Senate Appropriations energy and water subcommittee reduced the administration’s funding request for the B61 bomb life extension program by half, only to have the budget restored by a last-minute political compromise. (See ACT, March 2014.)

This year, that panel and the House and Senate Appropriations defense subcommittees all cut the administration’s request for the new ALCM.

In its June 17 report accompanying the bill, the Senate Appropriations energy and water subcommittee said it is “reluctant to provide funding for a new cruise missile warhead when the Air Force cannot identify sufficient funding in its budget planning documents to design and procure a cruise missile to deliver a refurbished warhead.”

To shore up support for the weapon, Frank Kendall, chairman of the joint Pentagon-NNSA Nuclear Weapons Council, wrote a June 24 letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) stating that a bomber force armed with nuclear cruise missiles provides the president with “uniquely flexible options in an extreme crisis, particularly the ability to signal intent and control escalation.”

No date has been set for a vote in the full Senate on the defense and energy appropriations bills.

The White House is overseeing an interagency review of multibillion-dollar plans to rebuild the U.S. nuclear arsenal, while a bipartisan congressional commission has found the administration’s modernization plans “unaffordable.”

Russia Breaches INF Treaty, U.S. Says

Tom Z. Collina

After months of speculation, the U.S. State Department announced in July that it had found Russia to be in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty over Moscow’s testing of a new medium-range, ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM). The accusation comes at a time of heightened U.S.-Russian tensions over Moscow’s support for separatist forces in Ukraine.

“We have been attempting to address this very serious matter with Russia for some time, as the United States is wholly committed to the continued viability of the INF Treaty,” Rose Gottemoeller, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said Aug. 14. In remarks to a symposium at U.S. Strategic Command in Omaha, Nebraska, she said the Obama administration was “asking Russia to return to compliance with the treaty in a verifiable manner.”

Gottemoeller said that the two countries previously “have been down the road of needless, costly, and destabilizing arms races.” She added, “We know where that road leads and we are fortunate that our past leaders had the wisdom and strength to turn us in a new direction.”

The INF Treaty, signed by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, marked the first time the two superpowers agreed to reduce their nuclear arsenals and utilize extensive on-site inspections for verification. The treaty, which is still in force, eliminated almost 2,700 intermediate-range ballistic and cruise missiles, most of them Russia’s.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by telephone about the INF Treaty on Aug. 1, according to the White House.

According to a July 28 New York Times report, Obama sent Putin a letter that day in which Obama asked for a high-level dialogue with Moscow to discuss ways to preserve the treaty and bring Russia back into compliance.

In an interview in early August, a diplomatic source familiar with the treaty controversy said senior Russian and U.S. officials are expected to meet in September to discuss the issue.

U.S. Allegation Unspecified

The Obama administration alleges that Russia is violating its INF Treaty obligation “not to possess, produce, or flight-test” a GLCM with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers or “to possess or produce launchers of such missiles,” as a State Department report sent to Congress in July summarized it.

At a meeting in early July, the Principals Committee, which includes the national security adviser, the defense secretary, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the secretary of state, and the CIA director, “unanimously agreed” that the cruise missile flight test was a “serious violation,” the Times said. A senior administration official told Arms Control Today on July 29 that the intelligence community has “high confidence” in the assessment.

The State Department report, which surveys compliance with arms control agreements by the United States and other countries, did not specify the type of cruise missile in question or say how many tests have been conducted or when they occurred. The senior administration official said that the testing took place at the Kapustin Yar test site in western Russia. According to the Times story, Russia began testing the cruise missile as early as 2008, and the administration concluded that it was a compliance concern by the end of 2011, although officials do not believe the missile has been deployed. Gottemoeller first raised the issue with Russian officials in May 2013, according to the Times.

Unconfirmed reports have focused on Russia’s R-500 Iskander-K short-range cruise missile as the missile that precipitated the U.S. allegation. That system uses a road-mobile launcher, similar to the Iskander-M, which is a short-range, nuclear-capable ballistic missile. Russia reportedly is deploying the Iskander-M near Luga, south of St. Petersburg, near Russia’s borders with NATO member countries in response to U.S. missile defense plans. (See ACT, January/February 2014.) It is not clear if the range of the R-500 exceeds the lower limit of the INF Treaty.

In the August interview, the diplomatic source said that according to the United States, the R-500 is not the focus of the allegation. That appears to be consistent with other available information on the allegation and the history of the R-500. According to the Times report, the GLCM considered to be a violation was first tested in 2008 and has not been deployed. The R-500 reportedly was first tested in May 2007 and deployed in 2013.

At an April 29 congressional hearing, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) offered an alternative explanation of the nature of the alleged violation and the platform involved. He said that Russia claims to have tested a new intermediate-range missile for use at sea, which is allowed under the INF Treaty if the missile is tested from a test launcher, but that Moscow used “what appears to be an operational, usable ground-based launcher,” which is not allowed. Sherman said that “it appears as if [the Russians] were developing a ground-based capacity for this intermediate[-range] missile.” (See ACT, June 2014.)

Russia Denies Charges

Russia denies that it is breaching the INF treaty. The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a July 28 statement that the allegations are “as baseless as all of Washington’s claims that have lately been reaching Moscow. Absolutely no proof has been provided.” The United States has accused Moscow of providing military support to rebel forces in eastern Ukraine, including the surface-to-air missile that shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July.

“We have many complaints to make to the United States with regard to the [INF] Treaty,” the statement continued. “These include missile defense target missiles having characteristics similar to those of shorter- and intermediate-range missiles and the production by the Americans of armed drones which clearly fall under the [category of] land-based cruise missiles” in the INF Treaty, the ministry said.

Russia’s top general, Valery Gerasimov, told Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff on July 31 that Moscow was committed to adhering to the INF Treaty, Reuters reported.

According to the diplomatic source, Gerasimov expressed concern about U.S. plans to field the Mark-41 (MK-41) missile launcher in Romania and Poland as part of the European Phased Adaptive Approach, the Obama administration’s policy for missile defense in Europe. According to an Aug. 1 statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry, the sea-based MK-41 “can be used to launch intermediate-range cruise missiles, but [its] ground-launched version will be a gross violation of the INF Treaty.”

The MK-41 is currently used on U.S. Navy ships to launch missile defense interceptors, such as the Standard Missile-3, but it is also used to launch the Tomahawk intermediate-range cruise missile. As a sea-based missile, the Tomahawk does not run afoul of the INF Treaty. But once the MK-41 is based on land, as the United States plans to do next year, it would, in Russia’s view, conflict with the INF Treaty’s prohibition on possessing a ground-based launcher for intermediate-range cruise missiles.

The United States has not responded publicly to the Russian allegations. It is not clear if the land-based MK-41 would maintain its capability to launch intermediate-range cruise missiles or if the United States intends to modify the launcher to eliminate this capability.

Hill Response

In response to the State Department’s charge against Russia, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said in a July 31 press release that Russia’s action “cannot go unanswered.” Along with Sens. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Rubio introduced legislation that would, among other things, initiate U.S. research and development on missiles banned by the INF Treaty. Such work is allowed under the pact.

Congress does not appear to be pressuring the administration to withdraw from the INF Treaty to protest Russia’s actions, in part because there is an apparent political consensus that the best outcome for the United States would be for Moscow to come back into compliance. “I do not believe the appropriate remedy in this case is for the United States to withdraw from the treaty,” Stephen Rademaker, an official in the George W. Bush administration, told the House Armed Services Committee on July 17. “Rather, since Russia so clearly wants out, we should make sure that they alone pay the political and diplomatic price of terminating the treaty.”

Last summer, Sergey Ivanov, the Kremlin chief of staff, publicly questioned the value of the treaty, saying Russia has more potential threats on its borders than the United States does. “The Americans have no need for this class of weapon[;] they didn’t need it before and they don’t need it now,” Ivanov said, according to RIA Novosti. “They could theoretically only attack Mexico and Canada with them, because their effective radius doesn’t extend to Europe.”

Russia has indicated that another answer to its concerns might to be to expand the membership of the treaty. In 2007, Russia and the United States issued a statement at the UN General Assembly reaffirming their “support” for the treaty and calling on all other states to join them in renouncing the missiles banned by the treaty.

The State Department has accused Russia of testing a new medium-range, ground-launched cruise missile in violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Moscow denies the charge.

Creedon Takes Office at NNSA

Tom Z. Collina

Madelyn Creedon was sworn in on Aug. 7 by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz as the principal deputy administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semiautonomous part of the Energy Department.

Creedon, who was confirmed by the Senate on July 23, will assist NNSA Administrator Frank Klotz in the management and operation of the NNSA, according to an NNSA statement. President Barack Obama nominated her last November. (See ACT, December 2013.)

She most recently served as assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs, overseeing U.S. nuclear forces and missile defense policy.

The administration is still seeking confirmation of other senior officials for positions dealing with nuclear weapons policy, including Adam Scheinman, currently senior adviser to the State Department’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, to be special representative of the president for nuclear nonproliferation; Frank Rose, deputy assistant secretary of state for space and defense policy, to be assistant secretary for arms control, verification, and compliance; and Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, the top nuclear proliferation and defense policy official on the National Security Council (NSC), to be deputy secretary of energy.

On July 28, the Senate confirmed Brian McKeon, who had served as NSC staff director, as the principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy. The Senate had held up McKeon’s nomination over concerns that he had withheld information from Congress regarding Russia’s alleged violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. (See ACT, April 2014.)

White House Reviewing Nuclear Budget

Tom Z. Collina

Faced with increasing pressure to reduce military spending, the White House is overseeing an interagency review of multibillion-dollar plans to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal, an Obama administration spokesman said in August.

This review will inform the administration’s fiscal year 2016 budget request to Congress, Ned Price of the National Security Council (NSC) said in an Aug. 22 e-mail to Arms Control Today. The NSC staff is leading the review, Price said.

The budget request is to be submitted to Congress early next year.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan, independent report commissioned by Congress and the Defense Department and released July 31 calls the administration’s plans to rebuild the nuclear arsenal “unaffordable” and a threat to “needed improvements in conventional forces.”

The report, “Ensuring a Strong U.S. Defense for the Future” by the National Defense Panel, which focuses primarily on broader defense issues, finds that current plans to modernize all three legs of the nuclear triad—land-based missiles, submarines, and bombers—would have a “substantial cost” of $600 billion to $1 trillion over 30 years. Although the panel supports retaining the triad, it states that “the merits of some aspects of this expensive recapitalization can be debated.”

The panel, co-chaired by former Secretary of Defense William Perry and retired Gen. John P. Abizaid, former commander of U.S. Central Command, says that the U.S. nuclear arsenal “could be reduced” if future arms control agreements required that. Either way, the United States will have to stop the “neglect” that has existed since the end of the Cold War and make some “reasonable decisions” about modernization of delivery systems and life extension of nuclear warheads, the report says.

The administration and Congress should “urgently and jointly” conduct a nuclear review to “examine the intellectual underpinnings of our strategic deterrence policy” and to “find cost-efficient ways to modernize the force,” the report says.

Big Plans, Smaller Budgets

Military spending is slowing at the same time as the departments of Defense and Energy are making long-term decisions about how many new missiles, submarines, bombers, and nuclear warheads the United States will build over the next 50 years.

The Navy wants to buy 12 new, nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines with a total production cost of about $100 billion. The Air Force is seeking up to 100 new, nuclear-armed strategic bombers that are expected to cost at least $55 billion, as well as a new fleet of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles and air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs). The Energy Department’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is pursuing a $60 billion plan to upgrade five nuclear warhead types, including the B61 gravity bomb. (See ACT, May 2014.)

In June 2013, President Barack Obama announced he would pursue a new agreement with Russia to reduce strategic nuclear weapons, and the U.S. military leadership has determined it can reduce the number of deployed strategic warheads to 1,000-1,100, or about one-third lower than the levels set by the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Russia showed little interest in further arms reductions, even before U.S.-Russian relations worsened over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and actions to support rebels in Ukraine.

At the same time, the administration’s nuclear modernization plans have started to run into trouble as the 2011 Budget Control Act’s limits on defense spending have begun to bite. For example, the defense budget still needs to be cut by $115 billion for fiscal years 2016-2019 to meet the act’s requirements.

As a result, the administration has had to delay producing the Navy’s new submarines by two years, delay certifying the new bombers to carry nuclear weapons, delay developing a new nuclear-armed ALCM by three years, delay rebuilding nuclear warheads, and cancel plans to build a new warhead production facility in New Mexico.

Questions on New Cruise Missile

Seeking to cut spending, Congress has begun to scrutinize administration budget requests for nuclear weapons more closely. Last year, the Senate Appropriations energy and water subcommittee reduced the administration’s funding request for the B61 bomb life extension program by half, only to have the budget restored by a last-minute political compromise. (See ACT, March 2014.)

This year, that panel and the House and Senate Appropriations defense subcommittees all cut the administration’s request for the new ALCM.

In its June 17 report accompanying the bill, the Senate Appropriations energy and water subcommittee said it is “reluctant to provide funding for a new cruise missile warhead when the Air Force cannot identify sufficient funding in its budget planning documents to design and procure a cruise missile to deliver a refurbished warhead.”

To shore up support for the weapon, Frank Kendall, chairman of the joint Pentagon-NNSA Nuclear Weapons Council, wrote a June 24 letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) stating that a bomber force armed with nuclear cruise missiles provides the president with “uniquely flexible options in an extreme crisis, particularly the ability to signal intent and control escalation.”

No date has been set for a vote in the full Senate on the defense and energy appropriations bills.

The White House is overseeing an interagency review of multibillion-dollar plans to rebuild the U.S. nuclear arsenal, while a bipartisan congressional commission has found the administration’s modernization plans “unaffordable.”

Nuclear Costs Undercounted, GAO Says

Tom Z. Collina

By leaving out major Air Force nuclear missile and bomber modernization programs, the Obama administration underestimated by tens of billions of dollars the amount of money the U.S. government will spend on its nuclear arsenal over the next decade, according to a June report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, reviewed a July 15, 2013, joint report by the Defense Department and the Energy Department’s semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which estimated the two agencies would spend $263 billion on nuclear weapons from fiscal year 2014 to 2023, including $125 billion for nuclear delivery systems (missiles, bombers, and submarines), $97 billion for nuclear warheads and production plants, and $41 billion for nuclear command-and-control systems.

The GAO found that the Pentagon’s $125 billion estimate for delivery systems had the largest discrepancy as it did not include costs for Air Force plans to buy a new fleet of long-range bombers and modernize its fleet of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). “Rather than provide potential budget estimates, [the Defense Department] treated these efforts as zero-cost over the ten-year period of the report,” the GAO said.

Air Force officials, the GAO reported, said that it would be premature to include cost estimates for programs that are in early stages of development because long-term costs are uncertain. The GAO suggested that agencies could include a range of estimates based on available information.

The costs for these Air Force programs would be significant, according to recent estimates. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated in 2013 that the new bomber would cost $32 billion over the next decade, and the Air Force itself estimated that total production, covering a longer period of time, would cost about $55 billion for up to 100 planes, not including development costs.

For ICBMs, a RAND Corporation report earlier this year found that modernizing the planned 400 Minuteman III missiles in silos would cost $1.6-2.3 billion per year, or $60-90 billion over a 39-year life cycle. In comparison, building a new silo-based ICBM would cost $84-$125 billion, and a rail- or road-mobile version would cost $124-$219 billion, RAND found.

A December 2013 CBO report, which included these Air Force programs as well as projected cost growth, estimated that spending related to nuclear weapons would total $355 billion over 10 years, $91 billion more than the administration’s estimate.

By leaving out major Air Force nuclear missile and bomber modernization programs, the Obama administration underestimated by tens of billions of dollars the amount of money...

Fix Missile Defense, Don't Expand It

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Volume 5, Issue 8, June 5, 2014

Rather Than Rush to Expand an Unreliable System, the Pentagon Should Fix What It Already Has

The next test of the U.S. Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) system will occur "very soon," Admiral James Winnefeld, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said May 28. And if that test is a success, he said, the Pentagon plans to add 14 interceptors to the 30 deployed in Alaska and California by 2017, increasing the total by almost 50 percent. This expansion will cost about $1 billion.

But the next test, even if it hits, should not be used as justification to expand the system. As Philip Coyle, former director of operational test and evaluation at the Department of Defense, said in February, "Not another dime should be spent on more bad GBIs at Fort Greely [in Alaska] or anywhere else. Instead, a new GBI/EKV must be designed, built, and successfully tested to replace the old design."

The Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) is supposed to collide with an enemy warhead in space. But the kill vehicle to be tested this month, called the CE-II, has been tested only twice before, and missed both times. If it hits in June, the test record would be one-for-three. Batting .333 may be great in baseball, but in missile defense it is simply inadequate.

That's not all. Last summer the other fielded kill vehicle, the CE-I, also missed its target in a test. This failure came as a surprise, because this interceptor had a better test record. After $40 billion spent and faced with failures of both the CE-I and CE-II, the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency (MDA) decided to make major changes to the kill vehicle. But these changes will not be ready by 2017, so expansion will go ahead without them.

Given the widely accepted need--on both sides of the aisle--to redesign the system, plans to expand it before it is reworked make little sense. It would be like buying a car just after it has been recalled, before the problem is fully corrected.


Why the rush? It is easy to say that "we must stay ahead of the threat," and yes, the United States needs to be ready in case North Korea or Iran actually tests and deploys a long-range ballistic missile that could reach North America. But neither nation has done this, and if they do there are already 30 GBI interceptors fielded on the West Coast.

Fortunately, these missile programs are not progressing as swiftly as many had feared, and deterrence still plays a role. As Adm. Winnefeld said May 28, neither North Korea nor Iran "yet has a mature [long-range ballistic missile] capability, and both nations know they would face an overwhelming U.S. response to any attack."

The Pentagon should prioritize upgrading the kill vehicle, a process that will take a few years, and not expand the system beyond the current 30 GBIs until the new interceptor is proven to work.

As a result, the Obama administration should not follow through with plans to deploy 14 additional interceptors in Alaska by 2017, nor should it heed Republican calls to build a new East Coast site.

"Bad Engineering"

There have been serious concerns about the GBI kill vehicle ever since the system was rushed into service by the Bush administration in 2004. Of primary concern is that the system's test record is getting worse with time, not better. Overall, out of 16 intercept attempts from 1999 to 2013, the system hit 8 times, or 50%. For the first 8 tests, the system had 5 hits, or 62%. But in the last 8 tests, the system has hit only 3 times, or 37%. This is not progress.

In January, J. Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon's current director of operational test and evaluation, wrote that recent test failures raise concerns about the system's reliability and suggested that the missile's kill vehicle be redesigned to assure it is "robust against failure."

"We recognize the problems we have had with all the currently fielded interceptors," Frank Kendall, the undersecretary of defense for procurement, said in February. "The root cause was a desire to field these things very quickly and really cheaply."

"As we go back and understand the failures we're having and why we're having them, we're seeing a lot of bad engineering, frankly, and it is because there was a rush" to deploy the system, Kendall said. "Just patching the things we've got is probably not going to be adequate. So we're going to have to go beyond that."

In March, the MDA announced that it would make significant changes to the EKV, and plans to spend $740 million over the next five years to do so. If it works, the new kill vehicle could be fielded around 2020. According to the fiscal 2015 Pentagon budget request, the new kill vehicle "will improve reliability, be more producible and cost-effective, and will eventually replace the [kill vehicles] on the current GBI fleet."

Vice Admiral James Syring, director of the MDA, said in March about the decision to rush deployment in 2004: "Everybody knew that [the EKVs] were prototype in nature, and that decision was made to field the prototypes because some defense now is better than defense much later."

But we now know how premature, unreliable and expensive "some defense" turned out to be. Ten years later, the North Korean long-range missile threat is still not imminent. The last three intercept tests of the GBI system have failed--two tests in 2010 and one last year. And efforts to correct these problems will cost MDA more than $1.3 billion, according to an April 30 Government Accountability Office report.

Next Test Will Not Justify Expansion

The next GBI test will not be of a redesigned EKV; that will not occur until 2018 or later. The June test will involve 'patching' the CE-II.  

Since 10 CE-IIs are already deployed in Alaska, the problems with this EKV need to be addressed. If the next test is successful, the deployed CE-IIs should be modified. But this EKV, according to officials, is inherently flawed and based on a "prototype" design. Why would we want to field additional kill vehicles of a flawed design? We should not.

Therefore, if successful, the next test could help 'patch' the CE-IIs that are already in the field, but the numbers should not be increased until an upgraded EKV is ready. It's bad enough that the United States already has 30 interceptors deployed that are unreliable; we should not rush to add more at the cost of $1 billion.

If the Pentagon succeeds in developing a new kill vehicle that works reliably in 'cooperative' tests, which are scripted and unrealistic, the system would still need to prove that it could work in an actual attack, in which the enemy would seek to evade the defense.

In this case, the ability to differentiate real targets from fake ones is critical because an attacker's warheads would likely come surrounded by debris and decoys. In congressional testimony last year, the Pentagon's Gilmore said, "If we can't discriminate what the real threatening objects are, it doesn't matter how many ground-based interceptors we have; we won't be able to hit what needs to be hit."

Throwing good money after bad at missile defenses that may not defend is no solution. "Patching" inherently unreliable interceptors is not the same thing as redesigning them so they will work. The United States should not field additional long-range missile interceptors on either coast until the current system is redesigned and-most importantly-tested rigorously against realistic targets.--Tom Z. Collina

 

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The next test of the U.S. Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) system will occur "very soon," Admiral James Winnefeld, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said May 28. And if that test is a success, he said, the Pentagon plans to add 14 interceptors to the 30 deployed in Alaska and California by 2017, increasing the total by almost 50 percent. This expansion will cost about $1 billion.

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Congressman Clarifies U.S. INF Concerns

Tom Z. Collina

A U.S. congressman provided new details in late April about the Obama administration’s allegation that Russia may be breaching a key U.S.-Russian arms control treaty, stating that Moscow may have tested a cruise missile from a prohibited launcher.

At a joint April 29 hearing of two House Foreign Affairs Committee panels, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) said that Russia claims to have tested an intermediate-range missile for use at sea, which is allowed under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, but that Moscow used “what appears to be an operational, usable ground-based launcher,” which is not allowed. Sherman said that “it appears as if [the Russians] were developing a ground-based capacity for this intermediate missile.”

The INF Treaty permanently bans U.S. and Russian ground-launched ballistic or cruise missiles capable of traveling 500 to 5,500 kilometers; it does not cover sea-based missiles. According to the treaty, a cruise missile can be developed for use at sea if it is test-launched “from a fixed land-based launcher which is used solely for test purposes and which is distinguishable from” operational ground-based cruise missile launchers.

Testing an intermediate-range cruise missile from a ground-based launcher that is not distinguishable from operational launchers, as well as testing from a mobile launcher, would be a violation of the treaty.

Sherman said that Russia is allowed to test sea-launched cruise missiles from a ground-based launcher unless “that ground-based launcher would be the effective launcher to use in case hostilities broke out.”

Anita Friedt, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for nuclear and strategic policy, said at the hearing that the United States has “very serious concerns” that “Russia is developing a ground-launched cruise missile that is inconsistent with” the INF Treaty. She did not confirm or deny Sherman’s description of the alleged violation.

The State Department made its concerns public for the first time in January after months of speculation. (See ACT, March 2014.) The Obama administration is expected to release its annual report on arms control compliance, including a determination on Russia’s possible INF violation, in the near future.

In May 9 comments to the Defense Writers Group, Rose Gottemoeller, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said she would not expect the issue “to drag on for years” and that it was “ripe for resolution.”

Conservatives in the House of Representatives are seeking to use Russia’s actions on the INF Treaty to block other arms control agreements. On May 22, the House voted 233-191 to approve an amendment to the fiscal year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act that would prevent funding for implementation of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) until Russia “is no longer taking actions that are inconsistent with the INF Treaty,” among other conditions.

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), who sits on the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, introduced the amendment, which was supported by seven Democrats and 226 Republicans.

The Senate Armed Services Committee passed its version of the defense bill May 22 with a provision requiring the secretary of defense to notify the Senate of potential violations of arms control agreements.

Some Republican senators have criticized the administration for its handling of the potential INF Treaty violation, saying the executive branch withheld information that was relevant to the Senate debate on New START in late 2010. The administration has said it did provide information on the alleged breach during that time. (See ACT, April 2014.)

At the April 29 hearing, neither Sherman nor the State Department identified what type of cruise missile Russia might be testing or the type of launcher, but unconfirmed reports have focused on Russia’s R-500 Iskander-K. That system, reportedly first tested in 2007, would use a road-mobile launcher, as the Iskander-M does. The latter is a short-range, nuclear-capable ballistic missile that Russia has said it plans to deploy near NATO member countries in response to U.S. missile defense plans. (See ACT, January/February 2014.)

Previous reports had focused on Russia’s RS-26 ballistic missile, which Moscow has reportedly flight-tested at intermediate ranges. But because the RS-26 has also been tested at ranges greater than 5,500 kilometers, it is considered by both sides to be an intercontinental ballistic missile and therefore covered and allowed by New START.

Regarding this allegation, Sherman said at the hearing that “it seems clear it is a long-range missile” and thus not covered by the INF Treaty.

New details have surfaced regarding U.S. allegations that Russia breached a key bilateral arms control treaty by testing a cruise missile from a prohibited launcher.

NNSA's '3+2' Nuclear Warhead Plan Does Not Add Up

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Volume 5, Issue 6, May 6, 2014

In March, the Obama administration announced it would delay key elements of its "3+2" plan to rebuild the U.S. stockpile of nuclear warheads amidst growing concern about the program's high cost and its technically ambitious approach.

Now, the administration and Congress should use this opportunity to reevaluate the program and shift to a more straightforward and affordable path for maintaining the U.S. nuclear stockpile.

Announced last summer by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the 3+2 strategy has a sticker price of $60 billion and calls for extending the service life of five nuclear warhead types, three of which would be "interoperable" on land-based and sea-based ballistic missiles. Two other warhead types would be used on bombers, and two types would be retired. (See Table)

Congress, on a bipartisan basis, has been skeptical of 3+2 from the start, particularly the proposal for interoperable warheads. The Senate Appropriations Committee wrote last year that the concept "may be unnecessarily complex and expensive, increase uncertainty about certification" and "fail to address aging issues in a timely manner."

In response to congressional concerns, the NNSA budget request for fiscal 2015 delays funding for much of the 3+2 program, putting the future of the plan in doubt.

Speaking at George Washington University in March, former Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Director Parney Albright, who supports the 3+2 plan, said, "I just don't think it's going to happen."

It is time to rethink the 3+2 plan. It is too expensive to survive in the current budget climate, takes unnecessary risks with warhead reliability, and has no clear military requirement. It is a solution in search of a problem.

The good news is that we don't need 3+2. The current warhead life extension program (LEP) is successfully refurbishing warheads, and there is no need to adopt a more risky and exorbitantly expensive approach. NNSA can and should stick with the traditional path to warhead maintenance, and save tens of billions of dollars.

No Rush to Refurbish

For fiscal year 2015 and beyond, the administration has delayed key parts of the 3+2 plan. Near-term efforts remain on track, but future projects have been significantly slowed.

For the next ten years, the ongoing life extension for the Navy's W76 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) warhead is on schedule for completion in 2019, and the B61-12 gravity bomb would be produced from 2020 to 2024, a slight delay.

However, the next warheads in the 3+2 queue have been significantly delayed. A rebuilt warhead for a new cruise missile for the Air Force's proposed long-range bomber has been pushed back by up to three years, from 2024 to 2027. The first interoperable warhead, called the IW-1, has been moved from 2025 to 2030. These delays mean that key development decisions have been pushed into the next administration, increasing uncertainty about whether these programs will continue.

These delays will not put the reliability of the stockpile at risk. NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs Donald Cook testified before the House Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee on April 3 that the two warhead types IW-1 would replace, the W78 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) warhead and the W88 SLBM warhead, "are aging as predicted." NNSA budget documents also state that the W78 warhead, the older of the two, is "aging gracefully."

Interoperable Warheads

Much of the congressional concern about the 3+2 plan stems from NNSA's proposal to develop interoperable warheads to be used on both ICBMs and SLBMs, which has not been done before and would be prohibitively expensive.

The "Hedge." NNSA's primary rationale for the 3+2 approach is that it would eventually help reduce the number of non-deployed warheads that are stored as a "hedge" in case there is a catastrophic failure with one or more warhead types. Recent NNSA budget documents state that, "Three interoperable ballistic missile warheads with similar deployed numbers will allow for a greatly reduced technical hedge for each system to protect against a single warhead failure."

Reducing the hedge is a worthwhile goal, but we don't need the 3+2 plan to get there.

First, the probability of a technical surprise that would disable an entire class of warheads is exceedingly remote. The NNSA's stockpile surveillance and stewardship programs are designed to prevent such surprises.

Second, the United States maintains--at great expense--a "triad" of delivery platforms, which allows for an inherent hedge. In the highly unlikely event that any one leg of the triad becomes inoperable or unreliable, the other two legs are there.

Third, given that the 3+2 plan would not be completed for 30 years or more, potential reductions to the hedge stockpile are highly uncertain and would be far in the future if they happen at all. There is no guarantee that promised hedge reductions would ever materialize as a direct result of the 3+2 plan.

Insensitive Explosives. Another rationale for interoperable warheads is to have the entire stockpile use insensitive high explosives. Such explosives are in principle a good idea, as they are less prone to accidental detonation than conventional explosives, but they are less energetic and take up more space inside a warhead.[1] Thus, insensitive explosives cannot easily replace conventional ones.

To get around this problem, NNSA is proposing to use parts from two different, existing warheads: a primary from the W87 ICBM warhead, which already has insensitive explosives, and possibly a secondary from the W80 cruise missile warhead.[2] But those parts have never been used together, and such combinations have never been introduced into the nuclear stockpile without nuclear tests, which the United States no longer conducts.

Thus, the IW-1, with a projected price tag of $11 billion, could introduce unwelcome concerns about reliability into an otherwise well-tested and reliable stockpile.

What would be achieved for the added risk and cost? Not much.

The IW-1 would replace the W78 ICBM warhead and the W88 SLBM warhead, neither of which has insensitive explosives. But other warheads on the Air Force's ICBMs and bombers do have insensitive explosives, so this is really a Navy issue. However, the Navy is questioning whether the high cost of insensitive explosives is worth the limited benefit for its warheads, which spend most of their time protected inside missiles, inside submarines, under the sea.

In a September 2012 memo to the Nuclear Weapons Council, a joint Defense and Energy Department group that coordinates management of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, the Navy said it does "not support commencing the [IW-1] effort at this time." In response, the council decided in December 2012 to study an option for the Navy's W88 warhead that would not be interoperable.

NNSA plans to upgrade non-nuclear parts of the Navy's W88 warhead anyway, and once that happens, Livermore's Albright noted that the Navy "almost certainly will argue" that replacing the W88 with an interoperable warhead would cost "too much money."

Instead, Albright said the Navy would prefer to simply refurbish the W88, "which is what they did on the W76." The W76 life extension is expected to cost $4 billion, or one-third the price of IW-1.

In turn, doing an independent W88 refurbishment should decrease the Air Force's incentive to refurbish the W78, which could instead be retired and replaced by the W87 as the only ICBM warhead. The Air Force no longer needs two warhead types for ICBMs, and there are enough W87s to go around. IW-1 would thus be unnecessary.

Beyond that, the proposed IW-2 and IW-3 warheads are distant prospects, with no production planned until 2034 or later, at costs of $15 and $20 billion, respectively.

A Better Way

There is a relatively simple alternative to the 3+2 plan. Instead of developing unproven interoperable warheads by mixing and matching parts from different weapons, NNSA could do things the time-tested way. The Navy's $4 billion W76 SLBM warhead life extension program (LEP) does not introduce any new fancy bells and whistles. This should be the model for future life extensions. But first, the Pentagon should reassess the need for warhead types before they are refurbished.

Step 1: Retire Where Possible. For starters, there is no need to rebuild the W78 or W80 warheads, and both should be retired. Twenty years after the end of the Cold War, we can no longer remain on autopilot, replacing nuclear systems just because we had them before. Each replacement system must have its mission justified as if it were new.

For the W78, a smaller ICBM force means there is no need keep two different ICBM warheads. The W87, also used on ICBMs, is newer and has all modern safety features. In the unlikely event of a problem with all W87 warheads, the United States would still have the submarine and bomber legs of the triad to deter any potential attacks. Enough W87 warheads have been produced (more than 500) to arm the entire ICBM fleet. Retiring the W78 would allow the IW-1 project to be cancelled, saving $11 billion.

As for the W80, there is no need for a new air-launched cruise missile (ALCM), and thus no need to rebuild this warhead. Despite the House defense bill's call to accelerate this warhead program by one year to 2025, the United States no longer needs a bomber with stand off nuclear missiles that are shot from afar, like the ALCM. The new Air Force bomber will be designed to penetrate enemy air defenses, so it needs bombs that can be dropped from above, like the B61. Moreover, the United States has other standoff weapons if needed, such as submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Cancelling the ALCM would save $7 billion for the warhead and another $10 billion or so for the missile.

Step 2: Keep it Simple. The remaining warheads would undergo traditional life extensions as needed. Future LEPs should not introduce technical, schedule and cost risks inherent to interoperable warheads, which are just asking for trouble.

Nor should NNSA conduct the $8-10 billion B61-12 LEP as planned. Consolidating four bomb-types into one is overly complex and expensive. NNSA should scale back this program by refurbishing the strategic B61-7, and separately refurbish or retire the tactical bombs, which could save up to $5 billion.

Once the W78 and W80 warheads are retired, the remaining arsenal would include the W87 (LEP completed in 2004), the W76 (LEP to be finished by 2019), the B61 (LEP about to begin), and the W88 (partial upgrade about to begin). This "2+1+1" plan would maintain warheads for all three legs of the triad: SLBMs would carry both the W76 and W88, ICBMs would carry the W87 only, and bombers would carry rebuilt B61 bombs only.

Assuming an average cost of $5 billion per LEP, based on the cost of the W76 LEP plus inflation, refurbishing this four warhead-type stockpile under this approach would cost roughly $20 billion over 30 years or more, or one-third the cost of NNSA's $60 billion plan.

In addition, by taking a more straightforward approach to LEPs, NNSA could reuse existing plutonium parts, know as "pits," rather than producing new ones, and delay the need to spend billions to expand the U.S. pit production capacity. The House defense bill calls for accelerating pit production, but this would be expensive and unnecessary.

The NNSA's 3+2 program does not add up. The United States can maintain its nuclear warheads through traditional life extensions without resorting to expensive, risky schemes. NNSA needs to rethink the program and come back to Congress with a proposal better suited to today's fiscal and political realities.--TOM Z. COLLINA

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ENDNOTES

1. Insensitive high explosives help to reduce the risk of plutonium dispersal. The risk of an accidental nuclear explosion is already very low.
2. The W87 warhead is too big to fit on the Trident II D5 SLBM, so only the primary would be used.


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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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In March, the Obama administration announced it would delay key elements of its "3+2" plan to rebuild the U.S. stockpile of nuclear warheads amidst growing concern about the program's high cost and its technically ambitious approach.

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