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"I find hope in the work of long-established groups such as the Arms Control Association...[and] I find hope in younger anti-nuclear activists and the movement around the world to formally ban the bomb."

– Vincent Intondi
Author, "African Americans Against the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons, Colonialism, and the Black Freedom Movement
July 1, 2020
Tom Z. Collina

U.S. Names Possible Missile Defense Sites

Tom Z. Collina

The Defense Department announced last month that it has identified five possible locations in the eastern United States for a new ballistic missile defense interceptor site, but said it still has no plans to actually build such a site.

In a Sept. 12 letter to members of Congress, U.S. Missile Defense Agency Director James D. Syring wrote that his agency is “conducting a study of possible additional locations to determine their suitability for a potential future interceptor deployment site.” The five candidate sites are Fort Drum in New York, Camp Ethan Allen Training Site in Vermont, SERE Training Area at Naval Air Station Portsmouth in Maine, Camp Ravenna Joint Training Center in Ohio, and Fort Custer Training Center in Michigan.

Madelyn Creedon, assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs, told Reuters on Sept. 12 that no decision had been made to build an additional site for missile interceptors and there was no money to do so in the Pentagon’s future budget plans. Because of the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration, “we get very worried about whether or not we’re even going to have enough money to do what we’ve decided to do,” she said, adding that an additional interceptor site would be “extraordinarily expensive.”

In a June 10 letter to Capitol Hill, Syring wrote, “There is no validated military requirement to deploy an East Coast missile defense site.” (See ACT, July/August 2013.)

Congressional Republicans have been pushing the Obama administration to build a missile defense site on the East Coast in addition to existing sites at Fort Greely in Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Proponents of a new site say the United States needs better defenses against a possible missile attack from Iran. Opponents counter that Iran does not have long-range missiles capable of reaching the United States and, if it did, the West Coast sites could intercept them. Others argue that the West Coast system is ineffective and would be no more effective if fielded in an eastern state.

In the 2013 defense authorization law, Congress required the Defense Department to identify three possible new interceptor sites, including at least two on the East Coast. The department has a congressionally mandated deadline of Dec. 31 to decide which of the five announced sites to include in an environmental impact study expected to take 18 to 24 months. All of the sites are on federal land, operated by the Defense Department, the National Guard, or both.

The Defense Department announced last month that it has identified five possible locations in the eastern United States for a new ballistic missile defense interceptor site, but said it still has no plans to actually build such a site.

Navy Seeks More Money for Nuclear Subs

Tom Z. Collina

Warning that ongoing defense spending cuts will have a “devastating impact” on its plans to build new ships, the Navy is asking Congress for an additional $60 billion over 15 years to pay for a dozen new nuclear-armed submarines.

Testifying Sept. 12 before the House Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee, Rear Adm. Richard Breckenridge, the Navy's director of undersea warfare, said that the Navy’s projected shipbuilding budget cannot afford to pay for the 12 new submarines, known as the SSBN(X). These new boats are to replace the existing fleet of nuclear-armed Ohio-class subs, which the Navy plans to start retiring in 2027.

“Congress must look at a way to provide an annual supplement to the Navy” during the time that construction costs will peak, Breckenridge said. The Navy is seeking $4 billion per year over the 15-year period that the new subs would be built, starting in 2021. Breckenridge said that the SSBN(X) should be looked at as “a requirement above the Navy” that should be insulated from “the pressures of sequestration.”

Pentagon Has Not Signed Off

A Pentagon spokesman told Arms Control Today on Sept. 24 that the Defense Department has not approved nor has the Navy officially requested additional SSBN(X) procurement funding because “such a request would not be required for several years.”

The SSBN(X) program, a central part of U.S. plans to modernize the nuclear “triad” of sea-launched missiles, ground-based missiles, and bombers, has strong congressional support. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, which would have to vote on a future Navy request for supplemental funding, said in a Sept. 20 statement to Arms Control Today that “[a]s the Pentagon reviews and reprioritizes defense spending, I encourage the Administration to request the necessary resources in the shipbuilding accounts or by some other means.”

But others say the Navy’s plans should be revised in the face of major budget pressures. A Sept. 23 report, authored by the Stimson Center’s Defense Advisory Committee, made up of retired generals, admirals, and budget experts, found that “the administration and Congress should recognize budgetary realities and make the tough choices now.” The report recommends buying 10 new subs instead of 12, which would delay the need for procurement and save $1 billion per year in the near term, according to the panel’s estimates.

Acknowledging that $60 billion is “a lot of money,” Breckenridge warned that if no additional funding is approved, the Navy would forgo 32 other ships it is planning to build, including attack submarines and destroyers, to make sure the SSBN(X) program stays on track. The SSBN(X) “will trump all of the other vitally important requirements within our Navy,” he said.

The Navy first raised the alarm in May that the budget was not big enough to build the 12 submarines and maintain a fleet of 300 ships. The 12 planned submarines, each to be loaded with 16 Trident ballistic missiles and around 80 nuclear warheads, would cost a total of about $90 billion to develop and build. From 2021 to 2035, the Navy would need $19.2 billion per year on average for all shipbuilding, which is almost twice the Navy’s fiscal year 2014 request of $10.9 billion for shipbuilding. That figure does not take sequestration into account. (See ACT, June 2013.)

The short-term budget outlook is also tight. The fiscal 2014 request for SSNB(X) development is $1.1 billion, which would double the current budget of $565 million. But the Navy might not get this increase. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert testified before the House Armed Services Committee on Sept. 18 that budget cuts due to sequestration expected in fiscal year 2014, which began Oct. 1, will “compel” the Navy to delay the planned start of construction of the first submarine from 2021 to 2022. “This would cause us to be unable to meet U.S. Strategic Command [deployment] requirements when the Ohio-class SSBN retires,” he said.

Fewer Subs on the Horizon?

Current military requirements call for 12 nuclear-armed subs, with 10 to be operational at any given time and with another two out of service for repairs after a decade or more of operation. If the Navy sticks to its plan to begin phasing out the current fleet of 14 Ohio-class subs in 2027, with one submarine dropping out each year, nine will be left in service by 2031. Therefore, unless the first SSBN(X) is deployed in 2031, the fleet would drop below 10 operational boats. The Navy says that, for the first sub to be operational in 2031, it must be procured for construction in 2021. The planned start of SSBN(X) construction already has slipped by two years, from 2019 to 2021. It may slip again if, as the Stimson advisory committee suggests, the military reduces the sub requirement.

President Barack Obama finalized new nuclear policy guidance in June, which could affect the decisions of Congress and the Pentagon. Obama found that the 1,550 limit on deployed strategic warheads under the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty is “more than adequate” to meet U.S. national security objectives and that the force can be reduced by up to one-third. The new guidance did not call for any immediate changes to currently deployed nuclear forces. That will have to wait a year or so, until the Defense Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff translate the new guidance into more-specific directives. (See ACT, July/August 2013.)

Once U.S. Strategic Command drafts new plans for using nuclear weapons, the administration can make changes to the way in which the United States deploys those weapons. For example, some in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill say they are expecting the new policy to reduce the requirement for nuclear-armed submarines at sea. If the 12-sub requirement is cut to 10, the first SSBN(X) would not need to be procured until 2023 for deployment in 2033, according to Navy schedules.

But for now, the Navy says the military requirement is unchanged. “It is mandatory that we sustain our survivable sea-based nuclear deterrent with about the same level of at-sea presence as today,” Breckenridge testified at the Sept. 12 hearing. “There is no allowance for any further delay.”

Warning of a “devastating impact” from automatic spending cuts, the Navy asked Congress for $60 billion to pay for a dozen nuclear-armed submarines.

U.S. Signs Arms Trade Treaty

Tom Z. Collina

The United States and 17 other countries signed the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) on Sept. 25, pushing the number of signatories to the pact, which was opened for signature June 3, to 107.

Calling it a significant step toward controlling the illicit trade in conventional weapons, Secretary of State John Kerry signed the treaty on behalf of the United States, the world’s largest arms exporter, in a ceremony at the United Nations. “This is about keeping weapons out of the hands of terrorists and rogue actors,” Kerry said.

“It’s significant that the United States, which [accounts] for about 80 percent of the world’s export in arms, has signed,” Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told a news conference. In 2012, states engaged in arms transfers totaling more than $85 billion, not including black market transfers, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The ATT breaks new ground by establishing common international standards that must be met before states may authorize transfers of conventional weapons or may export ammunition and weapons parts and components. The pact also prohibits transfers that would lead to war crimes and attacks on civilians and requires states to report annually on all authorized arms exports.

The result of seven years of negotiations, the treaty was approved by the 193-member UN General Assembly on April 2 by a vote of 154-3, with 23 abstentions. The three votes against the treaty came from Iran, North Korea, and Syria, while major arms traders China, India, and Russia were among the abstentions. Entry into force requires ratification by 50 states; so far, only seven have ratified the treaty.

The Obama administration has not indicated when it might send the treaty to the Senate, where it faces an uphill battle for approval. Opponents inside and outside the Senate say the treaty would restrict U.S. domestic gun rights. In a Sept. 25 statement, the National Rifle Association vowed to block U.S. ratification, calling the ATT an attack on “the constitutional rights and liberties of every law-abiding American.”

Responding directly to such concerns, Kerry said in his Sept. 25 remarks that “the treaty recognizes the freedom of both individuals and states to obtain, possess, and use arms for legitimate purposes.” He said that the administration would not support a treaty that was inconsistent with the ability of Americans to “exercise their guaranteed rights under our constitution.”

In a Sept. 24 letter to President Barack Obama, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote that “[t]he Senate has not yet provided its advice and consent, and may not provide such consent. As a result, the Executive Branch is not authorized to take any steps to implement the treaty.”

The United States and 17 other countries signed the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) on Sept. 25, pushing the number of signatories to the pact, which was opened for signature June 3, to 107.

UN Body Forms Group to Break Deadlock

Tom Z. Collina

Seeking to overcome 16 years of gridlock, the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament (CD) agreed Aug. 16 to create an informal working group tasked with developing a work plan for the 65-nation negotiating body.

The new working group, open to all member states, will be co-chaired by Luis Gallegos Chiriboga of Ecuador and Peter Woolcott of Australia, those countries’ ambassadors to the CD. The group will meet for the remainder of the 2013 session and can be reconvened in 2014.

Like the CD itself, all decisions of the working group must be made by consensus. The lack of consensus has prevented the full conference from agreeing to a work plan for the past 16 years. The last arms control treaty negotiated by the UN-backed CD was the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, completed in 1996.

Since then, the United States, Russia, and many Western countries have sought a mandate at the conference to negotiate a treaty to ban the production of fissile materials for weapons, known as a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT). But Pakistan opposes the start of FMCT talks unless the negotiating mandate explicitly includes the issue of existing stocks of materials, not just new production. The United States, Russia, and others oppose that approach.

A preliminary work plan was approved in 2009, but then collapsed after Pakistan withdrew its support. Pakistan says that it has a smaller stockpile of fissile materials than India and that a production freeze would put Islamabad at a disadvantage.

The ongoing CD stalemate has led to efforts to seek progress in other forums, such as the United Nations in New York. In November, the UN General Assembly First Committee passed three resolutions that create other, complementary bodies, such as a group of governmental experts. In an April statement, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States “expressed the hope” that the group of governmental experts “will help spur negotiations” in the CD. (See ACT, May 2013.)

Mohammad Sabir Ismail, the Iraqi ambassador to the CD and president of the body, said he hoped that the decision on the working group would start a new phase for the CD and lead to a return to substantive work. But given the consensus requirement for the working group, independent UN observers were less optimistic that the decision represented a step forward. The nongovernmental group Reaching Critical Will, which monitors UN negotiations, said in a statement that “16 years of deadlock has significantly lowered the bar for what constitutes progress.”

Seeking to overcome 16 years of gridlock, the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament (CD) agreed Aug. 16 to create an informal working group tasked with developing a work plan...

Summit Off, U.S.-Russian Talks Go On

Tom Z. Collina

Despite public friction over several issues between Russia and the United States, including the postponement of an upcoming presidential meeting, high-level discussions on nuclear arms reductions and missile defense are continuing, according to senior officials on both sides.

Russia’s decision to grant temporary asylum to former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who is wanted for leaking classified documents about U.S. surveillance programs to the media, was a recent and high-profile irritant in the U.S.-Russian relationship. That decision prompted sharp criticism from Congress and was cited by President Barack Obama as a reason for calling off a planned Sept. 3 summit in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The summit could be rescheduled, according to the senior officials, and just two days after the postponement announcement, the United States hosted a previously scheduled Aug. 9 meeting in Washington of defense and foreign ministers, known as a “2+2” meeting. U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Obama and Putin had agreed to revive the 2+2 process at the June 17-18 Group of Eight summit in Northern Ireland.

Both sides reported that they had made progress at the Aug. 9 meeting. “I do not think that the Snowden affair colored the engagement of the 2+2,” a senior U.S. official said during a press call after the meeting. “We would like to hold a summit with Russia, but the substance needs to be there, and so this 2+2 mechanism is a way to move forward,” the official said.

Striking a similar theme, Lavrov said during an Aug. 10 press conference that “Snowden is an anomaly” and there is “no cold war.” He said the two sides had agreed to continue the 2+2 meetings to discuss complicated issues “based on mutual benefit, mutual respect, [and] equality.” Lavrov added that Russia pays attention “to specific issues rather than those issues which some would like to make headlines in the mass media.” A schedule for future meetings was not announced.

Lavrov said that the Aug. 9 meeting “paid particular attention to the anti-ballistic missile problems.” The United States is fielding a missile interceptor system in Europe to defend NATO member states against a possible future missile attack from Iran. Moscow says it is concerned that the U.S. system could be used to target its long-range missiles based in western Russia. Hagel announced in March that the Pentagon had canceled the part of the program that Russia found most threatening, the fourth phase of the European Phased Adaptive Approach, as the Obama administration’s missile defense policy for NATO is known, which included plans to field the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) IIB interceptor. Moscow, however, has continued to express doubts about U.S. intentions. (See ACT, April 2013.)

According to a second senior U.S. official speaking during the Aug. 9 press call, the participants agreed to “look for ways to work together on missile defense, missile defense cooperation, and to explore the possibilities for further nuclear reductions.” Obama said in June that the United States could reduce the number of its deployed strategic nuclear weapons “by up to one-third” and that he intended “to seek negotiated cuts with Russia to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures.” (See ACT, July/August 2013.)

Obama finalized new nuclear policy guidance in June that found that the 1,550 limit on deployed strategic warheads under the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty is “more than adequate” to meet U.S. national security objectives. The new guidance did not call for any immediate changes to currently deployed nuclear forces. That apparently will have to wait a year or so, until the Defense Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff translate the new guidance into more-specific directives. Once U.S. Strategic Command drafts new plans for using nuclear weapons, the administration can make changes to the way in which the United States deploys those weapons. For example, the new policy may allow the Navy to reduce the number of nuclear-armed submarines at sea.

Russia is resisting Obama’s call for reductions due to its concerns about U.S. missile defense and other issues. “Apart from the deployment of European missile defense elements at the sites that have already been determined, we believe issues related to sea-based systems, especially in the Barents and the Baltic Seas, should also be addressed,” Shoigu said.

In an effort to break this logjam, Obama’s then-national security adviser, Tom Donilon, hand-delivered a letter to Putin in April with a U.S. proposal on missile defense cooperation and arms reductions. The second U.S. official at the Aug. 9 briefing said that “we’re still waiting for their formal counterproposal, but they are evidently working on it, and they are ready to engage us intensively on it.”

Lavrov said there are items to discuss at a future summit, including a proposal to boost bilateral contacts and information exchange on nuclear weapons proliferation through Russia’s National Nuclear Threat Reduction Center and to allow the Russian state-run nuclear company Rosatom to collaborate with U.S. national laboratories.

Despite some signs of progress at the working level, Republicans in Congress expressed pessimism about the prospect of Obama-Putin talks in the future. “Obviously, the relationship is souring,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee, Politico reported Aug. 9. “And obviously we’re in a period of time in our relationship with Russia where it’s likely the discussions of this nature are not going to be fruitful,” Corker said.

Politico also quoted Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio) as saying that the administration should stop trying to win Russian support for U.S. missile defense plans. “The administration needs to be committed to a missile defense policy that is North Korea and Iran directed and quit tying our missile defense initiatives to an elusive Russian relationship,” Turner said.

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) issued an Aug. 8 statement saying, “[N]ow we must move beyond symbolic acts and take the steps necessary to establish a more realistic approach to our relations with Russia,” including moving forward with “completion of all phases of our missile defense programs in Europe,” an apparent reference to the now-canceled fourth phase of the planned deployment in Europe.

Obama still plans to travel to the Russian city of St. Petersburg on September 5-6 to attend the Group of 20 summit, but it is not clear if he plans to meet one-on-one with Putin while he is there.

Despite public friction over several issues between Russia and the United States, high-level discussions on nuclear arms reductions and missile defense are continuing...

Pentagon Defends ‘3+2’ Plan for Warheads

Tom Z. Collina

Amid bipartisan congressional concerns about the cost, the Defense Department is defending its plan to rebuild the remaining stockpile of U.S. nuclear warheads, including the B61 bomb.

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) estimates that the program could cost more than $60 billion. James Miller, undersecretary of defense for policy, said July 17 that he continues to think that the program is “very sensible.” But the Senate and House have taken steps to rein in the program at a time of tight budgets.

In an Aug. 6 interview, a staffer for a key senator called the program’s cost “insane” and questioned whether the expense was consistent with President Barack Obama’s commitment to nuclear weapons reductions. In June, Obama said the United States could reduce the number of strategic nuclear weapons it deploys “by up to one-third.” (See ACT, July/August 2013.)

The NNSA rolled out the new strategy in June in its Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan for fiscal year 2014. The strategy, known as “3+2,” involves a 25-year plan for rebuilding the stockpile and reducing the number of warhead types from seven today to five.

The current U.S. arsenal has two warhead types deployed on intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), two types on submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and three types on long-range bombers and fighter jets (fig. 1).

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Click image to enlarge.

The NNSA wants to move to having three ballistic missile warhead types and two air-delivered types. Of the three missile warhead types, at least one would be a “swing,” or interoperable, warhead that could be used on the Minuteman III ICBM and the Trident II SLBM. Current missile warhead types are not designed to be used on multiple delivery systems. The bombers would have two warhead types to share, an air-dropped bomb and a cruise missile warhead, possibly with interchangeable parts, according to the NNSA.

According to Miller, part of the administration’s motivation for developing an interoperable warhead is to avoid having only one warhead type for any delivery system in case there is a problem that affects all warheads of a particular type. Miller said July 17 at a Capitol Hill briefing that it is “strongly preferable not to be down to a single warhead in case there’s an issue with it, and therefore to have an inherent hedge.”

Miller said he and his colleagues have been making the case for the 3+2 plan on Capitol Hill and that he has seen nothing to make him change the strategy. But, he said, “it comes down, as in every instance, to the resources required to implement the strategy.”

Under the NNSA plan, replacing the five warhead types to be retained would cost $12.5 billion each on average. Moreover, the NNSA has a history of significantly underestimating resources requirements. For example, the projected cost of the B61 life extension program has more than doubled in the past few years. (See ACT, May 2013.)

The NNSA claims that the refurbished warheads would cost less to maintain than those they replace “due to consolidation of warhead types.” Yet, there is no public analysis to support this assertion; and the extent of these savings “has not yet been determined,” the NNSA acknowledges.

The actual cost of the program will be determined by how many warhead types ultimately are rebuilt. For example, the NNSA and the Pentagon disagree about how many interoperable warheads are needed. The NNSA says it wants three types, at an estimated cost of $40 billion. But the Defense Department thinks only the first one may be necessary, according to senior Pentagon and Senate staff. Defense officials are also questioning the need for a rebuilt warhead for the Air Force’s Air-Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM). That warhead could cost another $12 billion. No decision has been made to build the new ALCM.

Meanwhile, the Navy is questioning the NNSA concept of the interoperable warhead. In a September 2012 memo to the Nuclear Weapons Council, through which the Defense and Energy departments coordinate management of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, the Navy said it does “not support commencing the effort at this time,” due in part to “uncertainty” about the NNSA’s “ability to execute its currently programmed work.” In response, the council decided in December to study an option for the Navy’s W88 warhead that would not be interoperable.

The 3+2 plan has received mixed reviews on Capitol Hill. In a spending bill approved in June, the Senate Appropriations Committee provided $369 million for the B61 gravity bomb for fiscal year 2014. That is the same funding level as in fiscal year 2013 but 30 percent below the $537 million that the administration requested. In its report, the committee wrote that it is “concerned that NNSA’s proposed scope of work for extending the life of the B61 bomb is not the lowest cost, lowest risk option that meets military requirements.” The bill is not expected to go to the Senate floor, but it may be included in an omnibus appropriations bill at some point.

Then, on Aug. 1, the committee provided $6 million for a new B61 tail kit, less than 10 percent of the $68 million that the Air Force requested. With a lifetime program cost of $3.7 billion, the tail kit would increase the accuracy of the B61.

The Senate appropriators’ budget allocations would, if enacted, force the NNSA to choose a cheaper path for the B61, which the Pentagon projects would cost more than $10 billion to produce, not including the tail kit. The NNSA would likely have to forgo its plans to consolidate four versions of the bomb into one, the proposed B61-12. Without the consolidation, the new tail kit would not be needed, the Senate staffer said.

The Senate Appropriations Committee also questioned the NNSA’s broader plans to make warheads interoperable. The first such project would integrate the W78 ICBM warhead and the W88 SLBM warhead, known as Interoperable Warhead-1 (IW-1), and would cost at least $14 billion, according to the NNSA. The committee wrote that an interoperable warhead “may be unnecessarily complex and expensive, increase uncertainty about certification,” and “fail to address aging issues [such as the need to replace components with limited lifetimes] in a timely manner.” The Senate Armed Services Committee raised similar cost and mission concerns about the IW-1 in June.

The House Appropriations Committee raised its own concerns about a joint W78/W88 warhead, stating that the committee “will not support dedicating significant funding for new stockpile transformation concepts” unless the administration can show “benefits that justify such a large investment.” The House cut the budget request for the joint W78/W88 warhead by $23 million, but increased funding for the B61 by the same amount.

Amid bipartisan congressional concerns about the cost, the Defense Department is defending its plan to rebuild the remaining stockpile of U.S. nuclear warheads, including the B61 bomb.

Key Missile Defense Test Delayed

Tom Z. Collina

In the wake of a failed July 5 intercept attempt, the Defense Department has delayed an upcoming missile defense test that will help determine if it can move ahead with plans to field additional long-range interceptor missiles in Alaska by 2017. Originally planned for this fall, the trial launch will not take place until March, according to July 17 testimony from the director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA).

Testifying before the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, MDA Director Vice Adm. James Syring said that the March 2014 test “must” be completed successfully before the Defense Department carries out its plans to increase the number of ground-based interceptor (GBI) missiles deployed in Alaska and California from 30 to 44 by 2017. That planned increase, announced March 15, was motivated by recent missile and nuclear tests by North Korea. (See ACT, April 2013.)

“We need to know these missiles perform as advertised, through rigorous intercept tests,” Syring said of the 14 new interceptors, which will cost $1 billion.

In July 30 comments to reporters, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), who chairs the defense appropriations panel, also emphasized the need for further testing. “Before we go forward on missile defense, we need a successful test, period,” he said. “Before we expand the missile defense layout to include the East Coast, we need a pretty fulsome debate after a successful test,” he said, referring to Republican proposals to field a new missile interceptor site in a northeastern state. (See ACT, July/August 2013.)

Since 1999, according to the MDA, GBI missiles have hit their target in eight out of 16 attempts. This record falls short of other missile defense systems, such as the Aegis system based on ships, which has hit 25 of 31, or the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, which is 10 for 10. All of these tests are conducted in a “controlled, scripted environment,” Syring said.

The additional 14 GBI missiles for Alaska would be armed with a newer version of the system’s exoatmospheric kill vehicle (EKV), known as the Capability Enhancement-II (CE-II). The CE-II has never had a successful intercept test, having failed twice in 2010. Nonetheless, CE-IIs are already deployed on 10 of the 30 GBI missiles.

The EKV, a key part of the GBI system, is lifted into space by a booster rocket and is designed to use its onboard sensors to locate an incoming enemy warhead and destroy it on impact.

Surprise Failure

The subject of the failed July 5 test was not the CE-II, but the CE-I, which sits atop 20 GBI missiles and had not been flight-tested since 2008. Because it had successfully hit the target in three previous tests, this failure came as a surprise. In the latest test, which cost about $200 million, the CE-I did not separate from the booster’s third stage, Syring testified. The MDA is conducting a review, which is expected to take several months, to confirm the cause of the failure and has not determined when a retest might take place.

James Miller, undersecretary of defense for policy, said at a July 17 Capitol Hill forum that he “would like to see a test of both versions” of the EKV in the next 12 months and that he still expected to reach the goal of 44 deployed GBI missiles by 2017.

An MDA spokesman told Arms Control Today in a July 29 e-mail that the July 5 CE-I test failure was not directly responsible for the postponement of the CE-II test to March. He attributed the delay to the need for more time to fix issues arising from the last failed CE-II test in December 2010. But he said that the MDA wanted to wait for the review of the July 5 test to be completed before conducting any more GBI tests, as the two EKVs use the same rocket booster.

Schedule Pressure

At the July 17 hearing, Durbin said the GBI system had performed poorly because it had been rushed into deployment by the Bush administration in 2004. “There was deployment before development” for the GBI missile, which was not the case for Aegis, Durbin said.

Syring agreed, saying that the “schedule-driven pressure to get interceptors in the ground” led to “the decision to field what were prototypes” with the intent to improve them over time. That, Syring said, led to the development of the CE-II, which was an upgrade to the GBI system that was fielded “very, very quickly.”

According to the MDA, the Pentagon is spending more than $1 billion in remedial efforts to get the CE-II interceptor to work, including the two failed 2010 tests, failure reviews, a nonintercept test in January, and the test planned for March.

In the wake of a failed July 5 intercept attempt, the Defense Department has delayed an upcoming missile defense test that will help determine if it can move ahead with plans...

Presidents Need Flexibility on Nuclear Arms Reductions

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Volume 4, Issue 8, July 26, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pentagon: New Missile Site Unneeded

Tom Z. Collina

In a setback to congressional proponents of a new missile interceptor site on the U.S. East Coast, senior military officials wrote in June that there is no military requirement for such a site and that the funds would be better spent on improving sensor capabilities for the existing system of interceptor sites in Alaska and California.

“There is no validated military requirement to deploy an East Coast missile defense site,” wrote Vice Adm. James Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), and Lt. Gen. Richard Formica, commander of the Joint Functional Command for Integrated Missile Defense, in a June 10 letter to Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.). They told Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, that a decision to build such a site should wait until an environmental review of possible locations, required by the fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, is complete. In May, Syring testified that this review, which would start in early 2014, could take up to two years.

Compared to another missile interceptor site, investments in “discrimination and sensor capabilities” would be a “more cost-effective” way to better protect the United States from long-range ballistic missiles, Syring and Formica wrote. Independent experts have criticized the U.S. system for not having the sensors, such as X-band radars, that would be necessary to distinguish actual threat warheads from missile debris and other decoys. Michael Gilmore, director of operational testing and evaluation at the Pentagon, testified May 9 that “[i]f 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.”

The United States already has two missile interceptor sites on the West Coast, at Fort Greely in Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, with a total of 30 ground-based interceptor (GBI) missiles to blunt potential limited attacks from North Korea or Iran. North Korea has long-range missiles that may be capable of reaching the United States; Iran could have such capabilities by 2015 with foreign assistance, according to U.S. intelligence agencies.

In response to recent North Korean nuclear and missile tests, the Pentagon announced in March that it would field an additional 14 GBI missiles in Alaska by 2017 at a cost of $1 billion, using funds that would have been allocated for the now-canceled Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) IIB missile that had been planned for deployment in Europe. (See ACT, April 2013.) The GBI missiles would also be effective against future missile threats from Iran, according to the Defense Department.

Madelyn Creedon, assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs, testified in May that the East Coast is already “well protected” by the 30 GBI missiles now deployed and that the plan for another 14 interceptors “provides additional protection” against “anything from North Korea as well as anything from Iran, should that threat develop.”

The combat effectiveness of the current GBI system has not been proven. The system has not successfully intercepted a test target since 2008, with two failures in 2010. (See ACT, October 2012.)

Meanwhile, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved its version of the defense authorization bill June 13. Like last year, the Democratic-led Senate did not authorize an East Coast site. Instead, reflecting the June 10 letter from the Pentagon, the committee’s bill authorizes $30 million to deploy an additional X-band radar to support target discrimination. The administration had not requested those funds. Overall, the committee authorized $9.3 billion for missile defense, $150 million more than what the administration had requested.

Levin told reporters June 13 that his committee had authorized funds to build “advanced sensors” that would be “more effective than just missiles.” Levin said the sensors would be cheaper than a new missile interceptor site and that “they can be fielded faster.”

Despite the Pentagon’s position, on June 14 the full Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted, as it did last year, to fund an East Coast missile defense site in its fiscal year 2014 defense authorization bill, providing $140 million to begin site construction. The House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee put $70 million in its 2014 spending bill for the same purpose.

The House authorization bill says a new site is needed “to deal more effectively with the long-range ballistic missile threat from the Middle East,” particularly Iran. Missile defense proponents in the House say that the need has increased since the Obama administration canceled the SM-3 IIB program, which would have been fielded in Poland to intercept potential long-range missiles from Iran aimed at the United States.

On June 11, after a House Armed Services Committee vote, the White House threatened to veto the House defense bill on the grounds that the call for an East Coast site “presumes a validated military requirement…when none exists.”

An East Coast site would cost at least $3.4 billion to build and operate over five years, according to a June 11 Congressional Budget Office estimate. A 2012 report by the National Research Council, the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences, said that the total 20-year cost for a new system at two sites would be up to $25 billion and that the United States has already spent about $40 billion on the system on the West Coast. The report recommended replacing the existing system with an entirely new technology, which could take a decade or more to develop.

Once the full Senate approves its defense authorization bill, the House and Senate bills will have to be brought into agreement by a conference committee before being sent to President Barack Obama.

The Pentagon said it does not need a new missile defense site on the East Coast, but the House approved funding for a new site, drawing a presidential veto threat.

Scale Back the B61 Nuclear Bomb

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Volume 4, Issue 6, June 25, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

Tactical B61s: No Need

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

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

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

Strategic B61 Life Extension: Less Costly Alternatives

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

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

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

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

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

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

Description: 

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

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