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

– Hans Blix
Former IAEA Director-General
Tom Z. Collina

Pentagon Considers New Nuclear Cuts

Tom Z. Collina

The Pentagon is looking at bringing the U.S. nuclear arsenal below the levels set in the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), as well as scaling back new weapon systems, administration officials said last month.

Two separate policy reviews to be completed this year are leading the Department of Defense to consider new reductions to the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

One review is looking for ways to reduce Pentagon budget growth by at least $450 billion over the next decade. This target is likely to double to more than $900 billion now that the congressional “super committee” has failed to produce a deficit reduction plan. The committee’s failure to reach agreement, announced Nov. 21, triggers automatic cuts in defense and other spending. The automatic cuts, known as sequestration, would not take effect until 2013.

To save money, the Defense Department is re-evaluating its plans for fielding nuclear forces at levels set by New START—1,550 deployed strategic warheads based on 700 missiles and bombers, administration officials said in recent testimony.

A second review, increasingly related to the first given its significant budget implications, is examining fundamental questions of U.S. nuclear policy, such as how many nuclear weapons the country needs for the future and why. (See ACT, June 2011.) Conceived as a follow-on to the report produced by last year’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), this so-called NPR implementation study will set U.S. nuclear force requirements and play a key role in determining U.S. negotiating positions in future arms reduction talks with Russia. President Barack Obama has said he intends to pursue another agreement with Moscow to reduce strategic and tactical nuclear weapons, whether deployed or in storage.

Late last summer, Obama issued a document spelling out the study’s “terms of reference.” That document is known as Presidential Policy Directive-11 (PPD-11), Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio) said at the Nov. 2 hearing of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, which he chairs.

At the hearing, Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy James Miller said that the 90-day study is expected to be finished by the end of the calendar year. Based on the options presented in the study, Obama would issue new nuclear weapons guidance. The secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff would then use this new guidance to issue more-detailed directions to the military, and U.S. Strategic Command would revise its military plans, Miller said. It is not clear how long the entire process will take.

Both studies appear to be looking at how U.S. forces under New START should be deployed. Miller testified that “[d]ecisions have not yet been made as to whether [the Defense Department] will take the full seven years” to make the reductions required by the treaty and “whether delivery systems will be reduced to or below those central limits” before the pact’s implementation deadline.

The Pentagon has previously said that its New START force structure, which must be in place by 2018, would include 240 submarine-launched missiles, up to 420 land-based missiles, and up to 60 long-range bombers, for a total of 720 deployed delivery systems. The Defense Department plans to reduce this force by 20 to meet treaty limits. “In the context of the budget situation [in] which we find ourselves,” Miller testified, “we are looking hard at those numbers again and in fact want to be informed by…this NPR implementation study that is underway.” The implementation study could, for example, recommend that the Navy scale back its nuclear-armed submarine program, which is currently planning to field 12 Ohio-class submarines, each with 20 missiles, to comply with New START.

To achieve major budget savings, however, the Pentagon also will have to look at scaling back its multibillion-dollar plans for modernizing the triad of sea- and land-based missiles and land-based bombers over the next 50 years. The Navy is requesting 12 new submarines to replace the current Ohio-class fleet, and the Air Force is seeking up to 100 new long-range bombers and a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). The Pentagon estimates that these modernization programs would cost more than $125 billion over 10 years, although a public breakdown of this total has not been made available. The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration is also planning to spend about $88 billion over the next decade on refurbishing the nuclear stockpile and modernizing the weapons production complex.

Submarine Budget Warfare

In the face of increasing budget pressures, tensions between the military and the White House over budget priorities are starting to bubble to the surface.

For example, despite previous Pentagon support for the Navy’s new submarine plans, Miller testified that “no decisions have been made with respect to future force sizing or the modernization plans for nuclear delivery systems; such decisions will be informed by the administration’s ongoing review of deterrence requirements.”

Similarly, Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler, the head of Strategic Command, testified at the hearing that although the country needs to replace the current Ohio-class submarine, “affordability has to be an issue here. What we don’t have to make a decision on today is what the ultimate number of submarines is that we might have to deploy depending on the world situation that we find as we go to the out-years.”

Reflecting this high-level shift away from a commitment to 12 new submarines, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is recommending that the number of new submarines be reduced to 10, according to defense.aol.com. The Navy reportedly is pushing back by claiming that 10 submarines are not enough to support five submarines “on station” at all times. Submarines that are on station are deployed far off the U.S. coasts and ready to launch their missiles on a moment’s notice.

According to congressional staffers, for the Navy to operate four to five submarines on station, it would need 12 submarines in total: five in the Atlantic, with two of these on station and the rest in port or in transit, and seven in the Pacific with two to three on station and the rest in transit.

The requirement for on-station submarines, according to the staffers, is mainly driven by the military requirement to deploy submarine-based nuclear weapons within range of their targets so they can be launched promptly, within an hour or so. Such requirements are under review as part of the NPR implementation study.

Sequestration Politics

Although the Pentagon has accepted the need to reduce its future growth by $450 billion over 10 years, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is making his case against sequestration reductions, which would require additional cuts of $500-600 billion, according to a Nov. 14 letter from Panetta to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

According to a Pentagon summary document that was sent with the letter, such additional reductions would be “devastating.” Cuts of that magnitude, the document said, would lead to steps such as a delay in the development of the new Air Force bomber until the mid-2020s, for a savings of $18 billion; a delay in the deployment of the Navy’s new submarine and a downsizing of the fleet to 10, saving $7 billion; and elimination of the entire ICBM leg of the triad, saving $8 billion.

After Panetta sent his letter, McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) issued a statement saying that sequestration “is a threat to the national security interests of the United States, and it should not be allowed to occur.” In a Nov. 21 statement responding to the super committee’s announcement, Obama said that he “will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending. There will be no easy off[-]ramps on this one.”

Meanwhile, Russia’s nuclear forces already have dropped to or below New START ceilings, according to the Department of State. Former senior Russian officials have said that Moscow will retain fewer than 570 delivery systems by 2018 and will have difficulty fielding the 1,550 warheads allowed by the treaty.

Commenting on defense budget pressures, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said in a Nov. 11 Bloomberg interview that “[t]he amount of money we’re spending on maintaining nuclear weapons, modernizing nuclear weapons, is not in keeping with the modern world. It’s much more a Cold War remnant.”

At a Nov. 8 briefing, Pentagon press secretary George Little said, “Our top priority is maintaining a nuclear deterrent, but the arsenal may not need to be as large as it is.”

The Pentagon is looking at bringing the U.S. nuclear arsenal below the levels set in the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), as well as scaling back new weapon systems, administration officials said last month.

Nuclear Budget Debate Heats Up

Tom Z. Collina

As the congressional “super committee” prepares its recommendations for reducing the federal deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years, Congress is beginning to grapple with the question of how much, if at all, to reduce spending on U.S. nuclear weapons.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said Oct. 11 that the Pentagon will reduce total projected spending by more than $450 billion over the next 10 years as a result of Congress’ August budget agreement. Those reductions could double if the super committee fails to agree on a deficit reduction plan, triggering across-the-board budget cuts, known as sequestration. The committee’s recommendations are due Nov. 23; Congress would have to approve the plan before Christmas to prevent sequestration.

According to Panetta, some of the biggest defense savings will come from “reduced levels of modernization in some areas.” Gen. Robert Kehler, the head of U.S. Strategic Command, which oversees U.S. nuclear forces, told reporters Oct. 18 that “there are going to be interesting questions about both the scope and pace of [nuclear weapons] modernization as we go forward, and it will depend on what the ultimate budget targets are.”

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

For example, Markey said at the press conference that the Navy’s planned $350 billion nuclear-armed submarine program, called the SSBN-X, should be scaled back by reducing the number of submarines from 12 to eight and delaying their procurement. That would save $27 billion over the next 10 years, Markey said.

Arms control advocates, including the Arms Control Association, have noted that eight operational SSBN-X submarines, each with 16 missile tubes, could carry up to 1,024 warheads, which is about the same number of warheads that the Pentagon plans to deploy at sea under the U.S.-Russian New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which entered into force in February. (See ACT, June 2010.)

The plan put forward by Markey and the advocates rests on the fact that the Navy does not load its submarine-launched missiles to their maximum capacity. Each Trident II D5 missile deployed on strategic submarines can carry up to eight nuclear warheads, but the Navy currently loads each with four or five. Maximum loading would allow the Navy to buy fewer missiles and submarines, according to this argument.

In a statement issued after the Oct. 11 press conference, Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, said that “what Mr. Markey proposes amounts to unilateral disarmament” of the United States.

Lt. Nate Curtis, a Navy spokesman, said Oct. 20 that it would be inappropriate for the Navy “to comment on correspondence between members of Congress.” He added that the schedule for submarine procurement contained in the Obama administration’s fiscal year 2012 budget request “supports the long-range force structure necessary to meet national tasking.” The Navy plans to put the 12 SSBN-X submarines into service between 2029 and 2040. Each submarine would operate for 40 years.

The Pentagon also is exploring ways to save money on new strategic delivery systems, such as submarines, while still fielding as many nuclear weapons as planned under New START. Outgoing Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn said Oct. 5 at the Center for American Progress in Washington that defense planners are looking to stay at New START limits “but to do it in a more fiscally responsible fashion.” He did not provide details. Under New START, each side is limited to 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads deployed on 700 launchers.

The Navy justifies the extra space on its missiles, known as “upload potential,” as a way for the Pentagon to expand its nuclear force quickly in case of unforeseen threats. Upload capacity also exists on strategic missiles and bombers.

The Air Force wants to build a new type of strategic bomber by the mid-2020s that would cost at least $50 billion in procurement for 80 to 100 planes. That figure does not include operation and maintenance costs.

The current strategic bomber fleet of B-2s and B-52s is being modernized to last until 2040, according to the Air Force, and the Pentagon’s plan to deploy 60 nuclear-capable bombers under New START by 2018 is to be achieved with existing aircraft. The Air Force plans to spend $3.7 billion on research and development for the new bomber over the next five years, according to budget documents.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) proposed in July to reduce nuclear weapons spending by $79 billion over 10 years, in part by curtailing and delaying the new submarine and bomber programs. Russia already has cut its nuclear forces to New START levels and would need to rebuild some systems if it wants to maintain those levels. (See ACT, July/August 2011.)

At the Oct. 18 session with reporters, Kehler said the United States could someday move away from its nuclear triad of submarine-, bomber-, and land-based missiles to a two-part “dyad.”

“As you look into the strategic future, the answer about whether or not we’re going to need a triad, I think, is, ‘it depends,’” he said. “And, of course, there’s a budgetary dimension to this,” he added. “As we look to modernize, in particular, can we in fact spend the resources to modernize the entire triad?”

The Obama administration’s ongoing strategic review “will raise questions about whether we retain the triad or whether we go to a system that only is a dyad,” White House arms control coordinator Gary Samore told Arms Control Today in April. (See ACT, May 2011.)

“I would agree, it’s not a trinity,” Kehler said, rejecting the notion that the triad cannot be questioned, but “sustaining a triad is the right thing to do now.”

As the congressional “super committee” prepares its recommendations for reducing the federal deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years, Congress is beginning to grapple with the question of how much, if at all, to reduce spending on U.S. nuclear weapons.

New START for Less Money

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Volume 2, Issue 13, October 13, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is this “unilateral disarmament”? Hardly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Volume 2, Issue 13, October 13, 2011

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

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Turkey to Host NATO Missile Defense Radar

Tom Z. Collina

After an extended delay, the U.S. Department of State announced on Sept. 2 that Turkey had agreed to host an early-warning radar as a key part of the European Phased Adaptive Approach, the Obama administration’s plan for missile defense in Europe.

U.S. officials have said they expect the radar to be deployed at a military base in Kurecik, about 435 miles from Iran, by the end of the year. The radar, along with the March deployment to the Mediterranean Sea of the USS Monterey, armed with Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) IA missile interceptors, would complete the first phase of the administration’s missile defense plans.

Other elements of the administration’s missile defense plans for NATO also have recently fallen into place. On Sept. 13, Romania signed an agreement with the United States to deploy 24 SM-3 IB missile interceptors at Deveselu Air Base in 2015. The pact still has to be ratified by the Romanian parliament. In addition, a U.S.-Polish agreement that entered into force on Sept. 15 would place SM-3 Block IIA interceptors at a base near Redzikowo in 2018. Both agreements were expected and are consistent with previously announced plans.

The U.S. desire to put an AN/TPY-2 X-band radar in Turkey has been known for more than a year, but Ankara had delayed its decision in an apparent attempt to avoid a conflict with Iran, against whose missiles the NATO interceptor system would be aimed. Ankara had been seeking to position itself as an intermediary between Washington and Tehran. The Iranian Foreign Ministry issued a statement regretting Turkey’s decision, saying it would “create tension” and cause “complicated consequences.”

Turkey also was seeking assurances from the United States that information from the radar would not be shared with Israel, a restriction opposed by many in the U.S. Congress. Israeli-Turkish relations have soured since Jerusalem’s raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla in 2010. U.S. officials said that no promise was made to Ankara regarding data sharing with Jerusalem. “It’s a U.S. radar,” a senior official told reporters on Sept. 15, adding, “Nothing in any of the agreements restricts our ability to defend the state of Israel.” A similar U.S. radar is already deployed in Israel.

Ankara appears to have a different interpretation. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in an interview Sept. 18 that information gathered by the radar would be available only to NATO members. “We will provide support only for systems that belong to NATO and are used solely by members of NATO,” he said. Israel is not a NATO member.

The Russian Foreign Ministry responded to the U.S.-Turkish radar agreement Sept. 2 by noting the “continued lack of progress in the Russia-NATO dialogue” on missile defense cooperation “due to the stubborn reluctance” of the United States and NATO to consider Russia “as an equal partner.” Moscow reiterated its demand for the United States and NATO to provide “solid, legally binding assurances that their missile defenses in Europe would not be directed at Russian strategic nuclear forces.”

Moscow is concerned about U.S. plans to deploy hundreds of increasingly capable SM-3 missile interceptors by 2020 at sea and on land as part of the phased approach, which NATO approved last November to counter the missile threat that allies expect to emerge from Iran. Russia agreed to work with NATO to seek areas of cooperation, such as sharing information on third-party missile launches and conducting joint exercises. The Pentagon has been interested in gaining access to data from Russian radars located northwest of Iran, such as the Gabala radar in Azerbaijan, that could provide useful tracking information on Iranian missiles that could be launched toward Europe or the United States.

Moscow has made it clear that it would be unwilling to pursue additional nuclear arms reductions with Washington unless its concerns about NATO’s missile interceptor plans are addressed. The United States and Russia met in Brussels in June to seek a compromise, but the talks were not successful. (See ACT, July/August 2011.) The effort stalled, officials said, because the United States and NATO could not convince Moscow that NATO would not use the system to intercept Russian strategic nuclear forces.

Speaking at a conference in Copenhagen on Sept. 5, U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder said Russia’s desire for a legally binding agreement was a “stumbling block we need to remove…. [The United States] can’t sign such an agreement.” Daalder said NATO was working on a compromise “in the form of a political statement” that makes it clear that the NATO system “is directed against a threat coming from outside Europe, not against Russia.”

Meanwhile, on Sept. 1, Raytheon’s new SM-3 IB missile, planned for deployment in Romania and at sea in 2015, failed to intercept a target during its first flight test, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) announced. The SM-3 IB is an upgrade of the SM-3 IA interceptor now deployed on the Monterey and other Aegis ships. Also last month, the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee zeroed out funding for the SM-3 IIB interceptor from its version of the fiscal year 2012 spending bill, in part because of problems with the SM-3 IB.

The SM-3 IB test missile was launched from the Aegis cruiser USS Lake Erie in the Pacific Ocean minutes after a short-range ballistic missile target was launched from Kauai, Hawaii, 574 miles away. “An intercept of the target was not achieved,” an MDA statement said. Agency officials are conducting a review of the test failure, the MDA said.

After an extended delay, the U.S. Department of State announced on Sept. 2 that Turkey had agreed to host an early-warning radar as a key part of the European Phased Adaptive Approach, the Obama administration’s plan for missile defense in Europe.

P5 Struggles to Unblock FMCT Talks

Tom Z. Collina

Fulfilling a commitment made at the United Nations in July, the world’s five recognized nuclear-weapon states met in Geneva on Aug. 30 to discuss ways to break the logjam at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) on a proposed treaty to ban the production of fissile materials for weapons. However, the states, known as the P5 because they also are the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, did not agree to pursue negotiations outside the CD, where Pakistan remains opposed to treaty talks.

The P5 position to keep the fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) talks in the CD means that because of the forum’s consensus rule for decision-making, Pakistan’s concerns eventually will have to be addressed if the CD is going to make progress. Negotiations on an FMCT have been held up for years by Islamabad, which is blocking the needed consensus. (See ACT, September 2011.) As one CD representative put it in a recent interview, “Pakistan needs more time to produce more material, and they are happy to wait.”

Zamir Akram, the Pakistani ambassador to the CD, said in an Aug. 30 interview that Islamabad has a “growing window of vulnerability” in relation to India on fissile material stockpiles and that the window “needs to be closed.” According to Akram, the 2008 U.S.-Indian nuclear deal changed the strategic dynamics in South Asia by allowing New Delhi to divert its domestic fissile material production to weapons. (See ACT, July/August 2011.)

Akram said that Pakistan is open to dialogue and wants a “level playing field.” One way to achieve that, he said, is by giving Pakistan a Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) waiver like the one India received in 2008, exempting it from the group’s general policy of requiring that recipients of member states’ nuclear exports place all their nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. (See ACT, October 2008.)

Another approach, Akram said, is to address New Delhi’s fissile material stockpiles in FMCT negotiations. The P5 members are opposed to reducing existing stocks through FMCT talks, however, saying they support the so-called Shannon mandate, which would leave that issue to be resolved during the negotiations.

Pakistan wants clarity and cannot accept “ambiguity” in the talks, Akram said. He has said that Pakistan is “ready to stand in splendid isolation” at the CD.

It is not clear how much support exists in the NSG for a Pakistani waiver. Pakistan also is reportedly seeking a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama to Islamabad later this year. An earlier trip had been planned, but U.S.-Pakistani relations took a dive after al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was killed in a covert raid by the U.S. military in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2.

Among the five nuclear-weapon states, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States all have publicly renounced fissile material production for weapons. China is believed to have stopped such production.

India, Israel, and Pakistan, the three countries that never have joined the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), are the only states other than the P5 not legally prohibited from producing fissile materials (plutonium and highly enriched uranium) for nuclear weapons. Only India and Pakistan are believed to be currently producing such materials.

After their meeting, the P5 issued a joint statement supporting the negotiation of an FMCT “at the earliest possible date in the CD” and declaring that it would meet again “with other relevant parties” during the UN General Assembly First Committee’s session in October.

In recent interviews, representatives in Geneva said the statement’s phrase “in the CD” was a concession by the United States, which wants to pursue treaty negotiations outside the 65-nation body to avoid Pakistan’s veto. The Obama administration has said repeatedly over the last year that if the CD could not start negotiations, then “other options” would need to be considered. China and Russia, on the other hand, want the talks to stay in the CD and do not support other venues, in which the consensus rule might not apply.

The P5 did agree to discuss strategy for moving the talks forward in the CD. Such discussions may also include “other relevant parties” such as India, Israel, and Pakistan, which could be asked to join, according to officials.

Other countries, such as Canada and Mexico, are seeking to start FMCT negotiations in the UN General Assembly, according to the Geneva representatives. These delegations say that the rule of consensus in the CD is outdated and needs to be changed. If there is no consensus, they say, the issue should be brought to the UN where nations can take a vote. Canada, along with others, said in a Sept. 21 statement that it would introduce a resolution along these lines at the UN General Assembly in October.

Fulfilling a commitment made at the United Nations in July, the world’s five recognized nuclear-weapon states met in Geneva on Aug. 30 to discuss ways to break the logjam at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) on a proposed treaty to ban the production of fissile materials for weapons. However, the states, known as the P5 because they also are the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, did not agree to pursue negotiations outside the CD, where Pakistan remains opposed to treaty talks.

New START Hits 1,000 Notifications

Tom Z. Collina

The United States and Russia have conducted more than 1,000 notifications under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) since its entry into force in February, Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Rose Gottemoeller said Aug. 4 at a conference in Omaha hosted by U.S. Strategic Command. The notifications are used to track movements and changes in the status of treaty-covered systems, such as when a heavy bomber is out of its home country for more than 24 hours.

Gottemoeller said the United States and Russia together have conducted eight on-site inspections since April. “We are keeping par with each other,” she said. Gottemoeller said that, for the first time, the two sides were exchanging data about actual re-entry vehicle (warhead) loadings on U.S. and Russian missiles.

“On-site inspection procedures under New START allow the United States to confirm the actual number of warheads on any randomly selected” Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles, she said. This inspection right did not exist under the original START, which was in force from 1994 to 2009.

Also under New START, every six months the sides exchange a comprehensive database of exactly where weapons systems are located, are undergoing maintenance, or have been retired. This semiannual exchange creates a “living document,” a comprehensive look into each other’s strategic nuclear forces, Gottemoeller said.

The data exchanges under New START “are providing us with a more detailed picture of Russian strategic forces than we were able to obtain from earlier exchanges,” Gottemoeller said, “and the inspections will give us crucial opportunities to confirm the validity of that data.” Both sides back up the verification regime with their own national technical means of verification, such as satellites and other monitoring systems.

New START’s “verification regime works and will help to push the door open to new, more intrusive inspections involving warheads or other smaller items of account. Such inspections will be crucial to any future nuclear reduction plans,” Gottemoeller said.

The United States and Russia have conducted more than 1,000 notifications under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) since its entry into force in February, Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Rose Gottemoeller said Aug. 4 at a conference in Omaha hosted by U.S. Strategic Command.

Nuclear Triad Budgets Questioned

Tom Z. Collina

Last year’s bipartisan deal to increase funding for the U.S. nuclear arsenal, reached during the debate on the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), is now being challenged by a new bipartisan deal to cut defense spending. As outgoing Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright told reporters July 14, “The challenge here is that we have to recapitalize all three legs [of the nuclear triad], and we don’t have the money to do it.”

Responding to political pressure to reduce the national debt, the Obama administration announced in April that it would reduce growth in national security spending by $400 billion over 12 years; similar cuts received bipartisan support through an August budget agreement between the administration and Congress. The bipartisan compromise to cut U.S. budget deficits by more than $2 trillion over 10 years would reduce planned increases in defense spending by setting ceilings on “security” spending, which includes the departments of Defense, State, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security; the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA); the Agency for International Development; and the CIA. White House officials estimate that these spending caps will translate into $350 billion in defense cuts over 10 years.

In addition, if the new joint congressional committee, known as the “super committee,” fails to agree on a deficit reduction plan by the end of the year or if Congress fails to approve a plan, the deal, formally known as the Budget Control Act of 2011, would automatically reduce defense spending starting in 2013 by $500 billion more, the White House estimates.

The Defense Department has embraced the first round of reductions, but not the second. Newly confirmed Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta wrote to Pentagon employees Aug. 3 that the department could implement the initial cuts “while maintaining the excellence of our military.” The department is conducting a review of its roles and missions, due this fall, to determine where to make these budget adjustments. As for the additional reductions, Panetta wrote that they could “trigger a round of dangerous across-the-board defense cuts that would do real damage to our security, our troops and their families, and our ability to protect the nation.”

Neither the White House nor congressional leaders from either party appear to favor these automatic cuts. However, given how difficult it will be for the 12 members of the super committee, split evenly between the parties, to reach agreement on a deficit reduction plan, the automatic cuts cannot be ruled out. For this reason, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments wrote in August that the Defense Department “should immediately begin contingency planning for how to handle such a reduction.” According to the center, if enacted, the total reduction in defense spending over 10 years, including both sets of cuts, would be $968 billion below the administration’s fiscal year 2012 budget and future-year projections.

These budget reductions, although large, are roughly equivalent to proposals made by the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform in late 2010 and the “Back in Black” plan released by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) this July.

These looming budget reductions appear to spell trouble for any military program that is seeking a large infusion of funds over the next decade, such as the nuclear weapons accounts. “We’re not going to be able to go forward with weapon systems that cost what weapon systems cost today,” Strategic Command chief Gen. Robert Kehler, who manages U.S. nuclear forces, told a Capitol Hill audience July 26. Referring to a proposed new generation of strategic bombers and submarines, he said, “Case in point is [the] Long-Range Strike [bomber]. Case in point is the Trident [submarine] replacement…. The list goes on.” As to how the budget situation would ultimately affect the nuclear force, Kehler said that ­“everything is on the table.”

As it sought Senate ratification of New START last year, the Obama administration agreed to demands from Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and others for a 10-year funding commitment to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal. (See ACT, January/February 2011.) As recently as May, Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy James Miller testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that the administration was planning to spend $125 billion over the next 10 years to build a new generation of strategic delivery systems, including 12 new ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) to replace the current 14 Trident boats; refurbished Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs); a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM); a new long-range, nuclear-capable, possibly unmanned bomber; and a new nuclear-capable cruise missile for the bomber. In addition, the NNSA plans to spend $88 billion over 10 years to refurbish the nuclear warheads for those systems and to maintain and upgrade the warhead production infrastructure, including construction of two major new facilities. (See ACT, March 2011.)

Now, some Republicans are seeing the nuclear weapons budget as a prime target for defense cuts. For example, Coburn’s deficit reduction proposal includes $79 billion in cuts to nuclear weapons funding. He proposes reducing the U.S. nuclear arsenal to below the New START limit of 1,550 deployed warheads and cutting the number of ICBMs, SSBNs, bombers, and warheads in reserve.

Similarly, a 2010 Cato Institute report on the defense budget recommended $87 billion in savings from nuclear weapons spending, including arsenal reductions to a level of 500 deployed warheads; a 50 percent cut in delivery systems, keeping just six SSBNs and eliminating the bomber leg of the triad; and consolidation of NNSA weapons laboratories.

The nuclear weapons budget still has its defenders. House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairman Michael Turner (R-Ohio) told Global Security Newswire Aug. 5 that additional cuts to the NNSA made by the super committee “would jeopardize our nuclear deterrent, and our defense posture.” Turner’s concern was shared by Kyl, who believes that “modernization of our nuclear deterrent should be fully funded,” a Kyl spokesman told the newswire. Kyl has been named to serve on the super committee, which, while seeking a compromise position on overall spending levels, is not expected to recommend funding levels for specific national security ­programs.

Plans for increased funding for new strategic nuclear delivery systems and upgrades to nuclear weapons facilities are under scrutiny as Republicans and Democrats seek to reduce the federal budget deficit.

CFE Treaty Talks Stall

Tom Z. Collina

After a year-long, high-level effort by the Obama administration to revive the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, the process appears to have ground to a halt in May and remained stuck since then.

After some initial progress, the U.S. and Russian negotiating positions remain far apart with little prospect for near-term success, knowledgeable sources said. A senior Obama administration official told Arms Control Today in an Aug. 24 interview that negotiators are taking a “serious pause” to rethink “what we need for conventional arms control in Europe.”

Experts are concerned that if the CFE Treaty ultimately collapses, Russia will increase its reliance on tactical nuclear weapons to defend itself from what Moscow now sees as NATO’s conventional superiority in Europe. This could become a roadblock to President Barack Obama’s plans to seek a follow-on to the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia that would place limits on tactical nuclear weapons, as well as strategic weapons and nuclear warheads in storage.

In a sign of the current stalemate, Victoria Nuland, the administration’s special envoy on CFE issues, left her post in June to become Department of State spokesperson and has not been replaced. The State Department appears to have little hope for constructive proposals from Russia and to be in a wait-and-see mode. In a July 1 statement at CFE talks in Vienna, Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Rose Gottemoeller said that “the United States and our Allies stand ready to return to the negotiating table whenever we have a signal that real progress can be made on the remaining issues.” Mikhail Ulyanov, the director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Security and Disarmament Department, was more blunt, saying at the same event that CFE Treaty consultations are at “an impasse” and that unless the situation changes, “we may passively watch the European arms control system die.”

The central unresolved issues, according to U.S. officials, are that Russia has not been meeting its obligation under the CFE Treaty to share data on its military deployments and has stationed forces in the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Moldova without their consent. These issues date back to 1999, when the CFE Treaty was modified; to 2007, when Russia suspended its compliance with the treaty; and to 2008, when Moscow recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states following the Georgian-Russian conflict. Meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in April 2011, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that, to make progress on CFE issues, “Russia must be willing to talk to its neighbors about its equipment and forces in disputed territories” and “must be completely transparent about its military forces.”

Russia has met neither U.S. demand. Moscow’s position is that the CFE Treaty has been overtaken by events and must be replaced by the 1999 Adapted CFE Treaty, which Russia has ratified. NATO agrees, but its members have refused to ratify the modified treaty until Moscow meets its political commitments from 1999 to withdraw its forces from Moldova and close its military bases in Georgia. NATO says these deployments violated the 1999 ­political deal, which Moscow denies.

The Obama administration had been hoping that it could repair the CFE regime as part of a broader effort to improve U.S.-Russian relations, an effort that included the successful negotiation of New START. Since April 2010, the United States has led renewed efforts among the 30 CFE member states and six non-CFE NATO allies to “try to break the impasse that has prevented full implementation of the Treaty,” Gottemoeller said in her July 1 remarks. These states started a diplomatic effort to craft a “framework” statement of key provisions and principles that would guide new negotiations to strengthen the CFE regime.

According to current and former officials, NATO and Russian leaders met in Vienna numerous times between June 2010 and May 2011. NATO overcame Moscow’s initial opposition to any preconditions for talks on a new treaty, but Russia ultimately could not agree to the principle of host-country consent or to a resumption of compliance with the old CFE Treaty while talks continued, the officials said. They said that agreement on these two points would have required new instructions from senior Russian leaders, but that CFE issues did not appear to be high enough on the list of Russian priorities.

The CFE Treaty, signed at the end of the Cold War on Nov. 19, 1990, eliminated the Soviet Union’s overwhelming quantitative advantage in conventional weapons in Europe by setting equal limits on the number of tanks, armored combat vehicles, heavy artillery, combat aircraft, and attack helicopters that NATO and the Warsaw Pact could deploy between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ural Mountains.

The treaty was designed to prevent either alliance from amassing forces for a blitzkrieg-type offensive, which could have triggered the use of nuclear weapons in response. Although the threat of such an offensive all but disappeared with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact, member states have spoken of the enduring value of the unprecedented degree of transparency on military holdings under the CFE Treaty regime.

Gottemoeller said in July that, without a new Russian position on the key issues, real progress could not be made and “we must ask, ‘What is next for CFE?’” The senior administration official said that preparations are now being made for the CFE review conference in late September but that no breakthroughs are expected.

The Obama administration’s effort to revive the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty has stalled. Officials do not expect progress to be made at an upcoming review conference, and the treaty’s future is unclear.

ACA Research Director Speaks on International Day Against Nuclear Tests Meeting in Geneva

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International Day Against Nuclear Tests:
Translating Words Into Action

Prepared Remarks by Tom Z. Collina, Research Director, Arms Control Association
Geneva, Switzerland
August 29, 2011

On behalf of ACA, I would like to thank the organizers of this meeting—the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and the Mission of Kazakhstan to the International Organizations in Geneva—for inviting me here today to speak.

It is particularly fitting for Kazakhstan to be represented here, as it was twenty years ago—in 1991-- that the people of Kazakhstan succeeded in closing the former Soviet test site at Semipalatinsk. This was followed by Soviet President Gorbachev’s declaration of a moratorium on nuclear testing, and then the United States announced its moratorium in 1992. The CTBT was then negotiated and signed in 1996.

So in many ways it all began with Kazakhstan, and we owe them many thanks.

But of course, 15 years later our work is not done, and I am glad we have such things as “international days against nuclear tests” to remind us that we must still bring the CTBT into force.

Some might ask, why is the CTBT still important? Because the test ban is a crucial barrier to the spread of nuclear weapons to additional nations AND to the acquisition of nuclear weapons by terrorist groups.

Indeed, the treaty is more important today than ever.

By banning all nuclear tests, the CTBT prevents the established nuclear-weapon states from proof-testing new, more sophisticated warhead designs. And newer members of the nuclear club would not be able to perfect smaller, more easily deliverable warheads without testing.

The treaty also serves to reinforce the nonproliferation system by serving as a confidence-building measure about a state’s nuclear intentions, and it can help head-off and de-escalate regional tensions.

For these and other reasons, CTBT entry into force has long been considered a key part of fulfilling Article VI of the NPT.

With the CTBT in force, capabilities to detect and deter possible clandestine nuclear testing by other states will be significantly greater. Entry-into-force is essential to making short-notice, on-site inspections possible and for maintaining long-term political and financial support for the monitoring system.

How can we Accelerate Entry Into Force?

Now, 182 states have signed the CTBT, an impressive number, but the treaty must still be ratified by nine states before it can formally enter into force —the United States, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, Iran, Indonesia, Egypt, and North Korea.

In three weeks, states parties will gather in New York to speak about the value of the treaty and the need for prompt entry into force. We appreciate this effort, but actions speak louder than words. That conference must help produce a serious diplomatic action plan for getting the remaining hold out states on board.

Ratification by the United States and China is particularly important. Given their existing nuclear test moratoria and treaty signatures, Washington and Beijing already bear most CTBT-related responsibilities, yet their failure to ratify has denied them—and others—the full security benefits of the treaty.

In April 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama pledged to “immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification of” the CTBT. He said, “After more than five decades of talks, it is time for the testing of nuclear weapons to finally be banned." We agree.

But now, President Obama must translate those words into action and mount a serious public campaign to win the support of two-thirds of the U.S. Senate for ratification of the treaty.

With the support of a wide array of NGOs in the United States and around the globe, the Obama administration can and must make the case that the Treaty enhances international security, is effectively verifiable, and is essential to curb the spread of nuclear weapons in the decades to come.

The technical and political case for the CTBT is much stronger today than it was in 1999 when the Senate briefly considered the treaty. The Senate must honestly review the new evidence for the treaty rather than arrive at judgments based on old information.

It is also time for China’s leaders to act. For years, Beijing has reported that the CTBT is before the National People’s Congress but has apparently taken no action on ratification. We note the January 19, 2011 Joint Statement by Presidents Hu Jintao and Obama stating that “… both sides support early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.”

Washington’s renewed pursuit of CTBT ratification opens up opportunities for China and other Annex 2 states—such as Indonesia—to lead the way toward entry into force by ratifying before the United States. Action by Beijing would increase its credibility as a nonproliferation leader and improve the chances that other states would follow suit.

India and Pakistan could advance the cause of nuclear disarmament and substantially ease regional tensions by converting their unilateral test moratoria into a legally binding commitment to end nuclear testing through the CTBT.

With no shortage of conflict in the Middle East, ratification by Israel, Egypt and Iran would reduce nuclear-weapons-related security concerns in the region. It would also help create the conditions necessary for a regional zone free of weapons of mass destruction.

Likewise, if Israel were to ratify, it would get closer to the nuclear nonproliferation mainstream and help encourage other states in the region to follow suit.

Iranian ratification could help reduce concerns that its nuclear program would be used to develop smaller, deliverable nuclear warheads. Iran’s failure to ratify the CTBT raises further questions about the nature of its nuclear activities.

North Korea’s nuclear tests undermine Asian security. The DPRK should declare a halt to further testing pending the resumption of the Six-Party talks. The participants in those talks should make North Korea’s approval of the CTBT one of the key steps in the process.

In closing, we sincerely urge all states that have not done so to ratify the CTBT. To those that have ratified, we thank you and ask you to contribute to the Article XIV Conference on Entry Into Force in September.

ACA and supporters of the CTBT the world over stand ready to help bring the treaty into force.

Thank you.

 

 

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Prepared Remarks by Tom Z. Collina, Research Director, Arms Control Association delivered August 29, 2011 at the Palais de Nacions in Geneva at a meeting organized by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and the Mission of Kazakhstan to the International Organizations in Geneva.

Op-ed: Looking for defense cuts? Go nuclear

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By Tom Collina, Research Director, Arms Control Association

The following entry was originally posted on The Hill's Congress Blog on August 2, 2011.

As the dust settles on the just-passed budget deal, one thing is becoming clear: there is now high-level bipartisan agreement that the U.S. defense budget will be reduced in a major way, anywhere from $350 to $850 billion over the next decade, according to the White House. And despite defense hawk grumblings, reductions of this magnitude can actually make America safer by forcing leaders to cancel low-priority programs and focus on the ones that really matter. It’s time to get serious about our top security priorities and cut the dead wood.

For example, can the Nation really afford to spend more than $200 billion over the next ten years to rebuild the U.S. nuclear arsenal? Republican senators demanded, and won, a promise from the Obama administration to do just that when the New START treaty was approved last year. But that was then. Can all of this funding be justified in the post-budget-deal era? No, it can’t.

The Department of Defense and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) plan to use this $200 billion to build a new generation of submarines, bombers and missiles for the nuclear “triad,” upgrade the nuclear warheads they carry, and rebuild the warhead factories. But we will be better off—from a fiscal as well as a security perspective--if a large fraction of this money is invested elsewhere.

One of the Senate’s most conservative Republicans, Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), recently called for cutting $79 billion from the U.S. nuclear weapons budget over the next decade. Coburn’s plan calls for reducing the U.S. nuclear stockpile below New START limits of no more than 1,550 warheads on 700 deployed long-range delivery systems by 2018.

Russia, however, has already dropped its forces below these limits, so now the United States deploys hundreds of weapons more than Moscow. Does this make us safer? No, since maintaining a larger arsenal than Russia will likely prompt its leaders to build back up to New START levels, to the detriment of U.S. security. Meanwhile China, often cast as the next U.S. competitor, has just a few hundred nuclear weapons, and only about 50 that could reach the United States. Washington can safely reduce its arsenal to match Russia’s, and negotiate a follow-on treaty to get to lower numbers.

The main way that nuclear reductions save money is by reducing the need to buy new, expensive delivery systems. The new submarine, called the SSBN(X), with 12 boats at $7 billion each, is projected to cost around $100 billion including development. The new bombers are projected to cost at least $50 billion over their lifetime. These cost estimates are likely to go up. Similarly, the NNSA is planning to spend billions rebuilding the factories that make key nuclear warhead parts. But if the nuclear arsenal is reduced, we will need fewer submarines, bombers and warheads. By delaying procurement decisions until future needs are clearer, we can save billions.

Case in point: the Pentagon is in the midst of reviewing the roles and missions of U.S. nuclear weapons, which will ultimately determine how many weapons we need. This review is an important opportunity to revisit the central assumptions of U.S. nuclear weapons policy, many of which have not changed since the Soviet Union ceased to exist. For example, do we still need a nuclear triad, or will a “dyad” do? Looking to the future, if all 12 submarines are built, they would likely carry over 700 nuclear warheads when completed in the 2030s. What are they for?

Early in his first term, President George W. Bush declared that “Russia is no longer our enemy.” The Cold War has been over for 20 years, and today’s top threats—terrorism, proliferation, dictators—do not lend themselves to a nuclear response. By carefully reducing our nuclear forces and scaling back new weapon systems, the United States can save billions. Moreover, by reducing the incentive for Russia to rebuild its arsenal, these budget savings can make America safer. Saving money has never made so much sense.

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By Tom Collina, Research Director, Arms Control Association

The following entry was originally posted on The Hill's Congress Blog on August 2, 2011.

As the dust settles on the just-passed budget deal, one thing is becoming clear: there is now high-level bipartisan agreement that the U.S. defense budget will be reduced in a major way, anywhere from $350 to $850 billion over the next decade, according to the White House. And despite defense hawk grumblings, reductions of this magnitude can actually make America safer by forcing leaders to cancel low-priority programs and focus on the ones that really matter. It’s time to get serious about our top security priorities and cut the dead wood.

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