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former IAEA Director-General

Missile Defense

Turkey Signs Missile Deal With Russia

Turkey Signs Missile Deal With Russia

Turkey and Russia signed an agreement for Moscow to supply Ankara with advanced S-400 surface-to-air missile batteries, according to a Dec. 29 Turkish government statement. The deal is controversial because Turkey is a NATO member and normally would buy weapons from allied-country suppliers that could be integrated with NATO’s defense architecture.

A Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile system is displayed on August 22, 2017 during the first day of the International Military-Technical Forum Army 2017 near Moscow. NATO-member Turkey announced it is buying the Russian system, which is incompatible with NATO’s defense architecture.  (Photo: ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)The deal reportedly is valued at $2.5 billion and has been in the works for more than a year, Reuters reported. On Dec. 27, Sergey Chemezov, head of the Russian state conglomerate Rostec, told the Kommersant that Russia would supply Turkey with four S-400 batteries. In a statement, Turkey’s Undersecretariat for Defence Industries said that an initial delivery is planned for the first quarter of 2020. The Turkish government said the deal covers two S-400 batteries, with one being optional, and added the systems would be used and managed “independently” by Turkish personnel, rather than Russian advisers, according to Reuters. Turkish newspapers cited President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as saying Turkey would get a Russian loan in rubles to help finance the purchase. Russia’s English-language RT news service headlined the deal as a “Blow to NATO?”

The Russian state-owned news agency Tass reported in December that Moscow is close to a deal for Saudi Arabia, another U.S. ally, to buy the S-400 system. A sale to India is also close to completion, according to Russian officials cited by Tass.—TERRY ATLAS

Posted: January 10, 2018

Hill Wants Development of Banned Missile

Congress completes the fiscal year 2018 defense authorization act.

December 2017
By Kingston Reif

Lawmakers voted in November to require the Defense Department to establish a program to begin development of a new missile system that if tested would violate the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis briefs the press at the NATO headquarters in Brussels November 9, after discussing with allies issues including Russia's alleged violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.  (Photo credit: Jette Carr/ U.S. Air Force)The bill authorizes $58 million for a conventional, road-mobile, ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with a range prohibited by the treaty, as well as other offensive and defensive capabilities to counter Russia’s alleged deployment of a GLCM in violation of the treaty. The measure also expresses the sense of Congress that the United States is entitled to suspend its implementation of the treaty so long as Russia remains in material breach. Furthermore, it requires a report outlining possible sanctions against individuals in Russia deemed complicit in the violation.

The policy provisions are part of the fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act and come amid reports that the Pentagon has already begun preliminary research on the new missile.

The final compromise version of the bill, passed Nov. 14 by the House and Nov. 16 by the Senate, establishes spending ceilings and legal guidelines for Pentagon programs and activities conducted by the Energy Department’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

Since 2014, Washington has accused Moscow of violating its commitment “not to possess, produce, or flight-test” a GLCM having a range prohibited under the INF Treaty. In the past year, the Pentagon has alleged that Russia is fielding a noncompliant system. Moscow has denied both charges.

The INF Treaty required Russia and the United States to eliminate permanently their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. The treaty does not prohibit activities related to research and development of this category of weapons.

The original House and Senate versions of the authorization bill called for R&D programs on a new GLCM. (See ACT, October 2017.) The House bill required development of a conventionally armed missile, whereas the Senate bill would authorize a nuclear-capable version.

Russian Colonel Aleksey Gridnev, Russian Federation team chief, receives a welcome gift May 15 from U.S. Air Force Colonel John Klein, 60th Air Mobility Wing commander, at Travis Air Force Base, Calif. The visit is part of the Open Skies Treaty missions.  (Photo credit: Louis Briscese/U.S. Air Force)In statements during the summer, the Trump administration objected to the GLCM language, stating that it “unhelpfully ties the administration to a specific missile system, which would limit potential military response options.” Nevertheless, The Wall Street Journal reported on Nov. 16, citing U.S. officials, that the Pentagon started research on the missile given the likelihood that it would soon be required by law.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis briefed NATO defense ministers on the administration’s plans at a Nov. 9 meeting in Brussels. Mattis told reporters afterward that Washington is focused on trying to bring Russia back into compliance and does not intend to abandon the pact.

A U.S. official told The Wall Street Journal that the idea behind beginning the GLCM research is “to send a message to the Russians that they will pay a military price” for violation of this treaty. “We are posturing ourselves to live in a post-INF [Treaty] world…if that is the world the Russians want,” the official added.

If the United States ever decides to deploy the new missiles, development would likely take years and cost several billion dollars.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported on Nov. 16 that the Trump administration has called for another meeting of the Special Verification Commission, the treaty’s dispute resolution forum. The commission last met a year ago without progress. (See ACT, December 2016.)

The authorization bill would provide $626 billion for national defense programs and $66 billion for the overseas contingency operations account, which is nominally used to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Syria but also funds other defense programs. This spending level exceeds the spending cap for fiscal year 2018, imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act, by roughly $77 billion and the administration’s budget request by $23 billion. The bill does not include an additional $8 billion for defense activities requested by the administration.

The government is currently being funded by a continuing resolution that covers most programs at the fiscal year 2017 appropriated level through early December. Republican and Democratic lawmakers have yet to agree on top-line spending levels for the current fiscal year.

Neither the House nor Senate appropriations committee-approved versions of the fiscal year 2018 defense appropriations bill include funding for a new GLCM.

Missile Defense Buildup Urged

The final authorization bill supports the Trump administration’s early moves to significantly expand U.S. ballistic missile defenses to counter North Korea’s advancing missile capabilities.

The bill authorizes $10.5 billion for the Missile Defense Agency, an increase of $2.6 billion above the administration’s initial request. In total, the bill adds $4.4 billion above the request for missile defense and related programs.

The legislation provides all of the extra $4 billion for missile defense programs requested by the administration in a Nov. 6 amendment to its fiscal year 2018 budget request (see page 40). The supplemental request follows congressional approval in October for the transfer of $440 million in unspent fiscal year 2017 Army operations and maintenance funds to missile defense programs. (See ACT, November 2017.)

The Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, designed to protect the United States against a limited intercontinental ballistic missile attack from North Korea or Iran, would receive $1.3 billion in the bill, an increase of $498 million above the requested level of $828 million. This includes $88 million to begin increasing the number of ground-based, long-range missile defense interceptors by up to 20 beyond the currently deployed 44.

In addition, the bill requires the Pentagon to develop a plan to increase the number of interceptors to 104 and authorizes additional money for missile defense sensors, upgrades to the Navy’s Aegis missile defense program, and classified programs to augment U.S. cyber capabilities for missile defense. It also supports the rapid acquisition of a boost-phase missile defense capability and a space-based interceptor layer.

The administration is currently conducting a congressionally mandated review of the U.S. approach toward missile defense. (See ACT, May 2017.) The review is slated for completion by the end of the year.

CTBTO Funds Curtailed

The authorization bill limits funding for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) and declares that UN Security Council Resolution 2310, passed in September 2016, does not “obligate…nor does it impose an obligation on the United States to refrain from actions that would run counter to the object and purpose” of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

The explanatory statement accompanying the bill states that “it is wholly inappropriate for U.S. funds to support activities of the [CTBTO] that include advocating for ratification of the treaty or otherwise preparing for the treaty’s possible entry into force.”

The CTBTO is the intergovernmental organization that promotes the CTBT, which has yet to enter into force, and maintains the global International Monitoring System to deter and detect nuclear test explosions. Resolution 2310 urges eight countries, whose ratification is needed for the treaty to enter into force, to ratify the CTBT “without further delay” and calls on all states to refrain from conducting nuclear tests, emphasizing that current testing moratoria contribute to “international peace and stability.” (See ACT, October 2016.)

The legislation also imposes conditions on funding to upgrade U.S. digital imaging systems pursuant to implementation of the 1992 Open Skies Treaty. The treaty, which entered into force in 2002, permits each of the agreement’s 34 states-parties to conduct short-notice, unarmed reconnaissance flights over the others’ entire territories to collect data on military forces and activities.

The United States has yet to transition to the use of the more advanced digital sensors in its treaty flights over Russia, but is requesting funding to do so in the near future.

The United States has raised numerous concerns about Russian compliance with the treaty. Republican lawmakers have voiced concern that Russian flights under the treaty, which now employ more advanced sensors and cameras as allowed by the treaty, amount to spy missions.

Posted: December 1, 2017

Boost Sought for Missile Defense

Boost Sought for Missile Defense

The Trump administration laid the groundwork to aggressively expand U.S. ballistic missile defense capabilities when it submitted an amendment to its fiscal year 2018 defense budget request. The supplemental request, sent to Congress on Nov. 6, asked for an additional $4 billion for ballistic missile defense programs, citing the need to “counter the threat from North Korea.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) hands over the gavel to Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) at the start of an Armed Services conference committee meeting on the National Defense Authorization Act on Capitol Hill October 25. (Photo credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)In a press release later that day, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), the chairmen of the armed services committees, welcomed the request, noting their committees “in fact…have already authorized many of these missile defense programs in our respective defense bills.”

The fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress’s defense policy bill, authorizes increased procurement of interceptors for currently deployed missile defense systems to address near-term threats while endorsing development of proposed boost-phase and space-based intercept capabilities that could require even more substantial spending in the future.

The supplemental request follows congressional approval in October for the transfer of $440 million in unspent fiscal year 2017 Army operations and maintenance funds to missile defense programs as the administration and Congress make expanding missile defenses a priority. (See ACT, October 2017.) The House overwhelmingly passed the compromise authorization bill on Nov. 14, and the Senate followed on Nov. 16, sending the bill to President Donald Trump for his signature.—MACLYN SENEAR

Posted: December 1, 2017

Ballistic Missile Defense: Proceed With Caution

The envisioned security benefits may be jeopardized if the process is driven primarily by technological advances and business interests and without adequate political vision and consideration of the implications for strategic stability.

November 2017
By Boris Toucas

The ballistic missile defense review underway by the Trump administration may end years of shifting approaches and decisively strengthen programs that have experienced ups and downs since the 1990s.

A medium-range ballistic missile target is launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii, during a test August 29. The target was successfully intercepted by SM-6 missiles fired from the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones.  (Photo credit: U.S. Missile Defense Agency)Incrementally, missile defenses, despite current technical limitations, haves acquired a genuine operational dimension for military planners and political leaders. Going forward, technological advances and business interests will make increased spending on such programs appealing, accelerating the development of systems designed to counter advanced offensive arsenals. The missile defense revolution may be taking shape slowly, but it is almost inevitable.

The aim is to enhance the overall security of the United States and its allies in a world of increasing ballistic missile threats. Yet, that appealing goal may be jeopardized if the process is driven primarily by technological advances and business interests and without adequate political vision and consideration of the implications for strategic stability. Absent such safeguards, this evolution may lead to increased strategic instability as other countries seek to counter U.S. developments. Alternatively, ensuring meaningful political oversight in the United States and encouraging other countries to join in regulatory efforts would guarantee that the overall security contribution remains positive.

After the end of the Cold War, U.S. missile defense, once a divisive topic, gained bipartisan support.1 Although Iraqi and North Korean missile capabilities spurred the development of new defensive systems, the combination of incremental technological progress and Russia’s momentary loss of diplomatic clout created the necessary political momentum. In 1997 in talks with the United States, Russia agreed under pressure to the deployment of theater missile defenses on the condition that they were not to be used against the other side. Russia expected to preserve the core of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in return, but the United States withdrew from that treaty in 2002 to complete development of a new generation of systems aimed at intercepting intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). The 1999 National Missile Defense Act called for the United States to deploy “an effective national missile defense system capable of defending the territory of the United States against limited ballistic missile attack.” At that time, the stated level of ambition was modest, emphasizing technical improvements to theater missile defenses over advancing territorial systems.

Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discusses ballistic missile defense capabilities with Lt. Cmdr. Brian Gauthier in the combat information center aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry on September 7.  (Photo credit: U.S. Navy photo/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kevin V. Cunningham)Progress was achieved on the theater systems while technical success was more elusive for new systems directed against key strategic threats, such as the emerging long-range missile capabilities of Iran and North Korea. Still, President George W. Bush’s declared goal in 2002 to deploy a homeland missile defense “within two years” did not reflect the actual performance of available technology, such as the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system. That system, which was fielded with untested prototype kill vehicles that suffered malfunctions, is an illustration of the dissonance between political and technological timelines. As of 2017, the GMD program has cost roughly $40 billion, and the Department of Defense assesses that the reliability and availability of the ground-based interceptor missiles remain low.

The official narrative on missile defense programs is a subtle mix between the call for staying ahead of the threat by attempting to capitalize on continuous technological progress, the permanent need to secure funding, and an acknowledgment of the limited effectiveness of fielded systems. As a result, the U.S. posture may seem to fluctuate greatly over short periods of time, sometimes sowing confusion among allies. In Europe, for example, U.S. missile defense projects were first aimed at protecting the United States against a future Iranian ICBM threat. That shifted to the European Phased Adaptive Approach, as the Obama administration’s missile defense policy in Europe is formally known, to defend NATO’s European territory against a salvo of Iranian shorter-range missiles. Yet for several European countries, the phased adaptive approach was primarily relevant as a symbol of U.S. political assurances against Russia, an issue unrelated to the ballistic threat it was meant to tackle.2 Although the United States clarified that Russia was not a target, the uncertainty surrounding the final shape of the system fueled a debate about whether it posed a potential threat to Russia’s strategic capabilities, a situation that Moscow used as a pretext to justify its own military buildup in Europe.

Tech Breakthrough

Recent developments will add more uncertainty regarding U.S. intentions. The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, although enhancing the “stabilizing benefits” of missile defense, calls for the establishment of a “robust layered missile defense system” capable of defending against the “increasingly complex” missile threat. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in February 2017 proposed the development of new types of defenses while other lawmakers urged increasing the number of GMD interceptors and initiating a space-based missile defense program. Analysts argue that the vocabulary used in the authorization act is in line with previous documents, the absence of the term “limited” paves the way for more ambitious objectives.

The new ballistic missile defense review likely will echo this call for more action. Further progress is necessary before ballistic missile defense can be considered a strategic game-changer from the perspective of the defender. Yet, predictions of such technological breakthroughs are credible with certain caveats, suggesting the potential for limited protection against Russian and Chinese missiles.

As the latest North Korean launches of the ICBM-range Hwasong-14 missile demonstrate, the spread of offensive capabilities in third countries will trigger a legitimate debate on the need for more advanced defenses. Approximately 30 countries possess ballistic missiles, and more countries in the Middle East and Asia will acquire them.

In the meantime, progress on specific systems, such as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, create the reassuring impression among the public that missile defense may nullify the risk of an attack. It provides a long-awaited political justification for the $123 billion invested by the Missile Defense Agency in the missile defense sector since 2002 and even opens the perspective of a return on investment through exports. In fact, as the perceived threat grows, the United States holds a quasi-monopoly position on a potential $23 billion global market.3 These factors seem to call for a more ambitious missile defense policy that would involve interception capabilities against advanced systems and would seek to offset its costs through a more aggressive export policy.

Such a policy, of course, comes at a price. The creation of a global missile defense network implies agreements with hosts for forward-based sensors and interceptors, which generates new liabilities and commitments toward third states on the periphery of the traditional U.S. areas of influence. It raises the issue of defending new critical assets, especially radars, located on allied territories, which are more vulnerable to preventive destruction. For example, Russia threatened to destroy fixed ballistic missile defense assets assigned to NATO in Poland, Romania, and Turkey. In a crisis, it is not clear that all hosting states would accept responsibility for systems they do not supervise, such as in South Korea, or when the bilateral relationship is tense, as with Turkey. Eventually, such a global network could reduce the U.S. political margin of maneuverability in a conflict instead of improving it.

The economic factor also may drive missile defense programs in a direction inconsistent with U.S. long-term strategic interests. First, the export-driven approach, which favors off-the-shelf acquisitions, has a mixed impact on the resilience of U.S. allies. For limited defense budgets, the acquisition of costly missile defense systems may come at the expense of more cost-efficient reforms in other sectors and put an end to the development of indigenous capabilities, as has been the case in Europe. It also will diffuse sensitive technologies among a much broader range of business partners while prompting adversaries of these countries to invest even more in offensive capabilities so as to overwhelm their defenses. As a result, the missile threat could grow rather than diminish, but proponents argue that more effective and numerous defensive systems could compensate for this.

Impact on Stability

In the longer run, a policy to develop interception capabilities against advanced systems could have an impact on strategic stability and crisis stability. Concerns expressed by China and Russia that U.S. missile defenses already undermine strategic stability are far-fetched. Their views are mostly unrelated to current deployment but nurtured by an insecure view of the future, including extreme interpretation of projections that in 2030 the United States could possess 350 to 550 missiles4 on Aegis ships with enhanced detection and interception capacities.

The U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) station Aegis Ashore Romania, part of what the United States calls the European Phased Adaptive Approach for BMD, at the military base in Deveselu, Romania is shown in a May 12, 2016 photograph. Aegis Ashore is a land-based capability of the Navy’s Aegis ballistic missile defense system.  (Daniel Mihailescu/AFP/Getty Images)In theory, missile defenses coupled with continued investment in conventional long-range, precision-strike capabilities could help disable significant portions of an adversary’s arsenal during a first strike while complicating retaliation, with the consequence of increasing the risk of escalation to early use of nuclear weapons. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s 2008 statement that “it is most likely that in the foreseeable future we will hear of hundreds and even thousands of interceptor missiles in various parts of the world, including Europe,”5 indicates that such concerns, although exaggerated, are real. This is a reminder that, on the international stage, mutual confidence matters as much as observable facts.

A U.S. breakthrough might ideally create an important rift between the major rival powers and aspiring competitors. It could complicate the efforts of potential adversaries to keep U.S. territory or forces under the threat of a missile strike. Regional powers, such as Iran and North Korea, would not give up their programs because they consider ballistic missile capabilities a political guarantee against regime change. However, they would be forced to devote far more of their limited resources to countering missile defenses with decoys or increased maneuverability while less advanced proliferators may abandon ballistic missile ambitions to focus instead on cheaper, asymmetric strategies. Such tactical achievements, even if limited and temporary, will be used in the United States to dismiss any restraint on missile defenses as counterproductive.

Yet, efforts to obtain a capability to reliably shoot down advanced ballistic missiles would almost certainly trigger a renewed arms race with the greatest powers. It would not only increase the risks of a misunderstanding, but also justify a surge in modernized nuclear stockpiles and delivery systems, harming prospects for nuclear disarmament. Potential adversaries would use an ambitious U.S. missile defense policy as a pretext to infringe on existing multilateral regimes if they believe that such accords will eventually become obsolete anyway due to technologically driven developments. For instance, this could be used by Russia to justify formal withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and deployment of more short-range ballistic missiles in Kaliningrad.

For the same reasons, an increased level of ambition for missile defense programs would harm the prospects for U.S.-Russian talks on strategic stability. Instead, a competition on missile defense systems accompanied by a diversification of offensive arsenals would encourage new, therefore unstable weapons concepts and doctrines, fueling the risk of misunderstanding. Russia’s delivery of the advanced S-300 air defense systems to Iran and Russian efforts to field S-400 area defense capabilities against air and missile threats have spread alarm within NATO, worried that anti-access/area denial capabilities might give Russia tactical superiority in disputed areas, such as the Baltic Sea, Black Sea, and Syria.

Notably, these concerns have been high in peacetime, a period during which Russia never activated them against NATO assets. This suggests that any U.S. sense that relying more on missile defenses will lead to increased stability and security could vanish as China and Russia also invest in this sector and start implementing similar strategies.

Missile Defense Policy

For two decades, the United States chose to reinforce and expand missile defenses as new needs arise while ensuring the modernization of nuclear arsenals to maintain the credibility of nuclear deterrence. As missile defenses gain the power to shape the strategic environment, it is worth examining policy options for the United States and its allies.

There are ways to defuse some of the risks associated with missile defense development without changing the existing framework. Currently, only minimal deconfliction efforts are pursued, primarily through public emphasis on the limited aim of missile defense systems. In this regard, NATO summit statements offer remarkable examples of unilateral transparency. More concrete verification measures could be proposed to monitor territorial ballistic missile defense sites, such as Aegis Ashore in Romania, but such steps could backfire because they would be deemed intrusive6 and of limited effectiveness. The United States and Russia could agree on prohibiting the deployment of theater systems in certain areas under shared control or restrain their coverage when these assets overlap foreign territories. Yet in the longer run, none of these measures would prevent missile defenses from generating an arms race.

A different policy could be pursued by abandoning the perception that missile defenses may not be subject to arms control talks. After all, it was a pillar of such talks until the 1990s. Advertising restraint, however, is not an easy task because the United States and U.S. allies have hinted at missile defenses as the best security assurance possible and a quasi-deterrent against potentially hostile powers such as Iran, North Korea, and even Russia. Yet, recent developments in Northeast Asia, where missile overflights of Japan tamper high expectations that such systems could act as a deterrent, would weigh in the debate.

An important goal is to prevent too many actors from joining the club of missile-defensible states. To begin with, sensitive technologies associated with missile defenses, for example hit-to-kill vehicles, should be placed under closer scrutiny. Moreover, rather than aggressively promoting off-the-shelf procurement, the United States could support indigenous missile defense development efforts among their most skilled partners only, in exchange for a bilateral commitment not to re-export them. In the meantime, the United States would insist on China and Russia taking responsibility in curbing missile proliferation.

North Korea’s demonstration that it possesses an ICBM capability complicates the equation. Still, China and Russia have some leverage on North Korea. In return for effective action on their side, the United States should let the door open to a rollback on deployed systems, in particular the THAAD system in South Korea, if the threat were suppressed. The United States, China, and Russia could also explore capping territorial missile defense development according to missile threat evolution, but this would require coordinated monitoring efforts of proliferating states.

The perception by some allies that missile defenses are a symbol of the U.S. commitment to protect their territory further complicates matters. Yet, the need for reassurance in Europe mostly stems from Russia’s attempt to bully its neighbors into submission in the Baltic region. If Russia wishes to avoid the future establishment of an Aegis Ashore site in Poland, it should offer to decrease its military posture in Kaliningrad and the Black Sea significantly; Poland could still host U.S. personnel and equipment for security reasons. At the alliance level, this asymmetric bargain could compensate for the very limited loss of protection against an Iranian threat. It could be cancelled if Russia failed to dissuade Iran from significantly augmenting the range of its missiles.

At present, the notion of capping missile defense development is not being explored by the United States, in part on dubious grounds that missile defense activity is morally legitimate. Such an assertion is not justified in theory, nor is it effective in practice. Although primarily a defensive concept, missile defenses support offensive missions on the theater level and shapes the evolution of other powers’ deterrence strategies to an extent. Moreover, it is a powerful diplomatic irritant, which makes it a strong bargaining chip in any negotiation.

It is uncertain what price China and Russia would pay to cap U.S. missile defense development. Their willingness to pay a high price may decline over time because both countries are becoming increasingly efficient themselves in this emerging domain. Hence, it is not certain that time will always be an asset for the United States, especially as China’s funding potential grows. Yet, the immediate interest for China and Russia is to negotiate in good faith. A refusal on their part to engage in serious discussions would discredit their narrative about a U.S. military buildup in their respective regions.

Additionally, China and Russia would benefit from negotiating because a strategic arms race on missile defenses would risk disrupting China’s deterrence strategy and would certainly strain Russia’s economic capabilities. With the United States, China, and Russia on board, this club would have the critical mass to diffuse good practices to the entire international community, mitigating the potentially destabilizing consequences of missile defense development.


1. “Report of the Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States,” 1998, https://fas.org/irp/threat/missile/rumsfeld/toc.htm.

2. “[Polish and Czech] goals were political, having nothing to do with Iran and everything with Russia; the US deployments on their soil would be a concrete manifestation of US security guarantees against Russia beyond our commitment under the NATO treaty.” Robert M. Gates, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014), p. 403.

3. Strategic Defense Intelligence, “The Global Missiles and Missile Defense Systems Market 2015-2025,” March 2017, https://www.reportlinker.com/p03605945/The-Global-Missiles-and-Missile-Defense-Systems-Market-Major-Programs-Market-Profile.html?.

4. George Lewis, “Strategic Capabilities of SM-3 Block IIA Interceptors,” Mostlymissiledefense.com, June 2016, https://mostlymissiledefense.com/2016/06/30/strategic-capabilities-of-sm-3-block-iia-interceptors-june-30-2016/.

5. Interview with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Gazeta Wyborcza, February 7, 2008.

6. For example, monitoring the Aegis Ashore MK-41 platform would probably involve an in-depth investigation of the tubes and software involved.


Boris Toucas is a visiting fellow with the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, expressing personal views. Previously, he served in the nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament office at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 2013 to 2016 and was responsible for nuclear deterrence and ballistic missile defense as a member of the negotiating team during the NATO summit in Warsaw.


Posted: November 1, 2017

Pentagon Gets More Missile Defense Funds

Pentagon Gets More Missile Defense Funds

Congress last month approved the transfer of an additional $440 million in unspent fiscal year 2017 Defense Department funds to missile defense programs amid on ongoing administration review of U.S. missile defense strategy and growing concern about North Korea’s advancing ballistic missile capabilities. Of that amount, $136 million would support increasing the number of ground-based long-range missile defense interceptors in Alaska by up to 20 beyond the currently planned 40.

A ground-based interceptor missile sits inside its underground silo August 23 at the Missile Defense Complex at Fort Greely, Alaska. (Photo credit: U.S. Army photo by Capt. Jennifer Beyrle)The additional money, which had originally been earmarked for Army operations and maintenance accounts, would also fund missile defense sensors, upgrades to the Navy’s Aegis missile defense program, and classified programs to augment U.S. cyber capabilities for missile defense. The Defense Department submitted the reprogramming request to Congress on Sept. 7.

The administration is currently conducting a congressionally mandated review of the U.S. approach toward missile defense. (See ACT, May 2017.) The review is slated for completion by the end of the year. The Trump administration’s budget request for fiscal year 2018, released May 23, seeks $7.9 billion for the Defense Department’s Missile Defense Agency, a decrease of $334 million from the current level but an increase of $470 million from the projection in the final Obama administration submission. (See ACT, July/August 2017.)

President Donald Trump said at an Aug. 10 news conference at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, that he would “be increasing our budget by many billions of dollars because of North Korea and other reasons having to do with” missile defense. It remains to be seen if the administration will submit a so-called supplemental request to lawmakers for additional missile defense funds beyond its request for fiscal year 2018, which began Oct. 1.

The House and Senate versions of this year’s defense authorization act would permit expanding the number of ground-based interceptors in Alaska. The two chambers are currently in negotiations to produce a final bill by early December.—KINGSTON REIF

Posted: November 1, 2017

U.S. Sets Major Saudi Missile Defense Sale

U.S. Sets Major Saudi Missile Defense Sale

The Trump administration notified Congress of the largest piece thus far of the controversial $110 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia first announced in May. The Oct. 8 notification covered 360 interceptor missiles, 44 launchers, seven radars, related components, and support for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, with an estimated value of $15 billion. Aimed at intercepting short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, the THAAD system would support the “long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region in the face of Iranian and other regional threats,” according to the notification. The notification came just days after reports that Riyadh had agreed to buy Russian S-400s, a mobile surface-to-air missile system, calling into question whether the Saudis are playing Russia and the United States against each other.

Yemeni children gather at a bomb crater from a reported air strike October 7 by the Saudi-led coalition that allegedly hit a health center in the northern province of Hajjah. (Photo credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images)U.S. military sales to Saudi Arabia have drawn extra attention due to the Saudi-led coalition’s conduct of its war in Yemen, which has resulted in many direct and indirect civilian casualties. Saudi Arabia and its allies have prevented ships carrying humanitarian aid from reaching Yemeni ports. Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), who voted in June to block the sale of $500 million in precision-guided munitions to the Saudis, threatened to block the nomination of Jennifer Newstead as legal adviser in the State Department. During confirmation hearings, Young pressed Newstead on the Saudi actions in Yemen. Young said that the Saudi obstruction of humanitarian aid violates Rule 55 of customary international humanitarian law (as listed by the International Committee of the Red Cross) and undercuts “our national security interests and our moral values.” —ARSEN MARKAROV

Posted: November 1, 2017

New CBO Report Warns of Skyrocketing Costs of U.S. Nuclear Arsenal



A new study published by CBO highlights the skyrocketing cost to sustain and upgrade U.S. nuclear forces and outlines several options to maintain a credible deterrent at less cost.


Experts Call for Shift to More Cost-Effective Alternatives

For Immediate Release: October 31, 2017

Media Contacts:  Kingston Reif, director for disarmament policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 104; Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107.

(Washington, D.C.) – A new study published by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Tuesday highlights the skyrocketing cost of the current plan to sustain and upgrade U.S. nuclear forces and outlines several pragmatic options to maintain a credible, formidable deterrent at less cost.

The USS Wyoming, an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine, returns to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia in 2014. The Navy is planning to replace the Ohio-class submarines, but the cost of the replacement is prompting a debate in Washington. (U.S. Navy)CBO estimates that sustaining and upgrading U.S. nuclear forces will cost taxpayers $1.24 trillion in inflation-adjusted dollars between fiscal years 2017 and 2046. When the effects of inflation are included, we project that the 30-year cost will exceed $1.5 trillion. These figures are significantly higher than the previously reported estimates of roughly $1 trillion.   

“The stark reality underlined by CBO is that unless the U.S. government finds a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the nuclear weapons spending plan inherited by the Trump administration will pose a crushing affordability problem,” said Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association.

The CBO study comes amid reports that the Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review, which is slated for completion by the end of the year, could propose new types of nuclear weapons and increase their role in U.S. policy.

“If the forthcoming Nuclear Posture Review by the administration does not scale-back current nuclear weapons spending plans – or worse, accelerates or expands upon them – expenditures on nuclear weapons will endanger other high priority national security programs,” Reif noted.

The CBO report evaluates roughly a dozen alternatives to the current plans to manage and reduce the mammoth price tag. For example, according to CBO, roughly 15 percent, or nearly $200 billion, of the projected cost of nuclear forces over the next three decades could be saved by trimming back the existing program of record while still maintaining a triad of delivery systems. Additional savings could be found by shifting from a triad to a nuclear dyad. 

“The report blows apart the false choice repeatedly posited by Pentagon officials between the costly ‘all of the above’ plan to maintain and upgrade the nuclear force and doing nothing. There are cost-cutting alternatives that would still maintain a U.S. nuclear force capable of obliterating any potential nuclear adversary,” said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

“The trillion and a half dollar triad is not just unaffordable, it is unnecessary. The United States continues to retain more nuclear weapons, delivery systems, and supporting infrastructure than it needs to deter or respond to a nuclear attack,” Kimball added.

Over the past several years, the Arms Control Association has repeatedly raised concerns about the need and affordability of the current spending plans, argued that these plans pose a threat to other military priorities, and suggested more cost-effective alternatives.

For more information see:


The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

Posted: October 31, 2017

Congress Puts Bipartisan Arms Control Policies at Risk



The House and Senate Armed Services Committee are currently considering defense authorization legislation that if passed into law would deal a major, if not mortal, blow to longstanding, bipartisan arms control efforts.


Volume 9, Issue 5, July 17, 2017

The future of U.S. nuclear weapons and missile defense policy is at a crossroads. The Trump administration is conducting comprehensive reviews—scheduled to be completed by the end of the year—that could result in significant changes to U.S. policy to reducing nuclear weapons risks.

As the possessors of over 90 percent of the world's roughly 15,000 nuclear weapons, the United States and Russia have a special responsibility to avoid direct conflict and reduce nuclear risks. Yet, the U.S.-Russia relationship is under significant strain, due to to Moscow’s election interference, annexation of Crimea, continued destabilization of Ukraine, and support for the brutal Assad regime in Syria. These tensions have also put put immense pressure on the arms control relationship.

It is against this backdrop that the House and Senate Armed Services Committee versions of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) include provisions that if passed into law would deal a major, if not mortal, blow to longstanding, bipartisan arms control efforts.

The House approved its version of the NDAA July 14 by a vote of 344-81 and the Senate could take up its bill later this month. 

The problematic arms control provisions in the bills would undermine U.S. security by eroding stability between the world's two largest nuclear powers, increasing the risks of nuclear competition, and further alienating allies already unsettled by President Donald Trump’s commitment to their security. In fact, some are so radical that they have even drawn opposition from the White House and Defense Department.

The bills also fail to provide effective oversight of the rising costs of the government’s more than $1 trillion-plan to sustain and upgrade U.S. nuclear forces and propose investments in expanding U.S. missile defenses that make neither strategic, technical, or fiscal sense.

Sowing the Seeds of the INF Treaty’s Destruction

The United States has accused Russia of testing and deploying ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCMs) in violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The treaty, which remains in force, required the United States and the then-Soviet Union to eliminate and permanently forswear all their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.

Both the House and Senate versions of the NDAA authorize programs of record and provide funding for research and development on a new U.S. road-mobile GLCM with a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The House bill requires development of a conventional missile whereas the Senate bill would authorize a dual-capable (i.e., nuclear) missile.

The House bill also includes a provision stating that if the president determines that Russia remains in violation of the treaty 15 months after enactment of the legislation, the prohibitions set forth in the treaty will no longer be binding on the United States. A similar provision could be offered as an amendment to the Senate bill.

These provisions are drawn from legislation introduced in February by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) in the Senate and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) in the House to “provide for compliance enforcement regarding Russian violations” of the INF Treaty.

Development of a new treaty-prohibited GLCM is militarily unnecessary, would suck funding from other military programs for which there are already requirements, divide NATO, and give Russia an easy excuse to publicly repudiate the treaty and deploy large numbers of noncompliant missiles without any constraints.

The report accompanying the Senate bill notes that the Senate “does not intend for the United States to enter into violation of the INF Treaty.” (The treaty does not ban research and development of treaty-prohibited capabilities.) But this claim is belied by the report’s statement that development of a GLCM is needed to “close the capability gap opened” by Russia. Moreover, supporters of a new GLCM also argue it is needed to counter China, which is not a party to the treaty.

Before rushing to develop a new weapon that the Pentagon has yet to ask for and NATO is unlikely to support, the administration and Congress must at the very least address concerns about the suitability and cost-effectiveness of a new GLCM. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) offered an amendment to the bill on the House floor that would have done just that, but it was defeated by a vote of 173-249.

Meanwhile, mandating that the United States in effect withdraw from the treaty if Russia does not return to compliance by the end of next year raises constitutional concerns. If Congress can say the United States is not bound by its obligations under the INF Treaty, what is to stop it from doing the same regarding other treaties?

The administration's statement of policy on the House NDAA objected to the House INF provision on requiring a new GLCM, stating "[t]his provision unhelpfully ties the Administration to a specific missile system, which would limit potential military response options.” The statement also noted that bill would “raise concerns among NATO allies and could deprive the Administration of the flexibility to make judgments about the timing and nature of invoking our legal remedies under the treaty.”

Instead of responding to Russia’s violation by taking steps that could leave the United States holding the bag for the INF treaty’s demise, Congress should emphasize the importance of preserving the treaty and encourage both sides to more energetically pursue a diplomatic resolution to the compliance controversy. Lawmakers should also encourage the Trump administration to pursue firm but measured steps to ensure Russia does not gain a military advantage by violating the treaty and reaffirm its commitment to the defense of those allies that would be the potential targets of Russia’s noncompliant missile.

Cutting Off Our Nose to Spite Our Face on New START

One of the few remaining bright spots in the U.S.-Russia relationship is 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). Signed in 2010, the treaty requires each side to reduce its deployed strategic nuclear forces to no more than 1,550 warheads and 700 delivery systems by 2018. It also includes a comprehensive suite of monitoring and verification provisions that help ensure compliance with these limits.

The agreement, which is slated to expire Feb. 5, 2021, can be extended by up to five years if both Moscow and Washington agree.  The House bill includes a provision that would prohibit the use of funds to extend New START until Russia returns to compliance with the INF treaty. This is senseless and counterproductive. By “punishing” Russia’s INF violation in this way, the United States would simply free Russia to expand the number of strategic nuclear weapons pointed at the United States after New START expires in 2021.

If the treaty is allowed to lapse, there will be no limits on Russia’s strategic nuclear forces for the first time since the early-1970s. Moreover, the United States would have fewer tools with which to verify the size and composition of the Russian nuclear stockpile.

For these reasons and more, the U.S. military and U.S. allies continue to strongly support New START.

Undermining the Norm Against Nuclear Testing

A small but influential group of Republican lawmakers are seeking to cut U.S. funding for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) and undermine international support for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the global nuclear test moratorium.

Sen. Cotton and Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) introduced legislation on Feb.7 to “restrict” funding for the CTBTO and undermine the U.S. obligation – as a signatory to the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty – not to conduct nuclear test explosions.

Rep. Wilson successfully offered the bill as an amendment to the House NDAA and Sen. Cotton could seek to do the same on the Senate bill.

With North Korea threatening to conduct a sixth nuclear test explosion, it is essential that the United States reinforce, not weaken, the global nuclear testing taboo

More information on the problematic provision in the House bill is detailed in a recent issue brief on CTBTO funding.

Nuclear Weapons Spending Run Amok

The Trump administration’s first Congressional budget request pushes full steam ahead with the Obama administration’s excessive, all-of-the-above approach to upgrading the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Both the House and Senate bills authorize the requested level of funding for these programs, and even increase funding for some programs beyond what the Trump administration requested.

As the projected costs for programs designed to replace and upgrade the nuclear arsenal continue to rise, Congress must demand greater transparency about long-term costs, strengthen oversight over high-risk programs, and consider options to delay, curtail, or cancel programs to save taxpayer dollars while meeting deterrence requirements.

A February 2017 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report estimates that the United States will spend $400 billion (in then-year dollars) on nuclear weapons between fiscal years 2017 and 2026. The new projection is an increase of $52 billion, or 15 percent, over the CBO’s most recent previous estimate of the 10-year cost of nuclear forces, which was published in January 2015 and put the total cost at $348 billion.

In fact, the CBO’s latest projection suggest that the cost of nuclear forces could greatly exceed $1 trillion over the next 30 years.

What makes the growing cost to sustain the nuclear mission so worrisome for military planners is that costs are scheduled to peak during the mid-2020s and overlap with large increases in projected spending on conventional weapon system modernization programs. Numerous Pentagon officials and outside experts have warned about the affordability problem posed by the current approach and that it cannot be sustained without significant and sustained increases to defense spending or cuts to other military priorities.

Unfortunately, the House rejected two Democratic floor amendments that would have shed greater light on the multidecade costs of U.S. nuclear forces. One amendment would have required CBO to extend the timeframe of its biennial report on the cost of nuclear weapons from 10 years to 30 years. Another would have required extending the timeframe of a Congressionally mandated report submitted annually by Defense Department and National Nuclear Security Administration from 10 years to 25 years.

In addition, the House defeated by a vote of 169-254 an amendment offered by Rep. Blumenauer that would have restricted funding for the program to develop a new fleet of nuclear air-launched cruise missiles at the FY 2017 enacted level until the administration completes its Nuclear Posture Review and a detailed assessment of the need for the program.

Though the administration requested a major increase for the new missile and associated warhead refurbishment program in FY 2018, Defense Secretary James Mattis has repeatedly stated that he is still evaluating the need for the weapon.

The House Rules Committee also prevented debate on a floor amendment that would have required the Pentagon to release the value of the contract awarded to Northrop Grumman Corp. in October 2015. The department has refused to release the contract value citing classification concerns.

Tripling-Down on Missile Defense Despite Technical Flaws

Both the House and Senate bills authorize significant increases in funding for U.S. ballistic missile defense programs. The House bill authorizes an increase of $2.5 billion above the administration’s FY 2018 budget request of $7.9 billion for the Missile Defense Agency. The Senate bill authorizes a $630 million increase.

The bills also include provisions that would authorize a significant expansion of the ground-based midcourse (GMD) defense system in Alaska and California, which is designed to protect against limited long-range ballistic missile attacks from North Korea or Iran, and accelerate advanced technology programs to increase the capability of U.S. missile defenses. The GMD system has suffered from numerous reliability problems and has a success rate of just over 50 percent in controlled and scripted flight intercept tests.

In addition, the House bill includes a provision that would require the Pentagon to submit a plan for the development of a space-based missile defense interceptors and authorize $30 million for a space test bed to conduct research and development on such interceptors. The House bill would also require the Pentagon, pursuant to improving the defense of Hawaii, to conduct an intercept test of the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA missile against an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) target. The interceptor, which is still under development, is designed to defend against medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles and the department has no public plans to test it versus an ICBM.

Rushing to deploy more unreliable GMD interceptors or building additional long-range interceptor sites is not a winning strategy to stay ahead of the North Korean ICBM threat. Quantity is not a substitute for quality.

Any consideration of building and deploying additional homeland interceptors or interceptor sites should wait until a new ground-based midcourse defense kill vehicle under development is successfully tested under operationally realistic conditions (including against ICBM targets and realistic countermeasures). The first test of the new kill vehicle under these conditions is not scheduled until 2020 and deployment is not scheduled until 2022.

In addition, future testing and deployment of new capabilities should not be schedule-driven, but based on the maturity of the technology and successful testing under operationally realistic conditions. Accelerating development programs risks saddling them with cost overruns, schedule delays, and test failures, as has been the case with previous missile-defense programs.

Despite numerous nonpartisan studies that have been conducted during both Republican and Democratic administrations which concluded that a spaced-based missile defense is unfeasible and unaffordable, a small faction of missile defense supporters continues to push the idea. Most recently, a 2012 report from the National Academy of Sciences declared that even a limited space system geared to longer-burning liquid fueled threats would cost about $200 billion to acquire and have a $300 billion 20-year life cycle cost (in FY 2010 dollars), which would be at least 10 times any other defense approach. 

While missile defense has a role to play as part of a comprehensive strategy to combat the North Korean missile threat, it’s neither as capable nor as significant as many seem to hope. More realism is needed about the limitations of defenses and the longstanding obstacles that have prevented them from working as intended.

The potential blowback of an expansion of U.S. missile defense capabilities from Russia and China must also be considered. Missile defense does not provide an escape route from the vulnerability of our allies, deployed forces, and citizens in the region to North Korea’s nuclear and conventional missiles.—KINGSTON REIF, director for disarmament policy

Posted: July 17, 2017

Anti-Missile System Destroys ICBM Target

Anti-Missile System Destroys ICBM Target

July/August 2017
By Kingston Reif

In a high-stakes test, the problem-plagued defense system designed to protect the United States from a limited long-range missile attack was able to intercept and destroy a mock intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)-range target for the first time.

The successful May 30 test of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system occurred against the backdrop of the growing North Korean ballistic missile threat and calls from some members of Congress to increase U.S. missile defenses in terms of numbers and spending.

A long-range, ground-based interceptor lifts off May 30 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. It successfully intercepted an intercontinental ballistic missile-range target launched from the U.S. Army’s Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll. It was the first live-fire test against an ICBM-class target. (Photo credit: U.S. Missile Defense Agency)

The interception was “an incredible accomplishment” and a “critical milestone,” Vice Adm. James Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), said in a statement. “The system demonstrates that we have a capable, credible deterrent against a very real threat.”

Still, some observers said the test does not resolve doubts about whether the GMD system can be relied on anytime soon to protect the continental United States against a limited attack, such as one launched from North Korea or Iran. “The mock enemy target was only barely of ICBM range, and slower than an ICBM from North Korea to Los Angeles would be,” Philip Coyle, former director of weapons testing for the Defense Department and a member of the Arms Control Association Board of Directors, said in a May 30 statement. In the $244 million test, known as FTG-15, a missile interceptor launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California collided with a target, launched from the Army’s Kwajalein Test Site in the Marshall Islands, flying at a range and speed similar to that of an ICBM. Multiple sensors provided the target acquisition and tracking data necessary to execute the interception.

In addition to being the first test against an ICBM-class target, FTG-15 was also the first test of an upgraded kill vehicle, known as the CE-II Block I EKV. The kill vehicle sits atop the interceptor’s booster rocket and is intended to collide with a target in outer space.

A total of 36 GMD interceptors are currently deployed in Alaska and California, and an additional eight interceptors armed with the CE-II Block I EKV will be installed by the end of the year.

Before FTG-15, the GMD system had not been tested against a mock target since June 2014. (See ACT, July/August 2014.) The MDA has now conducted 18 intercept tests of the system, of which 10 have been reported as successful.

The Trump administration’s budget request for fiscal year 2018, released May 23, seeks $828 million in research and development funding for the GMD system, $140 million less than the enacted level for the current fiscal year but $127 million more than the Obama administration’s final budget request projection.

Overall, the administration seeks $7.9 billion for the MDA, a decrease of $334 million from the current level but an increase of $470 million from the projection in the final Obama submission.

Test Simulates North Korea Scenario

In a May 31 press call, Syring described the test as “very realistic” and said it “actually replicated” an operational scenario that the Pentagon would face if North Korea fired an ICBM at the United States. The test included decoys that North Korea might use to fool the GMD system, he said.

North Korea in July successfully tested for the first time an ICBM that could reach as far as Alaska.

Following the test, the Pentagon’s testing office updated its assessment, which had described the GMD system as having only “a limited capability” to defend the U.S. homeland from a small number of simple long-range missiles launched from North Korea or Iran. In a June 6 memo, the office said that the system has “demonstrated capability” to defend against a small number of long-range missile threats that employ “simple countermeasures.”

Syring told a Senate panel in 2013 that the MDA tests the GMD system “in a controlled, scripted environment based on the amount of time and money each one of these tests costs.” This means the there are limits to the realism of the test scenario.

The GMD system has not been tested against complex decoys and countermeasures that North Korea could develop. The system also has not been tested against more than one target at the same time. In addition, 20 of the 32 interceptors currently deployed in Alaska are armed with an older kill vehicle that failed to intercept the target in its last test in 2013 and has not had a successful interception since 2008.

The next test of the GMD system is scheduled for late 2018 and, for the first time, will involve firing two interceptors against one ICBM target. In a real-world scenario, multiple interceptors would be fired at an incoming missile.

New Kill Vehicle Advances

Syring said that the interceptor tested in FTG-15 will allow the United States to “outpace” the North Korean ballistic missile threat “through 2020.”

A new, redesigned kill vehicle under development “will be the next step to not only improving reliability, but [also to] improving performance against the evolving threat,” he said. The MDA announced in March 2014 that it would build a kill vehicle that would be more reliable and cost effective. (See ACT, July/August 2014.) The first test is slated for 2019 with deployment scheduled to begin in 2022.

The administration’s budget request would provide $465 million for the new kill vehicle, $246 million more than the fiscal year 2017 appropriation. Over the next five years, the MDA is seeking $2.8 billion for this effort, a major increase from the $600 million the agency was projecting to request from fiscal years 2017 through 2021.

In a May 30 report, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) raised several red flags. For example, both U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Strategic Command are questioning whether the seeker planned for the kill vehicle will be able “to detect and track threats in an ICBM-range environment,” according to the GAO.

The MDA is pursuing additional efforts to improve the GMD system’s capabilities, including development of a new ground-based sensor to provide enhanced tracking and discrimination capabilities and a new “multi-object” kill vehicle to allow a single GMD interceptor to destroy multiple targets. The MDA aims to begin fielding the multiple kill vehicle in 2025, five years earlier than its previous plans.

Lawmakers Seek Expansion

The Trump administration is conducting a congressionally mandated review of missile defense policy that could signifi­cantly alter policy and have far-reaching implications for the U.S. military budget and strategic relationship with Russia and China. (See ACT, May 2017.)

The Trump administration’s fiscal year 2018 budget request for the MDA largely continues programs and plans underway during the previous administration. Projected funding for fiscal years 2019 through 2022 “are notional” and will be determined by the outcome of the ongoing policy review, MDA spokesman Chris Johnson said in June.

Meanwhile, some U.S. lawmakers are calling on Congress to expand the GMD system and accelerate new technology development programs.

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) introduced legislation May 22 that would authorize procurement of an additional 28 GMD interceptors for Alaska, beyond the 44 currently planned, and require the Pentagon to study having up to 100 interceptors distributed across the United States. The measure has seven co-sponsors, including three Democrats.

Other lawmakers cautioned against rushing to expand the GMD system. “We should avoid adding hundreds of millions of dollars for technologically risky programs or making policy changes that could undermine strategic stability and exacerbate a nuclear arms race,” Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, said June 5.—KINGSTON REIF

SM-3 Interceptor Test Fails

The new Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA failed to destroy a mock medium-range ballistic missile target in a June 21 intercept test, the Missile Defense Agency said.

The SM-3 IIA is being developed cooperatively by the United States and Japan to defeat medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles and will have a greater range and more advanced capabilities than existing SM-3 variants. The interceptor is part of the Aegis missile defense system and can be fired from specially designed Aegis ships or land-based sites.

The Defense Department is planning to deploy the SM-3 IIA in Poland in 2018 as part of the third phase of the so-called European Phased Adaptive Approach. (See ACT, June 2016.) It is not clear if the failed test will delay anticipated interceptor deliveries or the 2018 deployment date in Poland.

In the June 21 test, the interceptor launched from the USS John Paul Jones off the coast of Hawaii failed to destroy the target launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Kauai, Hawaii. This was the second intercept test of the new missile. The previous intercept test, conducted in February 2017, was successful. (See ACT, March 2017.)—KINGSTON REIF

Posted: July 10, 2017

Brexit Has Nuclear Consequences for UK

Brexit Has Nuclear Consequences for UK


July/August 2017
By Kelsey Davenport

The United Kingdom’s decision to pull out of a treaty establishing nuclear cooperation in Europe, as part of its overall withdrawal from the European Union known as Brexit, will have significant implications for UK nuclear activities. If London does not take steps in the next few years to fill the void, the UK’s nuclear trade and access to research projects could suffer.

The UK is a party to the 1957 treaty that established the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) to coordinate civil nuclear energy research and create a market for developing nuclear power. Euratom also plays a role in implementing safeguards, which provide assurances that nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes. The UK joined Euratom in 1973, and membership now includes all EU states.

Technicians work at the construction site of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), a multinational nuclear fusion project, in Saint-Paul-les-Durance, France, on October 6, 2016. The UK’s withdrawal from Euratom jeopardizes its participation in the megaproject. (Photo credit: Christine Poujoulay/AFP/Getty Images)Following Brexit, the UK will need to reach new bilateral cooperation agreements with the United States and other countries to continue civil nuclear trade. It will also need to revise its nuclear safeguards arrangements and determine how to engage with Euratom on projects, such as fusion research, in which the UK is heavily invested.

It was not a foregone conclusion that Brexit would include withdrawal from Euratom. Although legal experts differ on whether the UK had to withdraw from Euratom, a governmental white paper in February noted that Euratom uses the same institutions as the EU and, under UK law, references to the EU include Euratom.

In March, UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s EU withdrawal notification to the European Council included leaving Euratom. Previously, Jesse Norman, the then-UK minister for energy and industry, called withdrawal from Euratom a “regrettable necessity” in remarks Feb. 27 to the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology.

New Safeguards Agreement

One critical area where Euratom plays a role is in implementing nuclear safeguards. Euratom safeguards predate the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and its requirement for non-nuclear-weapon states to implement safeguards arrangements with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to pursue peaceful nuclear activities. When the UK joined Euratom, its civil nuclear activities were subject to Euratom safeguards.

The UK, as a recognized NPT nuclear-weapon state, does not have the same NPT obligations as non-nuclear-weapon states, but it reached a voluntary safeguards agreement with the IAEA and Euratom for its civil program in 1978 and an additional protocol to strengthen its IAEA safeguards in 2004.

Implementation of Euratom safeguards is a component of the IAEA’s implementation of safeguards for Euratom member states. For instance, Euratom provides the IAEA with information on nuclear material accounting and transportation. The IAEA also conducts some safeguards inspections jointly with Euratom and verifies Euratom safeguards activities through observation.

Withdrawal from Euratom will require changes in the UK approach to safeguards and in domestic provisions for providing IAEA information and access. Some experts contend that the UK will need to renegotiate its voluntary access safeguards agreement and additional protocol with the IAEA, given that the Euratom measures are part of the UK arrangements with the agency.

Dame Sue Ion, chair of the UK Nuclear Innovation and Research Advisory Board, told the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology on March 7 that the UK will need to “evolve other arrangements” between the UK regulator and the IAEA. She said that London will need new arrangements that “pretty much mirror” Euratom.

In a June 6 interview, a UK official speaking on condition of anonymity said it is an “urgent priority” to put in place a “solid safeguards framework,” given that nuclear cooperation agreements take safeguards into account. Ensuring effective safeguards post-Euratom, he said, will be critical to ensuring continuity in cooperative research and trade activities. Although high UK stand­ards could still be relied on to prevent diversion, London wants to continue to lead and set an example for good safeguards practices, he said.

In a June 21 speech on the government’s intentions for the next parliament, Queen Elizabeth II mentioned a new bill that would create domestic nuclear regulations and safeguards to fill the void left by withdrawal from Euratom. Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the UK Nuclear Industry Association (NIA), said on June 21 that the bill is a necessary step for the UK to take on safeguards responsibilities, but said it does not get close to “resolving the issues they have created” by leaving Euratom.

Nuclear Research and Trade

Euratom also coordinates cooperative research in civil nuclear projects, and several scientists told ACT they are concerned about retaining access to research opportunities, facilities, and projects.

Brexit puts in question the future of the EU-funded nuclear-fusion experiment known as the Joint European Torus in Culham, UK. The August 2013 photograph shows the interior of the vacuum vessel with walls of beryllium and tungsten. (Photo credit: EUROfusion)

The UK is heavily invested in cooperative work to develop nuclear fusion-reactor technologies. Existing nuclear reactors use fission, or the splitting of atoms, to produce energy, whereas a fusion reactor would join atoms together to produce energy.

The UK participates through Euratom in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), a megaproject under construction in France to demonstrate the feasibility of fusion reactors. The UK’s Culham Centre for Fusion Energy currently houses the Joint European Torus (JET) project, which is funded by the EU to examine the potential for fusion power.

The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee report said that exclusion from programs such as JET and ITER could “disadvantage national nuclear research” and called for “special consideration” for funding arrangements that would allow continued access to these projects.

In addition to coordinating and facilitating research, Euratom also serves as the partner for U.S. civil nuclear cooperation with Europe, including the UK. In 1958 the United States and Euratom concluded the Euratom Cooperation Act, which serves as the agreement required by the 1954 U.S. Atomic Energy Act to conduct nuclear trade. Once the UK withdraws from Euratom, it will not be covered by that agreement.

In a June 8 interview, a second UK official expressed confidence that the UK would be able to negotiate with the United States a bilateral nuclear cooperation pact, often referenced as a 123 agreement, but said there could be “costly disruptions” to nuclear commerce and research if there is no substitute agreement by March 2019, the effective date for Brexit. A bilateral text is already being drafted, although details need to be worked out before the U.S. review process can begin, he said.

Other countries conducting nuclear trade with the UK via Euratom, such as Canada and Japan, also likely will be affected by London’s withdrawal.

The impact is not limited to trade. It could have implications for decommissioning nuclear facilities and nuclear waste disposal. The UK currently relies on facilities outside of the country for some of these activities, which would require new arrangements.

Moving Forward

Lord John Hutton, NIA chairman, told the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology on March 7 that the UK needs to avoid a “cliff edge” and recommended seeking associate partner status in Euratom. Taking this step, however, would not resolve all of the issues. Switzerland, for instance, is an associate partner, entitling the country to participation in some research projects, but it is not part of the Euratom safeguards agreement.

Another option proposed by Parliament’s Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy Committee on May 2 is to “seek a transitional agreement to retain our existing arrangements until new arrangement can be put in place.” The committee noted that the transition time may need to be longer than the three-year period recommended by the European Parliament as the limit for transitional arrangements between the EU and UK. The committee also noted that a delay would give the nuclear industry time to navigate the transition and “minimize any disruptions to trade and threats to power supplies.”

Euratom and other groups seem to support a longer transitional arrangement.

Foratom, the trade association for nuclear energy in Europe, said in an April 3 statement that these arrangements should apply in case the initial transition period is “not sufficient” to prevent any disruption in projects, research, and supply of nuclear fuels.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

Posted: July 10, 2017


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