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

– Suzanne DiMaggio
Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
April 15, 2019
April 2012
Edition Date: 
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Cover Image: 

N. Korean Launch Plan Puts Deal at Risk

Peter Crail

North Korea announced on March 16 that it will launch a satellite in mid-April, a move that threatens to unravel a Feb. 29 agreement the country made with the United States to halt key nuclear and missile activities. North Korea says it is carrying out the launch between April 12 and 16 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the country’s founder, Kim Il Sung, on April 15.

U.S. Department of State spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters March 16 that the North’s announcement calls into question Pyongyang’s good faith in committing to the agreement. Nuland said that, in its negotiations with North Korea over the so-called Leap Day agreement, the United States “made clear unequivocally that any satellite launch would be a deal-breaker.”

Under the agreement, the North pledged not to carry out nuclear or long-range missile tests and to suspend its operations at a uranium-enrichment facility “while constructive dialogue continued.” (See ACT, March 2012.)

In return for North Korea’s recent pledges, the United States agreed to provide the impoverished country with 240,000 tons of food aid under “intensive monitoring.”

Although the United States maintains that food assistance is based on “humanitarian need” and is not linked to political issues such as North Korea’s nuclear program, Nuland said that the assistance would be reconsidered in the event of a rocket launch.

“A launch of this kind, which would abrogate our agreement, would call into question the credibility of all the commitments that we’ve had with regard to the nutritional assistance,” she said, including Pyongyang’s commitment to allow international monitoring of food distribution to prevent the food from being diverted to the military or North Korean elites.

Pyongyang claims that the satellite launch would not violate the agreement, which it says it will uphold. “[T]he launch of the working satellite is an issue fundamentally different from that of a long-range missile,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency said March 19. Also on March 19, North Korean nuclear negotiator Ri Yong Ho told reporters in Beijing that, in order to implement the Leap Day agreement, North Korea invited International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to monitor the suspension of operations at its Yongbyon uranium-enrichment facility.

In a March 19 statement to reporters, IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor said that the agency received the invitation March 16, the same day Pyongyang announced the satellite launch, and that the IAEA will discuss the details of any visit with North Korea “and other parties concerned.”

Missile Test Feared

The United States and its allies view a North Korean satellite launch as a way for the country to test its ballistic missile technology, which overlaps in many areas with that of space-launch vehicles. The Unha-2 rocket North Korea launched in April 2009 in a failed attempt to put a satellite in orbit uses a cluster of four Nodong medium-range missiles for its first stage and is believed to be a version of the Taepo Dong-2 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). (See ACT, May 2009.) The UN Security Council issued a statement condemning the Unha-2 launch later that month and, in a June 2009 sanctions resolution, demanded that North Korea not conduct “any launch using ballistic missile technology.”

North Korea says that this month’s launch will use a rocket called the Unha-3. It is unknown whether the system has any significant differences from the Unha-2.

Pyongyang has rejected the council’s demand not to carry out launches using ballistic missile technology and responded to the council’s April 2009 condemnation of the Unha-2 launch by conducting the country’s second nuclear test the following month. (See ACT, June 2009.) Former U.S. officials said they were concerned that North Korea would similarly follow any international rebuke of the Unha-3 launch with another nuclear test.

Launch Planned for Months

The announced launch does not appear to have come entirely by surprise. Evans Revere, former acting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said in a March 20 briefing paper for the Brookings Institution that a North Korean official told him Dec. 15 that Pyongyang intended to launch a satellite in the near future.

“The official spoke at length about [North Korea’s] ‘sovereign right’ to conduct such launches and warned that any U.S. effort to interfere with or oppose this plan would make [North Korea] even more determined to carry it out,” added Revere, who is now a senior director with the Albright Stonebridge Group.

He also said that Pyongyang likely made the decision to carry out the launch under the leadership of long-time North Korea ruler Kim Jong Il, who died Dec. 17, leaving his third-eldest son, Kim Jong Un, to lead the country.

Other former U.S. officials say that North Korean negotiators were aware that the United States viewed a satellite launch as a deal-breaker and still agreed to the moratorium Feb. 29, suggesting the mixed messages from the North’s actions point to policy splits under the country’s new leader.

Former U.S. envoy to North Korea Charles “Jack” Pritchard, now president of the Korea Economic Institute in Washington, said in a March 19 interview that Pyongyang’s decision to carry out a launch that undermines its recent agreement “suggests that this will be an internal crisis that will develop into an external crisis for the North.”

New Launch Facility

The satellite launch will be the first using a new facility, called the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, which is larger than the launch site North Korea has previously used at Musudan-ri. The larger site is believed to allow the North to launch larger rockets and carry out launches more frequently.

The Sohae facility is on the country’s western coast, allowing the North to launch its rockets in a southern direction that avoids travel over Japan. North Korea’s 1998 and 2009 launches both overflew Japan, leading to Japanese concerns about the North’s intentions and the risks of falling debris.

Prior to the April 2009 satellite launch, Japan said it would deploy short-range anti-missile batteries and potentially shoot down any rocket components that might threaten the country’s territory.

North Korea announced on March 16 that it will launch a satellite in mid-April, a move that threatens to unravel a Feb. 29 agreement the country made with the United States to halt key nuclear and missile activities. North Korea says it is carrying out the launch between April 12 and 16 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the country’s founder, Kim Il Sung, on April 15.

NATO to Declare Missile System Ready

Tom Z. Collina

NATO allies plan to announce at their May 20-21 summit in Chicago that the European missile interceptor system has reached an “interim capability,” a senior U.S. official said on March 26.

Meanwhile, Russian officials said in March that President-elect Vladimir Putin is not expected to attend the summit because a year-long effort to reach agreement on NATO-Russian missile defense cooperation has not succeeded.

Speaking at a Washington, D.C., missile defense conference, the U.S. official, Department of State Special Envoy for Strategic Stability and Missile Defense Ellen Tauscher, said that the Aegis-equipped ship USS Vella Gulf “is providing our at-sea Phase 1 missile defense presence” along with the AN/TPY-2 radar in Turkey. “We expect NATO to announce that it has achieved an ‘interim capability,’” she said, according to a text of her remarks released by the State Department. “That basically means that Allies will start operating under the same playbook.” Although a Navy ship and the radar have been deployed for months, this would mark their integration with NATO’s existing systems. (See ACT, November 2010.)

The European missile interceptor program is being deployed in phases. The first phase is now operating, with ship-based Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptors in the Mediterranean Sea and a tracking radar in Turkey. Subsequent phases include the stationing of land-based SM-3s of increasing capability and number in Romania (2015) and Poland (2018) and the 2020 deployment of the SM-3 IIB, which is advertised to have some capability against long-range ballistic missiles.

NATO and Russia agreed at the alliance’s Lisbon summit in November 2010 to seek ways to cooperate on a Europe-wide missile interceptor system, such as by sharing information on missile threats. Russian leaders, however, are concerned that the latter phases of the system would have the ability to intercept Moscow’s long-range missiles, possibly undermining its nuclear deterrent. Russia has asked for a legally binding agreement that would prevent the United States from aiming its interceptors at Moscow’s offensive missiles. The United States has refused, and no cooperation agreement has been reached.

Last November, Moscow openly threatened to boycott the NATO summit and take other retaliatory measures, such as deploying short-range missiles in its Kaliningrad enclave to destroy NATO interceptors and withdrawing from the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). U.S. and NATO officials said their plans to deploy a missile interceptor system in Europe under the Phased Adaptive Approach would proceed regardless of Moscow’s concerns. (See ACT, January/February 2012.)

U.S. Rejects Limits

In her remarks at the missile defense conference, Tauscher said that Russia has “raised the issue of a legal guarantee with a set of ‘military-technical criteria’ that could, in effect, create limitations on our ability to develop and deploy future missile defense systems.” She said that Moscow wants “a piece of paper they can point to when a U.S. ship enters certain waters or when an interceptor has a certain speed.”

Tauscher said the United States could not “accept limitations on where we deploy our Aegis ships,” as they are used for a variety of missions around the world in addition to missile defense. “We also will not accept limitations on the capabilities and numbers of our missile defense systems,” she said.

Tauscher said the United States would agree to a political statement that “our missile defenses are not directed at Russia.” She also said that building cooperation with Russia may require the United States to be more transparent about its missile interceptor systems. Responding to congressional criticisms that the administration might provide classified information to Moscow, Tauscher said that the United States “would not give away ‘hit to kill technology,’ telemetry, or any other types of information that would compromise our national security.”

The United States has offered Russia the opportunity to view ship-based SM-3 flight tests in international waters, giving Moscow the time of launch of the target, which is typically provided to the public. Such transparency would be a good first step with Russia, “allowing them to see for themselves, what we are saying about our system is accurate,” said Tauscher, who led a U.S. delegation to Moscow on March 13.

Putin, who currently is prime minister, is to be sworn in as president on May 7. He will travel to the United States 11 days later to attend the Group of Eight summit at Camp David, but does not plan to go to the NATO summit that takes place immediately afterward in Chicago, the Interfax news agency reported March 23.

Open Mic Slip

There had been speculation that Putin’s March victory in Russia’s presidential election might increase the odds that Moscow would agree to cooperate with the United States on the European missile interceptor system. Similarly, there is speculation that Obama might be more open to compromise after the U.S. elections in November. Obama turned speculation into controversy March 26 at the nuclear security summit in Seoul when a private conversation with outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was caught on a live microphone.

Obama said that the missile defense situation “can be solved” but that it would be important for Putin, once in office, to give him “space.” “This is my last election,” Obama said, adding, “After my election, I have more flexibility.”

After Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said the incident was “an alarming and troubling development,” Obama told reporters March 27 that he meant that the current political environment is not conducive to bipartisan compromise. “The only way I get this stuff done is if I’m consulting with the Pentagon, with Congress, if I’ve got bipartisan support, and frankly, the current environment is not conducive to those kinds of thoughtful consultations,” Obama said.

NATO allies plan to announce at their May 20-21 summit in Chicago that the European missile interceptor system has reached an “interim capability,” a senior U.S. official said on March 26.

News Analysis: Debate Over Iran Shifts Away From Attack

Michael Adler

Debate over how to rein in Iran’s alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons shifted away from talk of war after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heard out U.S. President Barack Obama in a crucial summit in Washington on March 5.

Obama came into the meeting saying “loose talk of war” should stop and that “an opportunity remains for diplomacy, backed by pressure, to succeed.” Netanyahu appeared to agree that the campaign of sanctions rather than military action would be the offensive for now. He did not repeat Obama’s line, but neither did he dispute it. During their joint public appearance at the White House, Obama said, “I know that both the prime minister and I prefer to resolve this diplomatically.”

The two leaders kept up the threat, however, which was apparently part of an understanding to get the more attack-minded Israel to go along with the U.S. drive for diplomacy. Ahead of the summit, Obama had told a meeting of more than 10,000 members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) lobbying group on March 4 that “Iran’s leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.… I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.”

Obama and Netanyahu made clear that Israel was sovereign to decide when to defend itself. Netanyahu told AIPAC after his meeting with Obama that Israel “deeply appreciate[s] the great alliance between our two countries. But when it comes to Israel’s survival, we must always remain the masters of our fate.” Netanyahu said there was no doubt that Iran was working to acquire a nuclear weapons capability and that Israel could not “afford to wait much longer” to stop this.

The emphasis, however, was on talking to rather than bombing Iran. “We do believe that there is still a window that allows for a diplomatic resolution to this issue,” Obama told the press, sitting alongside Netanyahu at their joint appearance just before they went behind closed doors for their meeting.

Israel seemed to have accepted the U.S. estimate that the time available to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon was longer than appeared from all the talk about Iranian capabilities. Iran claims its nuclear program is a strictly peaceful effort to generate electricity, but the United States and other nations fear Iran is hiding a weapons program.

The Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) laid out this timeline in a report released March 5, the day of the summit. “No evidence has emerged that the [Iranian] regime has decided to take the final step and build nuclear weapons,” said the report. It clarified recent statements by U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta that Iran could build a crude nuclear bomb in perhaps as short a time frame as a year. The ISIS report said that although Iran could “build a nuclear device suitable for underground detonation or crude delivery in about one year,” this is far short of putting a nuclear warhead on top of a missile or building an arsenal of several such weapons.

Diplomacy and Sanctions

This leaves time for diplomacy as well as for squeezing Iran. Iran is facing sanctions by the United States and the European Union that target its oil sales and increasingly hinder its access to international banking and financing. On March 15, the EU issued new sanctions prohibiting European firms from using the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), the world’s primary means for international financial transactions, for business with some 30 Iranian banks. The goal is to make Iran increasingly isolated, forcing it finally to strike a deal on its nuclear program in order to save its economy.

The hope is that all this pressure will lead to negotiations. The Obama-Netanyahu summit was followed a day later by a letter in which Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief who speaks for the six world powers negotiating with Tehran, accepted an Iranian proposal for restarting talks. Ashton’s letter capped a tortuous back-and-forth between her and the chief Iranian negotiator, Saeed Jalili, to resume talks that had broken down in January 2011 at a failed meeting in Istanbul. Ashton had told Iran in October on behalf of the so-called P5+1 countries that “concerns about the nature of your nuclear program, as reflected in IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] reports” should be the key topic of discussion. The six-country group is known as the P5+1 because it includes the five permanent members of the UN Security Council—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—plus Germany.

Jalili answered in February, agreeing on the need for “step by step…sustainable cooperation” while emphasizing Iran’s right to pursue a peaceful nuclear program under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). (See ACT, March 2012.) Ashton said in her March 6 letter that dialogue should be aimed at producing “concrete results.” She said negotiations should avoid “the experience of Istanbul,” where talks had broken off due to a lack of give-and-take.

Thus in March, two of the key factors driving the Iranian nuclear crisis had become more defined: the dual-track policy overseen by the United States to apply pressure on Iran in order to convince Tehran to talk and the actual negotiating process shepherded by Ashton and Jalili.

There were also significant developments in March in a third key factor—the IAEA investigation of Iran’s nuclear program. At an IAEA meeting in Vienna, Director-General Yukiya Amano said his agency “continues to have serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program.” Amano complained that Iran was not giving the agency access to the Parchin testing grounds, where nuclear-related military work is suspected.

Standoff Over Parchin

The IAEA was drawing a line in the sand over a Parchin visit. Amano said in an interview on March 9 with The Daily Beast/Newsweek that the IAEA would not back off from its demand to inspect in Parchin, even if this escalated the confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program. “We’ll pursue this objective until there’s a concrete result,” Amano said. The veteran Japanese diplomat has proven to be increasingly tough on Iran since taking over the IAEA in December 2009.

“We don’t see the reason why they cannot grant us access to Parchin. It is a military site, but we can work out or manage access,” he said. Amano said the standoff over getting to this test site “has become like a symbol” of Iran’s alleged weapons work and its refusal to be transparent with the international community. He said the agency would “continue to focus on Parchin.”

IAEA inspectors had visited Parchin twice in 2005 and found nothing suspicious, but as Amano said, “that time we didn’t have enough information.” Now the information, some reportedly coming as intelligence from IAEA member-state governments, is better; “so to start with [a new round of inspections], we thought that Parchin was a good selection,” Amano said.

The IAEA wants to visit a specific site at this sprawling military testing area where it thinks there is a metal cylinder that is 19 meters long, 4.6 meters in diameter, reinforced in the center with concrete, and where explosive experiments may have taken place on how to trigger nuclear explosions. The IAEA’s sense of urgency is heightened by satellite images of activity at Parchin that could be related to cleaning up traces of any tests. These tests may have used natural uranium to try out a nuclear trigger that would compact the core of a bomb with an explosion, or perhaps a neutron initiator, which explodes from inside the core to enhance a chain reaction. Any of these would have been a “dry run” without setting off a chain reaction. Yet, proving they utilized even natural uranium would be a “smoking gun” destroying Iran’s claim that it has used nuclear material only for peaceful ends.

Iran rejected charges that what the satellites were showing was an effort to clean up the Parchin site. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters in Tehran on March 13 that uranium traces cannot be cleaned up, as tiny particles would remain after any effort to sanitize an area. He insisted that only “conventional military” activities were carried out at Parchin.

Iranian ambassador to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh told reporters in Vienna on March 8 that his country was willing to discuss allegations that it has done nuclear weapons research, as outlined extensively in an IAEA report last November, and was open to granting access to Parchin. He warned about politicizing the issue, however, and said the IAEA must first agree with Iran on a plan for proceeding on all the issues, something the two sides have so far failed to do.

Other developments showed that diplomacy just might have a chance. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei departed from his normally virulent and dismissive tone when speaking of the United States to greet Obama’s comments that diplomacy and not war was on the agenda by saying, “These words are good words and an exit from delusion.” Israeli officials reportedly now agree with Washington that Tehran has not yet made a decision to build a nuclear bomb.

This leaves the upcoming meeting of the P5+1 with Iran, expected in mid-April but not officially announced at the time Arms Control Today went to press, as a crucial test of whether the “window of opportunity” for striking a deal with Iran will open wider or slam shut.

Debate over how to rein in Iran’s alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons shifted away from talk of war after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heard out U.S. President Barack Obama in a crucial summit in Washington on March 5.

Technical Study on Test Ban Cites Progress

Daryl G. Kimball

A U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) committee report reviewing technical issues related to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) has concluded that the U.S. nuclear weapons Stockpile Stewardship Program “has been more successful than was anticipated in 1999,” when the Senate last considered and voted on the CTBT.

The report, which was released March 30, also said that “the status of U.S. national monitoring and the International Monitoring System [IMS] has improved to levels better than predicted in 1999.”

The study was requested by the Obama administration in 2009 following President Barack Obama’s call for “immediately” pursuing reconsideration and ratification of the treaty, which was signed by President Bill Clinton in September 1996 but has not yet been approved by the Senate. Although the report was completed in early 2011, its release was delayed by an extensive declassification review.

“[P]rovided that sufficient resources and a national commitment to stockpile stewardship are in place…the United States has the technical ability to maintain a safe, secure, and reliable stockpile of nuclear weapons into the foreseeable future without nuclear explosion testing,” says the report, which is by the National Research Council, the operating arm of the NAS.

Stockpile stewardship is the responsibility of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semiautonomous unit of the Department of Energy. Since 2009, funding for the NNSA nuclear weapons complex has increased by 13 percent. The Obama administration’s $7.6 billion budget request for fiscal year 2013 would boost the funding even more, by 5 percent over the fiscal year 2012 appropriation of $7.2 billion.

The NAS panel, which was chaired by Ellen Williams, a physicist and now chief scientist at BP, was charged with reviewing technical changes related to the U.S. nuclear stockpile and to nuclear explosion test monitoring that have occurred in the 10 years since the NAS’s 2002 report on the subject. The panel’s eight other members include former NNSA Administrator Linton Brooks; Richard Garwin, a veteran weapons designer and adviser to U.S. national laboratories; Adm. Richard Mies, the former head of U.S. Strategic Command; and former Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Director Bruce Tarter. A subcommittee of seismological experts supported the panel’s investigation.

The panel’s 200-page report concludes that “[c]onstraints placed on nuclear-explosion testing by the monitoring capabilities of the IMS and…U.S. NTM [national technical means of intelligence] will reduce the likelihood of successful clandestine nuclear-explosion testing, and inhibit the development of new types of strategic nuclear weapons.”

The report finds that “[o]ther states intent on acquiring and deploying modern, two-stage thermonuclear weapons would not be able to have confidence in their performance without multi-kiloton testing. Such tests would likely be detectable (even with evasion measures) by appropriately resourced U.S. national technical means and a completed IMS network.”

The study concluded that an on-site inspection as permitted under the CTBT once it enters into force “would have a high likelihood of detecting evidence of a nuclear explosion with a yield greater than 0.1 kilotons, provided that the event could be located with sufficient precision…and conducted without hindrance.” The panel said on-site inspection “constitutes a deterrent to treaty violation whether or not an inspection actually takes place.”

The report found that “the development of weapons with lower capabilities…is possible with or without the CTBT for countries of different levels of nuclear sophistication, but such development would not require the United States to return to nuclear testing in order to respond because it already has—or could produce—weapons of equal or greater capability based on its own nuclear-explosion test history.” The United States has conducted 1,030 nuclear test explosions, the last of which was in September 1992 when Congress approved legislation mandating a halt to U.S. nuclear explosive testing.

Brooks said last November that “as a practical matter, it is almost certain that the United States will not test again. The political bar against testing is extremely high.”

“I have been in and out of government for a long time,” Brooks said, “and in recent years, I never met anybody who advocated that we seek authorization to return to testing.”

A U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) committee report reviewing technical issues related to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) has concluded that the U.S. nuclear weapons Stockpile Stewardship Program “has been more successful than was anticipated in 1999,” when the Senate last considered and voted on the CTBT.

GOP Raps Obama on Nuclear Budget

Tom Z. Collina

Leading congressional Republicans are threatening to block implementation of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) in response to what they say is a failure by the Obama administration to request adequate funding for the modernization of U.S. nuclear forces.

Modernization funding was a key element of the Senate’s consideration of New START in late 2010.

President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2013 request for modernization monies was below the levels his administration had pledged during that debate. The Republican critics say the lower request breaks the 2010 commitment, but administration officials and allies have countered that Obama is meeting his commitments to the Senate and that budget cuts are reasonable given the bipartisan deficit reduction deal that Congress approved last year.

The Senate Republican Policy Committee wrote in a March 12 position paper that Obama “broke his promise by significantly underfunding nuclear modernization.”

In the House, eight Republicans, including Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, introduced legislation on March 8 that could block the implementation of New START. The bill, H.R. 4178, would deny funding for the reduction of deployed nuclear weapons until Obama certifies that U.S. nuclear modernization is being funded as outlined in a document known as the “1251 report.”

That report, required by section 1251 of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2010, was completed in May 2010 and updated in November 2010. The second version updated the administration’s plans for modernizing the U.S. triad of nuclear-armed missiles, bombers, and submarines, as well as for upgrading the nuclear weapons production infrastructure. According to the March 12 Republican critique, the 1251 report was “essential” to convincing wavering senators to vote for New START. The Senate voted 71-26 to approve the New START Resolution of Advice and Consent on Dec. 22, 2010, after months of hearings and debate. (See ACT, January/February 2011.)

The administration’s defenders have responded by noting that any promises made in 2010 came before Congress agreed to the 2011 Budget Control Act, which is forcing both sides to re-examine funding priorities and commitments. For example, the Pentagon is now planning to reduce budget growth by $487 billion over the next decade, and this cut may double if the current law requiring sequestration is not changed before next January.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said at a March 14 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee that falling short of a budget target derived in 2010 “is reasonable given the fiscal reality facing us today.”

Presidential Promises

The 1251 report describes general plans for “sustaining and modernizing” strategic delivery systems, including construction of a new fleet of submarines to replace the current Ohio-class fleet; an initial analysis of when to build a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and of what type; construction of a new heavy bomber; and an initial analysis of when to build a new air-launched cruise missile (ALCM). The report does not specify how many of each system the Pentagon would build, but it does state that more than $100 billion would be spent on nuclear delivery systems over the next decade.

The 1251 report’s section on the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semiautonomous unit of the Department of Energy responsible for maintaining nuclear warheads and production facilities, is more detailed. It specifies planned projects and budgets through 2020, including the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Facility Replacement (CMRR) building at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee. The report lays out plans to request more than $85 billion for NNSA weapons activities over the next decade and, specifically, $7.9 billion for fiscal 2013.

The New START resolution contains a nonbinding “sense of the Senate” section that says that the United States is committed to providing the resources needed to maintain the NNSA weapons production complex at the levels set forth in the 1251 report. Under the terms of the resolution, if Congress does not provide this level of resources, the president must submit a report on how to address the resource shortfall, among other things, and whether “it remains in the national interest of the United States to remain a Party to the New START Treaty.”

According to congressional staff, the administration was required to submit this report at the end of February, but as of March 28, had not done so.

Finally, as required by the Senate resolution, Obama certified to the Senate on Feb. 2, 2011, that he would “modernize or replace the triad of strategic nuclear delivery systems,” including a heavy bomber and ALCM, an ICBM, and a submarine and submarine-launched ballistic missile, without specifying funding levels, numbers of systems, or production schedules.

Obama also certified that he would “accelerate, to the extent possible, the design and engineering phase” of the CMRR and UPF and request full funding for these facilities on completion of that phase, which has yet to occur.

NNSA the Focus

The charges that Obama broke his promises tend to focus on the NNSA budget, where his commitments were more specific.

The NNSA’s fiscal year 2013 request for weapons activities is $7.6 billion, an increase of $363 million, or 5 percent, above fiscal 2012 but $300 million less than projected in the 1251 report. Although the administration committed in 2011 to fund the CMRR and UPF “to the extent possible,” the fiscal year 2013 budget request contains no construction funding for the CMRR and defers work for at least five years. The House Appropriations energy and water subcommittee cut the CMRR by $100 million, or 33 percent, as part of the fiscal year 2012 appropriations process, indicating bipartisan concern about the need for that facility. Meanwhile, the UPF in Tennessee would be funded at $340 million in fiscal year 2013, a $180 million increase over 2012.

At the March 14 hearing, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who did not vote for New START, said that the CMRR delay means that the NNSA would not be able to meet a Department of Defense requirement to “manufacture between 50 and 80 pits per year” and “recklessly presumes” that future programs to extend the operational life of existing warheads “will be allowed to cannibalize the pits of weapons currently held in strategic reserve.” One alternative to manufacturing new plutonium cores, or pits, is to reuse pits from warheads in storage.

NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino replied that his agency has other facilities it can use to manufacture pits and conduct plutonium research, including PF-4 at Los Alamos, the Device Assembly Facility at the Nevada Test Site, and the Superblock facilities at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. The NNSA plans to “mak[e] full use of these capabilities,” while saving $1.3 billion over five years, he said. The NNSA’s current production capacity of about 10 to 20 pits per year “is enough to take care of the stockpile needs over the next decade,” D’Agostino testified March 21 before the Senate Appropriations energy and water subcommittee.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who chairs the energy and water panel, supported D’Agostino’s position during the March 21 hearing. She said in her opening statement that the fiscal year 2013 NNSA nuclear weapons budget request “provides more than sufficient funding to modernize the nuclear weapons stockpile.”

However, at a March 20 breakfast with reporters, Turner questioned the adequacy of the funding request and the strength of the administration’s commitment. “The whole concept of the investment in modernization of our nuclear weapons infrastructure is to ensure the capability of production” and the existence of a “sustainable scientific community to address our needs in maintaining our nuclear deterrent,” he said.

Delays have been justified with “the excuse of the day,” he said. He said he was concerned the administration would “nickel-and-dime us” rather than asking, “‘What is our policy need and our goals and objectives? Why do we need these facilities?’ and then proceeding.”

A new report by a National Academy of Sciences panel on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, released March 30, notes that the PF-4 facility at Los Alamos could be modified at a “relatively modest” cost to manufacture at least 40 pits per year.

At the March 14 hearing, Sessions held his fire on the Defense Department budget, saying that the department “was able to maintain its commitment to modernizing the triad of delivery vehicles with minimal change.”

The fiscal year 2013 defense budget request includes $292 million for a new long-range bomber, with plans to produce 80 to 100 planes at $550 million apiece starting in the mid-2020s; $2.0 million to study a new ALCM; $11.6 million to study a new ICBM; and $565 million for a new strategic submarine, the SSBN-X, to replace the current 14 Ohio-class subs starting in 2031. The fiscal year 2013 budget would defer the first procurement of the SSBN-X by two years, a step that the administration says would save $4.3 billion over five years. (See ACT, March 2012.)

Leading congressional Republicans are threatening to block implementation of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) in response to what they say is a failure by the Obama administration to request adequate funding for the modernization of U.S. nuclear forces.

Case for the CTBT Is Stronger Than Ever

Daryl G. Kimball

Preventing the spread and buildup of nuclear weapons remains one of the highest priority international security challenges. Success depends on a multipronged global strategy, including a verifiable ban on nuclear explosive testing to prevent the emergence of new and more deadly nuclear weapons. U.S. leadership is critical.

With its two-decade-long moratorium on testing and its 1996 signature on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the United States already has assumed most CTBT-related responsibilities. The full security benefits of the treaty, however, depend on U.S. ratification, which would trigger ratification by other holdout states, including China, India, and Pakistan.

A new report by a panel of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) on technical issues related to the CTBT reaffirms that the United States no longer needs and would not benefit from further nuclear testing. The study explains why the treaty would significantly improve U.S. capabilities to detect and deter nuclear test explosions by others.

The detailed report by the NAS panel of senior scientific and military experts documents the significant technical advances over the past decade that should resolve earlier concerns about the treaty. In the weeks and months ahead, senators and their staff need to take a serious look at the merits of the CTBT in light of the new NAS findings and not rush to judgment on the basis of old myths and misconceptions.

The study finds that maintaining an effective nuclear stockpile will require continued diligence, but it does not require nuclear test explosions. The panel finds that the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) nuclear weapons Stockpile Stewardship Program “has been more successful than was anticipated in 1999,” when the Senate last considered the CTBT.

Just as the 2002 NAS report on the CTBT concluded, the new study finds that if sufficient resources are dedicated to the task, the United States has the technical ability to maintain a safe, secure, and reliable stockpile of nuclear weapons into the foreseeable future without nuclear explosive tests.

Today, the nuclear weapons laboratories have more resources and better tools than ever before. Since 2009, funding for the NNSA nuclear weapons complex has increased 13 percent, and the Obama administration’s $7.6 billion request for fiscal year 2013 would boost funding by another 5 percent.

As Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) noted at a recent Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing, “Regarding nuclear weapons activities, I believe the fiscal year 2013 budget request provides more than sufficient funding to modernize the nuclear weapons stockpile.”

Another key conclusion of the NAS panel is that “the status of U.S. national monitoring and the International Monitoring System [IMS] has improved to levels better than predicted in 1999.” The new study documents advances in the capabilities of U.S. national technical means (NTM) and the IMS in all areas: seismic, hydroacoustic, infrasound, radionuclide, and satellite monitoring.

The new report also confirms that, with the combined capabilities of the nearly completed IMS and even more capable NTM, as well as tens of thousands of civilian seismic monitoring stations, no potential CTBT violator could be confident that a nuclear explosion of military utility would escape detection.

The panel’s report finds that “[c]onstraints placed on nuclear-explosion testing by the monitoring capabilities of the IMS and…U.S. NTM will reduce the likelihood of successful clandestine nuclear-explosion testing, and inhibit the development of new types of strategic nuclear weapons.” For example, the global test ban would make it far more difficult for China, India, and Pakistan to perfect the more-compact warhead designs that would allow them to field missiles armed with multiple warheads.

The report concludes that “[o]ther states intent on acquiring and deploying modern, two-stage thermonuclear weapons would not be able to have confidence in their performance without multi-kiloton testing. Such tests would likely be detectable (even with evasion measures).” In other words, without nuclear explosive testing, states such as Iran could not perfect sophisticated two-stage thermonuclear warheads that can be delivered on long-range ballistic missiles.

The panel notes that once the treaty enters into force, the possibility of short-notice, on-site challenge inspections “constitutes a deterrent to treaty violation whether or not an inspection actually takes place.” It finds that “the development of weapons with lower capabilities…is possible with or without the CTBT…but such developments would not require the United States to return to nuclear testing in order to respond.”

President Barack Obama has repeatedly expressed his support for U.S. ratification and prompt entry into force of the CTBT. But to realize the promise of the test ban, he must provide stronger leadership to create the necessary support for a successful Senate vote sometime in 2013.

With the CTBT, the United States stands to lose nothing and would gain an important constraint on nuclear weapons proliferation that could pose a threat to its security. It is past time to reconsider and ratify the treaty.

Preventing the spread and buildup of nuclear weapons remains one of the highest priority international security challenges. Success depends on a multipronged global strategy, including a verifiable ban on nuclear explosive testing to prevent the emergence of new and more deadly nuclear weapons. U.S. leadership is critical.

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