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Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)

Sorting CTBT Fact From Fiction



“Reconsidering the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty: Sorting Fact From Fiction”

Volume 2, Issue 9, June 20, 2011

After 1,030 U.S. nuclear test explosions, there is simply no technical or military rationale for the United States to resume nuclear explosive testing. At the same time, it is in the U.S. national security interest to prevent nuclear weapons testing by others.

A growing list of bipartisan leaders agree that by ratifying the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the United States stands to gain an important constraint on the ability of other states to build new and more deadly nuclear weapons that could pose a threat to American security.

As Dr. Sigfried Hecker, former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, said in a 2009 interview, "the single most important reason to ratify the CTBT is to stop other countries from improving their arsenals."

A new round of nuclear weapon test explosions would allow China to perfect smaller warhead designs and allow it to put multiple warheads on its relatively small arsenal of strategic ballistic missiles -- a move that could allow it to increase its nuclear strike capability.

Without nuclear weapon test explosions, potential nuclear-armed states like Iran would not be able to proof test the more advanced, smaller nuclear warhead designs that are needed in order to deliver such weapons using ballistic missiles. Given Tehran's advancing uranium-enrichment and missile capabilities, it is important to establish additional barriers against a sophisticated Iranian nuclear weapons capability in the years ahead.

As Gen. John Shalikashvili, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, concluded in his 2001 report on the CTBT, "For the sake of future generations, it would be unforgivable to neglect any reasonable action that can help prevent nuclear proliferation, as the Test Ban Treaty clearly would."

Engaging on the Technical Issues
Earlier this spring, the Obama administration reiterated its support for reconsideration of the CTBT. In a May 10 address outlining the national security value of the CTBT, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher pledged to take the time necessary to brief Senators on key technical and scientific advances in the U.S. stockpile stewardship program and national and international nuclear test monitoring that have occurred since the Senate's brief consideration of the Treaty in 1999.

"We are committed to taking a bipartisan and fact-based approach with the Senate," Tauscher said.

As the administration provides updated information on key technical issues related to the CTBT, Senators have a responsibility to take a serious look at the merits of the Treaty in light of the new evidence that has accumulated over the past decade and not rush to a judgment on the basis of old information.

Stuck in A Time Warp
Unfortunately, some anti-CTBT critics are stuck in the past and are only too willing to ignore key facts concerning the Treaty. Some, including commentators at the Heritage Foundation and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), have even suggested that the U.S. needs to resume nuclear testing.

A May 26 Web Memo from The Heritage Foundation claims that "nothing has changed" over the past decade and any effort to reconsider the merits of the treaty is an "attack" on the Senate.

Such hyperbole defies common sense and is out of step with current technical and geopolitical realities.

As Senator Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) noted in a statement released immediately following the October 13, 1999 vote on the CTBT: "Treaties never die, even when defeated and returned to the Executive Calendar of the Senate. Therefore, we will have another chance to debate the CTBT. And, it may well be that if my concerns ... can be alleviated, and if the potential for stockpile stewardship during the next decade can be realized, I will be able to vote for a CTBT in the future."

That Was Then, This Is Now
In the decade since the Senate last considered the CTBT, Senator Domenici and 58 other Senators have retired; only 41 Senators who debated and voted on the CTBT in 1999 remain.

Over the years, significant technical advances in the U.S. stockpile stewardship program and verification and monitoring capabilities have been achieved, and the value of the treaty to U.S. efforts to counter the spread of the bomb has grown.

As Ronald Reagan's Secretary of State George Shultz said in April 2009, "[Republicans] might have been right voting against [the CTBT] some years ago, but they would be right voting for it now, based on these new facts.... [There are] new pieces of information that are very important and that should be made available to the Senate."

The Senate's understanding of the issues surrounding the CTBT should be based on an honest and up-to-date analysis of the facts rather than the myths and misperceptions from the last century that are being repeated by some CTBT critics. The following is a brief reality check:

1. Stockpile Stewardship Works: The nuclear weapons laboratory directors report they now have a deeper understanding of the nuclear arsenal and a wider range of tools and techniques to maintain an effective stockpile. Nevertheless, the Heritage Foundation charges "the U.S. nuclear weapons complex has grown weaker."

Those who are in a position to know say, unequivocally, that the arsenal can be maintained without nuclear test explosions and without pursuing new warhead designs. In 2008, Thomas D'Agostino, who was then George W. Bush's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Administrator, said:  "We know more about the complex issues of nuclear weapons performance today than we ever did during the period of nuclear testing."

The technical strategy for maintaining the effectiveness and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile has been in place for more than a decade. Since 1994, each warhead type in the U.S. nuclear arsenal has been determined to be safe and reliable through a rigorous annual certification process. The NNSA's Stockpile Stewardship Program includes nuclear weapons surveillance and maintenance, non-nuclear and subcritical nuclear experiments, and increasingly sophisticated supercomputer modeling.  Life extension programs have successfully refurbished existing types of nuclear warheads and can continue to do so indefinitely.

A 2009 study by JASON, the independent technical review panel, concluded that the "lifetimes of today's nuclear warheads could be extended for decades, with no anticipated loss in confidence."

The 2002 National Academy of Sciences panel report on the "Technical Issues Related to the CTBT" found that the current Stockpile Stewardship Program provides the technical capabilities that are necessary to maintain confidence in the safety and reliability of the existing seven types of nuclear warheads in the active stockpile, "provided that adequate resources are made available...and are properly focused on this task."

Not only do the nuclear weapons laboratories have a deeper understanding of the arsenal than they ever did during the days of nuclear test explosions, but they also have more resources than ever.

The Obama administration's unprecedented $88 billion, 10-year plan for upgrading the nuclear weapons complex should give senators even greater confidence that there is a long-term strategy and more than enough funding to continue to maintain the U.S. arsenal effectively. The administration's long-term weapons complex budget plan represents a 20 percent increase above funding levels during the George W. Bush years.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates noted in 2010 that: "These investments, and the... strategy for warhead life extension, represent a credible modernization plan necessary to sustain the nuclear infrastructure and support our nation's deterrent."

On December 1, 2010, the directors of the three U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories wrote that they were "very pleased" with the administration's budget plan. Lawrence Livermore director Dr. George Miller, Los Alamos director Dr. Michael Anastasio, and Sandia director Dr. Paul Hommert said that the increased funding plan provides "adequate support" to sustain the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

The administration's $7.6 billion request for NNSA weapons activities for fiscal year 2012 is almost 19 percent higher than the $6.4 billion appropriated by Congress for fiscal year 2010. Minor cuts and cost savings in the NNSA budget will not change the fact that the NNSA weapons activities budget, now at $7 billion, provides more than enough to get the job done.

The success of the program requires that nuclear weapons labs and NNSA are focused on the highest priority stockpile maintenance tasks and pursue conservative warhead life extension strategies that minimize unnecessary and expensive alterations to already well-understood and proven warhead designs.

2. New Nuclear Testing Is Unnecessary and Unwise: Contrary to myth, maintaining the reliability of proven U.S. nuclear warhead designs does not (and has never) required a program of nuclear test explosions.

According to the 2002 National Academies of Science (NAS) panel that included three former nuclear weapons lab directors, age-related defects mainly related to non-nuclear components can be expected, "but nuclear testing is not needed to discover these problems and is not likely to be needed to address them."

Nevertheless, the Heritage Foundation's Peter Brookes recently argued in a New York Post oped that the CTBT would "further compromise ... the arsenal by ending our ability to test ... if necessary." That sounds a lot like the old assertion made in 1992 by then-Rep. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) that "[A]s long as we have a nuclear deterrent, we have got to test it in order to ensure that it is safe and it is reliable."

Mr. Kyl may have had legitimate concerns back in 1992, but it is now abundantly clear that nuclear explosive testing is a vestige of the past that is no longer needed or wanted by the United States.

As NNSA Administrator Thomas D'Agostino put it succinctly in an April 2011 interview: "we have a safe and secure and reliable stockpile. There's no need to conduct underground [nuclear] testing."

In the exceedingly unlikely event that the president of the United States decides to resume nuclear testing, the United States has the option of exercising the CTBT's "supreme national interest" withdrawal clause.

However, given that the United States already has the most advanced and deadly nuclear arsenal in the world, another round of global nuclear tests would undermine U.S. security by  helping other nuclear-armed states improve their nuclear capabilities.

3. The CTBT Is Effectively Verifiable: Despite a decade of advances in national and international monitoring capabilities, the Heritage Foundation argues that "extremely low-yield tests are not likely to be detected by the IMS," or International Monitoring System.

This argument misses the point on verification and implies that low-yield tests are worth the high risk of getting caught.

Those countries that are most able to successfully conduct such clandestine testing already possess advanced nuclear weapons of a number of types and could add little, with additional testing, to the threats they already pose to the United States. Countries of lesser nuclear test experience and/or design sophistication would be unable to conceal tests in the numbers and yields required to master advanced warheads. Under the CTBT, no would-be cheater could be confident that a nuclear explosion of sufficient yield to possibly threaten U.S. security would escape detection.

CTBT critics also often ignore the fact that the IMS is not the only means of test ban monitoring and verification. U.S. national technical means of intelligence (national seismic and radiation detection stations, spy satellites, human intelligence, and other tools) are extremely capable and data from these sources can be employed to verify treaty compliance.

The U.S. national monitoring capabilities will be even more effective with the CTBT in force-with its global verification and monitoring network and the option of short-notice on-site inspections-than without it. The CTBT provides for monitoring stations inside Russia, China, and other sensitive locations, including some places where the United States could not gain access on its own. By establishing a legally-binding ban on testing and providing additional international test monitoring capabilities, the CTBT gives the United States additional tools to resolve compliance concerns and address potential violations.

4. Zero Means Zero: Another misleading charge from the Heritage Foundation and other critics is the claim that the CTBT does not define "nuclear test explosion" and therefore some states such as Russia believe low-yield and "hydronuclear" tests are permitted. A June 16 blogpost on the Heritage web site, called "Nuclear Weapons Testing Remains Necessary," states without any supporting evidence that "Russia and China ... claim that low-yield nuclear weapons tests ... do not constitute a violation of the treaty."

Wrong again. The record is clear: Article I of the CTBT bans "any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion" and all signatories of the treaty understand that means zero nuclear test explosions.

In 1999, the United States' CTBT negotiator, Amb. Stephen Ledogar, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the subject and said: "I have heard some critics of the Treaty seek to cast doubt on whether Russia, in the negotiation and signing of the Treaty, committed itself under treaty law to a truly comprehensive prohibition of any nuclear explosion, including an explosion/experiment/event of even the slightest nuclear yield. In other words, did Russia agree that hydronuclear experiments would be banned, and that hydrodynamic explosions (which have no yield because they do not reach criticality) would not be banned?"

Ledogar went on to say: "The answer is a categoric 'yes.' The Russians, as well as the other weapon states, did commit themselves. That answer is substantiated by the record of the negotiations at almost any level of technicality (and national security classification) that is desired and permitted. More importantly for the current debate, it is also substantiated by the public record of statements by high level Russian officials...."

As the Russian government explained to the Duma when it ratified the CTBT in 2000: "Qualitative modernization of nuclear weapons is only possible through full-scale and hydronuclear tests with the emission of fissile energy, the carrying out of which directly contradicts the CTBT."

5. The Test Ban and Nonproliferation: Ignoring abundant evidence to the contrary, CTBT critics at the Heritage Foundation make the absurd claim that ratification of the CTBT wouldn't strengthen efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons and would actually encourage U.S. allies to pursue their own nuclear weapons.

Preventing nuclear testing not only denies proliferators a tool to develop new types of warhead, but the CTBT is a vital to broader U.S. nonproliferation goals. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) would not likely have been renewed indefinitely in 1995 without the pledge from the U.S. and the other original nuclear powers to stop testing, support the CTBT, and conclude test ban negotiations by the end of 1996.

If Washington continues to hesitate on the CTBT, the United States will have less leverage to strengthen nuclear safeguards, tighten controls on nuclear weapons-related technology, and isolate states that don't follow the nonproliferation rules.

CTBT proponents do not claim that an end to U.S. testing or further superpower nuclear arms reductions would directly lead other states, such as Iran, to give up their nuclear ambitions. Such a direct link is overly simplistic.

As Ellen Tauscher, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, said in a speech in Omaha on July 29, 2010: "We are not so naïve as to believe that problem states will end their proliferation programs if the United States and Russia reduce our nuclear arsenals. But we are confident that progress in this area will reinforce the central role of the NPT and help us build support to sanction or engage states on favorable terms to us. Our collective ability to bring the weight of international pressure against proliferators would be undermined by a lack of effort towards disarmament."

To date, 182 states have signed the CTBT. All of the United States' major allies-including all members of NATO-support the CTBT. They expect and even encourage the United States to act on the CTBT.  After nearly 19 years without nuclear testing, the United States' friends and foes have little doubt that the United States nuclear arsenal is effective and reliable.

Nevertheless, the Heritage Foundation's latest blogpost "Nuclear Weapons Testing Remains Necessary" suggests that allies that rely on the credibility of the U.S. nuclear deterrent would be "incentivized to develop their own nuclear weapons capabilities" if the United States ratified the CTBT.

Really?  Our actual allies don't seem to agree.

As recently as April 29, the foreign ministers of 10 key U.S. allies-Australia, Germany, Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates-issued a statement calling on "all states which have not yet done so to sign and ratify the CTBT."

"We believe that an effective end to nuclear testing will enhance and not weaken our national as well as global security and would significantly bolster the global non-proliferation and disarmament regime," their statement added.

Bottom Line
Nuclear testing is a dangerous and unnecessary vestige of the last century that the United States has already given up. By ratifying the CTBT, the United States stands to lose nothing and gain an important constraint on the nuclear weapons capabilities of others that could pose a threat to U.S. security.

The Senate's reconsideration of the CTBT should be based not on myths from the past, but on an honest and up-to-date analysis of the facts and the issues at stake. - DARYL G. KIMBALL


Volume 2, Issue 9, June 20, 2011

After 1,030 U.S. nuclear test explosions, there is simply no technical or military rationale for the United States to resume nuclear explosive testing. At the same time, it is in the U.S. national security interest to prevent nuclear weapons testing by others.

NNSA Weapons Complex Funding: Only in Washington Is More Considered "Less"

by Daryl G. Kimball Yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee marked up the fiscal year 2012 Energy and Water Appropriations bill, which includes funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration's nuclear weapons activities, commonly referred to as the "nuclear weapons complex." Early news accounts have overlooked the fact that the House Energy and Water Appropriations bill would increase—not decrease—the NNSA weapons activities budget above the previous year's level, and has allocated more than enough money to keep programs on track but not so much as to be fiscally irresponsible...

Administration Gearing Up for CTBT Push

Daryl G. Kimball

The Obama administration is preparing to kick off a public education campaign to generate support in the Senate for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher said May 10.

Speaking at the Arms Control Association’s annual meeting in Washington, Tauscher said the focus of the campaign, which will be aimed at the public as well as senators, “is to get the facts out.”

The United States has no need to conduct nuclear tests, in part because the Department of Energy’s Stockpile Stewardship Program “go[es] a step beyond explosive testing by enabling the [U.S. national laboratories] to anticipate problems in advance and reduce their potential impact on our arsenal, something that nuclear testing could not do,” she said. The CTBT’s entry into force “will obligate other states not to test and provide a disincentive for states to conduct such tests,” she said. Also, she argued, the United States has increased its ability “to catch those who cheat.”

When the CTBT last came up for a vote, in 1999, it drew the support of 48 senators, well short of the two-thirds majority needed for approval of a treaty. The debate leading up to that vote was “too short and too politicized,” Tauscher said. Vowing not to “repeat [the] mistakes” of 1999, Tauscher said, “[W]e will make a more forceful case when we are certain the facts have been carefully examined and reviewed in a thoughtful process.”

Tauscher said she “cannot predict” when the vote will take place. Two senators who spoke at the May 10 meeting and are members of the Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), said they did not expect it before the 2012 presidential elections. Casey said it “obviously [would] be preferable” to act before then, but said, “I don’t have a high degree of confidence that we will.”


The Obama administration is preparing to kick off a public education campaign to generate support in the Senate for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher said May 10.

South Asia Is A More Dangerous Place After the 1998 Nuclear Tests

By Daryl G. Kimball Thirteen years after the May 1998 Indian and Pakistani nuclear test explosions, South Asia is a more dangerous place. India's May 11 and 13 nuclear test explosions were its first since its inaugural nuclear weapons test in 1974. Pakistan responded soon thereafter and conducted its first nuclear weapons test detonations (five) on May 28 in the Chagai Hills region. The nuclear tests immediately increased tensions in the region and shocked the world. In India and Pakistan, the test stirred up an orgy of nuclear nationalism in some quarters and prompted protest in others...

CTBT Monitors Assist in Fukushima Aftermath

Robert Golan-Vilella

The monitoring system associated with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has tracked the spread of radioactive particles from Japan’s damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and used models to predict their future paths, the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) said in a recent series of statements.

The system’s seismic and hydroacoustic components also helped provide emergency warnings in the minutes immediately after an earthquake occurred off the coast of Japan March 11, the CTBTO said. The earthquake caused a tsunami that devastated the Fukushima reactor complex and the surrounding area.

Radioactive particles released from the damaged reactors and spent fuel storage pools have scattered across the world. The materials were detected the next day at the Takasaki radionuclide monitoring station in Japan, 250 kilometers from the plant, according to an April 13 statement by the CTBTO. The particles spread throughout the Northern Hemisphere over the next 15 days, and on April 13, they were detected in the Southern Hemisphere, the CTBTO reported.

The radionuclide monitoring stations that detected the Fukushima fallout are part of the International Monitoring System, a global network of facilities that, when completed, will consist of 337 stations designed to help detect nuclear weapons test explosions. There are four types of monitoring stations: radionuclide stations, which detect radioactive particles emitted from nuclear reactions into the atmosphere; seismic stations, which can detect tremors produced by explosions underground; infrasound stations, which monitor low-frequency atmospheric waves that are produced by nuclear test blasts; and hydroacoustic stations, which measure sound waves in the oceans.

According to the CTBTO, the levels of ionizing radioactivity detected outside Japan are “far below levels that could cause harm to humans and the environment” and are comparable to natural background radiation.

The CTBTO’s monitoring system and InternationalDataCenter in Vienna also have been used to forecast the spread of the radioactivity from the Fukushima reactors. The CTBTO’s atmospheric transport modeling tool uses meteorological data to calculate the travel path of a given radionuclide. In the case of a suspected nuclear explosion, the agency would use “back tracking” modeling to try to determine where the material originated. Following the Fukushima disaster, it used “forward” modeling to predict where the radioactive particles would go. The CTBTO’s statement said that its models were “95% correct as the radionuclides reached the stations mostly within hours of the time predicted.”

The CTBTO operates the global monitoring system in preparation for the test ban treaty’s entry into force. Nearly 80 percent of the system’s planned monitoring facilities are currently operational; another 13 percent are either being tested or under construction.

Two of the system’s other elements—the seismic and hydroacoustic stations—also played a role in the initial moments after the earthquake. According to a March 11 CTBTO press release, more than 20 seismic and hydroacoustic stations sent data in real time to tsunami warning centers in the region. The press release said that this information contributed to the warning centers’ ability to issue rapid alerts, as the CTBTO’s monitoring data arrives as much as three minutes faster than data from other sources.

CTBTO member states first decided to allow data from the monitoring system to be used for “disaster mitigation purposes” following the deadly Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004. In August 2008, the CTBTO and Japan signed a bilateral agreement that officially authorized Japan to use CTBTO data to issue warnings in the event of a tsunami, as it did after the March 11 earthquake.



In the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the monitoring system linked to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has tracked and projected the spread of radioactive particles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.


NNSA supercomputers: another reason we don't need nuclear test explosions

By Daryl G. Kimball The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has just released a new video and blogpost on the role of their supercomputers in the nuclear weapons stockpile stewardship program--a role that has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 15 years or so. One message that comes across is that the nuclear weapons labs know more about the physics of nuclear weapons today than they did in the days of nuclear test explosions ... and that old myths and assertions about the necessity of nuclear test explosions need to be revisited. For instance, back in 1992 when we were all...

Obama Still Committed to Nuclear Test Ban Ratification

By Tom Z. Collina and Daryl G. Kimball The Obama administration is "committed" to working with Senators of both parties to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), National Security Advisor Tom Donilon said March 29, "just as we did for New START." This was one of the most significant, high-level statements from a senior administration official on the test ban since April 2009, when President Obama called on the Senate to reconsider the treaty. Donilon said the administration would stress three essential points as it makes its case to the Senate and the American people. "First," he...

Reconsider the Nuclear Test Ban

Daryl G. Kimball

Ten years ago, President Bill Clinton asked Gen. John Shalikashvili, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to review issues surrounding the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in the aftermath of the Senate’s 1999 rejection of the treaty. His 2001 report concluded that “the advantages of the Test Ban Treaty outweigh any disadvantages, and thus that ratification would increase national security. For the sake of future generations, it would be unforgivable to neglect any reasonable action that can help prevent nuclear proliferation, as the Test Ban Treaty clearly would.”

Today, a growing, bipartisan list of national security leaders agrees that it is past time to heed the general’s advice and reconsider the value of the CTBT. After 1,030 U.S. nuclear test explosions, there is simply no technical or military rationale for
the United States to resume nuclear explosive testing. At the same time, U.S. ratification of the treaty would reduce the risk that other countries might conduct nuclear tests that could improve their nuclear capabilities.

In China’s case, a new round of test explosions would allow it to miniaturize warhead designs and put multiple warheads on its relatively small arsenal of strategic ballistic missiles—a move that could allow a rapid increase in its nuclear strike capability. Without nuclear weapons test explosions, potential nuclear-armed countries such as Iran would not be able to proof-test the more advanced, smaller nuclear warhead designs needed to deliver such weapons using ballistic missiles.

Given Tehran’s advancing uranium-enrichment and missile capabilities, it is important to establish additional barriers against a sophisticated Iranian nuclear weapons capability in the years ahead.

U.S. action on the CTBT would prompt a chain reaction of ratifications by the eight other holdout states, including China and India, and advance the prospects for entry into force.

Yet, in order to explode the myths and misperceptions that have blocked progress toward U.S. ratification in the past, President Barack Obama must step up his efforts and engage the Senate in an in-depth dialogue on the treaty. For their part, all senators must take their national security responsibility seriously and thoroughly review the new evidence that has accumulated in favor of approving the CTBT.

For instance, in 1992 then-Rep. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) claimed, “[A]s long as we have a nuclear deterrent, we have got to test it in order to ensure that it is safe and it is reliable.” Now it is abundantly clear that this assertion is wrong.

The nuclear weapons laboratory directors report they now have a deeper understanding of the arsenal than ever before. Since 1994, each warhead type in the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal has been determined to be safe and reliable; life extension programs have refurbished and modernized major warhead types. A 2009 study by JASON, the independent technical review panel, concluded that the “lifetimes of today’s nuclear warheads could be extended for decades, with no anticipated loss in confidence.” Age-related defects in non-nuclear components can be expected, but nuclear explosive testing is not needed to discover these problems or address them.

The Obama administration’s unprecedented $85 billion, 10-year plan for upgrading the nuclear weapons complex should give senators greater confidence that there is a long-term strategy and more than enough funding to continue to maintain the U.S. arsenal effectively. The administration’s $7.6 billion request for National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) weapons activities for fiscal year 2012 is almost 19 percent higher than the $6.4 billion appropriated by Congress for fiscal year 2010. As NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino recently told Arms Control Today, “[I]n my opinion, we have a safe and secure and reliable stockpile. There’s no need to conduct underground [nuclear] testing.”

Despite a decade of advances in national and international nuclear monitoring capabilities, Sen. Kyl and a few other critics repeat the age-old charge that the absence of clandestine tests cannot be verified with absolute certainty. This argument misses the point on verification and implies that low-yield tests are worth the high risk of getting caught. No would-be cheater could be confident that a nuclear explosion of sufficient yield to possibly threaten U.S. security would escape detection.

The United States’ ability to detect and deter possible clandestine nuclear testing will only increase with the CTBT’s global monitoring network and the option of short-notice on-site inspections. Many of the 337 monitoring stations are inside Russia, China, and other sensitive locations—places where the United States simply cannot gain access on its own.

Failure to ratify the CTBT diminishes the United States’ ability to detect, deter, and confront proliferators. The United States stands to lose nothing while gaining an important constraint on the nuclear weapons capabilities of others that could pose a threat to U.S. security. The time to reconsider the CTBT is now.

Ten years ago, President Bill Clinton asked Gen. John Shalikashvili, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to review issues surrounding the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in the aftermath of the Senate’s 1999 rejection of the treaty. His 2001 report concluded that “the advantages of the Test Ban Treaty outweigh any disadvantages, and thus that ratification would increase national security. For the sake of future generations, it would be unforgivable to neglect any reasonable action that can help prevent nuclear proliferation, as the Test Ban Treaty clearly would.”

ACA Senior Fellow Discusses Next Steps in Arms Control



What’s Up Next in Arms Control?

Prepared Remarks by Greg Thielmann, Senior Fellow, Arms Control Association
Grinnell College Roundtable
March 14, 2011

In order to answer the question I have posed, I will first turn to what the Obama administration has said it would do and recall what it has done so far.

The First Two Years

Three months into his term, President Obama delivered a speech in Prague, the Czech Republic, laying out an ambitious agenda to move the world away from reliance on nuclear weapons, with the ultimate goal of eliminating them entirely.

Over its first two years, the Obama administration has been extraordinarily busy pushing a number of concrete steps to reduce the number and role of nuclear weapons, end nuclear testing, secure fissile material, and strengthen implementation of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

In April 2010 the administration completed a new Nuclear Posture Review that narrows the role of U.S. nuclear weapons and rules out the need for new types of nuclear warheads.

Later that month, Obama hosted an international Nuclear Security Summit that produced an action plan for securing the most vulnerable nuclear materials within four years instead of the eight years that had been planned.

In May, the U.S. led the 2010 NPT Review Conference to a successful conclusion with a 64-point action plan.  This was in contrast to a disastrous NPT Review Conference in 2005, which could not agree on any action plan, leaving many in despair for the future of the treaty.

At the UN, the administration pushed through a tougher set of targeted sanctions on Iran in response to NPT safeguards violations.  UN and unilateral sanctions have slowed down Iran’s nuclear program, buying some time and leverage for the pursuit of a deal to establish sufficient transparency to ensure the program is not used to produce weapons.

The biggest achievement so far has been negotiating and ratifying the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).  The President and his team negotiated the treaty with the Russians within the first year, and then, just in time for Christmas 2010, won Senate approval, turning back treaty-killing amendments that would have required renegotiation with Russia.

New START eventually won bipartisan support, passing 71-26.  Put simply it sets new, modestly lower limits on Russian and U.S. deployed warheads and delivery systems and re-establishes a robust, up-to-date monitoring system to verify compliance.  Later this month, a significant amount of data on strategic forces will be exchanged between the US and Russia.  45 days later, teams of inspectors will travel to sensitive strategic sites in both countries for the first time since the original START treaty expired in December 2009.

New START will increase predictability and transparency through enhanced on-site inspections that will provide more information on the status of Russian strategic forces than was available under the original START accord.

New START has already helped reset U.S.-Russian relations and boosted U.S.-Russian cooperation to contain Iran’s nuclear program and secure vulnerable nuclear material, and of course it opens the way for further Russian and U.S. nuclear arms reductions.

By any measure, there has been considerable progress toward the longstanding U.S. goal—as reiterated by the President in Prague—of peace and security in a “world without nuclear weapons.”

But New START and these other initiatives are just that—a start. There is much more that needs to be done to reduce the nuclear weapons danger.

What’s Now?

Deeper, Broader, and Faster Nuclear Reductions

New START is a vital step, but it will leave the United States and Russia with far more strategic warheads, missiles and bombers than is needed to deter nuclear attack.  In fact, even after New START reductions are implemented, there will still be roughly 19,000 nuclear weapons worldwide, most of which are held by the two treaty signatories.

President Obama and his team have said the United States and Russia can and should pursue further verifiable reductions of all types of nuclear weapons—strategic and tactical, deployed and non-deployed.

Informal, early discussions are now underway. We believe the two sides can and should initiate formal talks before the end of this year.

The goal should be to establish a single, verifiable limit on the total number of nuclear weapons for each nation.  This overall limit would be in addition to a sublimit on the number of deployed strategic weapons—the traditional focus of reductions. This overall limit is important.  As the numbers of deployed strategic weapons shrink, nondeployed and nonstrategic warheads and their delivery systems have to be addressed.  It is also important that the most advanced nuclear arms control process establishes useful precedents for ultimately involving all nuclear-armed states – for example, by adopting a simple unit of measure that can facilitate transparency, accounting, and controls.

How low can U.S. and Russia go in the next round now that the sides have agreed to limits of 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear weapons?  From a geo-strategic standpoint, neither Russia nor the United States can justify more than a few hundred nuclear warheads each (including both strategic and tactical, deployed and non-deployed) to deter nuclear attack by any current or potential adversary.

ACA published a study in 2005 (“What Are Nuclear Weapons For?”) that outlines the rationale for a smaller nuclear force, 500 deployed strategic and 500 nondeployed strategic warheads on a smaller, mainly submarine-based triad. In a recent Foreign Affairs article, others have also argued that it is possible to get down to 1,000 warheads without weakening security on either side.

Of course there is the intriguing article in Strategic Studies Quarterly that concludes the United States could "draw down its nuclear arsenal to a relatively small number of survivable, reliable weapons dispersed among missile silos, submarines, and airplanes." Those authors argue that such a force might number only 311 nuclear weapons.

My own wish is that lower numbers will induce the U.S. military to push for movement away from the triad to a diad.  If we can give up the nuclear bomber leg of the triad, relying on the two most responsive and reliable legs, Navy SLBMs and Air Force ICBMs, we will save a lot of money and more easily move to lower numbers.  Of course many Members of Congress and nuclear theologians seem to confuse the triad with the Holy Trinity, but I note with satisfaction that even the Air Force Association recently argued that bombers should give up their nuclear weapons delivery mission.

For Russia such a negotiation would help address its concerns about the relatively larger U.S. upload potential that exists due to our larger number of delivery systems and reserve strategic warheads.

For the United States, such a negotiation would finally lead to an accounting of and reduction in Russia’s relatively larger and possibly insecure stockpile of stored and deployed tactical nuclear bombs.

Such reductions should, ideally, be secured through a New START follow-on treaty with robust verification methods.

However, given that the next round of talks will likely be more complex and time consuming and the new Congress is generally more suspicious of arms control, there are other nuclear risk reduction steps that should be pursued at the same time. For example:

  • The United States and Russia can achieve the reductions mandated by New START well ahead of the 2018 implementation deadline; and
  • President Obama needs to make good on promises to phase-out obsolete Cold War nuclear targeting plans and prompt launch requirements, which help perpetuate excessive deployments and raise the risk of catastrophic nuclear miscalculation. In a September 2009 Q & A published in Arms Control Today, then-candidate Obama said: “Keeping nuclear weapons ready to launch on a moment’s notice is a dangerous relic of the Cold War.”

The NPR recommends consideration of measures to maximize the time the Commander-In-Chief has to make a decision to use nuclear weapons.  A reliable and credible U.S. nuclear deterrent does not require the ability to retaliate immediately, but only the assurance that U.S. nuclear forces and command-and-control systems would survive an attack. Now is the time to implement these measures.

The Obama administration and NATO must also work through two other issues that could complicate further, deeper U.S.-Russian nuclear force reductions.

First, Russia is and will likely remain resistant to meaningful limits on tactical nuclear weapons so long as the U.S. continues to deploy even a small number of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe.  As the new NATO Strategic Concept and U.S. military commanders acknowledge, these weapons have no military role in the defense of NATO.  Some may believe these weapons have a function as a bargaining chip or are symbols of the United States commitment to NATO.  Whether they are or are not, they are clearly obsolete relics of the Cold War.

To clear the way for a potential agreement with Russia on reciprocal measures to account for and reduce tactical nuclear weapons, the United States and NATO should agree to eliminate any formal alliance requirement for U.S. tactical nuclear warheads in Europe.

Second, Washington and NATO must work with Moscow to achieve meaningful U.S.-Russian cooperation on strategic ballistic missile defense.  Otherwise, future deployment of large numbers of U.S. missile defense interceptors targeting Russian strategic missiles could undermine the prospects for future nuclear reductions and exacerbate East-West tensions.

New START sidesteps long-standing U.S. and Russian differences over strategic missile defense – the parties essentially agree to disagree.  But the next agreement cannot avoid the realities of the offense-defense relationship.

When Obama shelved Bush administration plans to deploy an untested strategic interceptor system in Poland within five years, he was attacked by critics for placating Russia.  However Obama’s alternative, the “Phased, Adaptive Approach,” made far more sense from the perspective of Europe and the United States, as well as Russia.  It would provide a better capability to address current threats to southeastern Europe from Iran’s short- and medium-range conventional missiles and would obviously not threaten Russia’s strategic nuclear retaliatory potential through the current decade.  Because the plan is coherent, it automatically raises less Russian suspicions and thus creates the potential for cooperation rather than confrontation with Russia.

However, unless there is meaningful U.S.-Russian cooperation on strategic ballistic missile defense or limits on future deployment of U.S. interceptors, we will be forced to make a trade-off:  Either future reductions in eliminating real U.S. and Russian strategic weapons or nominal gains in defending against future imagined Iranian missiles.

Let there be no mistake, in the nuclear arms race, we are mostly racing with ourselves.  The only potential adversary, other than Russia, with nuclear-tipped strategic missiles is China and we have about 30 times more deployed strategic warheads.  Clearly we can go lower, and if we do, we can start engaging with the other nuclear powers in multilateral reductions.


Not only must the U.S. and Russia further build down their own arsenals, they must work harder to prevent the nuclear arsenals of other states from being built up. To succeed, the United States needs to solidify the global moratorium on nuclear test explosions by ratifying the Comprehensive nuclear Test Ban Treaty and to revive efforts for a global ban on fissile material production.

In Prague, President Obama called for ratification of the CTBT.  Today, the national security case for the test ban treaty is even stronger than it was when the Senate considered it in 1999.  Nearly two decades after the last U.S. nuclear test explosion, it is clear that the United States no longer needs or wants nuclear testing.  We have invested heavily in ensuring the reliability of our existing warheads without explosive testing. Over the past decade, life extension programs have successfully refurbished existing types of nuclear warheads.  Last December, the directors of the three U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories wrote that the administration’s $85 billion funding plan provides "adequate support" to sustain the U.S. nuclear arsenal indefinitely.  The lab directors' endorsement should put to rest any lingering doubts about the adequacy of U.S. plans to ensure a safe, secure and reliable nuclear stockpile under the CTBT.

Moreover, we know that further testing by other nuclear weapons states—including China, India, Pakistan—could help improve their nuclear capabilities.  We know that nuclear proliferants like North Korea or Iran cannot develop a reliable arsenal without testing.  So we are essentially abiding by the requirements of the CTBT without accruing the nonproliferation and security benefits.

Reasonable Senators should be able to understand this logic and be able to understand that the old arguments against the CTBT no longer hold water.  As former Secretary of State George Shultz said in 2009, “Republican Senators might have been right voting against the CTBT some years ago, but they would be right voting for it now.”

It is time that the Obama administration seriously engage the Senate on the subject so that the Senate can reconsider and vote on the treaty at the appropriate time—something the White House has not yet done.

In 2009, Obama also pledged to “lead a global effort” to negotiate a verifiable FMCT. The problem is that the 65-nation Conference on Disarmament (CD) where this negotiation occurs operates on the basis of consensus.  The FMCT is currently blocked due to opposition from Pakistan, which is locked in an arms race with India.

If talks at the CD do not begin soon, the Obama administration should pursue parallel, open-ended talks involving the eight states with fissile material production facilities that are not legally required to be under international safeguards. Even if talks do begin, they will likely drag on for years.

To hasten progress, the Obama administration should be prepared to act more boldly by proposing that all states with facilities not subject to safeguards should agree voluntarily to suspend fissile material production pending the conclusion of the FMCT.


The next steps in arms control will not be easy but none of the previous steps were either.  The American people expect their leaders to take action to reduce the nuclear weapons threat.  Additional pragmatic steps to reduce nuclear risk are essential and urgent.  Doing nothing is not an option.



Prepared Remarks by Greg Thielmann, Senior Fellow, Arms Control Association at Grinnell College Roundtable.

Funding for U.S. Nuclear Triad Set to Grow

Tom Z. Collina

President Barack Obama last month sent Congress a budget request for fiscal year 2012 that would significantly increase funding for maintenance of the nuclear stockpile, modernization of the weapons production complex, upgrades to strategic delivery systems, and deployment of ballistic missile interceptors.

All told, these commitments, which were key to winning Department of Defense and Senate support for the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), would add up to almost $300 billion over the next decade. The budget documents add specifics to the earlier commitments.

The administration is requesting $7.6 billion for Weapons Activities at the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semiautonomous agency within the Department of Energy. This request for fiscal year 2012 represents an increase of $620 million, or almost 9 percent, over the 2011 request and 19 percent more than approved by Congress for fiscal year 2010.

The increased NNSA Weapons Activities budget for fiscal year 2011 was approved as part of the continuing resolution (CR) that Congress passed in December and was one of the few programs to receive an increase above fiscal year 2010 levels. The CR lasts only through March; Congress is working on another CR to fund the government for the remaining months in the current fiscal year.

Speaking Feb. 16 at a nuclear policy conference in Arlington, Va., NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino said that the fiscal year 2012 budget was “the first payment on the $85 billion commitment” that the administration made last November as part of the updated “National Defense Authorization Act of FY 2010 Section 1251 Report.” (See ACT, December 2010.) The November version was an update of a congressionally required report, issued last May, in which the administration outlined its plans to ramp up the weapons activities budget over the next decade.

As a Senate condition for New START’s entry into force, which occurred Feb. 5 (see p. 36), Obama certified Feb. 2 that he would request full funding for two major NNSA weapons-related construction projects: the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) project in New Mexico and the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) in Tennessee. Construction projects account for the largest growth area in the Weapons Activities budget, increasing by $477 million, or 26 percent, for a total 2012 request of $2.3 billion.

The CMRR is to be built at Los Alamos National Laboratory to support the production of 50 to 80 plutonium components, or “pits,” per year. The administration’s fiscal year 2012 request calls for $300 million for the CMRR, a 33 percent increase from the fiscal year 2011 appropriation. Facility construction, which is projected to be completed by 2023, is estimated to cost between $3.7 billion and $5.9 billion. The UPF at the Y-12 National Security Complex would replace aging facilities for uranium-component handling. The administration is requesting $160 million for the UPF for fiscal year 2012, a 39 percent increase from fiscal year 2011. The facility is projected to cost between $4.2 billion and $6.5 billion and be completed by 2024. Both facilities could be operational by 2020, although completion could take longer. Cost and schedule for the CMRR and UPF will not be finalized until the projects achieve 90 percent design maturity, which the NNSA says they will achieve in late 2012.

The multibillion-dollar price tags for these facilities have raised the eyebrows of at least one veteran of the nuclear weapons complex, who said in a Feb. 25 interview that budget pressures may force the NNSA to redesign the facilities to make them smaller and more affordable. Otherwise, the large budgets for the CMRR and UPF could “starve the science program,” he said. He said both facilities could be reduced in size and cost if their basic designs were rethought. “You could cut the size of UPF by 50 percent if you rethink what you need to build,” he said.

According to the NNSA, its budget request “reflects the partnership” with the Defense Department “to modernize the nuclear deterrent.” Under the Obama administration’s spending plan, the Defense Department is to contribute a total of $2.2 billion to the NNSA weapons activities budget from fiscal year 2013 to 2016.

Within the weapons budget request, almost $2 billion is for Directed Stockpile Work, which ensures the operational readiness of the U.S. nuclear stockpile. The NNSA is extending the lifetimes of current warheads by 20 to 30 years, without nuclear explosive testing, by refurbishing warheads through the Lifetime Extension Program (LEP). Explosive testing is banned by the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which the United States has signed but not ratified.

New Life for B61 Bomb

In the administration’s budget request, funding for the LEP jumps by 93 percent, from $249 million in fiscal year 2011 to $497 million in fiscal year 2012. The bulk of the increase, $224 million, goes to extending the life of the B61 Mod 3, 4, and 7 nuclear bombs, which would be consolidated as the B61-12. Fewer than 100 B61-7 strategic bombs are deployed near B-2 heavy bombers based in the United States, and about 180 B61-3 and -4 tactical bombs are deployed at European bases in NATO, according to public estimates. Obama has announced his intention to seek agreement with Russia to reduce U.S. and Russian stockpiles of tactical weapons.

The B61 “primary” stage would be rebuilt with the existing nuclear pit, according to NNSA budget documents, and the “secondary” stage would utilize reused or remanufactured parts from the B61-4. In modern U.S. warheads, the fission energy from the primary ignites the fusion energy in the secondary, which can produce nuclear explosive yields of hundreds of kilotons. According to the NNSA, the B61 LEP includes consideration of “increasing safety, and improving the security and use control,” and “modifications could be employed to provide greater reliability; and components and materials with known compatibility and aging issues could be replaced, providing better alternatives.”

An LEP for the W76 warhead used on the Trident D-5 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), costing $257 million in 2012, began in 2008 and is scheduled to be completed by 2017, according to the administration’s budget documents. A lifetime extension study on the W78 warhead for the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) is also underway, with a budget of $26 million in 2011 and a requested increase to $51 million in 2012. The NNSA is considering reducing the number of warhead types by developing a common warhead to replace both the W78 and the newer warhead on Trident D-5s, the W88.

According to the NNSA budget proposal, “LEPs not only extend the life of weapons, but provide opportunities to enhance surety by installing enhanced safety and security features.” The goal of surety enhancements is to improve the safety (to prevent accidental detonation), security (to increase physical protection), and use control (to permit only authorized use) of the nuclear stockpile, the NNSA says. According to the budget request, “This approach is applicable to other future envisioned refurbishments and stockpile improvement projects needed, meeting both NNSA and Department of Defense…requirements.”

According to the former weapons complex official, the “major driver” of warhead lifetime extensions is the NNSA’s desire to retrofit all warheads to use insensitive high explosives (IHE), which are less prone to accidental detonation than conventional explosives. The B61 already has IHE, but the W78 and W88 do not. When these warheads are rebuilt, they would need to use a different primary design that uses IHE, such as the W87 warhead on the Minuteman III, the former official said. It is likely that Los Alamos would have to produce new pits for these new primaries, he said.

The NNSA’s stated intention to “enhance” existing warhead designs has led some experts to be concerned that, in the name of safety and security, changes could be made that cannot be certified through nuclear testing and thus may lead to reduced warhead reliability. They argue that deviating from already well-tested designs is unwarranted and should be minimized. Seeking to restrain changes to existing warheads, the April 2010 “Nuclear Posture Review [NPR] Report” laid out several principles to guide the life extension effort. (See ACT, May 2010.)

The NPR report states that life extensions “will use only nuclear components based on previously tested designs and will not support new military missions or provide for new military capabilities.” According to the report, “In any decision to proceed to engineering development for warhead LEPs, the Administration will give strong preference to options for refurbishment or reuse. Replacement of nuclear components would be undertaken only if critical Stockpile Management Program goals could not otherwise be met, and if specifically authorized by the President and approved by Congress.”

The NPR report thus puts a high fence around “replacement.” Replacement is the riskiest approach as it would use new warhead designs that are not currently in the stockpile although they would be based on tested designs. “Reuse” would take parts already in the stockpile and use them in different warheads. “Refurbishment” would use the same parts or rebuilt parts of the same design in the same warhead and thus represents the lowest-risk approach. A warhead design not in the stockpile and not based on a tested design would be considered a “new” weapon and is ruled out by the NPR report.

In April 2010, Senior White House Coordinator for WMD Counterterrorism and Arms Control Gary Samore said, “Replacement would be to make a weapon with a physics package that had been previously tested but is not currently deployed.… I think refurbishment and reuse will be perfectly fine for the foreseeable future.”

The NNSA is considering a currently unused diagnostic tool, called “scaled experiments,” to support life extensions “by providing data on plutonium behavior under compression by insensitive high explosives,” according to the agency’s budget documents. These experiments would explosively test a scaled-down hollow sphere or shell of plutonium, which would not reach criticality and thus would not violate the CTBT, which prohibits all nuclear test explosions. The United States has not conducted scaled experiments “in a long time,” D’Agostino said in a Feb. 18 interview. (The transcript of the interview, which covered a range of NNSA issues, will be published later this month.)

By contrast, since last September the NNSA has conducted three subcritical experiments, which do not use plutonium spheres. Before that, the NNSA had not conducted subcritical experiments for almost four years. In a March 1 e-mail to Arms Control Today, NNSA spokesman Damien LaVera said, “There was a pause in conducting subcritical experiments because NNSA decided to upgrade nuclear safety protocols at the facility in Nevada where they are performed.  That process took longer than anticipated.”

The NNSA has asked the JASON group of senior science and defense consultants to provide advice on the integration of scaled experiments with the ongoing stockpile stewardship program before the agency proceeds with such experiments, LaVera said.

The fiscal year 2012 budget request refers to the study in its description of the NNSA’s planned work in “advanced certification.” The budget document does not specify the amount requested for that study, but LaVera said it was $1.2 million.

Some sources who follow the issue closely say such experiments may be of marginal utility and could necessitate the construction of a large new testing facility in Nevada, possibly raising the suspicions of other countries.

Delivery Systems Get Boost

As required by the Senate’s New START resolution of ratification, Obama certified Feb. 2 that he intends to “modernize or replace the triad of strategic nuclear delivery systems,” including a heavy bomber and air-launched cruise missile (ALCM), an ICBM, and an SLBM and a nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine to launch it. These items are included in the $553 billion Defense Department budget request for fiscal year 2012. The administration’s May 2010 report on upgrading the nuclear deterrent states that, over the next decade, the United States will invest “well over $100 billion in nuclear delivery systems to sustain existing capabilities and modernize some strategic systems.”

The Pentagon’s fiscal year 2012 budget request includes $197 million for research and development on a new Air Force long-range bomber, either manned or unmanned, to be fielded in the mid-2020s. The Pentagon plans to spend $3.7 billion to develop the nuclear-capable aircraft over the next five years, with 80 to 100 aircraft ultimately planned.

The Air Force plans to retain the B-52 heavy bomber through at least 2035 for nuclear and conventional missions, with upgrades and life extensions to the fleet. The B-2 fleet is being upgraded as well.

The Defense Department intends to replace the current ALCM with the advanced long-range standoff cruise missile. The Air Force expects low-rate initial production of the new missile to begin approximately in 2025, while the current ALCM will be sustained through 2030.

The budget plan would spend $1.07 billion to develop a new ballistic missile submarine, the so-called SSBN(X), to replace the current Trident Ohio-class subs. The November version of the report on the U.S. nuclear deterrent states that the current subs have had their service life extended by a decade and will commence retirement in 2027. Construction for new submarines would begin in 2019 for first deployment in 2029. The estimated 2011-2020 cost for the new submarine is approximately $29.4 billion.

The November report said the Navy plans to sustain the Trident II D-5 missile, to be carried on the current Trident fleet and the next-generation submarine, through a least 2042.

Regarding ICBMs, the Air Force plans to sustain the Minuteman III through 2030. As stated in the NPR report, preparatory analysis on a new ICBM is underway, although a decision is not expected for several years. The fiscal year 2012 budget, however, does not contain $26 million that the administration pledged in November to spend on studying a next-generation ICBM. The omission is “a sign of things to come,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Feb. 17 at the Arlington conference. He said he saw it as showing “a gradual retreat.”

Ballistic Missile Defense: $100 Billion

Obama certified to the Senate that he would “continue development and deployment of United States missile defense systems” to defend against threats from North Korea and Iran. The certification covers all phases of the European Phased Adaptive Approach, the U.S. Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, and development of two-stage Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) missiles, originally planned for deployment in Europe, as a technological hedge.

The administration is requesting $10.7 billion for missile defense in fiscal year 2012, up from the current $10.2 billion. This total does not include $995.2 million for the Space Based Infrared System-High satellite program. Annual funding for missile defense is expected to remain roughly at $10 billion for the next decade.

The GMD system, which is meant to protect the United States from limited long-range missile attack from Iran and North Korea, is funded at $1.16 billion in fiscal year 2012, down from the $1.34 billion request for fiscal year 2011. In 2012 the GMD program plans to acquire six GBI missiles and order five more. Thirty GBI missiles currently are deployed in Alaska and California. The missiles have failed in their last two intercept tests, in January and December 2010. The Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has established a Failure Review Board to investigate the causes and recommend fixes. The next test, called FTG-06b, is planned for fiscal year 2012. The MDA plans to have 47 GBI missiles by 2016.

The fiscal year 2012 budget request asks for more than $2 billion for the phased approach, which calls for deployment of interceptors in Europe, starting this year, to establish a limited capability to intercept missiles from Iran. (See ACT, March 2010.) The MDA plans to deploy SM-3 missiles on Aegis ships and on land in Romania in 2015 and Poland in 2018. In fiscal year 2012, the MDA plans to procure 46 SM-3 Block IB interceptors and deliver the final six SM-3 Block IAs and 12 additional SM-3 Block IBs. The MDA is requesting funds to continue development for the SM-3 Block IIA and SM-3 IIB. By 2016 the MDA plans to have 113 Block IAs, 223 Block IBs, and five Block IIAs, for a total of 341 SM-3 missiles and 41 Aegis missile defense-capable ships. The SM-3 Block IIB, which would cost $1.7 billion through fiscal year 2016, is not scheduled for deployment until the fourth phase of the planned approach, called Early Intercept and Regional ICBM Defense, in 2020.

The requested budget for directed energy research, including the Airborne Laser (ABL), is $469 million through 2016. According to the 2010 “Ballistic Missile Defense Review Report,” this program has experienced repeated schedule delays and technical problems since its start in 1996; the aircraft-based laser has been shifted to a technology demonstration program. (See ACT, July/August 2009.) In 2009, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that the ABL “has significant affordability and technology problems and the program’s proposed operational role is highly questionable.”

The Pentagon announced that it would not support the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS), a joint program with Germany and Italy, past 2013. The system is intended to protect battlefield troops from short-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and aircraft and was slated for delivery in 2018. The program failed to perform within time and cost projections, despite some notable progress, the Pentagon said Feb. 14. “Our partners may go forward with some MEADS, but it is not our plan to do so,” Defense Department Comptroller Robert Hale said at a briefing for reporters on the budget request. The German government said Feb. 15 that it would abandon MEADS as well.


The fiscal year 2012 budget request would boost funding for maintenance of the nuclear stockpile, modernization of the weapons production complex, upgrades to strategic delivery systems, and deployment of missile defense interceptors.


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