Right after I graduated, I interned with the Arms Control Association. It was terrific.

– George Stephanopolous
Host of ABC's This Week
January 1, 2005
The United States and the Americas

U.S., Russia Broaden Strategic Dialogue

January/February 2022
By Daryl G. Kimball and Shannon Bugos

Senior U.S. and Russian officials have agreed to meet in Geneva on Jan. 10 to discuss a long list of security issues, including a wide-ranging set of Russian proposals that Moscow says are designed to provide “security guarantees.” In recent weeks, tensions have flared as Russian President Vladimir Putin stepped up Russian military activity near Ukraine, which Russia invaded in 2014, and complained about NATO military support for Ukraine and Georgia.

President Joe Biden speaks to the press as he departs the White House on Dec. 8, a day after a virtual summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Another virtual summit was held on Dec. 30 as tensions over Ukraine heated up.  (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)On Dec. 15, Karen Donfried, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, met Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who transmitted two draft agreements outlining political and military security guarantees Moscow wants from the United States and NATO. They include demands that NATO renounce any expansion eastward into states of the former Soviet bloc, including Ukraine, and limit troop and weapons deployments and military drills on NATO’s eastern flank.

Two days later, Russia published its proposals, one between Russia and the United States and another between Russia and NATO. “We hope that the United States will enter into serious talks with Russia in the near future regarding this matter, which has critical importance for maintaining peace and stability, using the Russian draft treaty and agreement as a starting point,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The White House quickly announced it would engage on the proposals, but insisted its European partners would also be involved. The Russian-U.S. strategic stability dialogue in Geneva is expected to be followed on Jan. 12 by talks in Brussels within the NATO-Russia Council, which has not met in more than two years.

“We’ll listen to Russia explain its proposals and the underlying concerns motivating them. We’ll respond and share our own concerns, and we do have many,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Jan. 4 of the Geneva meeting.

He stressed that the talks are narrowly focused on strategic stability matters and described the U.S. goal as being able to “identify a few issues where there might be enough common ground to continue discussions and ultimately address together.”

Price also emphasized that the talks would deal strictly with bilateral matters and “we’re not going to talk above the heads of our European allies and partners.”

On Dec. 30, President Joe Biden spoke with Putin on security matters, the second such conversation that month. According to a statement released by the White House, Biden “… urged Russia to deescalate tensions with Ukraine. He made clear that the United States and its allies and partners will respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine. President Biden also expressed support for diplomacy, starting early next year [and] reiterated that substantive progress in these dialogues can occur only in an environment of deescalation rather than escalation.”

The January meetings were scheduled as fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine continues and as concerns linger about Russia’s military activities along its common border with Ukraine. Last month, U.S. officials said Russia has amassed around 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border that could be used against Ukraine. On Dec. 25, Reuters reported that more than 10,000 Russian troops were leaving regions near Ukraine, including Crimea, Rostov, and Kuban, and returning to permanent bases in Russia.

The Russian-U.S. talks will occur in the context of the strategic stability dialogue launched after the June summit between Biden and Putin to discuss nuclear weapons-related issues. The previous two rounds, in July and September, were led by Ryabkov and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman.

The dialogue was originally designed to explore future arms control options. After the September dialogue, Moscow and Washington agreed to establish two working groups, one on “principles and objectives for future arms control” and the other on “capabilities and actions with strategic effects.”

How the broadened dialogue will affect progress toward negotiations on new nuclear arms control arrangements is not yet clear. Both sides have indicated interest in a new agreement or agreements to supersede the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which expires in February 2026. The treaty caps Russian and U.S. strategic nuclear arsenals at 1,550 deployed warheads and 700 deployed delivery vehicles and heavy bombers each. The Bilateral Consultative Commission, the treaty’s implementing body, last met Oct. 5–14 in Geneva.

One Russian security proposal calls for the United States not to deploy outside its borders any missiles formerly banned under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Under that treaty, the United States and the Soviet Union banned all nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, leading to the elimination of a total of 2,692 missiles.

After Washington withdrew from the accord in 2019, Putin proposed that the two countries impose a moratorium on the deployment of INF Treaty-range missiles and later added mutual verification measures to the proposal. Russia also indicated that its 9M729 cruise missile, which the United States alleged was a violation of the INF Treaty, would be covered by its proposal.

At the time, the Trump administration and NATO dismissed the Russian proposal. The Biden administration has not clarified whether it would consider the Russian concept or offer a counterproposal.

The draft Russian-U.S. agreement proposes that the two countries “shall undertake not to deploy ground-launched intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles outside their national territories, as well as in the areas of their national territories, from which such weapons can attack targets in the national territory of the other party.”

The draft Russian-NATO agreement also includes a moratorium, proposing that “the parties shall not deploy land-based intermediate- and short-range missiles in areas allowing them to reach the territory of the other parties.”

Additionally, Moscow proposed that Russia and the United States “refrain from deploying nuclear weapons outside their national territories” and “not train military and civilian personnel from non-nuclear countries to use nuclear weapons.”

This refers to the U.S.-NATO nuclear sharing agreement, under which Washington is estimated to deploy more than 100 B61 gravity bombs across Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey, with all but the Turkish air force assigned and trained to carry out nuclear strike missions with the U.S. weapons.

Bonnie Jenkins, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, outlined the key concepts for U.S. arms control efforts in a Sept. 6 speech. “First, we will look to capture new kinds of intercontinental-range nuclear delivery systems. Second, we will seek to address all nuclear warheads, including those which have not been limited previously, like so-called non-strategic nuclear weapons. Third, we will seek to retain limits on Russian intercontinental-range ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments after New START expires in 2026,” she said.

It remains unclear how the two sides could bridge their nuclear differences and when they might transition from the dialogue to more formal negotiations on a successor to New START. Biden said in June that “we’ll find out within the next six months to a year whether or not we actually have a strategic dialogue that matters.”

Russian, U.S. officials planned security talks for Jan. 10.

Congress Boosts Defense Budget By $25 Billion

January/February 2022
By Shannon Bugos

U.S. lawmakers have authorized a $25 billion increase to the annual defense policy bill’s topline, bringing the total to $768 billion. The total reflects bipartisan views that President Joe Biden’s proposal was insufficient to deter China and Russia and keep pace with inflation.

The B-21 Raider strategic bomber, shown here in an image provided by Northrup Grumman Corp., is among the weapons systems that will receive increased funding under the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act. (Photo by Northrup Grumman Corp.)The fiscal year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), approved by Congress in December, “makes great progress,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said. “It addresses a broad range of pressing issues, from strategic competition with China and Russia; to disruptive technologies like hypersonics, [artificial intelligence,] and quantum computing; to modernizing our ships, aircraft, and vehicles.” The committee’s version of the NDAA, passed July 21, included the $25 billion increase to the administration’s NDAA request of $743 billion.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, said the NDAA “bolsters our national security” and “prepare[s] our military to face the ever-growing threat of China.” Rogers had introduced an amendment in the committee for the boost to the request, which the committee approved in its version of the NDAA on Sept. 2.

The House passed the NDAA on Sept. 23, but the Senate deadlocked over the legislation and failed to pass its own version. The leaders of the respective armed services committees then bypassed the usual conference committee, during which the chambers reconcile their respective versions of a bill, and negotiated a final compromise bill between themselves.

The House passed the compromise NDAA on Dec. 7 by a vote of 363–70, and the Senate followed with an 88–11 vote on Dec. 15. Biden signed the legislation into law on Dec. 27, marking the 61st consecutive year that an NDAA has been enacted.

“This bill represents compromise between both parties and chambers—as a result, every single member involved has something in it they like and something that didn’t get into the bill that they wish had,” said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) in a Dec. 7 statement. “Ultimately, our responsibility as a Congress to provide for the common defense supersedes these areas of disagreement, making the substance of this bill and its signature into law critical.”

But the NDAA only authorizes the funding. Congress has yet to pass the defense and energy and water appropriations bills, which appropriate actual spending, and is not expected to do so until at least mid-February, when the continuing resolution passed on Dec. 2 expires.

The legislation authorizes a total $5.1 billion for the construction and continued research and development of what ultimately will be a fleet of 12 Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines, an increase of $138 million from Biden’s budget request. (See ACT, July/August 2021.) The Senate summary of the legislation attributed part of the cost to the need for “industrial base development and expansion.”

The NDAA includes the $15.2 million requested by the Defense and Energy departments for the development of a new sea-launched cruise missile (SLCM) and its associated low-yield nuclear warhead. The House Appropriations Committee has zeroed out this funding in its version of the fiscal year 2022 appropriations bill, therefore leaving the possibility that this SLCM program ultimately may not receive any funding.

The Trump administration proposed this controversial SLCM program in its 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). (See ACT, March 2018.) The NDAA would exert some oversight over the program by restricting travel by select Navy staff until the department releases the analysis of alternatives for the new capability and briefs Congress on it.

Congress authorized the Air Force’s $3 billion request for the B-21 Raider strategic bomber program, including $108 million for initial procurement. The legislation also approved the service’s $609 million request for the long-range standoff (LRSO) weapons program to replace the existing air-launched cruise missile (ALCM), a 58 percent increase from the fiscal year 2021 authorization.

Bloomberg reported in July that the projected total cost of the development and procurement phases of the LRSO program will fall between $14.2 billion and $16.2 billion, an increase of 30 to 50 percent from the Air Force’s 2016 estimate. (See ACT, September 2021.) In the 2022 NDAA, Congress prohibited the awarding of the LRSO procurement contract until the Pentagon conducts additional cost analysis and justifies the awarding of a sole-source contract for the program. The Air Force announced in April 2020 that Raytheon would be the sole contractor for the LRSO program and awarded the company a $2 billion development contract in July 2021. (See ACT, September 2021; May 2020.)

The legislation also provided $2.6 billion for continued R&D and initial missile procurement for the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program, the same as the Biden budget request and $1.1 billion more than the previous year’s authorization. The GBSD missiles are slated to replace the fleet of 400 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) beginning in 2029.

The Pentagon requested in late 2021 a report by the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace by the end of January on potential options for the future of the land-based leg of the nuclear triad, but the administration’s Nuclear Posture Review is scheduled for release around the same time, casting doubt on how influential the Carnegie report could be.

Meanwhile, there has been significant pushback from Congress on downsizing or eliminating the ICBM leg, as evidenced by the NDAA provision that bars any 2022 funding from going toward reducing the number of deployed ICBMs below 400.

The Carnegie report will help “to make sure we surface the full range of viewpoints across the political spectrum, tension points, and key considerations, so that the Department can benefit from those insights during the NPR process,” Colin Kahl, undersecretary of defense for policy, wrote in a Nov. 8 letter to Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). The senator had written Kahl in September following the abrupt departure of the department’s lead on the NPR process, Leonor Tomero, deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy, from the Pentagon. (See ACT, December 2021.)

In addition to the NPR, which began in July, the Pentagon is working on two other complementary studies, the National Defense Strategy and the Missile Defense Review, which began in June. (See ACT, September and October 2021.) The White House is also working on the National Security Strategy, which helps to guide these three Pentagon documents. Kahl said on Dec. 8 that the National Security Strategy will be released “early in the new year,” to be followed by the National Defense Strategy.

Relatedly, the NDAA mandates the establishment of a congressional commission to examine and offer recommendations regarding the long-term U.S. strategic posture, including a strategic threat assessment and a review of nuclear weapons policy, strategy, and force structure.

In the 2022 legislation, Congress also authorized the Army’s request of $286 million for the development of a conventional, ground-launched, midrange missile capability. The service announced in 2020 its selection of the Navy’s Standard Missile-6 and Tomahawk cruise missile to serve as the bases for this capability. (See ACT, January/February 2021.) Both missiles likely would have been prohibited under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, from which the United States withdrew in August 2019.

The overall national defense topline, including defense-related activities outside the scope of the armed services committees, is anticipated to be $778 billion for fiscal year 2022, a 3.4 percent increase from the administration’s request. In the coming years, the Pentagon is expected to face tough choices as the defense budget is projected to experience no growth beyond inflation adjustments.

The Energy Department’s semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which maintains and modernizes the nuclear warhead stockpile, received a total of $16 billion for its nuclear weapons activities account, a $497 million increase from the Biden administration’s request. Congress gave the NNSA a mammoth 24 percent increase in its 2021 authorization compared to the previous year and set the agency on track to request and thus far receive a larger annual budget than projections had anticipated.

The NDAA will provide the requested funds for the B61-12 gravity bomb, the W87-1 ICBM warhead, and the W80-4 ALCM warhead upgrade at $772 million, $691 million, and $1.1 billion, respectively. Congress also authorized the requested $1.6 billion to increase the production rate of plutonium pits for nuclear warheads to at least 80 per year at two production sites.

In addition, U.S. lawmakers approved funding for other controversial NNSA programs proposed by the Trump administration and continued by the Biden administration. These include the new high-yield submarine-launched ballistic missile warhead (W93), along with an associated aeroshell, for $134 million, and the megaton-class B83-1 gravity bomb for $98.5 million.

Meanwhile, Congress for the second year in a row slashed the Pentagon’s proposal for a layered homeland missile defense system. The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has plans to adapt the Aegis missile defense and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) systems, both designed to defeat short- and intermediate-range missiles, to intercept limited ICBM threats, which is currently the aim of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system based in Alaska and California.

Congress made an 87 percent reduction in the $99 million MDA request for adapting the Aegis system to supplement the GMD system due to “lack of requirement,” according to the budget documents. The law also zeroed out $65 million that was requested to demonstrate THAAD capabilities against longer-range threats, as the request was “unjustified” and “lacking [an] acquisition strategy.”

But lawmakers funded the $745 million R&D request for the GMD system, as well as $926 million for the development of the Next Generation Interceptor (NGI) missile. The Pentagon plans to supplement the existing 44 ground-based interceptors with 20 NGI missiles beginning not later than 2028, a timeline endorsed by the NDAA, so as to bring the fleet total to 64.

Congress once again boosted the Cooperative Threat Reduction program after receiving a greatly reduced budget request from previous appropriation levels. This program is aimed at reducing threats from weapons of mass destruction and related challenges, including the spread of dangerous pathogens such as the coronavirus.

The Trump administration aimed to cut the program in fiscal year 2021 by 36 percent from the previous year’s appropriation, but Congress thwarted the effort. (See ACT, April 2020.) For 2022, the Biden administration proposed a significant 33 percent cut from the 2021 appropriation of $360 million, but the NDAA boosted the $240 million request by 44 percent, to $345 million, specifically in support of the Biological Threat Reduction Program.

U.S. lawmakers authorized a $25 billion increase in annual defense spending to $768 billion.

Congress Fails to Block Saudi Arms Sales

January/February 2022
By Jeff Abramson

Despite continuing controversy over U.S. military assistance to Saudi Arabia, a divided Congress in December failed to block the sale of air-to-air missiles to Riyadh and to prohibit some support for the Saudi war in Yemen. Critical to the debate was what constitutes “offensive” weaponry and military action.

Yemenis inspect the scene of an aerial attack, carried out by a jet aircraft of the coalition led by Saudi Arabia, on Dec. 23 in Sana'a, Yemen.  (Photo by Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images)The Biden administration notified Congress in early November of its desire to sell 280 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles and associated launchers to Saudi Arabia for $650 million. Amid intense debate about the sale, the administration made clear that it believed the deal was consistent with President Joe Biden’s Feb. 4 pledge to end support for “offensive operations” in the war in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has been fighting with the Houthi rebels since 2015. The administration claimed in a Dec. 7 policy statement and elsewhere that the missiles could not be used against ground targets and that “Saudi Arabia uses these munitions to defend against aerial cross-border attacks, such as Houthi explosive-laden drones.”

The Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition have been accused of atrocities in the Yemen war, which in 2021 was marked by the continued advance of Houthi forces, especially around Marib, and by Saudi-led airstrikes. The Houthis do not have an air force, but have used drones in attacks on Saudi Arabia. The Saudi-led coalition has continued a controversial blockade of Houthi-controlled sea- and airports, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in the country.

Opponents of the air-to-air missile deal generally cited reasons other than whether these were “defensive” weapons. On Nov. 12, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who introduced a resolution of disapproval for the sale in the House, said, “It is simply unconscionable to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia while they continue to slaughter innocent people and starve millions in Yemen, kill and torture dissidents, and support modern-day slavery.” Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced the Senate resolution on Nov. 18, arguing in part that the war was not approved by Congress and the weapons would reward Saudi bad behavior inside the kingdom, as well as exacerbate suffering in Yemen. The senators were later joined by six Democratic co-sponsors, many of whom had signed a letter in May encouraging Biden to "leverage all influence and tools available, including the potential impact on pending weapons sales…to demand that Saudi Arabia immediately and unconditionally stop the use of blockade tactics."

On Dec. 7, a majority of Senate Democrats, including Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), voted to advance the resolution of disapproval. No Republicans, aside from Paul and Lee, supported the resolution, which failed by a 30–67 vote.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who had co-sponsored numerous bipartisan resolutions of disapproval during previous administrations, did not support the resolution. (See ACT, January/February 2021.) Also not supporting the resolution was Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who said in a statement, “The weapons up for discussion today are being used in this context to defend against these aerial attacks. As air-to-air missiles, they are largely incapable of attacking civilian targets or infrastructure, a critical factor in my decision to support this sale.”

Menendez added that protecting civilians remained a priority and that he would continue to hold up other sales to Saudi Arabia, indicating “there are many other sales that have not moved forward, that
I have not permitted to get out of the [c]ommittee.” Although he did not say what these sales might be, his comments suggest that so-called offensive weapons that could more easily be used against civilians would remain controversial to influential Democratic senators such as himself.

Separately, in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2022 approved in December, Congress extended prohibitions on in-flight refueling by U.S. military planes of Saudi and other non-U.S. aircraft active in hostilities in Yemen. But the final version of the legislation did not retain measures that had been in the House version that prohibited support to offensive operations more broadly. Instead, the measure contained a policy statement on protecting civilians and required a report on whether Saudi Arabia had “undertaken offensive airstrikes...resulting in civilian casualties.” (See ACT, November 2021.) In a November policy statement, the Biden administration argued that stronger prohibitions were not needed because it “already has ceased support for Saudi-led coalition offensive operations in Yemen.”

Congress in December failed to block the sale of air-to-air missiles to Riyadh.

Congress Authorizes Accelerated Hypersonics Plan

January/February 2022
By Shannon Bugos

Congress has voted to authorize and, in some instances, substantially increase the Biden administration’s fiscal year 2022 budget request for the accelerated development and deployment of hypersonic weapons capabilities amid increasing rhetoric from Pentagon officials that the United States is falling behind and needs to catch up to China and Russia.

A U.S. airman with the 912th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron secures the AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (AARW) as it is loaded under the wing of a B-52H Stratofortress bomber at Edwards Air Force Base, California in 2020. (Photo by U.S. Air Force)The Pentagon in May requested a total of $3.8 billion for projects related to the research, development, and initial procurement of hypersonic weapons for fiscal year 2022. Congress either rubber-stamped or increased the requested amounts, except for two programs, in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), passed by the House on Dec.7 and the Senate on Dec. 15. President Joe Biden signed the legislation on Dec. 27.

The passage of the NDAA came as defense officials called for the United States to speed up its development of hypersonic capabilities, in particular following a test by China in July that, according to published reports, featured a nuclear-capable hypersonic glide vehicle that circled the globe before launching a separate projectile over the South China Sea and then striking within two dozen miles of its target. (See ACT, November 2021.)

“There is an arms race, not necessarily for increased numbers, but for increased quality,” Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall told Reuters on Nov. 30. “The Chinese have been at it very aggressively,” he said, while the United States has not “done enough.”

Gen. David Thompson, vice chief of space operations for the Space Force, noted on Nov. 20 that the United States has some “catching up to do very quickly.”

On Nov. 16, Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, urged that the Chinese test should “create a sense of urgency” in the United States “from a technology perspective.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin declined to comment on the Chinese test, but said on Nov. 17 that the Pentagon will “continue to move as fast as we can to develop [hypersonic] capabilities.” On Dec. 4, Austin asserted that the United States will meet “the pacing challenge [of China] with confidence and resolve, not panic and pessimism.”

The Trump administration launched an accelerated plan for the development and deployment of conventional hypersonic weapons, which the Biden administration continued in its 2022 budget request and Congress has now kicked up a notch with the 2022 NDAA. (See ACT, July/August 2021.)

The 2022 NDAA fully authorizes the Air Force’s request for $238 million for continued research and development on the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), an air-launched hypersonic glide vehicle, and $200 million for the new Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile program. Congress decreased the initial procurement budget for the ARRW system from $161 million to $117 million. The system failed three flight booster tests in 2021, with the latest failure on Dec. 15 when “the launch sequence was aborted before release with an unknown issue,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Heath Collins told The War Zone on Dec. 17. (See ACT, September 2021.)

As for the Navy, Congress boosted the budget for the Conventional Prompt Strike program, which features the common hypersonic glide body that is shared with the Army’s program, by $124 million above the requested amount to $1.5 billion, a 95 percent increase from the fiscal year 2021 authorization for the program. The Navy plans to add the system to Zumwalt-class destroyers starting in fiscal year 2025 and to Virginia-class submarines in fiscal year 2028.

The Navy’s request for $57 million for its new Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare Increment II weapon was cut by $23 million due to “lack of program justification.”

The Army received the full request of $301 million for R&D on the Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) and $111 million for additional LRHW batteries. The service plans to begin operating the program in fiscal year 2023.

A Nov. 12 report by Bloomberg, based on an estimate from the Pentagon’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) office, highlighted the rapidly growing costs of the Navy’s and Army’s hypersonic programs, which share the common hypersonic glide body. The office projects that these programs will add $21.5 billion to the Navy’s budget and $7 billion to the Army’s budget in the coming years.

According to the CAPE office estimate, the Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike program will cost $10 billion for development, $11 billion for production, and $400 million for related military construction. The Navy is planning for 240 missiles in all, at a cost of $89.6 million each.

The CAPE office estimated that the Army’s LRHW program will cost the Pentagon $4.4 billion for development and $2.5 billion for production. With a plan for 66 missiles, including 48 development models, the cost of each LRHW missile comes to $106 million.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Tim Gorman, a Defense Department spokesperson, told Bloomberg that the CAPE cost projection is “in close alignment with the Army and Navy cost estimates for their respective programs.”

The rising estimates illuminate the motivation behind the remarks of Heidi Shyu, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, in October that “we need to figure out how to drive towards more affordable hypersonics.”

The Pentagon successfully conducted a second test of the first-stage booster rocket motor for the common hypersonic glide body on Oct. 28. The department last tested the glide body in March 2020. (See ACT, April 2020.)

“We are on schedule for the upcoming flight test of the full common hypersonic missile,” said Vice Adm. Johnny R. Wolfe Jr., director of the Navy’s strategic systems programs. This test is scheduled to occur by the fall of 2022.

Meanwhile, Congress authorized $256 million for the hypersonic programs overseen by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a 47 percent increase from the agency’s request. One of those programs is for the Hypersonic Air-Breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC), for which the Pentagon successfully conducted a free flight test in September. Congress authorized an additional $37 million for the HAWC program above the DARPA request of $10 million.

The 2022 NDAA also included provisions related to the testing and development of hypersonic weapons. One provision requires the Pentagon to submit a report to Congress comparing U.S. efforts to deploy hypersonic weapons and other emerging technologies to those of China.

Congress authorized the Biden administration’s 2022 budget request for the accelerated development of hypersonic weapons.

Pentagon Awards Anti-Hypersonic Missile Contracts

January/February 2022
By Michael T. Klare

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has awarded contracts of approximately $20 million each to Raytheon Co., Lockheed Martin Corp., and Northrop Grumman Corp. to develop prototypes of a hypersonic missile intended to intercept and destroy an adversary’s hypersonic projectile in the unpowered glide phase of its trajectory.

A flight test of the Russian Avangard hypersonic missile in 2018. The United States is pursuing anti-hypersonic systems that could intercept and destroy such projectiles. (Photo by Russia MoD)By awarding contracts to the three companies simultaneously, the Pentagon hopes to hasten development of the weapons and ensure early deployment. “Multiple awards allow us to execute a risk reduction phase to explore industry concepts and maximize the benefits of a competitive environment to demonstrate the most effective and reliable Glide Phase Interceptor (GPI) for regional hypersonic defense, as soon as possible,” explained Rear Adm. Tom Druggan, program executive for sea-based weapons systems at the MDA. The award was announced on Nov. 19.

Such a weapon is needed, advocates claim, because existing missile defense systems, which are intended to intercept ballistic missiles in outer space, are ineffective against hypersonic glide vehicles, which skim atop the Earth’s outer atmosphere and maneuver in flight. The GPI missile “will be the first-ever interceptor with the speed, ability to withstand heat, and maneuverability required to intercept hypersonic threats in this environment,” said Tay Fitzgerald, vice president of strategic missile defense at Raytheon Missiles and Defense.

Initially, the proposed GPI missile will be fired from vertical launch cannisters installed on Aegis-class destroyers. If this proves successful, “we can move it to the land-based battery,” said the MDA’s Vice Adm. Jon Hill, presumably referring to the Aegis Ashore anti-missile system, such as those now installed in Romania and, beginning in 2022, in Poland.

The roughly $80 million to be spent on these preliminary efforts are only part of a much larger Pentagon hypersonic defense initiative, which was funded at a level of $310 million in the fiscal year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). That is $62 million more than the Biden administration requested and a 14 percent increase from the $273 million authorized in 2021. The 2022 NDAA also includes $3.8 billion for the development of offensive hypersonic weapons.

The Defense Department has been granted additional funding for the development of a new constellation of satellites that it says is needed to track adversaries’ hypersonic missiles in flight and guide the proposed GPI missile to its target. This satellite system, called the Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor, was allocated $256 million in the 2022 NDAA, almost twice the amount approved in 2021.

In recent years, some U.S. defense officials, members of Congress, and think tank analysts have argued with growing urgency that anti-hypersonic systems are needed to defend the United States against potential adversaries who are proceeding with the development and deployment of assorted offensive hypersonic projectiles. Two examples are the Russian Avangard, now deployed on some SS-19 intercontinental ballistic missiles, and the Chinese DF-ZF, mounted on the DF-17 medium-range ballistic missile.

These weapons, like the U.S. Army’s Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon and the Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike system, are called boost glide systems because they employ a booster rocket to carry the glide vehicle into space. After reaching an altitude of about 100 miles, the glide vehicle separates from the booster and, driven by accumulated velocity alone, glides along the outer atmosphere for hundreds or thousands of miles en route to its intended target.

Because of their low-Earth trajectory, hypersonic glide vehicles are more difficult to detect by tracking satellites than ballistic missiles and to intercept with existing missile defense systems. This has generated a perceived U.S. requirement for new missiles and tracking systems to detect and destroy adversary glide vehicles. The House Armed Services Committee, in its markup of the 2022 NDAA, expressed concern over “the inability of current radar systems to detect, track, engage and defeat emerging threats from hypersonic weapons.”

With the United States preparing to field its own array of offensive hypersonic missiles, one approach to this concern could be the exploration of bilateral or multilateral arms control agreements limiting the numbers and types of deployed hypersonic weapons. Instead, Washington so far has chosen to invest in the development of what are certain to be costly defensive weapons, which could prompt China and Russia to develop their own defensive systems and more capable offensive missiles.

There are signs that such an action-reaction spiral has commenced. Worried about the impending deployment of U.S. hypersonic missiles in Europe and beyond, Russia has begun to configure its S-500 missile defense system to intercept hypersonic missiles and has developed a new system, the S-550, with hypersonic defense in mind. “S-500 and S-550 systems will become a platform for the new air defense system, by protecting strategically important facilities from hypersonic targets,” an unnamed source close to the Russian Defense Ministry told the Russian news agency TASS in November.

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency awarded contracts to three companies to develop hypersonic missile prototypes.

Defense Department Reorganizes Amid NPR

December 2021
By Shannon Bugos

The Defense Department is planning to eliminate the position held by the senior official who was overseeing the Biden administration’s review of U.S. nuclear policy, which is slated to be released in January 2022.

Richard Johnson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for countering weapons of mass destruction, also took over as acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense to oversee the Biden administration's Nuclear Policy Review after the woman who held the job was removed in a Defense Department reorganization.  (Photo by U.S. Department of Defense)Leonor Tomero was sworn in as deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy in January. (See ACT, April 2021.) Previously, she was counsel for the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, focusing on issues such as nuclear deterrence, disarmament, and nonproliferation.

The administration formally began the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) in July with Tomero, who was open to reassessing the U.S. nuclear force structure and modernization plans, leading the process. (See ACT, September 2021.)

Politico reported on Sept. 21 that Tomero’s post was destined for elimination at the end of the month and that the Pentagon’s new assistant secretary for space would absorb the position’s responsibilities.

“It’s natural with any new administration, this one’s not excepted, that we would want to reevaluate the organizational structure and make changes where we think is appropriate to support the secretary’s priorities,” said Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby when asked about the situation the following day.

Kirby emphasized that the administration would “continue to consider and include a wide range of viewpoints” in the NPR.

Following Tomero’s departure, the responsibility of overseeing the NPR fell to Richard Johnson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for countering weapons of mass destruction, who also became the acting official in the role.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) wrote a Sept. 24 letter to President Joe Biden expressing concern about Tomero’s departure amid the ongoing NPR process.

“I am…concerned that the sudden departure of a top appointee, charged with presenting you options on the future of the U.S. nuclear weapons enterprise, will result in a draft Nuclear Posture Review that reflects the Cold War era’s overreliance on nuclear weapons, rather than your lifetime of work championing policies that reduce nuclear weapons risks,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, Politico, citing an unnamed White House official, reported on Nov. 5 that the National Security Council would convene a high-level meeting on nuclear declaratory policy by the end of the month to consider the option of shifting the United States to a sole-purpose or no-first-use nuclear policy.

The Financial Times reported on Oct. 29 that U.S. allies, including Australia, France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom, are lobbying Biden to refrain from changing current U.S. policy, which is ambiguous regarding the precise conditions under which Washington would consider using nuclear weapons.

On the 2020 presidential campaign trail, Biden said in a questionnaire from the Council for a Livable World that the United States should review its nuclear declaratory policy.

Near the end of the Obama administration in 2017, Biden, then vice president, expressed his belief that “the sole purpose of our nuclear arsenal is to deter and, if necessary, retaliate for a nuclear attack against the United States and its allies.”

The Defense Department is planning to eliminate the position held by the senior official who was overseeing the Biden administration’s review of U.S. nuclear policy.

U.S. Hypersonic Capabilities Advance

November 2021
By Shannon Bugos

The Pentagon continued to move forward this fall with the development and initial deployment of hypersonic capabilities as part of its race to keep pace with China and Russia. At the same time, high-ranking U.S. officials raised questions about the rationale for and affordability of these programs.

Soldiers of 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Field Artillery Brigade took delivery of the first prototype Dark Eagle hypersonic missiles, also known as the Long Range Hypersonic Weapon system, on Oct. 7 with a ceremony at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. (Photo by U.S. Army)“The target set that we would want to address, and why hypersonics are the most cost-effective weapons for the U.S., I think it’s still, to me, somewhat of a question mark,” Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said on Sept. 21, adding that he is reassessing the department’s hypersonic plans.

Gen. Mark Kelley, commander of Air Combat Command, concurred with Kendall a few days later, telling reporters that “[w]e do need to make sure we have an unambiguous, well-understood [concept of operations for hypersonic weapons] as
we go forward.”

Meanwhile, Heidi Shyu, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, lodged concerns about the price of the weapons, saying on Oct. 12 that “we need to figure out how to drive towards more affordable hypersonics.”

But Mark Lewis, former acting deputy undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, took issue with the scrutiny of the program, telling Breaking Defense on Sept. 24 that he is “puzzled that the Air Force might be pulling back because we had done extensive studies and extensive analysis that demonstrated quite clearly the effectiveness of these systems.”

These remarks came after two failed tests earlier this year of the Air Force’s air-launched hypersonic boost-glide vehicle. (See ACT, September 2021.) In late September, the Pentagon successfully tested an air-launched hypersonic cruise missile, called the Hypersonic Air-Breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC), and completed deployment of prototype equipment for a ground-launched hypersonic glide vehicle.

All of the primary objectives for HAWC’s free-flight test—“vehicle integration and release sequence, safe separation from the launch aircraft, booster ignition and boost, booster separation and engine ignition, and cruise”—were met, according to a Sept. 27 statement by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The agency conducted the successful test with support from the Air Force.

“The HAWC free-flight test was a successful demonstration of the capabilities that will make hypersonic cruise missiles a highly effective tool for our war-fighters,” said Andrew Knoedler, HAWC program manager in the DARPA Tactical Technology Office. “This brings us one step closer to transitioning HAWC to a program of record that offers next-generation capability to the U.S. military.”

DARPA announced in September 2020 that it had completed two captive-carry tests of two HAWC variants, but “dumb mistakes” and “basic errors” prevented the free-flight test of one of those missiles last December, according to an Air Force Magazine report.

The Army also made recent progress by completing delivery of prototype hardware for its Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) system, also known as Dark Eagle, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state.

“Delivery of the hardware began in March 2021 and finished at the end of September 2021,” the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office said in an Oct. 7 press release. The delivery did not include missiles but rather “a battery operations center, four transporter erector launchers, and modified trucks and trailers that make up the LRHW ground equipment.” The Army plans to field an operational first battery, which would include missiles, in fiscal year 2023.

“Today marks an important milestone in equipping our nation’s first hypersonic battery,” said Lt. Gen. L. Neil Thurgood, who oversees the critical technologies office, in the press release. “Now, soldiers can begin training.” The training began the week of Oct. 18, and the Army unit will be involved in a series of upcoming flight tests, he added on Oct. 11.

The LRHW system features the common hypersonic glide body, which is shared with the Navy for its sea-launched hypersonic weapons capability, called the Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) system, that is scheduled to achieve an initial operating capability in fiscal year 2025. The two services jointly tested the system in March 2020. (See ACT, April 2020.)

In October, the Pentagon also conducted three successful tests of “advanced hypersonic technologies, capabilities, and prototype systems” related to the LRHW and CPS programs in Virginia and an additional failed hypersonic weapons test as part of “a data collection experiment” in Alaska, Reuters reported.

The Pentagon has prioritized the rapid deployment of hypersonic weapons in part to compete with similar Chinese and Russian capabilities.

Moscow fielded the Avangard, a hypersonic glide vehicle, in 2019. Beijing displayed a ballistic missile designed to carry a hypersonic glide vehicle, the DF-17, during its 2019 military parade. In the summer of 2021, China tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic glide vehicle, apparently carried on a rocket, that flew through low-orbit space and circled the globe, according to U.S. intelligence sources.

“From the perspective of proliferation, the Chinese and the Russians both have invested significant amounts and made significant progress” with respect to hypersonic weapons, said Brig. Gen. John M. Olson, the Air Force’s acting chief technology and innovation officer, on Sept. 28. “As a nation, [the United States has] taken a substantive early lead and turned that into a national effort to get…caught up and drive forward across the industrial base and the services.”


The Pentagon continued to move forward with the development and initial deployment of hypersonic capabilities as part of its race to keep pace with China and Russia.

U.S., Russia Establish Strategic Stability Groups

November 2021
By Shannon Bugos

The United States and Russia established two working groups during a September strategic stability dialogue as a next step to make meaningful progress on arms control for the first time in nearly a decade.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman (left) and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, leaders of their respective delegations, bump elbows  in front of their national flags before a round of strategic stability talks in Geneva on July 28. (Photo by U.S. Mission Geneva)The two countries released a joint statement following the Sept. 30 meeting in Geneva, which described the dialogue as “intensive and substantive” and officially named the Working Group on Principles and Objectives for Future Arms Control and the Working Group on Capabilities and Actions With Strategic Effects.

“The delegations additionally agreed that the two working groups would commence their meetings, to be followed by a third plenary meeting,” the statement said. The date of the third meeting is yet to be announced.

After the dialogue, a senior U.S. administration official told Reuters there was “a detailed and dynamic exchange” and “the discussion was very interactive and broad based and we think we were able to cover a variety of issues.”

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman led the U.S. delegation alongside Bonnie Jenkins, the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov led the delegation from Moscow.

“It is no surprise that the dialogue proves that the two sides have many discords, disagreements, and contradictory views on things, and only a few points of convergence,” Ryabkov told the Geneva Centre for Security Policy on Oct. 1. But “it is just the beginning of the journey. If political will and readiness for creative diplomacy prevail on both sides, then there are no unbridgeable gaps.”

The first round of the strategic stability dialogue under the Biden administration took place in July. (See ACT, September 2021.) President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed during their June summit to relaunch the dialogue to “seek to lay the groundwork for future arms control and risk reduction measures.” (See ACT, July/August 2021.)

Jenkins outlined the Biden administration’s goals for the dialogue on Sept. 6, saying that U.S. efforts “are guided by several key concepts,” which include seeking to limit new kinds of intercontinental-range nuclear delivery systems; address all nuclear warheads, such as nonstrategic, or tactical, nuclear weapons; and maintain the limits imposed by the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). She added that the administration has also made pursuing new risk reduction measures with China a “priority.”

Russia has sought to develop “a new security equation” that addresses all nuclear and non-nuclear, offensive and defensive weapons that affect strategic stability. That would include U.S. missile defense systems, which Washington has resisted putting on the table.

The new groups are different than those established by the Trump administration that focused on nuclear warheads and doctrine, verification, and space. The new working group on future arms control might aim, for instance, to outline the scope of what agreement could follow after New START expires in 2026. Ryabkov has said that what may come next could be “a legally binding document, perhaps not one, but several texts, both legally and politically binding, if such an option is deemed preferable by both parties.”

The other new working group on capabilities and actions with strategic effects might cover discussion on issues such as long-range conventional or dual-capable precision fires, such as hypersonic weapons, and tactical nuclear weapons.

It remains unclear whether or how the Biden administration plans to transition the strategic stability dialogue to more formal negotiations on an arms control agreement or other arrangement to follow New START. Biden said in June that “we’ll find out within the next six months to a year whether or not we actually have a strategic dialogue that matters.”

Following the September meeting, Ryabkov described the Biden administration’s “concepts and ideas” as “immature at this stage” due to the ongoing Nuclear Posture Review. “We take it as it is and believe that, in the meantime, there is enough space for intense discussions,” he told the Geneva Centre on Oct. 1.

Ryabkov reiterated Moscow’s rejection of a 2020 proposal that paired a one-year extension of New START with a one-year freeze on the numbers of U.S. and Russian nuclear warheads. (See ACT, November 2020.) At the time, New START was set to expire in February 2021. But the Trump administration also requested that the freeze contain detailed definitions and verification measures, which prompted Russia to dismiss the proposal.

“It was a one-time offer,” said Ryabkov after the September dialogue, and the United States “missed the opportunity.” Last year, he had said that, by adding other terms to the freeze, the Trump administration “will immediately destroy the possibility of reaching the agreement.”

New START, signed in 2010, caps the U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals at 1,550 deployed warheads and 700 deployed delivery vehicles and heavy bombers each. The Bilateral Consultative Commission, the treaty implementing body, restarted its meetings for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic on Oct. 5-14 in Geneva. “The U.S. and Russian delegations continued the discussion of practical issues related to the implementation of the treaty,” the U.S. State Department said a statement. But on-site inspections conducted under the treaty have not resumed.

The United States and Russia established two working groups as a next step to make meaningful progress on arms control for the first time in nearly a decade.

U.S. Continues Controversial Arms Assistance

November 2021
By William Ostermeyer and Jeff Abramson

Claims by President Joe Biden and administration officials that human rights are at the heart of U.S. foreign policy are drawing scrutiny as Washington continues arms sales and other security assistance to certain countries in the Middle East.

During a speech at the State Department on Feb. 4, President Joe Biden said that "we are ending all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arms sales.” (Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images) In his national address in August marking the end of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, Biden said, “I’ve been clear that human rights will be the center of our foreign policy.” In September, when the administration withheld $130 million in security assistance to Egypt, State Department spokesman Ned Price stated that the United States would release the funds “only if the government of Egypt affirmatively addresses specific human rights related conditions.”

But that decision quickly drew criticism. Nineteen human rights organizations issued a letter on Sept. 14 calling it a “betrayal” of Biden's commitment to human rights that “sidesteps the intent of Congress.” Instead, they argued, the administration should have withheld the full $300 million “to incentivize [President Abdel Fattah] al-Sisi to change course.”

In 2019, Congress made $300 million of the $1.3 billion in annual foreign military financing to Cairo conditional on the secretary of state’s certification that Egypt was taking steps such as investigating and prosecuting extrajudicial killings, and releasing political prisoners.

The decision to send $170 million of that $300 million in security aid was not accompanied by such a certification. Instead, the administration argued that the entire $300 million fell into a funding category of border security, nonproliferation, and counterterrorism programs to which the law did not apply. The Senate Appropriations Committee has removed the provision that allowed for that interpretation in its recently introduced annual bill.

In September, the State Department also notified Congress of a potential $500 million foreign military sale to Saudi Arabia to maintain various Saudi helicopters, including AH-64 Apache attack helicopters. Some experts said this was at odds with Biden’s promise to end "all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arms sales." As an example, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told a news conference on Feb. 4 that the policy applied to precision-guided munitions approved by the Trump administration. On Oct. 27, a State Department spokesperson told Arms Control Today in an email that the helicopter maintenance was consistent with the administration’s human rights approach. The spokesperson said it “helps Saudi Arabia maintain self-defense capabilities…particularly on their border,” and that the administration had found “the overwhelming majority of [civilian harm] incidents were caused
by air to ground munitions from fixed wing aircraft.”

The administration has been criticized, however, for supporting Saudi Arabia through preexisting supply and maintenance contracts. In September, the House approved an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), to the National Defense Authorization Act that would prohibit maintenance support for warplanes used in Yemen against the Houthis. “It’s time to do what is morally right, hold Saudi Arabia accountable, and fully end U.S. complicity in the Saudi-led coalition’s bombing of Yemeni civilians,” Khanna said.

On Oct. 13, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met the foreign ministers of Israel and the United Arab Emirates, two U.S. weapons recipients that have been criticized for their human rights records, and spoke positively of the 2020 Abraham Accords, which helped normalize relations between them. At their joint press conference, Blinken made no mention of whether the administration might rethink the controversial arms sales to the UAE that have been linked to the accords, including F-35s worth $10 billion. The administration has said it wants to complete the F-35 deal, but in a way that respects human rights. (See ACT, May 2021.) The UAE has been criticized for misusing weapons in Yemen and its own human rights record.

Although Biden sometimes has spoken candidly about Washington’s Arab allies, his rhetoric on Israel has been less critical. Efforts to curtail or criticize U.S. material support for Israel over human rights issues have come instead from Congress.

In May, as hostilities escalated in Gaza, members of Congress introduced resolutions of disapproval to block a direct commercial sale of precision-guided munitions to Israel worth $735 million. (See ACT, June 2021.) Ultimately, no votes were taken, and the administration moved the sale forward. In July, the State Department notified Congress of another Israeli-related sale totaling $3.4 billion for 18 cargo helicopters and related equipment.

On Sept. 21, House Democrats, responding to progressive members, removed a provision from a funding bill that would have provided $1 billion for Israel's Iron Dome air defense system. Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee then introduced a separate bill to fund the system, which passed the House on a 420–9 vote on Sept. 23. The bill hit a roadblock in the Senate on Oct. 4, when Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) objected to a call by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) for unanimous consent to proceed. The funding is expected to be approved, and Paul supports the system, but he wanted the money to come from a different account.

Although there are precedents for Congress expressing concern about arms sales to Israel and other Middle Eastern countries, there is growing scrutiny over the relationship between weapons transfers and human rights. An expected revised conventional arms transfer policy could make more explicit how the administration weighs human rights in arms sales decisions. (See ACT, October 2021.)

Claims that human rights are at the heart of U.S. foreign policy are drawing scrutiny as Washington continues selling arms to Middle Eastern countries with dubious records.

U.S. Discloses Nuclear Stockpile Numbers

November 2021
By Shannon Bugos

The Biden administration has publicly released the total number of nuclear weapons in the U.S. stockpile, a sharp reversal of the previous administration’s refusal to do so for the past three years.

“Today, as an act of good faith and a tangible, public demonstration of the U.S. commitment to transparency, we will present data which documents our own record of continued progress toward the achievement of the goals” of the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), said Bonnie Jenkins, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, on Oct. 5.

The U.S. stockpile of nuclear warheads was at 3,750 as of September 2020, according to the administration document. This number captures active and inactive warheads, but not the roughly 2,000 retired warheads awaiting dismantlement. The document lists stockpile numbers going back to 1962, including the warhead numbers from the years when the Trump administration refused to declassify the information.

“This number represents an approximate 88 percent reduction in the stockpile from its maximum (31,255) at the end of fiscal year 1967, and an approximate 83 percent reduction from its level (22,217) when the Berlin Wall fell in late 1989,” the document said.

Despite a significant overall reduction, the updated figures show the scale of reductions to the stockpile has diminished in recent years and even reflect a 20 warhead increase between September 2018 and September 2019 under the Trump administration.

The Biden administration also disclosed how many nuclear warheads the Energy Department has dismantled each year since 1994, for a total of 11,683. The Obama administration decided in 2010, for the first time, to release the entire history of the size of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. The Trump administration declassified the stockpile data for 2017, but did not do so again for the following years.

On Oct. 6, Rose Gottemoeller, chief U.S. negotiator for the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, praised the Biden moves, saying that “such transparency measures are going to be crucial for future nuclear arms reductions.” But Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, lambasted the decision in an Oct. 5 statement: “China and Russia failed to reciprocate any transparency when the United States did this during the Obama era, and instead embarked on major, opaque expansions and modernizations of their nuclear forces.”

The Biden administration, reversing its predecessor, has publicly released the total number of nuclear weapons in the U.S. stockpile.


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