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Obama weighing up to 80% cut in U.S. nukes
Obama weighing up to 80% cut in U.S. nukes
AP National Security Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration is weighing options for sharp new cuts to the U.S. nuclear force, including a reduction of up to 80 percent in the number of deployed weapons, The Associated Press has learned.
Even the most modest option now under consideration would be an historic and politically bold disarmament step in a presidential election year, although the plan is in line with President Barack Obama's 2009 pledge to pursue the elimination of nuclear weapons.
No final decision has been made, but the administration is considering at least three options for lower total numbers of deployed strategic nuclear weapons cutting to around 1,000 to 1,100, 700 to 800, or 300 to 400, according to a former government official and a congressional staffer. Both spoke on condition of anonymity in order to reveal internal administration deliberations.
The potential cuts would be from a current treaty limit of 1,550 deployed strategic warheads.
A level of 300 deployed strategic nuclear weapons would take the U.S. back to levels not seen since 1950 when the nation was ramping up production in an arms race with the Soviet Union. The U.S. numbers peaked at above 12,000 in the late 1980s and first dropped below 5,000 in 2003.
Obama has often cited his desire to seek lower levels of nuclear weapons, but specific options for a further round of cuts had been kept under wraps until the AP learned of the three options now on the table.
A spokesman for the White House's National Security Council, Tommy Vietor, said Tuesday that the options developed by the Pentagon have not yet been presented to Obama.
The Pentagon's press secretary, George Little, declined to comment on specific force level options because they are classified. He said Obama had asked the Pentagon to develop several "alternative approaches" to nuclear deterrence.
The U.S. could make further weapons reductions on its own but is seen as more likely to propose a new round of arms negotiations with Russia, in which cuts in deployed weapons would be one element in a possible new treaty between the former Cold War adversaries.
Stephen Young, senior analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, which favors nuclear arms reductions, said Tuesday, "The administration is absolutely correct to look at deep cuts like this. The United States does not rely on nuclear weapons as a central part of our security."
Even small proposed cuts are likely to draw heavy criticism from Republicans who have argued that a smaller nuclear force would weaken the U.S. at a time when Russia, China and others are strengthening their nuclear capabilities. They also argue that shrinking the American arsenal would undermine the credibility of the nuclear "umbrella" that the United States provides for allies such as Japan, South Korea and Turkey, who might otherwise build their own nuclear forces.
The administration last year began considering a range of possible future reductions below the levels agreed in the New START treaty with Russia that took effect one year ago. Options are expected to be presented to Obama soon. The force levels he settles on will form the basis of a new strategic nuclear war plan to be produced by the Pentagon.
The U.S. already is on track to reduce to 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear warheads by 2018, as required by New START. As of last Sept. 1, the United States had 1,790 warheads and Russia had 1,566, according to treaty-mandated reports by each. The treaty does not bar either country from cutting below 1,550 on their own.
Those who favor additional cuts argue that nuclear weapons have no role in major security threats of the 21st century, such as terrorism. A 2010 nuclear policy review by the Pentagon said the U.S. nuclear arsenal also is "poorly suited" to deal with challenges posed by "unfriendly regimes seeking nuclear weapons" - an apparent reference to Iran.
It's unclear what calculus went into each of the three options now under consideration at the White House.
The notion of a 300-weapon arsenal is featured prominently in a paper written for the Pentagon by a RAND National Defense Project Institute analyst last October, in the early stages of the administration's review of nuclear requirements. The author, Paul K. Davis, wrote that he was not advocating any particular course of action but sought to provide an analytic guide for how policymakers could think about the implications of various levels of nuclear reductions.
Davis wrote that an arsenal of 300 weapons might be considered adequate for deterrence purposes if that force level was part of a treaty with sound anti-cheating provisions; if the U.S. deployed additional non-nuclear weapons with global reach, and if the U.S. had "hypothetically excellent," if limited, defenses against long- and medium-range nuclear missiles.
In 2010, three Air Force analysts wrote in Strategic Studies Quarterly, an Air Force publication, that the U.S. could get by with as few as 311 deployed nuclear weapons, and that it didn't matter whether Russia followed suit with its own cuts.
New U.S. cuts could open the prospect for a historic reshaping of the American nuclear arsenal, which for decades has stood on three legs: submarine-launched ballistic missiles, ground-based ballistic missiles and weapons launched from big bombers like the B-52 and the stealthy B-2. The traditional rationale for this "triad" of weaponry is that it is essential to surviving any nuclear exchange.
As recently as last month the administration said it was keeping the triad intact under current plans, while also hinting at future cuts to the force. In the 2013 defense budget submitted to Congress on Monday, the administration proposed a two-year delay in the development of a new generation of ballistic missile submarines that carry nuclear weapons. That will save an estimated $4.3 billion over five years.
In congressional testimony last November, the Pentagon's point man on nuclear policy, James N. Miller, declined to say what options for force reductions the administration was considering. Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee's strategic forces subcommittee, unsuccessfully pressed Miller for key details about his policy review. As recently as last month Turner said in an interview that he feared the administration was bent on cutting the force.
In his written testimony at a Nov. 2 hearing chaired by Turner, Miller made it clear that the administration was making a fundamental reassessment of nuclear weapons requirements. In unusually stark terms he said the critical question at hand was "what to do" if a nuclear-armed state or non-state entity could not be deterred from launching an attack.
"In effect, we are asking: what are the guiding concepts for employing nuclear weapons to deter adversaries of the United States, and what are the guiding concepts for ending a nuclear conflict on the best possible terms if one has started?" he said.
Nuclear stockpile numbers are closely guarded secrets in most states that possess them, but private nuclear policy experts say no countries other than the U.S. and Russia are thought to have more than 300. The Federation of American Scientists estimates that France has about 300, China about 240, Britain about 225, and Israel, India and Pakistan roughly 100 each.
Since taking office Obama has put heavy emphasis on reducing the role and number of nuclear weapons as part of a broader strategy for limiting the global spread of nuclear arms technology and containing the threat of nuclear terrorism. That strategy is being put to the test most urgently by Iran's suspected pursuit of a nuclear bomb.
Lowest level of strategic review would leave Pentagon with fewer warheads than China
Nuking our Nukes
Lowest level of strategic review would leave Pentagon with fewer warheads than China
President Obama has ordered the Pentagon to consider cutting U.S. strategic nuclear forces to as low as 300 deployed warheads—below the number believed to be in China’s arsenal and far fewer than current Russian strategic warhead stocks.
Pentagon and military planners were asked to develop three force levels for the U.S. arsenal of deployed strategic nuclear warheads: a force of 1,100 to 1,000 warheads; a second scenario of between 700 and 800 warheads; and the lowest level of between 300 and 400 warheads.
A congressional official said no president in the past ever told the Pentagon to conduct a review based on specific numbers of warheads.
“In the past, the way it worked was, ‘tell me what the world is like and then tell me what the force should be,’” the official said. “That is not happening in this review.”
The plan for a radical cut in warheads is contained in a review of nuclear weapons ordered by the president in an August directive. The review called the Nuclear Posture Review Implementation Study is nearing completion and could be presented to the president as early as next month.
The plan has come under fire from senior military officers in charge of maintaining nuclear deterrence against Russia, China, and future nuclear rogue states.
Asked about the opposition, a senior officer involved in strategic arms declined to comment.
Critics of the nuclear force cuts in Congress and the national security community said the force structure is being studied without matching the need for nuclear forces to combat growing threats, as was done in past strategic nuclear reviews.
Currently, the U.S. arsenal includes about 5,000 warheads, many of them slated for dismantlement. Russia has between 4,000 and 6,500 warheads and China is believed to have more than 300.
Pentagon spokesman George Little declined to comment on the specific force levels being examined in the review.
“While the details are classified, the president asked DoD to develop several alternative approaches to deterrence and stability, to include illustrative force size and postures to best support those alternatives,” Little said. “As part of the NPR implementation study, DOD is evaluating these alternatives using policy criteria outlined in the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review.”
John Bolton, former U.N. ambassador and undersecretary of state for international security during the George W. Bush administration, said in an interview that the administration’s plan to cut nuclear force to as low as 300 “alone is sufficient to vote against Obama in November.”
“Congress should urgently adopt a resolution rejecting the idea that any of these levels is consistent with American national security,” Bolton said. “Let’s just see who is prepared to support Obama.”
Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney said even considering such deep strategic cuts is irrational.
“No sane military leader would condone 300 to 400 warheads for an effective nuclear deterrent strategy,” McInerney told the Washington Free Beacon.
“Going down to 1000 to 1,100 is risky enough and frankly in today’s world, very risky. The purpose of our nuclear force structure is to deter any adversary from even thinking that they could minimize our attack options. Such thinking is very dangerous and will only encourage our adversaries to make bold decisions.”
A congressional official and former administration official familiar with the ongoing review said the bottom level warhead levels raise serious questions about whether a nuclear force that size would deter adversaries. It also would raise questions about so-called “extended deterrence,” the threat to use nuclear weapons against states like North Korea on behalf of allies like Japan.
The new strategic review reflects the president’s 2009 speech in Prague when he said the United States would pursue peace and security in a world “without nuclear weapons.”
In 2010, the administration issued its Nuclear Posture Review that reduced the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. military posture. Then in March, Thomas Donilon, White House National Security Adviser, said in a speech the administration was making plans for “the next round of nuclear reductions.”
Under the U.S.-Russia New START arms treaty, U.S. nuclear forces will be cut to 1,550 warheads.
Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio and chairman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, said during a hearing in November that he is concerned about planned cuts in nuclear forces.
“The administration reviews are all being done to support further U.S. reductions,” Turner said, “This is concerning.”
U.S. officials say the failure of the United States to maintain a strong nuclear deterrent force would likely lead to other nations developing nuclear weapons.
Senior members of the Saudi Arabian royal family recently discussed the kingdom’s development of nuclear arms in response to Iran’s covert nuclear program.
And South Korea and Japan could decide to develop nuclear arsenals to deter North Korea’s and China’s nuclear forces.
James Miller, deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, told Congress in November that the NPR implementation study, when completed, will result in “more detailed planning guidance to the military, and then [U.S. Strategic Command] will revise its military plans.” The review will also be used for “future arms control proposals,” he said.
Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, said during the same hearing with Miller that the 2010 nuclear review “validated the continuing need for a triad” of missiles, bombers, and missile-firing submarines.
“These plans are essential to maintaining long term confidence in our nuclear deterrent capabilities,” Kehler said. “Unfortunately, the nuclear enterprise simultaneously faces significant capitalization challenges and extraordinary fiscal pressures.”
The administration committed to spending as much as $85 billion over 10 years to modernize U.S. nuclear forces and infrastructure as part of the Senate’s New START ratification debate in 2010.
However, some on Capitol Hill are calling the administration’s commitment to nuclear modernization into question.
Kehler’s predecessor at Stratcom, Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, told a recent congressional hearing that the 1,550 warheads under New START are the lowest level for security and deterrence.
When asked if the New START levels included more warheads than needed, Chilton said: “I do not agree that it is more than is needed. I think the arsenal that we have is exactly what is needed today to provide the deterrent.”
Kenneth deGraffenreid, a former Reagan administration National Security Council official, said in an interview that the plans for sharp nuclear cuts are “part of the administration’s purposeful decline of American military power.”
The damage to nuclear forces is compounded by “massive reductions across the board in defense spending on conventional forces,” he said.
“Defense is the only part of government this administration is reducing,” he said. “There wasn’t a single dollar of stimulus money spent on defense.”
Source: World Peace site
Mutual assured destruction (MAD) is a doctrine of military strategy in which a full-scale use of nuclear weapons by one of two opposing sides would effectively result in the destruction of both the attacker and the defender. It is based on the theory of deterrence according to which the deployment of strong weapons is essential to threaten the enemy in order to prevent the use of the very same weapons. The strategy is effectively a form of Nash equilibrium, in which both sides are attempting to avoid their worst possible outcome — nuclear annihilation.
Mutual assured destruction
The doctrine assumes that each side has enough weaponry to destroy the other side and that either side, if attacked for any reason by the other, would retaliate with equal or greater force. The expected result is an immediate escalation resulting in both combatants' total and assured destruction. It is now generally assumed that the nuclear fallout or nuclear winter resulting from a large scale nuclear war would bring about worldwide devastation, though this was not a critical assumption to the theory of MAD.
The doctrine further assumes that neither side will dare to launch a first strike because the other side will launch on warning (also called fail-deadly) or with secondary forces (second strike) resulting in the destruction of both parties. The payoff of this doctrine is expected to be a tense but stable peace.
The primary application of this doctrine started during the Cold War (1950s to 1990s) in which MAD was seen as helping to prevent any direct full-scale conflicts between the United States and the Soviet Union while they engaged in smaller proxy wars around the world. It was also responsible for the arms race, as both nations struggled to keep nuclear parity, or at least retain second-strike capability. Although the Cold War ended in the early 1990s, and as of 2007 the U.S. and Russia (former USSR) are on relatively cordial terms, the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction certainly continues to be in force although it has receded from public discourse.
Proponents of MAD as part of U.S. and USSR strategic doctrine believed that nuclear war could best be prevented if neither side could expect to survive a full scale nuclear exchange (as a functioning state). Since the credibility of the threat is critical to such assurance, each side had to invest substantial capital in their nuclear arsenals even if they were not intended for use. In addition, neither side could be expected or allowed to adequately defend itself against the other's nuclear missiles. This led both to the hardening and diversification of nuclear delivery systems (such as nuclear missile silos, ballistic missile submarines and nuclear bombers kept at fail-safe points) and to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
This MAD scenario is often known by the euphemism nuclear deterrence. The term deterrence was first used in this context after World War II; prior to that time, its use was limited to legal terminology.
This MAD policy worked extremely well, although ironically its sucess did not work on 'mutual trust' but a 'fear' from both sides ( the USA and the USSR) that neither country could attack each other without receiving an equally destructive nuclear counter strike, i.e. both countries would be wiped out.
The USA at this moment is the World's only super power and should remain so for the next decade.
This is because the USA not only has a massive conventual might, it also has a massive nuclear capability which it can deliver from land, air, and sea, with surgical accuraccy.
For some insane reason Obama seems hell bent on destroying the USA's military supremacy.
The USA has been and still is the protector of the democratic freedoms of free speech, equal rights for all, and the right to practice your own religion.
It was the USA ( along with its allies) that defeated (in the end), Fascism and Communism.
Now we are face with an even more evil dictatorship, that of the Islamic fundamentalist sharia fascist's and their insane 'mission from Allah' to inflict a world wide Islamic Caliphate ( run by these nutcases) on all of us.
And Obama not only is emaciating the military might of the USA, he now wants to eliminate its nuclear strike capabilities, which have insured 'world peace' for over 50 years.
Its alot cheaper to spend money on maintain g 'Peace', than spend money 'fighting' a War.
Last edited by WABA; 02-15-2012 at 10:58 PM..
This is a heavy duty subject and I am not ready to comment.
However, I did feel it worthwhile to begin by hunting down the original sources mentioned in Paparock's article:
"Remembrance of Things Past: The Enduring Value of Nuclear Weapons", Strategic Studies Quarterly, Spring 2010 by Forsyth, Saltzman, and Schaub: http://www.au.af.mil/au/ssq/2010/spr...zmanschaub.pdf
Happy reading !
“We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.”--George Bush
This would make sense if and only if accompanied by a major deployment of ballistic missile defenses, including a few dozen orbiting megawatt-class chemical lasers.