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  • Nuclear Reductions Should Not Be Driven by Numbers

    “There are very solid grounds for re-evaluating our nuclear force structure,” writes Major General Paul Monroe (Ret.) in his recent Politico op-ed. He comes out in support of the recent nuclear reductions announced by the White House, which is contemplating options to go to as low as 300 operationally deployed warheads.

    While Monroe is right that “defense assessments are quite common and have been going on since President Dwight D. Eisenhower held office,” President Obama’s guidance starts with setting an arbitrary number rather than a sound strategic assessment of the current strategic environment.

    The basis of the Obama Administration’s thinking is rooted in its desire to get the world rid of nuclear weapons. It assumes that by giving up U.S. nuclear weapons, other nations will follow. This is not going to happen, because countries have their own reasons why they acquire nuclear weapons that are not primarily derived from the number of U.S. weapons.

    Paradoxically, as the U.S. reduces its nuclear arsenal, it increases the value not only of its remaining weapons but also of nuclear weapons for U.S. adversaries. The perceptions of parity with the U.S. would be a powerful enabler for aspiring regional powers and potential strategic adversaries. In addition, the U.S. provides guarantees to more than 30 countries all over the world. No other country has such global obligations.

    Monroe contemplates “whether some of the hundreds of billions spent on that large arsenal would be better spent on other defense priorities.” Nuclear weapons, however, consume only a small portion of the overall defense budget. In addition, they allow the U.S. to maintain smaller conventional forces and a forward-deployed presence to assure allies around the world.

    The U.S. nuclear weapons infrastructure is already under-funded, a fact recognized by the Administration itself during the New START ratification, when it deemed these investments “essential to facilitating reductions while sustaining deterrence under New START and beyond.” So far, the Administration has fallen short of its funding promises, and therefore conditions for further reductions are not present.

    The U.S. is the only country in the world without a substantial modernization program. At the same time, the targeting list is evolving more rapidly than at any point in history as new nuclear weapon states and actors emerge. Arbitrarily lowering the number of weapons could reduce the President’s options when deciding what would be an appropriate response in the case of an enemy strike.

    A sound nuclear posture review would look at the strategic environment and determine what capabilities would serve the U.S. and allied interests the most. Heritage research shows that a shift toward the “protect and defend” strategy combining offensive, defensive, conventional, and nuclear weapons is the best response for the current multi-proliferated environment.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    3 Responses to Nuclear Reductions Should Not Be Driven by Numbers

    1. Jon says:

      I agree that our nuclear weapon arsenal should contain enough warheads to take out the necessary targets held by our adversaries. However, I do believe we will continue to move to lower deployed levels. I think we can keep a strong deterrent by relying on icbms and slbms. These are still able to penetrate and hit their targets, while bomber gravity bombs and alcms are becoming more easily defeated by advancing air defenses. I also think that we should restructure the bomber leg of the triad by placing gravity bombs and alcms into central storage locations that are protected from nuclear attack. In a bolt from the blue attack the only real chance that bombers have would be to scramble and get off the ground before being destroyed, let alone try to load with nuclear weapons. Bombers would also probably not be used first in a nuclear strike.

    2. Jon says:

      I think we can save money by fielding fewer delivery vehicles and just uploading more warheads to maintain 1,550. For example 300 icbms with one w87 warhead each, 288 slbms with 1,200 W88 warheads (build more), and 96 nuclear capable bombers (36 B-1Bs, 44 B-52Hs, and 16 B-2As) would provide ample deterrent and a more flexible force structure than what has been initially proposed by the current administration. One thing that is not addressed that often is the range of our icbms. The Minuteman III does not have the range to hit any target on Earth, slbms and bombers can. Finally, I don't believe we should move below 1,500 deployed warheads.

    3. Keith Ellenberger says:

      This continues the Obama plan to unilaterally disarm the Unted States in emulation of his adored European social democracies. We will soon be in the position where the peace which the overwhelming strength of our arms has kept for the last 60 years will be imperiled by ambitious and militaristic nations that will not be kept in check by respect for American power. Chamberlain found out that nature abhors a vacuum, and it is usually filled by meaningless deceptions and obsequious appeasements until the thunderclap of war restores the balance.

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