Editor’s Note: A major discussion is being conducted in national security policy circles concerning America’s nuclear weapons posture. This discussion is not general· ing significant public notice on the order of the far more visible, and understandable, news of sequestration and potential cuts in current forces and major defense acquisitions. It is, however, more important since it will have a direct impact on US Deterrence. One side of the discussion favors a drastic reduction in nuclear weapons. some even favor a total elimination. The other side, represented in this compilation of argument seeks to maintain a useful deterrent posture. How this discussion is resolved could have major impact on the Ohio Replacement Program.
The Signers of this document:
With respect to the role and value of U.S. nuclear weapons
- Despite differences of opinion about the nature of the current security environment, agree with the policy of the current and the previous administrations that the United States (U.S.) should maintain nuclear forces at the lowest levels necessary to meet its deterrence, assurance, and defense requirements. U.S. nuclear weapons are essential-most importantly, they deter nuclear blackmail or nuclear attack on the U.S., its deployed forces, or its allies by another nuclear weapon state. Even those who are optimistic about the current security environment agree that nuclear weapons remain an important hedge against unpredictable geopolitical and technological developments
- While sharply divided on the desirability and feasibility of a world without nuclear weapons, agree that, should the goal be pursued, the most important steps that can be taken to move toward a world without nuclear weapons are improvements in international security conditions. Global nuclear disarmament requires resolving disputes between India and Pakistan, Israel and its neighbors, and other conflicts, while also stemming any further nuclear proliferation objectives that are desirable in their own right.
- Further agree that a world without nuclear weapons will not be achieved in the near-to medium-term-or, as President Obama put it, “perhaps not in my lifetime.” Despite occasional pronouncements in favor of total nuclear disarmament, other nations possessing nuclear weapons have shown little inclination to reduc~ their stockpiles to zero.
- Since no signatory wants the U.S. to rust its way to disarmament, agree that the U.S. should maintain a safe, secure and reliable nuclear arsenal as long as other states retain nuclear weapons.
With respect to the U.S. nuclear posture:
- Despite some disagreement about the pace of modernization, agree that, for the foreseeable future, the U.S. should sustain a strategic triad of delivery systems and dual-capable fighters; as a whole, these capabilities meet important strategic objectives and mitigate risk. Indeed, at this time, there is no overriding economic, political, or strategic advantage in eliminating any leg of the triad or nuclear-capable fighter aircraft.
- Agree the U.S. must modernize its nuclear command and control system in order to support presidential situational awareness and decision-making. The system must be secure, survivable, redundant, and integrated with new capabilities such as cyber and missile defense.
- Further agree that sizing U.S. nuclear forces must include close consideration of existing and emerging threats, the capabilities of adversaries or potential adversaries, the se-curity concerns of allies, and the known strategic uncer-tainties that can be identified.
- Also agree that U.S. nuclear weapons should remain forward-deployed in Europe as long as they are required for assurance and deterrence, although a U.S.-Russian agreement on non-strategic nuclear weapons (NSNWs), particularly if it included limits on numbers and locations, would have a bearing on this requirement.
- Agree that differences about which systems to modernize and when are surmountable. The U.S. should continue to extend the life of systems such as the Minuteman (so long as this remains feasible) while replacing systems such as the Ohio-class submarine where extension is not possible. The Air Force is developing its new penetrating bomber with both a conventional and nuclear capability. Signatories agree that the bomber should be nuclear capable and that, in order to save near-term costs, the decision to equip it with nuclear weapons and to certify it for the nuclear mission can be made later.
- Agree that the U.S. should interpret the policy of not developing new nuclear weapons with new military capabilities in a way that permits sensible modifications to cur-rent weapons during the life extension process that improve safety, security, and reliability but do not result in new military capabilities.
- Agree that the U.S should pursue needed nuclear modernization efforts but recognize that, in the current fiscal climate, special emphasis must be given to cost containment.
- Agree that missile defenses can play a useful role in supporting U.S. deterrence objectives and security commitments.
- Agree that the U.S. should continue to develop and field theater ballistic missile defenses capable of dealing with potential attacks from North Korea, Iran, and other countries on U.S. allies and U.S. forces deployed abroad.
- While continuing to support development and maintenance of national ballistic missile defense (NMD) against Iran and North Korea, agree that it is not practical to field NMD defense against attacks from Russia and is increasingly impractical to field NMD against significant attacks from China
With respect to the U.S. nuclear weapons complex:
- While divided on the mechanics of the solution (e.g., with respect to governance of the nuclear complex and its possible consolidation), agree that the U.S. nuclear weapons complex is in significant need of both modernization and improvement in governance. The complex must be capable of reliably meeting Department of Defense requirements for Life Extension Programs in a timely and affordable manner and certifying the security, safety, and reliability of the nuclear force. A major improvement is needed in cost estimating and schedule adherence for construction of complex facilities.
With respect to the role of arms control, nonproliferation, and nuclear testing:
- While not unanimous on the need for, and utility of, formal arms control with Russia, agree that enhancing strategic stability with Russia must remain the goal of any such agreement. Signatories also agree that that the U.S. nuclear arsenal should remain at least as capable as any other state’s nuclear arsenal.
- While divided over the wisdom of U.S. unilateral reductions in its nuclear stockpile, agree that any U.S.-Russian agreement on reducing nuclear weapons should be verifiable
- While divided on whether U.S. nuclear weapons reductions, coupled with a reduced role for U.S. nuclear weapons, encourages states to cooperate with the U.S. on nonproliferation goals, agree that U.S. nuclear reductions have no impact on the calculus of Iran and North Korea.
- Agree that the U.S. should remain committed to sustaining a robust international regime of nonproliferation, strengthening the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), and supporting the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
- Further agree that there is insufficient evidence to indicate that further disarmament steps by the U.S. -whether negotiated or unilateral-will result in a new-found willingness by nonaligned states to embrace restrictions on enrichment or to call for the universal application of the Additional Protocol.
- While sharply divided on the political feasibility and utility of pursuing the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), agree that the U.S. should base its internal planning for sustaining the U.S. nuclear posture on a continued moratorium on nuclear testing.
With respect to the way forward:
- Agree that a credible and effective nuclear deterrent is critical to U.S. leadership as long as other states retain nuclear weapons, both for maintaining the U.S. global network of security assurances and commitments and sustaining a robust international regime of non-proliferation.
- Agree that providing safe, secure, and reliable U.S. nuclear forces -for now and for the foreseeable future -will only be possible if there is agreement on what needs to be done and constancy of purpose in actually doing it.
- Agree that the single most important factor in forging and sustaining domestic support for U.S. nuclear policy is strong, persistent presidential leadership.
- Agree that senior administration and congressional leaders must be willing to speak to the basic principles of an agreed way forward and avoid the temptation to stress only those elements which appeal to a particular support group-on both the right and the left. Now is the time to engage in a constructive dialogue on specific, often contentious, issues with the intention of establishing a common understanding and agreement on how best to support a sustainable U.S. nuclear posture.
Barry Blechman, the Stimson Center
Linton Brooks, Former
Administrator, National Nuclear Security
Lt Gen Frank G. Klotz, USAF (Ret), Council on Foreign
Relations, and former Commander, Air Force
Global Strike Command
Franklin C. Miller, the Center for Strategic and International
Clark Murdock, the Center for Strategic and International Studies
George Perkovich, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Steven Pifer, the Brookings Institution