Better Than Nothing


There’s little argument that the reliability of the U.S. nuclear arsenal is questionable and needs to be addressed. All our nuclear warheads are at least 20 years old and some date back to the 1970s. None of them have been tested since 1992. Nuclear warheads are complex systems and, unless it’s certain that they’ll operate as intended, they’re not an effective deterrent.

In my opinion, the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program is the obvious and preferred solution to the nuclear arsenal reliability question. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates agrees. However, because of Obama and his administration’s vehement antipathy to nuclear weapons in general, the RRW program is dead in the water. So, for now, I guess we should be grateful that it looks like the Obama administration might be prepared to do something, albeit grudgingly, to address the U.S. nuclear arsenal reliability problem.

2011 U.S. Budget to Fund Refurbishing of Nukes

A reliable replacement for the now-dead Reliable Replacement Warhead program will be funded in U.S. President Barack Obama’s proposed 2011 budget, said the woman most responsible for killing the RRW in 2008.

Ellen Tauscher, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said the budget Obama plans to send to Congress Feb. 2 includes “very crucial investment” in the Stockpile Management program. She declined to disclose specific dollar amounts.

Stockpile Management will do what RRW was supposed to do, Tauscher told defense reporters on Jan. 13.

Just three years ago, Tauscher led successful efforts to kill the RRW. At the time, she was a congresswoman from California and chairman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee. Her subcommittee blocked funding for the program in the 2007 and 2008 Defense Authorization Acts.

Tauscher left Congress and joined the Obama administration last June.

The Stockpile Management program would permit the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to “refurbish” aging nuclear warheads to ensure that they still work and are safe, Tauscher said. During refurbishment, features could be added to the warheads to make them theft-proof and more environmentally friendly, she said.

But the warheads cannot be “improved” in the sense that they are made into more effective weapons, and they cannot be tested by exploding sample warheads.

That is essentially what was intended with the RRW, Tauscher said.

But the RRW evolved into “a toxic concept” after officials in the Bush administration touted it as a program to improve existing warheads, Tauscher said.

“We don’t want people believing that we expect to go out and build new weapons,” she said. Thus the RRW program became “dangerous” when it came to be perceived as a program to “modernize” rather than “refurbish” warheads.

“We had to get rid of RRW,” Tauscher said. The perception that the United States was improving its nuclear arsenal undermined U.S. efforts to convince non-nuclear countries not to seek nuclear weapons and to encourage nuclear-armed nations to shrink their inventories.

Under the Stockpile Management program, the NNSA would maintain the nuclear stockpile without adding to its capabilities, without testing and “without causing people to be concerned about what we are doing,” Tauscher said.

Stockpile Management would provide for a “safe, reliable and effective stockpile until we can get to nuclear zero,” she said.

Projecting the proper nuclear image is critical to advancing Obama’s nuclear disarmament goals, she said.

See also:
Obama to seek major increase in nuclear weapons funding
Obama to boost spending on maintaining nuclear stocks
Obama Administration to Increase Nuclear Spending
Obama to seek more funds to secure N-arsenal
After pledging to ‘reverse’ their spread, Obama increases nuclear weapons budget
The President’s Nuclear Vision
Biden Sends A Message On Nukes
Debate heats up on Obama’s nuclear agenda
Nuclear Bomb Update Effort Slowed by Posture Review, Science Studies
No Nukes . . . For US

/as Reagan said, trust but verify, let’s see what happens to this modest proposal when Obama’s budget hits Congress

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