On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed overwhelming, 359 to 68, a bill that sets out procedures for nuclear trade with India (the link includes the House floor debate and the text of the bill, about a third of way down). It is an entirely different bill than that proposed by the White House. The White House’s suggested bill was an insult to Congress, essentially asking Congress to cede any review rights and to approve details of the nuclear deal that haven’t even been decided yet. Whatever members of Congress thought about the India-US nuclear deal, they were not going to just leave the rubber stamp on the White House steps. The House bill, H.R. 5682, clearly rebukes the President on his request for pre-approval. The ultimate details of any agreement will have to go back to Congress for approval by joint resolution.
The French magazine Défense Nationale asked me to submit an article about the new U.S. National Military Strategy published by the Bush administration in March 2006 and how it relates to the so-called preemption doctrine announced by the administration in 2002. The article is included in the July 2006 issue which focuses on the nuclear deterrence debate following the announcement by French president Jacques Chiraq in January that France has adjusted its nuclear posture to target regional adversaries armed with weapons of mass destruction. The magazine is published by the Committee for National Defence Studies, an independent research institution which includes several retired generals and admirals from the French military.
The Pentagon is considering acquiring up to four types of Reliable Replacement Warheads (RRW), twice as many as reported so far, according to an overview discovered by the Federation of the American Scientists on a Pentagon web site.
The Department of Energy told Congress in April that Los Alamos National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory were working on “an RRW design” for completion later in 2006. The Washington Post added last month that a Senate subcommittee had added $10 million to next year’s budget to fund a design of a second RRW.
According to the new DOD overview, which looks beyond 2030, the future nuclear weapons stockpile would be made up of 4-6 different types of warheads (down from nine types today). A decision would be made mid-next decade about whether to have a mix of RRWs and existing warhead types or transition to an all RRW-stockpile.
In an apparent response to the Bush administration’s decision to reduce reliance of reserve warheads and instead transition to a “responsive infrastructure” that will produce warheads when needed, the DOD plan envisions “steady-state production of warheads for deployment” in the long term.
The plan also forecasts decisions on developments of warheads for the next generation of nuclear weapon delivery systems (missiles and aircraft).
The U.S. nuclear stockpile currently contains approximately 10,000 nuclear warheads of nine principle designs: B61, W62, W76, W78, W80, B83, W84, W87 and W88. The Bush administration has decided to reduce the total stockpile “almost in half” which is estimated to leave a stockpile of some 6,000 warheads in 2012.
Visit the Pentagon web site.
At Thursday’s hearing on the sale of 36 F-16 aircraft to Pakistan, Assistant Secretary of State John Hillen endured tongue-lashings from several members of the House International Relations Committee (HIRC), who objected to the manner in which his bureau has managed the $5.1 billion arms package. Of particular concern was the administration’s unilateral decision to waive the customary 20-day pre-notification for major arms sales, which many members viewed as a deliberate attempt to circumvent the committee’s authority. The decision – and the confrontation it provoked – could have far-reaching consequences, not only for Congressional oversight of arms sales but also several key State Department initiatives.