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By Hans M. Kristensen
The Federation of American Scientists and Natural Resources Defense Council today published a study that calls for fundamental changes in the way the United States military plans for using nuclear weapons.
The study From Counterforce to Minimal Deterrence: A New Nuclear Policy on the Path Toward Eliminating Nuclear Weapons recommends abandoning the decades-old “counterforce” doctrine and replacing it with a new and much less ambitious targeting policy the authors call Minimal Deterrence. [Update: see Washington Post – Report Urges Updating of Nuclear Weapons Policy]
Global Security Newswire reported last week that Department of Defense officials have concluded that significant reductions to the nuclear arsenal cannot be made unless President Barack Obama scales back the nation’s strategic war plan. The FAS/NRDC report presents a plan for how to do that.
The last time outdated nuclear guidance stood in the way of nuclear cuts was in 1997, when then President Clinton had to change President Reagan’s 17-year old guidance to enable U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) to go to the START-III force level that the Bush administration subsequently adopted as the Moscow Treaty force level. The series of STRATCOM force structure studies examining lower force levels is described in The Matrix of Deterrence.
Detonating a nuclear weapon in space would not only damage U.S. assets but those of all countries, including Russia. It would set back the use of space for multiple purposes – peaceful and otherwise – by decades.
Satellite images show that the Navy has begun construction of a new nuclear weapons storage and handling facility at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.
Russia is in the midst of a decades-long nuclear force modernization program intended to replace Soviet-era missiles, aircraft, and submarines with new systems.
The Sentinel program has been plagued with cost increases, flawed assumptions, and misleading arguments from the beginning; this most recent overrun demands hawk-eyed scrutiny of the program’s next steps.