For immediate release 4-7-2010
I of comments; Part II to follow – probably not today)
- Policy continuity
dominates long-awaited nuclear review
- Role of nuclear
forces entirely unchanged
- Alert postures,
- One redundant,
non-deployed weapon retired
- One narrow nuclear
weapon use scenario removed, or not
- Large new
investments, modernization of stockpile promised
- Review of new
“survivable” ICBM basing modes to begin, ala Reagan
- Pentagon funds to
add to Energy & Water allocations for labs, plants
- Past promises not
to nuke non-nuclear weapon states weakened
- Iran, North Korea
specifically “ruled in” as possible nuclear targets
- No further
disarmament offered or on horizon, “stability” now main
of retired warheads hostage to new infrastructure
Greg Mello, 505-265-1200 office, 505-577-8563 cell
Albuquerque – The Obama Administration
released its long-awaited Nuclear
Posture Review (pdf) (NPR) today. It is the overall
nuclear weapons policy document that will guide his Administration’s
procurement, deployment, and management of nuclear weapons.
The NPR’s conclusions are to be implemented
through a hierarchy of specific policies and budgets related to the
stockpile, it’s supporting infrastructure, and so on. It is
meant to guide foreign as well as domestic policy. Program, budget,
diplomatic, and policy inertia ensures that the NPR is a “snapshot”
of already-evolving realities, as well as an aspirational document.
Some of the decisions it describes are in the past; others may come
to pass for one reason or another.
Some can be implemented by the executive branch
alone, but many require congressional authorization and funding.
Given the inertia of the many institutions and
actors affected, this or any NPR is primarily an explanatory document. In addition to enunciating and guiding nuclear policies,
it substantially concerns itself with explaining to its audiences in
the U.S. and abroad how they are to understand these policies.
It is text and exegesis, scripture and commentary, both. These
strategic explanations are meant to augment military force and
diplomacy, and they are sure to be contested in many places.
The NPR’s major themes, as its authors
would like them to be understood, have been summarized by those authors and by major news outlets. There is no need to
repeat them here. Yet as news coverage and editorials have appeared
it has become clear to us that there is a great deal of confusion
about the plain meaning of this document.
The primary purpose of the following remarks by
Greg Mello, Study Group director, is to attempt to the best of our
ability to quickly dispel some of that confusion. Mello:
Obama Nuclear Posture Review is largely an extension of prior
policies and an explanation of evolving realities on the ground, some
of which the Administration largely controls and some of which it
largely does not. There is very little altogether new in it, though
there are changes in emphasis. Above all, there are new explanations. What have changed are largely the understandings offered about nuclear deployments. The NPR
repackages existing policies much more than it changes them. It
hardly changes them at all, in fact.
from being any kind of change, what is noteworthy in this document is
the absence of any change vector at all. Its emphasis, explicitly
and implicitly, is on nuclear stability. That nuclear
stability is needed as a backdrop for the continued and planned
deployment and use of U.S. conventional forces worldwide.
we see in this NPR is a weak executive, largely surrendering to
external forces it is not attempting to resist – not even
intellectually. These forces include first and foremost the Pentagon
and military hawks who guided the NPR process from inception to
completion. To the extent there was disagreement between the White
House and the Pentagon – and that widely-reported disagreement
appeared primarily to involve a few key words, an almost theological
debate – the Pentagon won the day almost entirely.
on these minor differences misses the central reality that there have
been no significant, core disconnects between the White House, the
State Department, and the Pentagon on these issues. The White House
is not supplying any independent intellectual stance or view.
forces external to the White House include Republicans in the Senate,
the big contractors who run the weapons labs and plants and the
pork-barrel politicians who represent them, missile defense
contractors and related interests, congressional Democrats across the
country who are afraid to appear “weak” on national
security in our highly-militarized political culture, and of course
the Russian leadership, which isn’t interested in significant
reductions in nuclear arms given U.S. and NATO military developments,
especially anti-ballistic missile installations, near its borders.
the lack of will in the White House to address some of these forces,
a status quo NPR was nearly a given.
NPR is quite specific in the elements it includes to appease these
status quo, hawkish forces. The disarmament and arms control steps
it includes, to the extent there are any, are by contrast vague, pro
forma – as in the case of the obligatory but vain mention
of Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) ratification – or
is nothing particularly disappointing about this document because the
Administration has been quite honest and consistent in its overall
nuclear conservatism. Obama’s Prague speech a year ago, to
take one example, made a very clear distinction between his “vision”
and what he would actually do.
one area where there has been dramatic change since Obama took
office, and since his first budget request of May 2009, is in his
Administration’s new-found enthusiasm toward funding the
National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s)
nuclear weapons complex, an enthusiasm which is significantly greater
than that which prevailed in the last three years of the Bush
from a certain remove, this NPR broadly hints at a geopolitical
vision, a kind of “world management strategy” based on
enhancing strategic nuclear stability with respect to Russia and
China as peer competitors and the maintenance and enhancement of
flexible regional nuclear “umbrellas” to help manage U.S.
alliances and keep down regional adversaries and competitors.
Nuclear proliferation is elevated as the greatest threat to the U.S.
and its critical interests in this strategy. This NPR supports the
notion that the possibility of proliferation is the greatest
justification we have for strong military and economic intervention –
the application of “hard” power – globally.
NPR’s goals are presented as synergistic, and are to be
supported by increased (and essentially-unending) investments in
nuclear weapons in both the Department of Defense (DoD) and NNSA.
One of the distinguishing features of this NPR, different from the
unclassified versions of past NPRs, is the specificity in which some
of these investments, which would otherwise be highly controversial,
are spelled out.
NPR, which changes so little actual policy, could accurately be seen
as a sales document for these investments, which are a considerable
part of its real, as opposed to its rhetorical, content. It is meant
to establish the ideological basis for renewed nuclear investments.
Such a presidential statement has been long sought by the weapons
laboratories and prominent nuclear hawks. In Obama’s team they
have found a powerful voice.
“antinuclear nuclearism” propaganda message offered by
the Obama Administration has been and continues to be an effective
means of promoting nuclear weapons interests and broader imperial
only by articulating a nuclear abolition “vision” could
such a massive increase in actual nuclear weapons expenditures be
sold. This tradeoff appears again and again in the NPR – we
must spend more on nuclear weapons in order to have fewer of them.
fact, this NPR suggests for the first time that physical
dismantlement of excess nuclear weapons is contingent upon new
the familiar roles of nuclear weapons return in this NPR, with the
partial exception of one: retaliation by nuclear weapons in the event
of a chemical weapon or small-scale biological weapon attack. Even
this one change is hedged in three important ways, however.
of all, both the text of the NPR and Secretary Gate’s oral
remarks were careful to leave open the possibility of nuclear use
(either reprisal or preemptive first strike, as present doctrine
allows) in the event of planned or actual biological attacks that
exceed some unspecified threat or danger threshold.
this self-restraint is contingent on evolving “U.S.
[conventional warfare] capacities.”
this self-restraint in the event of planned or actual chemical and
biological attack does not apply to two classes of states: those
which possess nuclear weapons, and states which the U.S. deems to be “not in compliance with
their nuclear non-proliferation obligations.” This latter class of states specifically includes Iran and North
Korea but may include others as well either now or in the future, as facts
and their subjective interpretation change.
these two classes of states, however they are defined, the
possibility of U.S. nuclear reprisal or preemptive strike as a
response or prevention not just for chemical and biological weapons
but for conventional military attack “against the United
States or its allies and partners” is not ruled out.
noted above, a policy of potential first-use remains. The new NPR is
silent on this topic.
“fundamental” stated role of U.S. nuclear weapons (“to
deter nuclear attack on the United States, our allies, and partners”)
remains unchanged from what it has always been.
postures are to remain unchanged. They are viewed as “satisfactory”
at the present time, in Secretary Gates’ words. “Satisfactory” is perhaps the key attitude toward
existing nuclear arrangements overall conveyed by this NPR.
the exception of the retirement of the “redundant” (and
non-deployed) Navy Tomahawk Land-Attack Missile/Nuclear (TLAM/N), nuclear deployments are to remain unchanged from “New START”
levels pending negotiations with Russia at some uncertain future
date. These negotiations will by all accounts be quite difficult,
assumed they do some day occur.
START” treaty actually allows more warheads and bombs than the
predecessor Moscow Treaty which it would replace.
NPR TLAM/N retirement is carefully explained as having no impact on
the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. policy.
nuclear weapons deployments in Europe are to be continued and
upgraded with enhanced bomb features and a more capable delivery
system, the F-35 fighter/bomber. Adding these enhanced features to
B61 bombs is currently expected to cost over $2 billion between
fiscal year (FY) 2011 and 2015 alone, not including infrastructure
and other costs common to all warheads.
is not correct to say, as the NPR does, that no new nuclear military
capabilities are being, or will be, added. Significantly-enhanced
military capabilities are already being added in the case of W76-1
Trident warhead Life Extension Program (LEP), capabilities which will
give these warheads hard-target-kill capability and greatly expand
their potential target set.
NPR describes a continuous process of modernization of warheads,
bombs and delivery systems, mentioning three successive warhead
programs to do that. In chronological order, these are the W76-1
LEP, the proposed B61-12 LEP, and the W78 or W78/W88 replacement
warhead, which is timed to begin about two years after the B61-12.
All these are (or will be if funded), multi-billion-dollar programs.
NPR specifically endorses the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research
Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF) at Los Alamos National
Laboratory (LANL), currently a $4.2 billion project aimed at
enhancing LANL’s capacity to manufacture new plutonium warhead
cores (“pits”). It also specifically endorses
construction of the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) at the Y-12 in
Tennessee, another multi-billion project. It requests that both
projects be concluded by 2021, which at least in the case of CMRR-NF
is a year faster than NNSA currently believes possible.
requesting both of these high-dollar projects, and by asking for them
a) simultaneously and b) quickly, the Administration is signaling its
endorsement for an aggressive stockpile management policy of
continuously modernizing warheads. Whether this approach can
withstand budgetary and diplomatic pressure remains to be seen. It
is far from clear that the Department of Energy (DOE) can
successfully build these and other new facilities simultaneously.
infrastructure investments are only part of a large, permanent
proposed NNSA budget increase, which Secretary Gates committed to
supporting in substantial part by a $5 billion transfer from Pentagon
accounts. Politically, this will weaken the fiscal and programmatic
oversight provided by the two Energy and Water subcommittees and
rebalance congressional power toward the Armed Services committees.
We have many more comments on this interesting and
revealing document, but we must conclude this press remarks for
today. If you have read this far, thank you for your attention.