Cutting Nuclear Weapons Funding Invites Insecurity

Tuesday, 12 Mar 2013 02:14 PM

By David Yonkman, Washington Correspondent

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A lack of funding is causing U.S. nuclear weapons and infrastructure to deteriorate, sources tell Newsmax.

The 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New Start) with Russia committed the Obama Administration to investing about $42.8 billion on nuclear weapons modernization between 2013 and 2017. However, according to Obama’s fiscal year 2013 budget request, he is planning on spending only $39 billion over the same period, undercutting his own promises by about $3.8 billion.

He is also planning to announce soon that he wants to cut the number of U.S. strategic warheads to about 1,000, far below the 1,500 warheads called for in New Start.

Having just 1,000 nuclear weapons would further exacerbate Russia’s numerical advantage in nuclear weapons, and it would potentially make the U.S. vulnerable to Chinese nuclear weapons.

The number of Chinese nuclear weapons could be as high as 3,000, according to a recent study, but the real number is unknown because of the Communist government’s secrecy.

It is clear that the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration operates within policy constraints articulated in the administration’s 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, Michaela Dodge, research associate for strategic issues at the Heritage Foundation, tells Newsmax.

The policy can be summarized with three "no's": (1) no new weapons, (2) no new military missions, and (3) no new capabilities.

“Nuclear modernization clearly isn’t this administration’s priority,” Dodge said.

Dodge notes that $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration that went into effect last week could reduce the funding even further.

U.S. Sens. James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Bob Corker of Tennessee say they expect additional cutbacks in the Obama Administration’s 2014 budget request.

“A vital plutonium-handling facility — deemed essential even by the president until last year and to be built at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico — has been deferred by at least five years, which probably means never,” the senators state, adding that virtually all nuclear-modernization programs have been delayed by at least two years.

“The president has a choice: running into a likely stalemate on nuclear disarmament or working with Congress on practical and realistic steps to stop nuclear proliferation andimprove nuclear security,” the senators assert.

The level of funding dedicated to nuclear weapons modernization is complicated because it is appropriated separately into differing accounts at the Department of Energy and the Pentagon. Sources who study the issue find that has been substantially reduced for both departments.

Furthermore, nuclear modernization spending can be dedicated to such endeavors as Cooperative Threat Reduction, verification of arms control treaties, or weapons dismantlement that have very little to do with an actual modernization of U.S. weapons.

The consensus among the problems of the aging infrastructure is clear though. The United States produced its last new nuclear warheads in 1989. Warheads in the current stockpile are based on 1970s technology, and much of the nuclear weapons infrastructure dates back to the Manhattan project in the 1940s.

“The only reduction in nuclear weapons is on the U.S. side,” U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, who serves on the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, tells Newsmax.

He said that Congress will need to work vigilantly to restore funding to the programs before the end of Obama’s presidency, because otherwise it will trigger a new arms race, but without the U.S. participating.

“At the end of his eight years, our allies will be getting their own nuclear deterrents because ours will be less credible,” Turner said.

“We need that deterrent capability. The administration is working against having that capacity, andit’s unexplainable.”

The lack of urgency to commit more resources to U.S. nuclear weapons program may lie in the fact that the U.S. has not been threatened as much as many of our allies. They include Japan and South Korea, which live under the threat of a nuclear North Korea.

Allies in the Middle East must also face the threat of a nuclear Iran, which has repeatedly and publicly voiced support for the destruction of Israel. A unilateral drawdown leaves other allies such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia increasingly living under the threat of a nuclear attack.

“The nuclear deterrent is the only weapons system I know of that has worked perfectly without fail, exactly as intended, for [its] entire lifespan. And because it has been so successful, then there may be some who have forgotten why we need it,” says Larry Welsch, a retired Air Force general.

And Turner adds, “Throughout history, disarmament has never resulted in third parties abandoning their weapons systems.”

Frank Gaffney, the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy, tells Newsmax that he is frustrated by the lack of funding committed by the Obama Administration.

He said that the unilateral disarmament by the United States is a naïve approach to a world without nuclear weapons based on an ideology that the rest of the world will abandon nuclear programs based upon U.S. leadership.

“The president is an ideologue who is committed to the destruction of our nuclear deterrent, full-stop,” Gaffney said.


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