Global Security Newswire
Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues
B-61 Bomb Project to Cost $10 Billion: DOD
Extending the life of the U.S. B-61 nuclear gravity bomb is today expected to require $10 billion, an increase of $6 billion from the initial amount projected by the National Nuclear Security Administration, according to a U.S. Defense Department calculation reported by Defense News on Wednesday (see GSN, May 11).
The determination -- reached by the Pentagon's Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office -- also exceeds the latest NNSA projection by $2 billion, said Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee. Feinstein said she had learned on Monday of the Defense Department assessment.
An insider with Feinstein's office said Pentagon auditors and the semiautonomous Energy Department atomic agency “had some disagreements on assumptions.”
Expenses for NNSA activities have frequently ballooned far beyond initial expectations, Feinstein said. The price tag for a new plutonium research facility at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico has increased from $600 million to $6 billion; the Obama administration has moved to postpone the site's completion (see GSN, June 8).
“We have to find a way to stop this from happening and that’s what we are now trying to do,” the senator said, adding she had requested routine declarations to her panel of possible project complications that could boost expenses.
Feinstein said the appropriators want the Energy Department nuclear office to address issues faster, “before they are just left and allowed to continue to grow."
A former head of the U.S. Strategic Command on Wednesday stressed the importance of controlling such expenses.
“We have to get our arms around how to cost these life-extension programs, because we’re going to do them for the next 50 years,” said retired Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, who served as vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Washington has little chance of achieving its formal objective of full nuclear disarmament in the next half-century, he added.
“We have to find a way to understand what it costs; what the implications of a large inventory are versus a small inventory; and do a good business case,” according to Cartwright.
In testimony before the subcommittee, Cartwright and former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Thomas Pickering outlined key findings from a May analysis advocating the elimination of all but 900 U.S. nuclear warheads (see GSN, May 18).
“This would represent a steep (80 percent) reduction from the current U.S. arsenal, but it would not be a small force, nor a humble force designed for minimal deterrence,” Cartwright said in a prepared statement to the panel. The retired general and Pickering have both endorsed the assessment by the disarmament advocacy organization Global Zero (Kate Brannen, Defense News, July 25).
Implementing the report's recommendations could yield between $100 billion and $120 billion in associated savings over 10 to 15 years, Cartwright told the panel.
Former Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Keith Payne, though, said the suggested posture would undermine confidence in Washington's guarantees of nuclear protection to its allies and "leave U.S. retaliatory forces vulnerable to a handful of nuclear weapons."
"It's probably the worst of all worlds ... to have a lethal capability that is very vulnerable to an opponent, and the force structure that is recommended in the report would be quite vulnerable," Payne said to the subcommittee.
Cartwright and Pickering insisted the recommended nuclear force would remain sufficiently robust to deter enemy aggression (Diane Barnes, Global Security Newswire).
The Global Zero report advocates eliminating all U.S. nuclear-tipped ICBMs. However, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley on Wednesday said the United States should avoid cutting out any branch of the nuclear triad of land-, sea- and air-delivered weapons, Foreign Policy reported.
"I think, as, our nuclear force structure potentially gets smaller in the context of START, it's all the more important that we maintain a balanced triad going forward," he said during a Capitol Hill event. "In the context of rising nuclear capabilities elsewhere in the world, it's even more important that we have the flexibility across land and air-based and sea-based legs of the triad. We have flexibility of basing those, in targeting methods and other aspects of this mission that give us confidence that we can continue to deter potential nuclear ambitions of others and that we have the flexibility to respond if necessary through various means."
The head of U.S. Strategic Command, Gen. Robert Kehler, earlier this month left the door open for one day fielding something less than the nuclear triad. "My view today is that the triad continues to serve us well. It may not be true in the future, but it continues to serve us well," the Air Force general said on July 12 (see GSN, July 12 ; John Reed, Foreign Policy, July 25).
Building Mutual Security in the Euro-Atlantic Region: Report Prepared for Presidents, Prime Ministers, Parliamentarians, and Publics
April 3, 2013
This report is the result of a Track II dialogue including distinguished former senior political leaders, senior military officers, defence officials, and security experts from Europe, Russia, and the United States.
April 2, 2013
An op-ed in The International Herald Tribune urging today's leaders to move decisively and permanently toward a new security strategy in the Euro-Atlantic region.
This article provides an overview of the United States’ historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.