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GAO: U.S. Gives Clouded View of Nuclear-Arms Dismantlement

By Diane Barnes

Global Security Newswire

An F-4 Phantom 2 aircraft releases a U.S. B-83 nuclear gravity bomb in 1983. The United States is giving an "unclear" sense of how quickly it is dismantling weapons removed from the nuclear arsenal, the Government Accountability Office said. An F-4 Phantom 2 aircraft releases a U.S. B-83 nuclear gravity bomb in 1983. The United States is giving an "unclear" sense of how quickly it is dismantling weapons removed from the nuclear arsenal, the Government Accountability Office said. (U.S. Defense Department photo)

Congressional auditors say the United States is giving an unclear picture of how quickly it is dismantling weapons removed from the nuclear arsenal.

The National Nuclear Security Administration set a fiscal 2022 deadline to disassemble all nuclear warheads retired before fiscal 2009, but its method for assessing compliance "is unclear and may be misleading," according to a report issued last week by the Government Accountability Office.

The country plans to return roughly 9 percent of the retired warheads to active duty by fiscal 2022, said the congressional watchdog agency, citing a March 2013 dismantlement schedule from the U.S. atomic oversight organization. The United States had 4,804 nuclear warheads in its active stockpile last September, and "several thousand" more weapons slated for dismantlement at that time, according to State Department figures released this week.

GAO auditors noted that NNSA personnel do not typically record when dismantled weapons were originally removed from the active stockpile.

"It is possible, according to an NNSA official, that NNSA is counting weapons toward the achievement of its performance goal that were retired after fiscal year 2009," the report states.

The congressional investigators urged the semiautonomous Energy Department nuclear office to clarify its dismantlement goals, and potentially extend the fiscal 2022 deadline.

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