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Next Round of U.S. Nuclear Reductions Will Wait for End of Next Decade, U.S. Official Says

By David Ruppe

Global Security Newswire

WASHINGTON — While the United States plans to nearly halve its nuclear weapons arsenal by 2012, any further significant cuts would not be likely to occur for several years afterward, a senior Bush administration official said yesterday (see GSN, June 4).

Such reductions could only occur after the United States has created a nuclear weapons manufacturing infrastructure that could rapidly produce more nuclear weapons, National Nuclear Security Administration head Linton Brooks said during a nonproliferation conference here sponsored by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Brooks said that the currently planned arsenal, which he refused to describe specifically, would include a number of reserve warheads to replace those undergoing routine maintenance, to substitute for others found to have defects in the future, and to “hedge against an uncertain future.”

He said further reductions could be pursued when money spent on extending the life of warheads in the arsenal is shifted in a few years toward gradually building a “responsive infrastructure.”

And then by sometime late in the next decade, we can look at further significant reductions in nondeployed forces, depending on the infrastructure as our hedge, rather than the spares,” he said.

Brooks announced earlier this month that the administration intends to cut by nearly half the number of nuclear warheads in the U.S. arsenal.

“By 2012, the United States’ nuclear stockpile will be the smallest it has been in several decades,” he said in a statement released June 3.

While he refused to specify the size of the current or planned arsenal, analysts at the Natural Resources Defense Council estimate there are 10,640 strategic and nonstrategic nuclear warheads in the U.S. arsenal and that the number will shrink to about 6,000 warheads by 2012 under the administration plan.

With the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reduction Treaty, the Bush administration committed to having in operational deployment no more than 2,200 strategic warheads by the end of 2012.

Nuclear weapons and arms control experts have called for much more significant cuts to the total U.S. arsenal.

The Carnegie Endowment, in a report released at the conference, urged bilateral U.S.-Russian steps to reduce the number of warheads, which it said would “underscore for the international community that the United States and Russia are serious about their commitments to reduce nuclear weapons.”

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