December 1, 2010 | Factsheet on Arms Control and Nonproliferation, Missile Defense

Nuclear Weapons Modernization: White House Lacks Commitment

The Time Is Now

  • Two Decades of Negligence: The U.S. nuclear infrastructure needs comprehensive overhaul—a critical problem demanding urgent attention.
  • Problems Already Apparent: The disruption of nuclear command and control of ICBM ground force at Warren Air Force Base shows that reliability is already in question.
  • Empty Promises: The White House has proposed $85 billion in spending over the next decade. This money is modest compared to the need. Furthermore, most of the money is proposed to be spent well beyond the President’s term. Finally, Congress has the final say in formulating the budget, not the White House.
  • New START Hurts, Not Helps: Under the treaty, the White House deliberately abandons the qualitative and quantitative advantages of the U.S. nuclear deterrent and risks hamstringing missile defense.

New START: Advantage, Russia

Sustainment Is Not Modernization

  • Maintaining Infrastructure Is Not Modernizing Weapons: The Administration’s plan is overwhelmingly weighted in favor of sustainment over modernization. White House policies bar steps that would lead to the development and procurement of new nuclear weapons that have new capabilities and can fulfill today’s military missions.
  • Readiness Still at Risk: While the White House is willing to spend money on infrastructure, it is not willing to replace weapons or conduct an explosive nuclear test to ensure reliability. The absence of nuclear testing seriously reduces U.S. confidence in the performance of existing nuclear weapons because of aging, radiation damage, deteriorated parts, and subsequent replacements with untested parts.
  • Strains on the Defense Budget: Additional funds that the President offered in exchange for Senate votes come from the defense budget and would result in reducing funding for remaining defense programs. This is at a time when the Pentagon budget (in terms of GDP and as a percentage of the federal budget) is at near-historic lows—unprecedented for a nation fighting two wars.

Other Nations Are Not Timid

  • U.S. the Only Nuclear State Not Modernizing: Russia is developing two different types of ICBMs and can add two strategic bombers to its fleet every three years. China is developing new ballistic missiles. North Korea and Iran continue to develop their capabilities as well.
  • Not Passing the Test: The Administration maintains a moratorium on explosive testing. Since 1992, other states have conducted tests. U.S. testing restrictions make both the sustainment and true modernization less efficient and more expensive.

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