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Wednesday, February 8, 2017
Best article yet on the direction US nuclear weapons are heading...
Trump's nuclear options: Upcoming review casts a wide net
February 8, 2017
Some key excerpts:
"In a Jan. 27 executive order signed at the Pentagon, Trump directed Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis to “initiate a new Nuclear Posture Review [NPR] to ensure that the United States nuclear deterrent is modern, robust, flexible, resilient, ready, and appropriately tailored to deter 21st-century threats and reassure our allies.”
It’s wide open language, leaving Mattis with significant leeway over how the study will be run, who will be involved, and even the timetable, all factors that are certain to affect the study's conclusions. Or, as Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, puts it: “Trump is basically turning nuclear policy over to Mattis, whether Trump realizes it or not.”
But how much will really change? Analysts largely agree the modernization plan put forth from the Obama administration will probably remain intact -- but note it's the policies around the edges, and who gets to shape those policies, that will be key to watch.
While many of the Obama-era plans are facing scrutiny from the new administration, nuclear experts believe that major changes to the current modernization program under Trump are unlikely.
That’s largely because the Obama administration had set the Pentagon on an ambitious modernization course that will see almost the entire nuclear weapons complex renewed...
...Peter Huessy, a senior defense consultant with the Air Force Association, predicts a “stay the course -- plus” policy to emerge, continuing the modernization efforts of the Obama administration but looking to fill perceived near-term gaps in the nuclear posture. That potentially includes trying to speed up the procurement of the big modernization programs, as well as flowing extra funding to the National Nuclear Security Agency (NNSA), where the modernization of a new wave of warheads is ongoing.
“I think NNSA and the labs need more money. I also think they have to do a better job, and it’s a continuing fight to do better with what money they have,” Huessy said, referring to experts' concerns about aging NNSA infrastructure...
...“I think you could maybe add some things into the ‘18 budget that are absolutely necessary but you’d have to do a pretty quick study, and you’d have a hard time drilling down too much because you don’t have the people in place,” Huessy said. “It has to be done carefully and explained well. I don’t know if it will be a quick and short NPR. I know there are people who think it should be. We’re going to be doing about three defense bills in the next year. So there is an emphasis on getting decisions done quickly.”
...Huessy looks at it from a practical view. Other nuclear states already exist, and working out nonproliferation policies for the current geopolitical world is a sensible thing to do, in particular given the pressures around the Korean peninsula and the tensions between India and Pakistan.
"Any move to undo the 2010 NPR three 'Nos' -- no new warheads, capabilities, and missions -- would not only be unnecessary, destabilizing, and financially costly, it would also be deeply divisive domestically and internationally, including among close allies," Reif said. "And it would inflame already acute and widespread fears that Trump can't be trusted with the nuclear codes."
By scooby at February 08, 2017
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