The Obama administration is seeking to increase U.S. spending on nuclear weapons by more than $5bn over the next five years, including "an initial $600 million increase for nuclear weapons programs in the proposed 2011 budget it submits to Congress on Monday," McClatchy Newspapers reported Friday.[1]  --  According to the administration "the boost is needed to ensure that U.S. warheads remain secure and work as designed as the arsenal shrinks," Jonathan Landay said, but "[t]he spending plan already has sparked controversy."  --  In a neo-Orwellian Op-Ed piece in Friday's Wall Street Journal, Vice President Joe Biden tried to explain why it was necessary to spend more on nuclear weapons in order to halt their spread, lulling the public with claims that "we will maintain a safe [sic], secure, and effective nuclear arsenal."[2] ...




By Jonathan S. Landay

McClatchy Newspapers
January 29, 2010

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration plans to ask Congress to increase spending on the U.S. nuclear arsenal by more than $5 billion over the next five years as part of its strategy to halt the spread of nuclear weapons and eventually rid the world of them.

The administration argues that the boost is needed to ensure that U.S. warheads remain secure and work as designed as the arsenal shrinks and ages nearly 18 years into a moratorium on underground testing and more than two decades after large-scale warhead production ended.

The increase is also required to modernize facilities -- some dating to World War II -- that support the U.S. stockpile and to retain experts who "will help meet the president's goal of securing vulnerable nuclear materials worldwide . . . and enable us to track and thwart nuclear trafficking (and) verify weapons reductions," Vice President Joe Biden wrote in a Friday *Wall Street Journal* opinion piece.

The administration will seek an initial $600 million increase for nuclear weapons programs in the proposed 2011 budget it submits to Congress on Monday.  That would increase annual spending on those programs by about 10 percent, to almost $7 billion .

The spending plan already has sparked controversy.

Some arms control advocates who ordinarily support the administration contend that the boost will fund unnecessary construction of new facilities that could give future administrations the ability to design and build new warheads, something that President Barack Obama has forsworn.

"Essentially the new facilities would allow an increase in the production of new warheads if they wanted to do that.  They (the Obama administration) say they don't, but the next administration could," said Stephen Young of the Union of Concerned Scientists.  "There are risks . . . for our overall non-proliferation goals."

Conservatives contend that with the arsenal to be slashed to no more than 1,675 deployed warheads under a new pact being finalized with Russia, U.S. security will depend on ending the testing moratorium and designing and fielding a new "modern" warhead.

"Nobody should kid themselves if they think there is a substitute for testing," said John Bolton, who served as the Bush administration's top nuclear arms control official and was an ambassador to the United Nations .

All 40 Republican senators and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, implied in a letter to Obama last month that they'd block ratification of the new treaty with Russia unless he funds a "modern" warhead and new facilities at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and the Y-12 Plant in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

"We don't believe further reductions can be in the national security interest of the U.S. in the absence of as significant program to modernize our nuclear deterrent," wrote the senators, led by Republican Jon Kyl of Arizona .

Some experts said the administration apparently is hoping that its plan to boost spending on nuclear weapons will persuade enough Republicans to join Democrats in ratifying the new treaty with Russia and a global ban on underground testing known as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Iran and North Korea , however, could argue that the plan contradicts Obama's pledge to cut the U.S. arsenal and seek a nuclear weapons-free world in their campaigns to blunt U.S.-led efforts to halt their nuclear programs.

Other countries could see increased U.S. spending for nuclear weapons as backsliding by Obama, whose strategy helped win him the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.

"The tightrope the president has to walk is to put in enough funding to ensure everyone that the weapons will remain safe, secure, and effective, but not so much that it looks like a new arms buildup," said Joseph Cirincione of the Ploughshares Fund , a foundation that underwrites arms control programs.  "There is no question that some count[r]ies, friends and foes, will see the increased spending as a sign of U.S. hypocrisy."

Obama vowed to take "concrete steps towards a world without nuclear weapons" in an April 5 speech in the Czech Republic capital of Prague, warning that the growing danger of powers such as Iran or terrorist groups acquiring them puts "our survival" at risk.

He committed the U.S. to signing the new treaty with Moscow, de-emphasizing the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. defense strategy, joining the global ban on underground testing and bolstering the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the keystone of the international system to halt the spread of nuclear arms.

Obama, however, stipulated that "as long as these weapons exist, the U.S. will maintain a safe, secure, and effective arsenal" to deter nuclear strikes on the U.S. or its allies.

Since the mid-1990s, the U.S. has used computer simulations, advanced experiments, inspections, monitoring, and overhauls -- the Stockpile Stewardship Program -- to ensure the safety, security, and effectiveness of its arsenal, now estimated at 2,200 deployed strategic warheads and 2,500 reserve strategic warheads.

A series of government and independent studies have certified the reliability of the arsenal.  A September report by the JASONs, an independent advisory group, found that the "lifetimes of today's nuclear warheads could be extended for decades with no anticipated loss in confidence."

The JASONs' report, however, also added to concerns about a loss of U.S. nuclear weapons expertise, inadequate support for the Stockpile Stewardship Program and the need to modernize the Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico and the Lawrence Livermore laboratory in California and five other sites of the "nuclear complex" where warheads are maintained, monitored, overhauled, and stored.

The National Nuclear Security Administration , the civilian agency that oversees the U.S. arsenal, is pursuing a multi-billion dollar plan to "transform" the complex by demolishing old, unsafe, and unused facilities and consolidating their functions in modern, high-security buildings.




By Joe Biden

** We will spend what is necessary to maintain the safety, security and effectiveness of our weapons. **

Wall Street Journal

January 29, 2010

The United States faces no greater threat than the spread of nuclear weapons.  That is why, last April in Prague, President Obama laid out a comprehensive agenda to reverse their spread, and to pursue the peace and security of a world without them.

He understands that this ultimate goal will not be reached quickly.  But by acting on a number of fronts, we can ensure our security, strengthen the global nonproliferation regime, and keep vulnerable nuclear material out of terrorist hands.

For as long as nuclear weapons are required to defend our country and our allies, we will maintain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear arsenal.  The president's Prague vision is central to this administration's efforts to protect the American people -- and that is why we are increasing investments in our nuclear arsenal and infrastructure in this year's budget and beyond.

Among the many challenges our administration inherited was the slow but steady decline in support for our nuclear stockpile and infrastructure, and for our highly trained nuclear work force.  The stockpile, infrastructure, and work force played a critical and evolving role in every stage of our nuclear experience, from the Manhattan Project to the present day.  Once charged with developing ever more powerful weapons, they have had a new mission in the 18 years since we stopped conducting nuclear tests.  That is to maintain the strength of the nuclear arsenal.

For almost a decade, our laboratories and facilities have been underfunded and undervalued.  The consequences of this neglect -- like the growing shortage of skilled nuclear scientists and engineers and the aging of critical facilities -- have largely escaped public notice.  Last year, the Strategic Posture Commission led by former Defense Secretaries William Perry and James Schlesinger warned that our nuclear complex requires urgent attention.  We agree.

The budget we will submit to Congress on Monday both reverses this decline and enables us to implement the president's nuclear-security agenda.  These goals are intertwined.  The same skilled nuclear experts who maintain our arsenal play a key role in guaranteeing our country's security now and for the future.  State-of-the art facilities, and highly trained and motivated people, allow us to maintain our arsenal without testing.  They will help meet the president's goal of securing vulnerable nuclear materials world-wide in the coming years, and enable us to track and thwart nuclear trafficking, verify weapons reductions, and to develop tomorrow's cutting-edge technologies for our security and prosperity.

To achieve these goals, our budget devotes $7 billion for maintaining our nuclear-weapons stockpile and complex, and for related efforts.  This commitment is $600 million more than Congress approved last year. And over the next five years we intend to boost funding for these important activities by more than $5 billion.  Even in a time of tough budget decisions, these are investments we must make for our security.  We are committed to working with Congress to ensure these budget increases are approved.

This investment is long overdue.  It will strengthen our ability to recruit, train, and retain the skilled people we need to maintain our nuclear capabilities.  It will support the work of our nuclear labs, a national treasure that we must and will sustain.  Many of our facilities date back to World War II, and, given the safety and environmental challenges they present, cannot be sustained much longer.  Increased funding now will eventually enable considerable savings on both security and maintenance.  It also will allow us to clean up and close down production facilities we no longer need.

Our budget request is just one of several closely related and equally important initiatives giving life to the president's Prague agenda.  Others include completing the New START agreement with Russia, releasing the Nuclear Posture Review on March 1, holding the Nuclear Security Summit in April, and pursuing ratification and entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

We will by these initiatives seek to strengthen an emerging bipartisan consensus on how best to secure our nation.  These steps will strengthen the nonproliferation regime, which is vital to holding nations like North Korea and Iran accountable when they break the rules, and deterring others from trying to do so.

Reflecting this consensus, Sen. John McCain has joined the president in endorsing a world without nuclear weapons -- a goal that was articulated by President Ronald Reagan, who in 1984 said these weapons must be "banished from the face of the Earth."  This consensus was inspired by four of our most eminent statesmen -- Messrs. Henry Kissinger, William Perry, Sam Nunn, and George P. Shultz.

Some critics will argue that we should not constrain our nuclear efforts in any way.  Others will assert that retaining a robust deterrent is at odds with our nonproliferation agenda.  These four leaders last week in these pages argued compellingly that "maintaining high confidence in our nuclear arsenal is critical as the numbers of these weapons goes down.  It is also consistent with and necessary for U.S. leadership in nonproliferation, risk reduction and arms reduction goals."

This shared commitment serves our security.  No nation can secure itself by disarming unilaterally, but as long as nuclear weapons exist, all nations remain ever on the brink of destruction.  As President Obama said in Prague, "We cannot succeed in this endeavor alone, but we can lead it, we can start it."

--Mr. Biden is vice president of the United States.