JOHN ERATH HIRED AS SENIOR POLICY DIRECTOR
The Center and Council are pleased to welcome new Senior Policy Director John Erath, a 30-year State Department veteran. Erath spent much of his time at the State Department working on arms control and non-proliferation issues, and writes that he is excited to return to the field full time because he wants to work toward stopping ever-increasing nuclear threats. Read the full announcement with a statement from Executive Director John Tierney.
BIDEN SHOULD SINK THIS PROPOSED NUCLEAR WEAPON
President Joe Biden’s first real test of his commitment to reducing the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security strategy and trimming the bloated nuclear weapons budget will come when his administration releases its full budget request at the end of May. While a number of unnecessary and costly nuclear weapons programs should be critically reviewed by the administration, one program stands out for immediate cancellation: the Trump administration’s proposal for a new nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile, a redundant and dangerous multi-billion-dollar mistake. Read more in this op-ed co-authored by Advocacy Coordinator Monica Montgomery.
STRATCOM COMMANDER MAKES DIRE CASE
Admiral Charles Richard, Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, painted a dire picture of the nuclear threats the United States faces from abroad, and claimed that they could only be met by renewing the U.S. commitment to nuclear dominance over the coming century.
But in his effort to lobby for the continued congressional commitment to a massive nuclear modernization spending spree, his presentation made some curious claims and used misleading data. Read more in this analysis by Center Policy Analyst Geoff Wilson and Senior Fellow John Isaacs.
FINALLY, ADVOCATES FOR CUTTING MILITARY BUDGET GET THEIR DAY IN CONGRESS
As Council board member Joe Cirincione recently put it, most congressional hearings nowadays on military spending and the nuclear weapons budget reflect a common theme: “a stacked deck, more show than debate, and designed to validate existing programs, contracts, and policies rather than investigate them.”
But elections have consequences: with the Senate in Democratic hands, Sen. Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, held a hearing on May 12 entitled “Waste, Fraud, Cost Overruns, and Auditing at the Pentagon” that featured three witnesses testifying for cuts in the Pentagon budget.
Sanders vows to continue to use his committee post to impose tougher oversight of the Pentagon and defense contractors, and the Council through our Hill advocacy and election work has long urged such action.
WINDOW FOR IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL RETURN IS SHRINKING
A series of indirect consultations in Vienna continues between the United States and members of the UN Security Council plus Germany and Iran.
Ahead of the Iranian presidential election on June 18, Tehran is increasingly absorbed with domestic politics, leaving little room to negotiate an arrangement that gets the Supreme Leader’s blessing. If an arrangement is not found before the election, talks will likely be delayed several months to allow for Iran’s inevitable transition since President Hassan Rouhani cannot run again this cycle.
The technical understanding between the UN’s nuclear watchdog — the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) — and Iran ends on May 21. If the understanding is not extended, the IAEA’s nuclear investigators will lose key access to facilities and information that was made possible by the nuclear deal in the first place. House Republican Reps. Michael McCaul (R-TX), Joe Wilson (R-SC) and Steve Chabot (R-OH) wrote a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken asking what he intends to do prevent this loss of oversight.
Following an explosion at Natanz enrichment facility last month, Iran immediately notified the IAEA that it would begin to enrich uranium up to 60%. Iran has indeed begun accumulating uranium enriched up to 63%, which is far above the 3.67% limit codified in the nuclear deal. The clearest off-ramp to escalations would be to rejuvenate the Iran nuclear deal with Iran complying with its obligations in return for relief from nuclear-related sanctions.
RUSSIA MOVES TO EXIT OPEN SKIES TREATY
Russia has moved to exit the Open Skies Treaty, a confidence-building arrangement from the 1990s. Citing United States withdrawal in November 2020, Russia has stated that the exit is due to national security concerns. Although the Open Skies Treaty is not an arms control arrangement, and any information that could be collected through its provisions is already available commercially, it is seen, particularly in Europe, as a symbolic commitment to transparency. Russia has refused Open Skies flights over much of its territory in violation of treaty principles, but the treaty’s end is seen as further evidence of tensions between Russia and the West.
HOUSE ELECTIONS: DEMOCRATIC AND REPUBLICAN TARGET SEATS
With the House of Representatives so evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans this Congress, both parties are gearing up for the 2022 elections in which control of the chamber will be at stake.
Republicans feel they have the wind at their back to take back the House. However, the bitter infighting between the pro-Trump and anti-Trump forces among House Republicans that led to the exile of Rep. Liz Cheney from Republican leadership may set the party back.
Interestingly, the two parties almost completely agree on which seats will be most vulnerable to a 2022 challenge. Senior Fellow John Isaacs breaks it down.
PRESIDENT BIDEN’S FIRST BUDGET REQUEST COMING MAY 27
The White House’s Office of Management and Budget has officially announced that its first full budget request will be released on May 27. The request will kick off the annual budget cycle in Congress, and we will be closely tracking the debate around topline Pentagon spending, nuclear weapons programs, and the fate of controversial programs like the F-35 and the Overseas Contingency Operations account. The Center will have a full analysis of the request after it is released at the end of the month.
Maximum Pressure Problem: Iran Isn’t Going to Change, by Research Analyst Samuel Hickey
Updated global nuclear weapons count, by Senior Fellow John Isaacs
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