There is increasing momentum for reductions in the massive American nuclear weapons stockpile.
Over the weekend, Philip Taubman of the New York Times penned a column recommending cutting the size of the arsenal by two-thirds.
Taubman recently wrote a book entitled The Partnership, analyzing the work of four former nuclear hawks and a renowned scientist now working for a world free of nuclear weapons. As Taubman noted, Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, former Republican secretaries of state; William Perry, former secretary of defense; Sam Nunn, a former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Sidney Drell, a Stanford physicist, “are not exactly pacifist hippies”.
Taubman calls for more than nuclear weapons reductions. He also urges the Pentagon to scale back nuclear war-fighting plans, remove the requirement that most American land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles be capable of launch within minutes, and terminate the aging B-52 bomber fleet that could deliver nuclear weapons.
Taubman is correct. The United States still maintains some 5,000 nuclear weapons, each a city-destroyer, more than 20 years after the end of the Cold War. While the Russians currently have more nuclear weapons, some experts believe that its arsenal will diminish over the next decade. In any event, the idea of matching the Russians tit-for-tat is clearly out-dated – if it ever made sense.
The U.S. should maintain a force capable of deterring adversaries from using nuclear weapons and assuring its allies, but we can do so with many fewer weapons.
Indeed, the Chinese have perhaps 250 nuclear weapons, and they feel confident that such a force can deter a Russian or American attack – which indeed it can.
The Pentagon recently released a new defense strategic guidance, which cautiously said: “It is possible that our deterrence goals can be achieved with a smaller nuclear force, which would reduce the number of nuclear weapons in our inventory as well as their role in U.S. national security strategy.”
There could be more specifics on that statement when the Pentagon releases its Fiscal 2013 budget in February.
But with the Pentagon already required to reduce the projected future increases in the defense budget by $450 over the next 10 years, and the possibility of additional reductions being forced on the Pentagon due to budget procedures (i.e. sequestration), the time has come to chop the nuclear budget.
Many hundreds of billions will be spent on the nuclear weapons force over the next decade, including many billions to build new versions of land-based missiles, submarines and long-range bombers.
Taubman is correct; the nuclear weapons budget is a great place to look for budget savings.