09 January 2002
U.S. Will Rely Less On Strategic Nuclear Weapons, Reduce Arsenal
(Greater focus due on conventional arms, missile defense) (640)
By Merle D. Kellerhals, Jr.
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington -- The United States intends to rely less on strategic
nuclear weapons and more on conventional, precision-guided arms and
deployment of a missile defense shield in its sharply revised nuclear
security posture, a Pentagon official says.
At a Pentagon briefing January 9, the assistant defense secretary for
international security policy revealed unclassified portions of the
Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which outlines a post-Cold War concept
of deterrence including a cut in the U.S. arsenal to 1,700-2,200
operationally deployed nuclear weapons over 10 years period from about
6,000 now in the inventory. The highly classified report had been sent
to Congress for review January 8.
"We are trying to achieve these reductions without having to wait for
Cold War arms-control treaties, and placing greater emphasis both on
missile defense capabilities and also on the development of advanced
conventional capabilities," said Assistant Secretary J.D. Crouch.
However, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told news media the review
"certainly does not recommend nuclear testing. Any indication of that
would be incorrect." The review recommends continuing the self-imposed
1992 U.S. moratorium on nuclear weapons testing.
"The president is observing the moratorium and has said so," Rumsfeld
said. "Any country that has nuclear weapons has to be respectful of
the enormous lethality and power of those weapons, and has a
responsibility to see that they are safe and reliable."
However, Crouch said the U.S. Energy Department is planning on
accelerating its test-readiness program so that future underground
nuclear testing can be accomplished, should it be needed. And Crouch
also said the Bush administration continues to oppose ratification of
the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
The plan to reduce the U.S. nuclear strategic arsenal to well below
6,000 warheads was previously proposed by President Bush and
elaborated on during recent negotiations on the 1972 Anti-Ballistic
Missile (ABM) Treaty with Russian President Vladimir Putin in
November. Putin also has pledged to reduce the Russian nuclear arsenal
well below 6,000 warheads.
Bush announced December 13 that the United States was withdrawing from
the ABM Treaty in six months in order to permit continued research,
testing and eventual development of a limited missile defense system.
Crouch said the review calls for the approximately 4,000 excess
nuclear warheads not to be destroyed, but rather placed in storage,
where they can be retrieved and reactivated on short notice.
"There will be reductions as a result of our planning," he said.
The United States has already announced it will destroy 50 Peacekeeper
intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in an arrangement under
the still-unratified START II treaty.
The NPR, chartered in October 1993, is designed to be a comprehensive
review of U.S. strategic nuclear policies, doctrine, force structure,
command and control, operations, supporting infrastructure, safety,
security, and arms control. The congressionally mandated report also
examines the selection of targets, stockpile levels, and new and
potential threats to the United States and its allies and interests
The U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal is composed of a triad of nuclear
submarine-launched ICBMs, ground-launched ICBMS from dispersed missile
silos and nuclear bombs delivered by a fleet of long-range bombers.
"We will continue to maintain a balanced nuclear force triad, but at a
much smaller or reduced level," Crouch said.
The review is but one of three key reviews conducted by the Pentagon
since the Bush administration took office January 20th. The other two
studies were the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) and a review of
quality-of-life issues for U.S. military personnel and their families.
(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:
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