|"WASHINGTON -- President Bush announced a widely praised decision in November to unilaterally slash the size of the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal.
His proposal, which would cut the number of U.S. warheads from 7,000 weapons today to between 1,700 and 2,200 warheads a decade from now, was intended to fulfill his campaign promise to "leave the Cold War behind."
Two months later, the bloom is coming off the Bush plan. Just last week, the Pentagon made public the main conclusions of the yearlong classified review it undertook to fill in the details of Mr. Bush's vision. According to this Nuclear Posture Review, the administration wants to save rather than scrap many, if not most, of the 5,000 weapons scheduled for retirement. Even when Mr. Bush first announced his plan, there were signs that the 1,700 - 2,200 figures were misleading.
To generate these numbers, Mr. Bush abandoned the longstanding rules used to count warheads. Weapons on systems being inspected or refurbished -- and thus not capable of actually being delivered -- no longer show up in the overall tally. Because at any given moment roughly 400 warheads are on systems that are off-line, Mr. Bush's target is actually slightly higher than the 2,000-2,500 level that President Bill Clinton proposed going to five years ago.
The Nuclear Posture Review also makes clear that the administration is slowing down previous plans to retire weapons."
--excerpted from a news report by the Council for a Livable World (http://www.clw.org/nmd/nmdupdates/020118.html)
I'm not sure I understand the administration's choice to simply deactivate, rather than disarm, and call the job done, and while I've generally been pleased with the Bush administration's handling of military and foreign affairs, I can't agree with this move.
I still have yet to hear a satisfactory explanation as to why we need to have roughly 5,000 nuclear warheads lying around "just in case." If he actually did disarm those warheads, we would still have perhaps 2000 active warheads plus another 400 rotating off-line for inspection or maintenance. Is there any real indication that we need to have more than that lying around?
Does anyone have any figures as to how much this is going to cost? I know the cost to store nuclear warheads isn't as much as keeping them on alert, but they still need to be kept under fairly tight lock and key, and my gut feeling tells me nothing involving 5000 nukes is going to be cheap.
I also don't like the implications for the Russian response. I honestly believe Russia would like to be able to disarm a good portion of their weapons completely. It would save their government a good deal of money, and it would seriously reduce the likelihood of a broken arrow on the far side of the Pacific ... something that would bode well for neither Russia nor the U.S. However, Russia will now find it hard to justify disarming their warheads completely when America wants to hedge their bets.
I can't come up with a scenario that would involve the need for even 2400 weapons, much less 7400+. For that matter, I can't come up with a scenario that would require the use of even 240 weapons, even if some unlikely circumstance wiped out 90% of our arsenal in one fell swoop. Also, the amount of funding it takes to store 5000 weapons under the tightest guard possible could probably serve America's defense needs better if devoted to other projects.