How the U.S. Outlay for Nuclear Developments in the Next Decade Takes the Shine Off the New START Treaty Goals

February 4, 2011

President Barack Obama signed the final ratification documents for the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) at the White House Wednesday. The New START is a nuclear arms treaty between the United States and Russia. An exchange of ratification documents by the United States and Russia on Saturday brings the Treaty into force.

The Treaty stipulates a lower ceiling of 1,550 for the number of deployed strategic weapons on each side. Jackie Cabasso, Executive Director of the Western States Legal Foundation and the Working Group Convener for United for Peace and Justice, points out that the rule in the treaty allows each bomber to be counted as just one warhead and that some bombers carry from six to 20 warheads. The rule, she said, "enables each side to deploy hundreds of warheads in excess of the limit." In a recent opinion piece, Cabasso points out that by the terms of the treaty not a single warhead is required to be destroyed.

Furthermore, ratification of the New START Treaty by the Senate on December 22, 2010, entailed the commitment from the President to increase the funding of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex to $85 billion over the next decade. This funding, at a level higher than at any time since the Cold War era, according to a November White House Fact Sheet, will allow the replacement and rebuilding of the entire national industrial capacity for the production of nuclear weapons. Funds come from this for the proposed $6 billion Nuclear Facility as part of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Another $100 Billion is to be committed by 2020 to modernizing the missile and delivery systems that carry American warheads. For instance, according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the Air Force expects to develop a new nuclear-capable strategic bomber that can be remotely piloted. At present the U. S. arsenal includes no nuclear-capable drones such as these would be. In this development what is particularly troubling is that new studies indicate that a nuclear conflict with only a small number of weapons would have catastrophic effects. A very limited encounter could have devastating climatic consequences, with disturbances of stratospheric ozone, precipitation, agriculture, and water supplies.

President Obama reiterated his commitment to the 10-year $85 billion program of modernization of the nuclear weapons complex in a letter to the Senators, where he said, "I recognize that nuclear modernization requires investment for the long-term, in addition to this one-year budget increase. That is my commitment to the Congress -- that my administration will pursue these programs and capabilities for as long as I am president."

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