Saturday, September 25, 2010

Nuclear Posture Report Review - Post #7

This post is part of a series that I continue to write about the NPR report issued by the Obama administration. You can download the report here. This post will deal with the "Maintaining Strategic Deterrence and Stability at Reduced Nuclear Force Levels" chapter of the NPR. Once again, before I continue commenting on the NPR, I need to add a disclaimer. I am employed by Sandia National Laboratories. The views written here are not the official position of SNL and should not be viewed that way. They are my views as a private citizen.

This chapter seems to be about leaving a legacy for President Obama.  The administration is outlining its plan for a START treaty that will limit the nuclear arsenals of the U.S. and Russia.  Amazingly, China is omitted from these treaty discussions.  Getting into the details on the planned New START reduction, there is a statement on page 22 that I simply do not understand, "Single-warhead ICBMs contribute to stability ..."  This statement is followed up with the "DeMIRVed" ICBM force.  Someone in the State Department believes that de-MIRVing reduces the incentive to strike first.  This is a silly statement because the U.S. has maintained for as long as I have been alive that our ICBM capabilities are strictly a deterrent capability.

This chapter continues to support the idea of a nuclear triad which a positive.  In addition, I found a lot of positives in seeking to be able to move treaty allowed weapons and delivery platforms as long as the flexibility to move them back to the original platform is maintained.  The current alert posture for our nuclear forces is maintained (page 25) and I see this as a step forward.

On page 25, we find that we will maintain our policy of "Open Ocean Targeting" of our strategic weapons.  I think that this policy is a meaningless exercise, but it does maintain the appearance of good faith in strategic deterrence.  Also on page 25, we find that we will seek to "Maximize the decision time for the President."  This is really silly because the President has the sole authority for the release of a nuclear weapon, so he can take all the time he needs.

Moving to non-strategic weapons (pages 27-28), I am encouraged by the decision to do a full scope life extension program (LEP) for the B-61, but I think the retirement of the sea-launched cruise missile (TLAM-N) is a bad decision.  This decision assumes that bombers with B-61 or air-launched cruise missiles (ALCM-N) overlap the TLAM-N capability.

On page 30, I find a lot in the goals of the Stockpile Stewardship Program that is good.  However, it will require significant $$$$ to actually perform the tasks and complete the goals. In reality, the true method of reducing the number of non-deployed weapons is TESTING.  Resumption of testing is NOT going to happen until the Directors at the NNSA national laboratories (Los Alamos, Sandia, and Lawrence Livermore) will not sign the annual assurance letter to the President.  In my opinion, this action is well into the future.

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