Combating the Myth of US Nuclear Obsolescence

February 25, 2014 | Edited by Lauren Mladenka and Geoff Wilson

Modernization double talk - “One of the greatest national security myths being put out in Washington is that the United States is the only nuclear weapon state not modernizing its nuclear arsenal,” writes Jon Wolfsthal in a piece for The Center for Nonproliferation Studies. “This allegation, made by Republicans both before and after the Senate passage of New START Treaty, is a convenient talking point that even made it into the Republican National Committee Platform for Mitt Romney in 2012.”

-- “The only problem is it is not true. The United States is, in fact, engaged in the world’s largest and most expensive nuclear weapons modernization program. Every aspect of the US nuclear deterrent is being modernized and updated, and has been significantly increased since George W. Bush left office. Moreover, America is on pace to match the size of the Reagan nuclear build up during the 1980s, despite the very changed security and economic realities facing our nation. White House budget requests for nuclear weapons are reaching historic levels, levels the Congress has been unable or unwilling to fully fund. With good reason. Fully implementing the current modernization plans on the books will cost the United States over $1 trillion over the next 30 years.” Read the piece here.

Hagel on the triad - “U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Monday said the nation would keep its air-land-sea approach to the nuclear arsenal, despite new Pentagon spending cuts,” reports Elaine Grossman for Global Security Newswire. “We [will]... preserve all three legs of the nuclear triad," Hagel said in a statement at a Defense Department press conference. "We'll make important investments to preserve a safe, secure, reliable and effective nuclear force."

--“Hagel did not rule out that the Pentagon might yet introduce spending reductions in the coming fiscal years to today's elements of the nuclear triad: Navy submarine-based Trident D-5 ballistic missiles; Air Force B-2 and B-52 bomber aircraft; and Air Force Minuteman 3 ground-based intercontinental ballistic missiles. However, as part of maintaining all three legs of the nuclear triad, he said the Pentagon plans to continue investing in the development of a Long Range Strike bomber to ultimately replace today's nuclear- and conventionally armed strategic-range aircraft.”

--“McKeon: U.S. Should Formally Protest Russian Arms Control Breach” by Rachel Oswald for Global Security Newswire.

Full compliance - “The latest report by the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency, released late last week, bolsters the case of those who called for a degree of optimism about Iran's promises. It states that Tehran is complying fully with the terms of an interim nuclear deal signed in Geneva in November that requires Iran to halt its most sensitive nuclear work for six months while a final deal is hammered out,” writes Scott Peterson for The Christian Science Monitor. “The measures implemented by Iran and the further commitments it has undertaken represent a positive step forward, but much remains to be done to resolve all outstanding issues,” according to the IAEA. Read the full story here.

Patience is key - “After chatting with Iranian and American officials about their negotiations here in Vienna, I was reminded of Winston Churchill's words: ‘To build may have to be the slow and laborious task of years. To destroy can be the thoughtless act of a single day.’ The truth of Churchill's observation will reverberate within the halls of decision-making throughout Washington and Tehran for at least five more months,” writes Reza Marashi in the Huffington Post. “Unlike the fast-paced, edge-of-your seat diplomacy that secured an interim deal in Geneva, slow and steady will win the race to a final deal in Vienna.”

--“35 years of enmity will not be undone over the course of a few meetings,” Marashi says. “While it is essential for diplomacy to yield tangible deliverables, the more important question is: What is our goal? If it is to secure a final nuclear deal that can win the peace and deeply change the U.S.-Iran relationship, prioritizing smaller steps over the duration of the next few months will be critical. Top officials from both sides are finally playing the long game, highlighting the long-term benefits of engagement, and making the political investments necessary to give negotiations a chance to succeed.” Full article here.

Tweet - @rethink_media: US must give diplomacy a chance with #Iran says Noah Nesin in @pressherald

Nuclear pact - “President Barack Obama Monday approved a civilian nuclear pact with Vietnam which could lead to the sale of US reactors to Washington's energy-hungry former war foe,” AFP reports. “Under the accord, US officials said, Vietnam committed not to produce radioactive ingredients for nuclear weapons and signed up to US nonproliferation standards, which the White House bills as the strongest in the world.” Full piece here.

Sanctions, Senate proceduer and politics - “Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Claire McCaskill were thwarted again Monday in their bids for floor votes on legislation to shake up how the Pentagon deals with sexual assault,” writes Darren Samuelsohn for Politico. “Their latest obstacle: Iran sanctions.”

--“In exchange for allowing the Senate to vote on the military sexual assault issue, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) demanded a separate debate on a bill that would impose additional sanctions on Iran if it fails to follow through on its end of a temporary nuclear deal with the U.S. and other global powers.” Full story here.


--”Diplomatic Approaches to Security and Denuclearization in NE Asia: Prospects for NWFZ.” Discussion with Morton Halperin, Jae-Jung Suh, and Hiro Umebayashi. Feb. 25 from 3:00-5:00, 1100 15th St. NW, 11th floor. RSVP by email to

--”Facing the Challenge of a Nuclear North Korea.” Discussion with Rep. Elliot Engel and Christopher Hill. Feb. 26 from 11:00-12:00 at 2253 Rayburn House Office Building. RSVP by email to

--“Toward a World Without Nuclear Weapons Testing.” Discussion with Karipbek Kuyukov and Roman Vassilenko, Ambassador of Kazakhstan. Feb. 26 from 12:30-2:00, George Washington University, Funger Hall room 209, 2201 G Street NW. RSVP here.