US Military Strategists Call for Nuclear Weapons Reduction

Article excerpt

Concluding what many in the Catholic community--from activists to bishops--have for decades, an influential panel of U.S. military strategists in mid-May called for an 80 percent reduction in the number of the nation's nuclear weapons, saying current policy "unnecessarily incurs risks of unintentionally initiating a nuclear conflict."

In a report released May 16 by the advocacy group Global Zero, retired Gen. James Cartwright and others argue that the U.S. should reduce the total number of its warheads to 900 or less and with only half of them deployed at any one time, take the weapons off what is known as high-alert status, and reconsider moves to create several new nuclear weapons manufacturing facilities across the country.

In a conference call with members of the press May 16, Cartwright, a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who chaired the report, said part of the reason its authors called for such large cuts was because U.S. leaders have become "not credible" when they call for other nations to reduce their weapons stockpiles. "It's become a real problem for us," he said.

News of the report comes as President Barack Obama is weighing options for the future direction and scope of the U.S. nuclear complex. An official executive-branch report on the matter, called the Nuclear Posture Review implementation study, is expected in coming months.

Hopes for a reduced number of nuclear weapons in that report were first raised in January when a Defense Department report, called a "guidance," stated, "It is possible that our deterrence goals can be achieved with a smaller nuclear force."

A number of news reports have said that Obama may be considering a deployed nuclear force of between 300 and 1,100 deployed warheads. While the current number of deployed warheads is confidential, the U.S. is required to reduce the total number to 1,550 by 2018 to be in compliance with the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which entered into force in February 2011.

Among the groups lobbying the president to consider a significant reduction in that number is the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. According to a May 15 report from Catholic News Service, the bishops in early May joined about four dozen other national organizations in amassing more than 50,000 signatures on a petition asking the president to "dramatically reduce" the number of warheads.

The May 16 report, which is also signed by former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and retired Gen. Jack Sheehan, among others, argues that the nation's nuclear weapons can be moved off of hair-trigger alert, which allows their launch within minutes and has long worried analysts. …