Butler County Native Directs Nuke Stockpile Cuts

Article excerpt

Robert Smolen oversees the U.S. government's efforts to reduce its nuclear stockpile by 15 percent by 2012. He thinks it can be done sometime next year.

Smolen, a retired Air Force major general, oversees the $5.2 billion Stockpile Stewardship Program for the National Nuclear Security Administration.

"Most of my 33 years in the military, I always thought I'd be fighting the Soviet Union. And now they've gone away," said Smolen, 56, a Butler County native. "But one of the lessons I took away is that we can't ever be sure what the future is going to hold."

Terrorism occupies most national security thinkers these days, he said. But the United States ought not eliminate nuclear weaponry, which has been "a great deterrent for us for 50 years," he said.

Smolen was in town this week to attend a military veterans event and to tour the Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory in West Mifflin.

In 2002, the United States and Russia agreed to reduce the number of active nuclear weapons to between 1,700 and 2,200 by 2012. That goal was met last year. So the White House tacked on another 15 percent reduction mandate.

With 10 types of nuclear weapons systems, however, the aging U. …