Defense Science Board Calls for New Nuclear Weapons Capabilities

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The Defense Science Board (DSB) is recommending that the United States scale back its current reserve nuclear weapons stock-pile and develop lower-yield nuclear weapons that cause less collateral damage. The recommendation is contained in a yet-to-be-released study completed this summer and first reported by Jane's Defence Weekly Oct. 22. The board is a civilian panel charged with advising defense leaders on scientific and technological matters.

According to documents obtained by Arms Control Today, the study entitled "Future Strategic Strike Forces" suggests that the U.S. arsenal does not meet current and future threat requirements. The board cites a "different, more complex threat environment" that may not be appropriate for the "legacy weapons" that the Department of Energy maintains. The stockpile stewardship program, which may cost up to $6.4 billion in fiscal year 2004, according to the president's budget request, uses science-based programs to ensure the safety and reliability of U.S nuclear weapons without using explosive testing.

Calling for a "strategic redirection" of stockpile stewardship priorities, the report recommends scaling back weapons life-extension programs in favor of focusing on a "more relevant" nuclear weapons stockpile. According to the study, a future nuclear stockpile should contain weapons that have "great precision, deep penetration, [and] greatly reduced radioactivity" as well as special electromagnetic pulse and neutron bombs, "all with reduced fission yield. …