In order to reach its goal of at least $480 billion in Pentagon
savings over the next decade, the Obama administration must scale
back previous schemes for a new generation of strategic nuclear
weapons delivery systems.
Earlier this month, President Obama and Defense Secretary Leon
Panetta outlined a more streamlined and affordable defense strategy
that envisions a more limited role and smaller budget for US nuclear
While they were short on specifics, it is clear that in order to
reach the administration's goal of at least $480 billion in Pentagon
savings over the next decade, previous schemes for a new generation
of strategic nuclear weapons delivery systems must be scaled back.
The Navy has been seeking 12 new nuclear-armed ballistic missile
submarines to carry more than 1,000 nuclear warheads into the 2070s,
at a total cost of almost $350 billion. The Air Force has sought a
new, nuclear-armed strategic bomber that would cost at least $68
billion, as well as a new fleet of land-based ballistic missiles.
In July, then-Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen.
James Cartwright explained that "... we have to recapitalize all
three legs [of the nuclear triad], and we don't have the money to do
But as the new defense strategy correctly asserts, "It is
possible that our deterrence goals can be achieved with a smaller
Such adjustments are long overdue. Today, more than 20 years
after the end of the Cold War, US and Russian nuclear arsenals still
exceed what is reasonably necessary to deter nuclear attack. The
United States deploys 1,790 strategic warheads, while Russia deploys
1,560 strategic warheads. Each side possesses thousands more
warheads in storage.
No other nuclear-armed country deploys more than 300 strategic
warheads; China has no more than 40 to 50 warheads on
intercontinental-range missiles. Just one US nuclear-armed submarine
could devastate an entire nation and kill millions.
Rather than maintaining obsolete arsenals that they neither need
nor can afford, leaders in Washington and Moscow could pursue
further, reciprocal reductions in their overall strategic nuclear
forces - to 1,000 warheads or fewer each - and still retain more
than enough megatonnage to deter nuclear attack by any current or
There are three key ways in which the president and the Congress
can trim at least $45 billion from strategic nuclear force
modernization programs over the next 10 years. …