Anti-Nuke Groups’ Proposed 95% Weapons Reduction Amounts to ‘Unilateral Disarmament,’ Defense Expert Says

Ryan Byrnes | April 11, 2009 | 11:15am EDT
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Nuclear missle. Undated (AP photo/file)

( - A coalition of nuclear “watchdog groups,” led by the nation’s largest environmental group, wants the United States to reduce the number of its nuclear weapons by nearly 95 percent and consolidate the number of sites currently researching and developing more weapons. 
It's a proposal that, if heeded, could result in “unilateral disarmament” by the U.S., according to a conservative defense expert.
The anti-nuclear watchdog coalition, which calls itself the “Nuclear Weapons Complex Consolidation Policy Group,” has issued a report that calls on the U.S. to reduce its nuclear stockpile across the board from 9,400 warheads to 500 warheads – a 95-percent decrease from the current number of nuclear weapons.
The coalition of organizations includes the Natural Resources Defense Council – one of the biggest environmental activist groups in country – and the Project on Government Oversight.
The 152-page report, “Transforming the U.S. Strategic Posture and Weapons Complex for Transition to a Nuclear Weapons-Free World,” also calls for a decrease in nuclear weapons spending -- from $6.3 billion to $4 billion -- and the elimination of more than half of the country’s existing nuclear development sites in the next 15 years. 

The report’s lead author, Robert Civiak, said that the U.S. nuclear complex has outgrown the necessary size for deterrence, which the group said it sees as the lone purpose for possessing nuclear weapons.
“We believe that nuclear weapons should be for one purpose and one purpose only, and that is to deter the use of nuclear weapons by others,” Civiak said.
The proposal comes only days after President Obama unveiled his dream for a “nuclear-free” world during an appearance in Prague.
In his speech in the Czech Republic’s capital, Obama said that “America’s mission” is to establish a world that is free of nuclear weapons.
“The United States cannot succeed in this endeavor alone,” the new president said. “But we can lead it, we can start it.”
Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch-New Mexico, a contributor to the report, said the coalition’s plan is an “interim step” towards Obama’s goal.
“While we hear the president’s call for a world free of nuclear weapons and in the interim a greatly reduced stockpile, we think that the real way to show that is to have a radically shrunken nuclear weapons complex as well,” Coghlan said.
According to the Congressional Research Service, the total U.S. stockpile is currently estimated at approximately 5,200 warheads, of which 2,200 strategic and 500 tactical warheads (including 200 of the latter in Europe) are operationally deployed.”
In addition, there are also 4,200 intact warheads already awaiting likely dismantlement, giving the U.S. possession of an estimated 9,400 total warheads.
Baker Spring, defense policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, told that the watchdog group’s proposal sounds to him like a plan for unilateral disarmament.
“It is consistent with a policy of atrophying the U.S. nuclear capabilities out of existence, and we are well along the atrophy path now,” Spring told
“Obviously (the coalition's proposal) can’t be based on any estimates of military effectiveness. Why 500? Why not just eliminate them all?”
Spring said the United States has been engaged in the process of consolidating its nuclear weapons infrastructure for awhile.
“We anticipate – and it already is in the process of doing so -- that the total U.S. arsenal is continuing to decline,” Spring told “Under the Moscow treaty, on the strategic level it will decline to between 1,700 and 2,200 operationally deployed warheads.
The watchdog group’s plan “does nothing” to assess what nuclear weapons the U.S. needs to be effective in a military sense.
“Nor do I think that they relied – nor could they rely – on any of the comprehensive strategic policy documents that would be necessary for defining those requirements, such as the report of the Strategic Posture Commission -- which has not issued its final report, nor the nuclear posture review, which will probably not be completed until the end of this year, at the earliest.”
Coghlan, meanwhile, said the anti-nuke report offers “a better alternative” than other proposals, including a step-down plan from the federal government’s own National Nuclear Security Administration.
“We are attempting to call for a true transformation of the complex, not the shallow and rather self-interested complex transformation proposal proposed by the NNSA that we believe will be dead-on-arrival in the Obama administration,” he said. 
Members of the anti-nuke coalition said they will discuss their plans with Congress and the administration in the coming weeks. Senior Writer/Editor Pete Winn contributed to this story.
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