Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Groups Focus On President's Goal To End Nuclear Weapons

President Obama In Prague

Apr 8: Following up on the President's call for a world without nuclear weapons in Prague, the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a report calling for fundamental changes to U.S. nuclear war planning, a vital prerequisite if smaller nuclear arsenals are to be achieved. The report, From Counterforce to Minimal Deterrence -- A New Nuclear Policy on the Path Toward Eliminating Nuclear Weapons, calls to abandon the almost five-decade-long central mission for U.S. nuclear forces, which the groups say has been and continues to be “counterforce,” the capability for U.S. forces to destroy an enemy’s military forces, its weapons, its command and control facilities and its key leaders.

Ivan Oelrich, vice president of the Strategic Security Program at FAS and one of the report authors said, “The current rationale for maintaining an arsenal of nuclear weapons no longer exists. And to get future reductions in the number of weapons, we have to eliminate the missions they are assigned.” According to a release from the groups, the nuclear mission flows from directives and guidance given by the President, through the Secretary of Defense, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to Strategic Command where it is implemented into elaborate war plans. The report calls for eliminating all but one mission for nuclear forces.

Robert Norris, senior research associate with NRDC and report co-author said, “President Obama has already taken the first step by stating America’s commitment to a world without nuclear weapons. We present the radical changes needed in U.S. policies to make disarmament a reality.” According to the report, "That sole mission is deterrence, narrowly defined, to mean the certain capability to retaliate if any nation was unwise enough to use nuclear weapons against the United States or certain allies. Hans Kristensen, director of the FAS Nuclear Information Project and report co-author said, “Under minimal deterrence, all requirements for war planners to achieve an advantage in a nuclear exchange or limit damage to ourselves will disappear, leaving only in place the most basic mission of a sure retaliatory response."

In a related action, the Nuclear Weapons Complex Consolidation Policy (NWCC) Network, a collaboration of six national and regional groups, released another study that provides the roadmap for a large and swift reduction in the nation’s nuclear weapons and the sprawling government complex that develops and produces them. The study -- Transforming the U.S. Strategic Posture and Weapons Complex for Transition to a Nuclear Weapons-Free World -- outlines the case for a tenfold reduction in the nation’s active nuclear weapons stockpile, to 500 deployed nuclear warheads by 2015, supported by a weapons complex reduced from the current eight sites in seven states to just three sites in two states, Texas and New Mexico.

Contributors to the study include two national organizations, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), and four regional groups located in the vicinity of major weapons complex sites: Nuclear Watch New Mexico, near the Los Alamos and Sandia National Labs; Tri-Valley CAREs, near the Lawrence Livermore National Lab; the Greater Kansas City Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, near the Kansas City Plant (KCP); and JustPeace of Texas, near the Pantex Plant.

The study’s lead author, Dr. Robert Civiak, a physicist and former OMB budget examiner for DOE nuclear weapons programs, commented, “As a matter of overriding policy, the United States should view its strategic force for one purpose and one purpose only -- to deter the use of nuclear weapons by others until the world is free of nuclear weapons. The Department of Defense and the National Nuclear Security Administration should structure U.S. nuclear forces and the weapons complex accordingly.” Christopher Paine, Director of NRDC’s Nuclear Program and a co-author of the report, added, “The U.S. government has wasted hundreds of billions in the 20 years since the Cold War ended maintaining nuclear forces and a make-work weapons laboratory complex far larger than needed for deterring a nuclear attack on the United States or its allies.”

In yet another related matter, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) applauded President Obama's "bold new approach to addressing the threat posed by nuclear weapons," as outlined in his groundbreaking speech on Sunday, April 5 in Prague. UCS said in a release, "Although the cold war ended some 20 years ago, Obama is the first U.S. president to commit to making significant changes in U.S. nuclear weapons policy to reflect new global realities."

UCS said the President "laid out several concrete, pragmatic steps his administration will take. These include reducing the role that nuclear weapons have in overall U.S. security policy; negotiating a new U.S.-Russian treaty to reduce nuclear arsenals, now on a fast-track to completion by the end of the year; pursuing Senate ratification of the international treaty banning the explosive testing of nuclear weapons; and initiating a new program to secure all nuclear weapons material around the world within four years. UCS strongly supports all these steps, which will reduce the risk of an accidental Russian nuclear launch, and the likelihood that more nations and terrorists will acquire nuclear weapons. These steps will make the U.S. public, and the world, far safer."

In his Prague speech, the President laid the groundwork for change and discussed the magnitude of the threat. He said, ". . .The existence of thousands of nuclear weapons is the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War. No nuclear war was fought between the United States and the Soviet Union, but generations lived with the knowledge that their world could be erased in a single flash of light. Cities like Prague that existed for centuries, that embodied the beauty and the talent of so much of humanity, would have ceased to exist.

"Today, the Cold War has disappeared but thousands of those weapons have not. In a strange turn of history, the threat of global nuclear war has gone down, but the risk of a nuclear attack has gone up. More nations have acquired these weapons. Testing has continued. Black market trade in nuclear secrets and nuclear materials abound. The technology to build a bomb has spread. Terrorists are determined to buy, build or steal one. Our efforts to contain these dangers are centered on a global non-proliferation regime, but as more people and nations break the rules, we could reach the point where the center cannot hold.

"Now, understand, this matters to people everywhere. One nuclear weapon exploded in one city -- be it New York or Moscow, Islamabad or Mumbai, Tokyo or Tel Aviv, Paris or Prague -- could kill hundreds of thousands of people. And no matter where it happens, there is no end to what the consequences might be -- for our global safety, our security, our society, our economy, to our ultimate survival.

"Some argue that the spread of these weapons cannot be stopped, cannot be checked -- that we are destined to live in a world where more nations and more people possess the ultimate tools of destruction. Such fatalism is a deadly adversary, for if we believe that the spread of nuclear weapons is inevitable, then in some way we are admitting to ourselves that the use of nuclear weapons is inevitable.

"Just as we stood for freedom in the 20th century, we must stand together for the right of people everywhere to live free from fear in the 21st century. (Applause.) And as nuclear power -- as a nuclear power, as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act. We cannot succeed in this endeavor alone, but we can lead it, we can start it.

"So today, I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. (Applause.) I'm not naive. This goal will not be reached quickly -- perhaps not in my lifetime. It will take patience and persistence. But now we, too, must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change. We have to insist, 'Yes, we can. . .'"

Access a release on the "Minimal Deterrence" report with links to the full report and additional information (click here). Access a release on the "Transforming" report with links to the full report and related information (click here). Access a release from UCS (click here). Access the UCS Nuclear Weapons & Global Security for more information (click here). Access the full text of President Obama's Prague speech (click here). Access the video of the President's complete Prague speech (click here).