“The administration has made up its mind that they want to go lower, and the only way to go lower is to change the military requirements for how many weapons are needed,” said a U.S. official familiar with the review.
The review has been dubbed a “mini-NPR,” after the Nuclear Posture Review conducted last year that coincided with lame-duck Senate approval in December of the New START treaty, which calls for cutting nuclear arms to 5,000 warheads.
Pentagon and U.S. Strategic Command spokesmen had no immediate comment.
The mini-NPR is now looking for even lower levels, raising new concerns among national security officials about whether the United States will be able to deter China’s growing and largely secret nuclear forces or a revanchist Russia that is also bolstering its arsenal.
Administration officials have made references to the nuclear-weapons-cutting effort in recent weeks.
Among them were Rose Gottemoeller, assistant secretary of state for verification. She said at a conference on deterrence in August that “the United States has made it clear that we are committed to continuing a step-by-step process to reduce the overall number of nuclear weapons,” including through a possible agreement with Russia that would cover all types of nuclear arms - strategic, tactical and deployed and non-deployed.
Gary Samore, White House arms control coordinator, said in May that the review of nuclear arms was under way.
“We’ll need to do a strategic review of what our force requirements are, and then, based on that, the president will have options available for additional reductions,” he told Arms Control Today. “That review is ongoing.”
Mr. Samore noted that the review is taking time because “we’ve reached the level in our forces where further reductions will raise questions about whether we retain the triad, or whether we go to a system that only is a dyad.”
The current triad strategic force consists of three types of delivery systems: land-based missiles, bombers and submarine missiles.
It is not known which delivery system would be placed on the chopping block under the mini-NPR.
Mr. Samore noted that if there is no agreement or treaty for the next nuclear cuts, “even unilateral” cuts are being considered.
NORTH KOREAN COUNTERFEITS