- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 10, 2002

The Bush administration's new strategic nuclear plan would keep in storage thousands of warheads being removed from the active arsenal under a pledge given by President Bush, defense officials acknowledged yesterday.
The administration's nuclear posture review, characterized by defense officials as a plan designed for the global threats in a post-Cold War environment, makes no estimate of how many warheads would be destroyed in the next decade and how many would be retained on inactive standby.
J.D. Crouch, assistant secretary of defense for international security, said at a news conference it is "prudent that we have some responsive capability" that would allow some of the warheads to be returned to the active inventory.
"We're certainly not trying to mislead anybody," Mr. Crouch said. "There are no phantom warheads here."
In November, after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr. Bush pledged to cut the U.S. long-range nuclear arsenal by two-thirds, to between 1,700 and 2,200 warheads. The new strategic nuclear plan reflects those numbers, Mr. Crouch said.
But Mr. Crouch said many of those deactivated warheads would remain available for future use, if necessary. "I believe the Russians are doing a very similar thing," he said.
The report outlines a restructuring of the nuclear force to reflect new threats of the post-Cold War era that require "a broad range of contingencies" that might arise. Among the highlights:
Committing to generally keep the array of weapons currently in the arsenal into "2020 and beyond" and not seek to remove the congressional ban on designing or developing new weapons.
Reducing the nuclear fleet of Trident submarines from 18 to 14.
Destroying 50 Peacekeeper ICBM silos as previously announced.
The review also calls for increased spending for preparation for future underground nuclear bomb tests, should they be needed, although it reiterates that the administration has no plans to resume testing.
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said Mr. Bush has not ruled out conducting nuclear testing "to make sure the stockpile, particularly as it is reduced, is reliable and safe. So he has not ruled out testing in the future, but there are no plans to do so."
From what has been learned "this is a surprisingly modest effort" to revamp the nation's strategic nuclear plan "given that President Bush had promised a fundamental rethinking of our nuclear weapons posture," said Ivo Daalder, a nuclear arms specialist at the Brookings Institution.
Nuclear arms control advocates called the failure to destroy more warheads disappointing. "We are taking weapons that are being put largely if not wholly into storage for a rainy day," Mr. Daalder said.
Some nuclear nonproliferation advocates also saw the call for increased preparation for nuclear testing as evidence of a growing division within the administration over whether bomb testing is needed to assure the reliability of a dwindling number of warheads.
Underground nuclear testing was banned in 1992 under a moratorium imposed by Mr. Bush's father and reaffirmed by President Clinton in 1996.

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