Sept. 23, 1992 — date of the last U.S. nuclear test — 28 years ago.
Nuclear weapon scientists and strategists are increasingly concerned about the safety and reliability of U.S. nuclear weapons, none tested in nearly three decades, obeying the unratified Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
The CTBT was the bright idea of President Clinton and anti-nuclear ideologues, increasingly dominant in a radicalized Democratic Party that would have the U.S. lead the way toward President Obama’s “world without nuclear weapons” even though Russia, China, North Korea and Iran are not following.
Decades late, the State Department finally admits Russia and China are violating the CTBT, conducting low-yield nuclear tests (“Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments” April 2020).
Defense Intelligence Agency Director and Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, on May 29, 2019, warned: “Our understanding of nuclear weapon development leads us to believe Russia’s testing activities would help it to improve its nuclear weapon capabilities. The United States, by contrast, has forgone such benefits by upholding a ‘zero-yield’ standard.”
Consequently, Russia and China are probably decades ahead in developing advanced nuclear weapons. Accordingly, President Trump and Senate Republicans wisely include funding in the new defense bill to de-mothball U.S. capabilities to perform nuclear testing.
Yet, despite nuclear testing by Russia, China and North Korea, House Democrats oppose funding even preparations to resume U.S. nuclear testing in an emergency. They would bind the U.S. to the CTBT and an obsolescing nuclear deterrent forever.
Democrats and their anti-nuclear allies in the Department of Energy (DOE) argue so-called science-based nuclear stockpile stewardship relying on computer models and engineering judgment is adequate to sustain the safety and reliability of U.S. nuclear weapons — without testing.
Democrats and the press trumpet recent testimony, supposedly supporting their “no testing” policy, before the Senate Armed Services Committee by chief of U.S. Strategic Command and Adm. Charles Richard: “At this time, there is no condition … where I would recommend the need for nuclear testing.”
However, Adm. Richard also testified: “But I would say though that it is important for the nation to maintain an ability to do a nuclear test should an issue arise in the future.”
Adm. Richard surely knows that a recommendation to immediately resume nuclear testing would guarantee rabid opposition and no funding from congressional Democrats.
Left-stream media mischaracterize President Trump’s support for nuclear testing as merely a negotiating ploy. They often belittle the president for exaggerating U.S. nuclear capabilities and asserting the existence of secret nuclear superweapons superior to those of Russia and China.
Public admission by Mr. Trump and the U.S. Strategic Command that America’s nuclear deterrent is obsolete and outclassed could invite World War III.
U.S. nuclear capabilities must deter, not Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats, but Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and Kim Jong-un — whose nuclear arsenals are proven by testing.
Twenty-four years ago, the late great Floyd Spence, then-chairman of the House National Security Committee, warned cessation of nuclear testing could eventually result in U.S. unilateral nuclear disarmament in “The Clinton Administration and Nuclear Stockpile Stewardship: Erosion By Design” (HNSC Oct. 30, 1996).
Time has proven Spence was right.
John Hopkins and David Sharp, former senior scientists in the Los Alamos stockpile stewardship program, call for resumption of nuclear testing. See “The Scientific Foundation for Assessing the Nuclear Performance of Weapons in the U.S. Stockpile Is Eroding” Issues in Science and Technology (Winter 2019):
• “Nuclear tests gave decisive, direct evidence about the behavior of new weapons destined for the stockpile … Virtually no comparable data exist on the nuclear performance of stockpiled weapons in their current state.”
• “Nuclear testing provided a solid foundation for the development and evaluation of scientific judgment because it unequivocally tested performance predictions.”
• ”Confidence that today’s nuclear weapons will perform properly is predicated on the assumption that there will be no surprises … The history of testing complex systems, nuclear and nonnuclear, is punctuated by unpleasant surprises.”
• “The above arguments are not ones that proponents of a continuing test moratorium or a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty wish to hear.”
DOE is trying to crush such “politically incorrect” thinking and hamstring the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Nuclear Weapons Council (NWC), according to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Imhofe:
“Recently, I’ve learned that individuals from the Department of Energy have worked behind the scenes with House Democrats on ill-advised legislation that would bury the Nuclear Weapons Council in unneeded bureaucracy and bring its decision-making process to a grinding halt; prohibit all cooperation between NNSA and the NWC for maintaining the safety and security of our nuclear weapons; destroy the NNSA’s congressionally-mandated independence and drag us back to the dysfunction of the Clinton years; and do lasting and possibly irreversible harm to the President’s efforts to preserve and improve our deterrent …”
Mark Schneider, former senior Pentagon nuclear strategist, observes: “Today, we do not have ‘science-based stockpile stewardship,’ but more like ‘political science-based stockpile stewardship’ while, conversely, Russia has science-based development of new and improved nuclear weapons” (“Yes, the Russians Are Testing Nuclear Weapons and it is Very Important,” RealClearDefense.com Aug. 14, 2019).
The U.S. must resume nuclear testing.
• Peter Vincent Pry, director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, served as chief of staff on the Congressional EMP Commission, and on the staffs of the House Armed Service Committee and the CIA. He is author most recently of “The Power And The Light” (Amazon.com).