A report from Global Zero, a group dedicated to the abolition of nuclear weapons, might be expected to set its sights on a world free of nuclear weapons. A report prepared by a commission of Generals, Ambassadors and a retired Republican Senator might be expected to advocate a sustained commitment to projecting nuclear force with as large a stockpile as possible.
But the report, Modernizing US Nuclear Strategy, Force Structure and Posture, does neither. Instead, the report commissioned by Global Zero and authored by General James Cartwright, retired Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and one-time head of US strategic (nuclear) forces, says the US can maintain be secure and maintain a sufficient deterrent while reducing its nuclear stockpile by 80% over the next ten years. It’s not zero, but it is a practical proposal for how to move in that direction.
In the process, the report finds that proposals to modernize the US nuclear weapon production infrastructure should be downsized and restructured, citing the UPF at Y12 in Oak Ridge, TN along with two plutonium facilities at Los Alamos, NM. The call for revisiting plans for massive new production facilities notes that one consequence of stockpile reductions is “thousands of warheads in the Life Extension Program pipeline could be retired instead of refurbished.”
Ralph Hutchison, OREPA coordinator, hailed the report as a step in the right direction. “Since the UPF was first proposed in 2005, OREPA has consistently argued any investment in production facilities should be based on real-world analysis of the need for producing more secondaries. The President has said US policy is to seek deeper reductions in the stockpile on the way to a world free of nuclear weapons. This obviously means the need for production capacity is decreasing and will continue to decline. The Global Zero report sets out a marker, calling for deep reductions not in the indefinite future, but in ten years. This clearly undercuts the plans for a Supersized UPF with the capacity to reconstitute the entire 1,550 warhead stockpile every twenty years.”
The Global Zero report says the United States security posture should move away from Cold War thinking to address the actual security threats on the 21st century. In that context, the US can maintain a more than adequate deterrent and be confidently secure with a total stockpile of 500-900 warheads—one scenario set forth is an actively deployed stockpile of 450 weapons with a similar number in reserve.
“The timetable and the specific numbers will be debated,” Hutchison said, “but the trajectory is clear. In the next two decades, we can expect the production mission to drop off to near zero. The need for dismantlement capacity, on the other hand, will be expanding dramatically. This is a mission Oak Ridge’s Y12 plant is uniquely qualified to perform, this is the investment we should be pursuing— these are the jobs of the future.”
You can read the full report here: cartwright report