Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Congress and America’s Nuclear Weapons: Can Congress Effectively Steer Foreign Policy?

Posted by K.E. White on January 18, 2008

Much has been made of Congressional inability to stop the war in Iraq, or other Bush-backed foreign policy ventures—whether aid for Pakistan or the US-India nuclear deal. 

But Daryl Kimball, writing for Arms Control Today, notes the positive work Congress has done—from his point of view—to stop dangerous Bush administration supported nuclear policies. 

Kimball singles out Congressional rejection of the Reliable Replacement Warhead and a congressionally mandated US nuclear posture review. But Kimball leaves the next President and Congress a steep challenge: pursuing nuclear weapons reductions with the Soviet Union. 

From Kimball’s ACT article:

Effecting change in Washington, and nuclear weapons policy in particular, is exceedingly difficult, requiring strong presidential leadership and a working bipartisan majority. Yet, recent congressional actions and trends will give the next occupant of the White House a rare opportunity to initiate sweeping changes in outdated U.S. nuclear weapons and arms control policies.

Congress in December struck down the Bush administration’s ill-conceived plan for new “replacement” nuclear warheads and an additional plutonium pit production facility to help build them. Although President George W. Bush may try to revive these projects and insist that the nuclear arsenal is as small as possible, there is growing support and a strong security rationale for fewer, not newer, nuclear weapons.

 

Reflecting bipartisan frustration with Bush’s nuclear policies, Congress also mandated a top-to-bottom review of the role and size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal by the end of 2009. This represents an opportunity that the next president must not squander.

Previous Bush and Clinton administration nuclear posture reviews fell woefully short. Each version only slightly modified previous Cold War targeting plans and policies. As a result, the number of deployed nuclear weapons were trimmed, but the force is still enormous. The 1994 nuclear posture review endorsed a force reduction from 3,500 deployed strategic warheads to 2,500. Bush’s 2001 review called for a force of 1,700-2,200 such warheads by 2012.

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