GENERAL Kevin Chilton, commander of US Strategic Command has been pushing hard since Spring, along with Pres.-elect Obama's holdover Defense chief, Robert Gates, in a desperate attempt to get traction under the Bush defense establishment's ambition to yoke the next generation of Americans to a 'new generation' of smaller 'usable' mini-nukes.
The WaPo reported that Chilton, addressing the Nuclear Deterrence Summit in Washington Wednesday, warned that "time is not on our side" to modernize the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile, particularly as China and Russia upgrade their nuclear warheads and delivery systems."
The general also argued in favor of stepped up construction of modernized nuclear power plants which would facilitate the next generation nukes.
The U.S. today "has no nuclear weapon production capacity," he said. "We can produce a handful of weapons in a laboratory but we've taken down the manufacturing capability."
Obama's decision to retain Bush's Defense Chief has allowed Robert Gates and the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, to echo Gen. Chilton and amplify their own affinity for new nuclear weapon production to respond to what they see as new threats coming from China, Russia, and Iran.
Admiral Mike Mullen testifying about the state of our nuclear arsenal in 2007 raised the issue of nukes as a deterrent to Iran. “I’m especially concerned about the increasingly hostile role played by Iran,” he said. “I support diplomatic efforts to counter Iran’s destabilizing behavior and hope their leaders will choose to act responsibly, but I find their support for terrorism and their nuclear ambitions deeply troubling.”
As the U.S. continues what is likely to be a “longer, larger war on terror,” the U.S. military could be taken to places “we do not now foresee,” Mullen said. Meanwhile the United States must be able to “deter if possible and defeat if necessary” regional powers that might be armed with nuclear weapons"
"China and Russia have embarked on ambitious paths to design and field new weapons," Defense Secretary Gates said in October. "To be blunt, there is absolutely no way we can maintain a credible deterrent and reduce the number of weapons in our stockpile without either resorting to testing our stockpile or pursuing a modernization program," he said.
The military industrial warriors in the Bush administration had decided from the beginning of his term to go ahead with their plans to 'refurbish' the existing nuclear arsenal, designating the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California over the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico for the project if it happens to get the funding from the, so-far, reluctant Congress. The warheads were said to be destined for the nation's 'sea-based' nuclear weapons as part of the Trident submarine-launched ballistic missile system.
In September 2000, PNAC drafted a report entitled "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century." The conservative foundation- funded report was authored by Bill Kristol, John Bolton and others. The report called for: ". . . significant, separate allocation of forces and budgetary resources over the next two decades for missile defense," and claimed that, despite the "residue of investments first made in the mid- and late 1980s, over the past decade, the pace of innovation within the Pentagon had slowed measurably." Also that, "without the driving challenge of the Soviet military threat, efforts at innovation had lacked urgency."
The PNAC report asserted that "while long-range precision strikes will certainly play an increasingly large role in U.S. military operations, American forces must remain deployed abroad, in large numbers for decades and that U.S. forces will continue to operate many, if not most, of today's weapons systems for a decade or more." The PNAC document encouraged the military to "develop and deploy global missile defenses to defend the American homeland and American allies, and to provide a secure basis for U.S. power projection around the world."
The paper claimed that, "Potential rivals such as China were anxious to exploit these technologies broadly, while adversaries like Iran, Iraq and North Korea were rushing to develop ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons as a deterrent to American intervention in regions they sought to dominate. Also that, information and other new technologies – as well as widespread technological and weapons proliferation – were creating a ‘dynamic' that might threaten America's ability to exercise its ‘dominant' military power."
In reference to the nation's nuclear forces, the PNAC document asserted that, "In reconfiguring its nuclear force, the United States also must counteract the effects of the proliferation of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction that may soon allow lesser states to deter U.S. military action by threatening U.S. allies and the American homeland itself."
"The (Clinton) administration's stewardship of the nation's deterrent capability has been described by Congress as "erosion by design," the group chided. The authors further warned that, "U.S. nuclear force planning and related arms control policies must take account of a larger set of variables than in the past, including the growing number of small nuclear arsenals –from North Korea to Pakistan to, perhaps soon, Iran and Iraq – and a modernized and expanded Chinese nuclear force."
In addition, they counseled, "there may be a need to develop a new family of nuclear weapons designed to address new sets of military requirements, such as would be required in targeting the very deep underground, hardened bunkers that are being built by many of our potential adversaries."
The Bush administration's nuclear program is a shell game with their ambitions hidden within Energy and Defense legislation, most under the guise of research. Reuters, in October 2003, reported that the Bush administration was proceeding with their plans to promote and push for the expansion of the nation's nuclear arsenal with the unveiling of an initiative produced by the ‘Defense Science Board'. The supporting document, named the “Future Strategic Strike Force”, outlines a reconfigured nuclear arsenal made up of smaller-scale missiles which could be targeted at smaller countries and other lower-scale targets. The report is a retreat from decades of understanding that these destructive weapons were to be used as a deterrent only; as a last resort.