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Administration Slated to Finalize Major Nuclear Weapons Policy Review
WASHINGTON - February 17 - The Obama administration is expected to make final decisions as early as today about the Nuclear Posture Review, the official policy document that will define U.S. nuclear weapons policy for the next five to 10 years. This will take place at what is called a "principals meeting" attended by Cabinet members whose departments are involved in the review.
The congressionally mandated review will set the role nuclear weapons will play in overall U.S. security policy, how many nuclear weapons the United States needs to fulfill those roles, and whether the United States should produce new nuclear warheads.
"The administration's decisions on the Nuclear Posture Review will not only set U.S. policy, they will shape the future of nuclear weapons globally," said Lisbeth Gronlund, senior scientist and co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). "President Obama, who has the final word, can choose to make the transformational changes needed to address the real threats of the 21st century, or can allow bureaucratic inertia and the parochial interests of the federal nuclear weapons labs to hold sway."
In Prague last April, President Obama outlined an ambitious agenda to transform U.S. nuclear weapons policy. He called for "an end to Cold War thinking," declared "we will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy," and pledged to pursue "the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons."
The Nuclear Posture Review was originally slated for release on December 1. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher said today that the administration plans to send the review to Congress in early March, which suggests that the administration may miss its revised March 1 deadline.
The Department of Defense, in consultation with officials from the departments of State and Energy as well as the National Security Council, oversaw the review-drafting process.
A group of experts and former government officials sent the president a letter earlier this month offering recommendations for the Nuclear Posture Review. They called on the president to narrow the purpose of nuclear weapons to deterring nuclear attacks on the United States and its allies, reduce the U.S. nuclear stockpile to hundreds from thousands, and rule out the production of new warheads.
"We've been told to expect a modest document," said Stephen Young, a senior analyst with UCS's Global Security Program. "It would be a great disappointment if this opportunity for meaningful change is squandered. The president has recognized that nuclear weapons are now a liability rather than an asset. They create more problems than they solve. He can make us more secure by changing how the United States and the rest of the world think about nuclear weapons."