Looking Forward

The demise of the reliable replacement warhead program is likely because there was no new nuclear policy review to bolster its justification immediately before development of the weapon concept, Gen. Kevin Chilton, commander of US Strategic Command, told the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee yesterday. “That was the argument: We needed to first look at our policy before we moved forward in this area,” he told the panel members. But this year, the new Administration plans to conduct not only a new NPR but also a broader quadrennial defense review of defense strategy, out of which will come “a great opportunity” to develop modernized nuclear weapons that have “21st century requirements put into their design,” Chilton said. The desired attributes of new nuclear weapons remain the same as those envisioned for RRW: increased reliability, security, and safety, but no new capabilities beyond that, he said. Having both a new reliable weapon design and a reinvigorated production capacity “would then immediately relate into a confidence that would help you lower the total stockpile,” Chilton explained, noting that this state would not be inconsistent with those favoring greater nonproliferation measures to reduce nuclear inventories. (Chilton’s written testimony)