Nuclear Strategy Group

Expanding Arsenal, Unsafe Nukes; “Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons”; report — US Congressional Research Service

Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal probably consists of approximately 110-130 nuclear warheads, although it could have more. Islamabad is producing fissile material, adding to related production facilities, deploying additional nuclear weapons, and new types of delivery vehicles. Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is widely regarded as designed to dissuade India from taking military action against Pakistan, but Islamabad’s expansion of its nuclear arsenal, development of new types of nuclear weapons, and adoption of a doctrine called “full spectrum deterrence” have led some observers to express concern about an increased risk of nuclear conflict between Pakistan and India, which also continues to expand its nuclear arsenal.
Pakistan has in recent years taken a number of steps to increase international confidence in the security of its nuclear arsenal. Moreover, Pakistani and U.S. officials argue that, since the 2004 revelations about a procurement network run by former Pakistani nuclear official A. Q. Khan, Islamabad has taken a number of steps to improve its nuclear security and to prevent further proliferation of nuclear-related technologies and materials. A number of important initiatives, such as strengthened export control laws, improved personnel security, and international nuclear security cooperation programs, have improved Pakistan’s nuclear security.
However, instability in Pakistan has called the extent and durability of these reforms into question. Some observers fear radical takeover of the Pakistani government or diversion of material or technology by personnel within Pakistan’s nuclear complex. While U.S. and Pakistani officials continue to express confidence in controls over Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, continued instability in the country could impact these safeguards. Furthermore, continued Indian and Pakistani nuclear weapons development could jeopardize strategic stability between the two countries. For a broader discussion, see CRS Report R41832, Pakistan-U.S. Relations, by K. Alan Kronstadt.

The fiscal threat to nuclear strategy

Adam Mount

In the year since the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies estimated that the cost of modernizing the US nuclear arsenal could reach $1 trillion over 30 years, the budgetary problem has grown worse rather than better. As the military services gear up to rebuild nearly every aircraft, submarine, missile, and warhead in the arsenal, acute fiscal pressures are causing irresponsible behavior in Washington. The White House’s 2016 budget request to Congress asks for increased spending on the arsenal across the board, even as the House Budget Committee is moving towards capping defense spending at levels much lower than requested. This means that cuts are likely.

But unlike the late Cold War, when the US nuclear arsenal was so large that significant cuts did not require major changes to nuclear strategy, cuts to the US modernization programs will limit the options that the military can offer to the president in a crisis. If the administration does not review nuclear spending and put in place an affordable strategy for the coming decades, nuclear strategy will be set by bureaucratic struggles and congressional politics. This is not strategy; it is an accident waiting to happen.

The new budget requests increased funding on all nuclear fronts. In addition to expected increases for new submarines and bombers, this year’s budget request dramatically increases funding to explore an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) replacement and accelerates the program for a new air-launched cruise missile by two years. The expensive and unnecessary life extension program for the handful of B61 nuclear gravity bombs remaining in the US arsenal also receives increased funding for design work. Overall, the budget request from the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)—an autonomous part of the Energy Department responsible for nuclear weapons production and upkeep—is up 10 percent from last year, including a $667 million increase in weapons spending. As the Pentagon’s acquisitions chief Frank Kendall said last week, “I am afraid this is all a fantasy, that what we’re going to end up with is nowhere near what we requested.”

Across the Potomac at the Pentagon, the military services are also moving further from a workable fiscal solution to nuclear arsenal refurbishment. For instance, the Air Force seems to be leaning toward a relatively expensive option for modernizing the ICBM force. Though the RAND Corporation found that the cheapest option by far would be to refurbish the existing Minuteman IIIs in their silos, the Air Force has requested that contractors develop options for building a missile that would be entirely new, save for the reentry vehicles that carry warheads. By asking for a more expensive option, the Air Force may hope to come out ahead in the likely event of a cut to ICBM procurement accounts. Yet the strategy could have the opposite effect: A large price tag up front could provoke a wider conversation about the need to maintain an ICBM force at all.

The Air Force’s behavior is hardly surprising; Because the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review did not mandate major changes to the nuclear force structure, the services are in effect under orders to replicate or improve the capabilities of existing systems. Yet, other priorities intrude. Though the military services knew they would have to modernize nuclear delivery vehicles—many of the current missiles and bombers are decades old—they chose not to moderate their plans for conventional shipbuilding or aircraft procurement to budget for the expense of nuclear refurbishment. Now that military accounts have insufficient funds to support both types of projects in full, the Air Force and the Navy have contrived a gimmick: They have asked Congress to establish new accounts to fund the new stealth bomber and new ballistic missile submarines as “national assets.”

Because the nuclear force is likely to be funded at moderate levels in any event, the new accounts are intended to protect the conventional procurement programs by drawing funds for nuclear modernization from elsewhere—namely, from the Army. In this way, nuclear weapons are helping to turn the Pentagon against itself, just as it is struggling to plan for austerity.

The White House should understand that while the services will behave strategically to meet their requirements, Congress may not. Facing a budget request that asks for everything, many Congressmen are moving to fund extraneous projects like the B61 conversion to a guided weapon, the new cruise missile, and a doomed plan to get rid of excess military plutonium by making it into fuel for commercial nuclear power plants, when the funds would be better spent on the new submarine fleet. In search of scarce funds for nonessentials, Congress is likely to move money from more important programs—including the NNSA’s nonproliferation programs around the world—and into its weapons accounts.

Even more important, the overwhelming trend in major defense acquisition programs in recent years has been to plan for large numbers of advanced weapons systems, only to have the purchases cut back precipitously. This was the experience of the Seawolf submarine, the Zumwalt destroyer, and the F-22 fighter, all of which have been fielded at small fractions of their expected numbers. The dynamic has also shaped the current nuclear force: Of a planned 132 B-2 bombers, the Air Force currently operates only 20; of 24 planned Ohio-class submarines, 14 now serve as part of the nuclear arsenal. In a time of acute fiscal austerity, Congress is even more likely to curtail the planned purchase quantities of nuclear delivery platforms.

Today, cuts of this magnitude would affect the ability of the nuclear force to carry out nuclear strategy as it is now written. A quarter century after the end of the Cold War, the US nuclear arsenal is actually quite slim: Where the Russians spread their warheads across a dizzying constellation of tactical and strategic systems, the United States maintains few redundant capabilities. And since real savings can only be realized by dramatically lowering the quantities of a system, by eliminating a platform, or by cutting infrastructure, the way forward will entail changes to how the Pentagon conducts deterrence, assurance, and force planning.

It is possible, even likely, that the nuclear force could adapt to summary cuts without sacrificing deterrence or assurance. Nuclear forces have always operated in a politically fraught and fiscally uncertain environment, and resourceful commanders will do the best they can with the tools provided for them. A senior nuclear planner recently told me that “there obviously is a risk” in cutting nuclear systems and the country should be intellectually honest in having a debate about whether to accept that risk. If the decision is made, he said, the services “will do our best.” Yet, allowing congressional infighting or blind budget sequestration to set nuclear strategy is not an optimal solution. The services are owed guidance, consistency, and forewarning of major challenges.

At minimum, the president will have to authorize changes in patrol requirements for the nuclear missile submarine force (to lower the numbers of boats required) as well as in nuclear warfighting plans (to decrease their emphasis on aircraft). For example, if the new cruise missile is cut to save money, the Air Force may opt to prioritize nuclear certification of its new penetrating stealth bomber and retire the B-52H ahead of the current schedule. If instead the administration opts to delay the new bomber until the B-52H’s are forced to retire in the 2040s, the Air Force can plan its operations in the interim.

In short, budgetary pressures will require changes to nuclear employment guidance that only the president can authorize. The changes can be prudently planned in advance, or they can be put in place hastily as a result of congressional caprice. Taking steps now to decide what systems best match the country’s future deterrence needs will allow the Pentagon to plan to operate a slimmer arsenal, to communicate and discuss the changes with allies, to alleviate inter-service rivalry, and to take compensatory steps as necessary. The White House must act to put in place a sensible nuclear strategy for the next decades. It can start by ensuring that its review of nuclear modernization spending is a comprehensive look at how the nation’s strategic needs can be met affordably. The review should order changes to the current modernization plans and instruct the military to begin planning for operations with a slimmer arsenal.

In the next years, the United States will make decisions that shape its nuclear arsenal for the next century. In his final years in office, the president must decide whether he leaves his successor an unstable nuclear force or one that is fiscally sustainable and strategically prudent. There are several steps the president might take to responsibly temper the modernization plans, none of which would require the United States to abandon its triad or exceed the pace of reductions under New START. The specific package of changes can be chosen in consultation with the military services, but the sheer scale of the budgetary problem means that the changes must be extensive. A cosmetic review that condones irresponsible behavior would be worse than no review at all. Delaying the review will diminish the savings that can be obtained from the modernization plans, limit options in the future, and divide the services further. And because a review is likely to be politically contentious and the next president likely to have other priorities, it may be now or never for the country to adopt a responsible and affordable plan for its nuclear forces.

Adam Mount is a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, where he is writing a profile of nuclear disarmament in the United States. Previously, he worked on nuclear…


Nuclear Evolution: Ends and Means of Nuclear Deterrence

Report on US-India Discussion Co-hosted by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Forum for Strategic Initiatives, February 3-5, 2015

A workshop entitled “Nuclear Evolution: Ends and Means of Nuclear Deterrence” was co-hosted by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), Livermore, USA, and the Forum for Strategic Initiatives (FSI), New Delhi, India. The workshop was held at Bangkok on February 3-5, 2015.
While the US participants recounted their experience with the evolution and practice of nuclear deterrence during the Cold War period and later, the Indian participants shared their experience of nuclear deterrence in South Asia. The salient issues highlighted by the participants are given in succeeding paragraphs.
The workshop was held in the wake of a very successful Summit meeting between the Indian PM and the US President on January 25-26, 2015. The Summit has raised expectations of better relations. Overall, there is a feeling of optimism.

It was pointed out that India is a reluctant nuclear power. India has two nuclear-armed neighbours, with both of whom it has territorial disputes. India had sought but had been denied nuclear guarantees. It was only then that India opted to acquire nuclear weapons.

India believes that nuclear weapons are political weapons and not weapons of warfighting. Their sole purpose is to deter the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons.

India’s nuclear doctrine is credible minimum deterrence with a ‘no first use’ posture and assured retaliation to inflict unacceptable damage.India has invested deeply in strategic stability; this is reflected in the nuclear doctrine and posture. India has never flaunted its nuclear weapons.
India has exercised immense strategic restraint despite grave provocation, particularly from Pakistan – by way of a quarter century old proxy war being conducted through state-sponsored terrorism.
Despite the disadvantages, India opted not to cross the LoC during the Kargil conflict in 1999. In the 2001-02 stand-off, India did not retaliate despite an attack on our Parliament.

However, India’s threshold of tolerance is not limitless and any future terrorist strike with evidence of state backing is likely to elicit a military response. The response will be carefully calibrated to ensure that the risk of escalation to large-scale conventional conflict is minimised.

Total nuclear disarmament was and still is a cardinal principle of India’s foreign policy. India has adhered to the provisions of the NPT, the CTBT and MTCR even though it is not a signatory to these agreements and supports early conclusion of the negotiations for the FMCT.

India’s conduct as a responsible nuclear power was recognised in the US-India civil nuclear cooperation agreement of July 2005. India is looking forward to membership of the NSG, the MTCR, the Australia Group and the Wassenaar arrangement.

With Pakistan’s acquisition of tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs), does India’s nuclear doctrine need some tweaking?India needs to decide as to where we want to go with our nuclear deterrence programme.India’s pacifist and often weak strategic culture tends to result in greater strategic stability at times
Contextually, the narrative of the US and India on nuclear discourse has been different. In India, strategic thinking and nuclear posture continue to be a work in progress.India’s policy of credible minimum deterrence is facing immense pressure in the context of China and Pakistan’s deterrence policies, especially given thenuclear warhead and missile technology collusion between the two.

Nuclear disarmament no longer enjoys the salience it had in liberal thinking in America until recently. Due to Russian involvement in the civil war in Ukraine, NWs are back and, that too, with a vengeance. Strategic doctrine is being discussed again. President Obama’s top priority is to safeguard existing stockpiles – “save what is already there”. Post-9/11,President George W Bush had argued in favour of pre-emptive vs. preventive wars.
Nuclear deterrence between India and Pakistan depends a great deal on nuclear signalling and Pakistan appears to have an edgein this sphere.The international community is deeply involved in this mind game.
Deterrence can become unstable in the face of rapid technological innovation/change. In the US-Soviet equation, the US had parallel discussions with the Soviets on arms control and crisis management.
The Soviet Union did not want a war with the West; NWs were important in their “deterrence thinking”.They too laid emphasis on TNWs. The range or the yield of the weapon did not matter, what mattered was where it fell.If it fell on the Soviet homeland, it was not a TNW.

The Soviets were convinced that the West would escalate the situation; hence,preparing for a nuclear battlefield was necessary. When you have a huge army, it takes decades to equip/ re-equip it. Their concept of operations sought to pre-empt NATO. The Soviet Union wanted to win the war quickly before NATO could employ TNWs. They were certain that escalation to strategic use was inevitable.In the India-Pakistan context, the situation is somewhat similar with Indian thinking matching Soviet thinking and Pakistan adopting the NATO line.
The US/NATO experience with TNWs applies equally well to South Asia.NATO’s nuclear red-lines were very different from those of Pakistan. TNWs confront the initiator with complicating prospects of consequent escalation.There is danger inherent in the thinking, “We will fight as well as we can conventionally, and then fire the TNWs.The eventual outcome shall flow out of this.”
Due to the NBC protection provided to modern AFVs, armour formations are likely to suffer greater damage from radiation than from the blast and heat caused by a TNW. At some stage during a war, the custody of TNWs has to be released to field formations and the authority to fire them has to be delegated. TNWs are difficult to secure once they are pulled out of storage.Under certain circumstances, the mere act of deployment may result in deterrence break down in South Asia.
Pakistan believes that the eventual development of assured retaliatory strike capability would largely exclude the possibility of Indian retaliation or disproportional response.Also, India’s culture of restraint may inhibit the launching of the massive counter-value response predicated in the Indian nuclear doctrine. However, Indian signalling is designed to convince Pakistani planners that India will unhesitatingly retaliate massively in response to the use of nuclear weapons anywhere.
The yardsticks of determining whether a weapon is tactical or strategic varies and revolves around four particular aspects, namely, range, yield, function and point of impact. However, its effect is always strategic. The international community is bound to intervene if there are nuclear exchanges in South Asia or, for that matter, anywhere in the world.
Deterrence Stability incomplex systems consists of a large number of mutually interacting and interwoven elements and parts. Spatial complexity can be viewed in terms of geographical factors, terrain, climatic distribution; dimensional factors (medium of operation); and, organisational complexities (functional issues such as specialisation of capabilities, hierarchical issues)
It is necessary to understand and analyse the epistemic and doxastic issues; political complexity – sources of power and authority, civil-military relations; and, the differences between the state and the regime.Stability induced by NWs through mutual deterrence at the strategic level opens up the possibility of more frequent resort to force, and hence greater instability at lower levels of violence (Glenn Snyder 1965), the classical stability-instability paradox.
The essence of Pakistan’s acquisition of NWs is to negate India’s conventional military superiority and to wage a proxy war to destabilise India under the shadow of its nuclear umbrella. With the acquisition of NWs, Pakistan is attempting to blur the distinction between conventional and sub-conventional conflict. Now, with the introduction of the TNWs, it is seeking to blur the line between nuclear and conventional.
By supporting insurgency in Kashmir and terrorism in other parts of India,Pakistan is following a revisionist strategy – the use of force to alter the territorial status quo while seeking plausible deniability that is inherent in asymmetric warfare. This is Pakistan’s pincer – lowering the nuclear threshold, threatening escalation and attempting to restrict India’s response options.
Indian participants emphasised that India continues to exercise enormous restraint in the interest of strategic stability even though it is politically costly. However, India believes that there is space for limited warbelow the nuclear threshold. If it ever became necessary to retaliate militarily to Pakistan’s sponsorship of terrorism, India’s response would be extremely carefully calibrated to avoid risking escalation.
The workshop ended on a positive note with the participants expressing their satisfaction with the frankness and the quality of the discussions and endorsing the need to continue with the US-India dialogue.

Participants from India: Amb Lalit Mansingh, Amb K C Singh, Amb Sheel K Sharma, Dr R Rajaraman, Air Chief Marshal S C Tyagi, RAdm Raja Menon, Maj Gen Dipankar Banerjee, Lt Gen Aditya Singh, Maj Gen P K Chakravorty, Brig Arun Sahgal, Brig Gurmeet Kanwal, Dr Varun Sahni and Dr Monika Chansoria
Participants from the United States: Mr Robert Swartz, Dr Zachary Davis, Dr Peter Lavoy, Dr Neil Joeck, Maj Gen Paul D. Eaton, Col Jeffrey McCausland, Col David Smith, Mr Christopher Clary, Ms Christine Shannon and Dr Chris Donnelly (United Kingdom)