Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Josh Gerstein at Politico published an account of President Obama's and Secretary Gates's contradictory stances over the development of new nuclear weapons. Obama wants significant reductions in pursuit of a zero-nuke world, whereas Gates has long advocated for sufficient investments to modernize US arsenals. For Gates, re-engineering and modifying current stocks is essential to national security - but at a certain point, and in light of the testing moratorium, old weapons eventually become unreliable and need to be refurbished.

Biden's recent speech on the future of America's nuclear security could then be viewed as a nod to Gates - the unprecedented funding of nuclear technology labs would thus be viewed as a compromise between Obama's refusal to incorporate new nuclear weapons into the 2011 budget and Gates's position on the need to have the most up-to-date and sophisticated mastery of the technological landscape. And the huge influx of funding to the Pentagon would certainly cause no offense.

Ultimately, Gates wants to ensure that US security needs are met through the proper upkeep, updating, and judicious development of nuclear weaponry. He said in September 2009: “We have no desire for new capabilities. That's a red herring. [...] This is about modernizing and keeping safe a capability that everyone acknowledges we will have to have for some considerable period into the future.”

Whether or not Gates himself is satisfied with the emerging administration posture, arms control advocates wonder if the proposed 2011 nuclear lab funding increases could lead to building new nuclear weapons down the road. According to Joseph Cirincione of the Ploughshares Fund, "“That’s a very fair concern,” Cirincione said. “People will be taking a very close look at what the posture review says about the Life Extension Program for exactly this reason."

- Amy Greene