GAO: U.S. Gives Clouded View of Nuclear-Arms Dismantlement

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An F-4 Phantom 2 aircraft releases a U.S. B-83 nuclear gravity bomb in 1983. The United States is giving an "unclear" sense of how quickly it is dismantling weapons removed from the nuclear arsenal, the Government Accountability Office said.
National Journal
Diane Barnes
May 5, 2014, 5:26 a.m.

Con­gres­sion­al aud­it­ors say the United States is giv­ing an un­clear pic­ture of how quickly it is dis­mant­ling weapons re­moved from the nuc­le­ar ar­sen­al.

The Na­tion­al Nuc­le­ar Se­cur­ity Ad­min­is­tra­tion set a fisc­al 2022 dead­line to dis­as­semble all nuc­le­ar war­heads re­tired be­fore fisc­al 2009, but its meth­od for as­sess­ing com­pli­ance “is un­clear and may be mis­lead­ing,” ac­cord­ing to a re­port is­sued last week by the Gov­ern­ment Ac­count­ab­il­ity Of­fice.

The coun­try plans to re­turn roughly 9 per­cent of the re­tired war­heads to act­ive duty by fisc­al 2022, said the con­gres­sion­al watch­dog agency, cit­ing a March 2013 dis­man­tle­ment sched­ule from the U.S. atom­ic over­sight or­gan­iz­a­tion. The United States had 4,804 nuc­le­ar war­heads in its act­ive stock­pile last Septem­ber, and “sev­er­al thou­sand” more weapons slated for dis­man­tle­ment at that time, ac­cord­ing to State De­part­ment fig­ures re­leased this week.

GAO aud­it­ors noted that NNSA per­son­nel do not typ­ic­ally re­cord when dis­mantled weapons were ori­gin­ally re­moved from the act­ive stock­pile.

“It is pos­sible, ac­cord­ing to an NNSA of­fi­cial, that NNSA is count­ing weapons to­ward the achieve­ment of its per­form­ance goal that were re­tired after fisc­al year 2009,” the re­port states.

The con­gres­sion­al in­vest­ig­at­ors urged the semi­autonom­ous En­ergy De­part­ment nuc­le­ar of­fice to cla­ri­fy its dis­man­tle­ment goals, and po­ten­tially ex­tend the fisc­al 2022 dead­line.

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