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

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.
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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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