Administration Defends B-61 Warhead Modernization Program

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
Oct. 30, 2013, 7:02 a.m.

Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials on Tues­day de­fen­ded plans to over­haul the U.S. nuc­le­ar ar­sen­al and mod­ern­ize the B-61 nuc­le­ar war­head, ac­cord­ing to Re­u­ters.

Madelyn Creedon, as­sist­ant sec­ret­ary of De­fense for glob­al stra­tegic af­fairs, told a House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee sub­pan­el the aging atom­ic weapons must be mod­ern­ized so that policy-set­ters will back the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s plans to cut the size of the over­all nuc­le­ar stock­pile. In par­tic­u­lar, the over-budget and be­hind-sched­ule ef­fort to re­fur­bish the U.S. ar­sen­al of B-61 grav­ity bombs — roughly 200 of which are fielded at over­seas bases — must con­tin­ue, she told the Stra­tegic Forces sub­com­mit­tee.

“There are some who be­lieve that there is a less ex­pens­ive al­tern­at­ive … that was nev­er con­sidered, but I can as­sure you that each and every mod­ern­iz­a­tion design pro­pos­al avail­able was presen­ted to the Nuc­le­ar Weapons Coun­cil (NWC) dur­ing its de­cision pro­cess,” Creedon said in pre­pared re­marks. “Only after rig­or­ous and thor­ough eval­u­ation of each pos­sib­il­ity did the Coun­cil un­an­im­ously con­clude that the [planned B-61 pro­gram] … was the least ex­pens­ive long-term op­tion that could meet mil­it­ary re­quire­ments.”

Es­tim­ates for the cost of the B-61 life-ex­ten­sion pro­gram range from the Na­tion­al Nuc­le­ar Se­cur­ity Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s fig­ure of $8.2 bil­lion to the De­fense De­part­ment’s Cost As­sess­ment and Pro­gram Eval­u­ation cal­cu­la­tion of $10.4 bil­lion.

King­ston Re­if, an ana­lyst at the Cen­ter for Arms Con­trol and Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion, said it would be un­wise to make such an in­vest­ment when de­fense budgets are tight.

“That pro­gram is un­af­ford­able, un­real­ist­ic and un­ne­ces­sary be­cause there are cheap­er al­tern­at­ives to ex­tend the life of the weapon,” he said in an in­ter­view with Re­u­ters.

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