Congressional leaders say that now is the time to look into acquiring new nuclear weapons, Military.com reports.
Lawmakers cite the decline in resources since the end of the Cold War has resulted in an unreliable and outdated nuclear arsenal,
Worries expressed by leaders in both Congress and the military have followed a devastating report on the state of the United States’ nuclear arsenal last month.
The new Congress in January may be open to considering plans to develop new warheads, but restarting a declining weapons complex is not an inexpensive move. However, costs of maintenance have similarly dropped because the stockpile of nuclear weapons has lowered since 1967 from 31,000 to only 4,804 weapons. What makes the delays in developing a new nuclear program slightly less dangerous to national security is that over the same time period, Russia has decreased its stockpile by a similar amount.
But the threat remains both at home and abroad. In one particularly frightening example on the domestic front, the Air Force accidentally transported six live nuclear weapons all the way from North Dakota to Louisiana.
“It seems like common sense to me if you’re trying to keep an aging machine alive that’s well past its design life, then you’re treading on thin ice,” said Republican Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas and chairman-elect of the House Armed Services Committee. “Not to mention, we’re spending more and more to keep these things going.”
The weapons in stock are on average 27-years-old, meaning that these weapons count as unreliable and potentially dangerous. Part of the problem is that the U.S. has entered into an international agreement not to test nuclear weapons, although officially the U.S. did not actually ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. Without the ability to test nuclear weapons, it’s unclear whether the development of new weapons will be safe or reliable. U.S. nuclear weapons production facilities are gradually decaying from disuse. Some facilities are so infested with rats that personnel have to place their lunch bags on high shelves to avoid them being eaten almost instantaneously.
Congress is opposed by President Barack Obama, whose agenda it is to wind down reliance on a nuclear arsenal. Current plans from the Obama administration give the Energy Department around $60 billion dollars to scrap old weapons and combine parts to produce new warheads, but critics are worried about a so-called untested “Frankenbomb.” Even still, very few are interested in breaking the testing taboo, and the vast majority of scientists simply no longer possess the expertise to build nuclear weapons. Scientists with any experience under their belts are aging.
The confluence of political and technological obstacles to updating the nuclear weapons arsenal sheds uncertainty on the U.S. maintaining its deterrent effect moving forward.
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