Andrew Lichterman

A Department of Defense chart outlining the future of the nuclear stockpile, discovered by the Federation of American Scientists, forecasts that the U.S. will “develop warheads for next-generation delivery systems” between 2010 and 2020. Titled “Stockpile Transformation,” the chart also has a “long term vision” that includes “possible new DoD platforms and delivery systems.” In addition, the “long-term vision” includes “2-4 types of RRW’s” (reliable replacement warheads), while most media coverage to date has suggested that there will be only be two RRW designs, one to be developed by each of the nuclear warhead design labs at Los Alamos, New Mexico and Livermore, California.

The reference to possible additional RRW designs likely will draw the most attention, because warhead programs have been the main focus of what anti-nuclear weapons activism there has been in recent years. This chart, however, provides more evidence that new strategic delivery systems are in the offing, and that the requirements of those new delivery systems, if they go forward, will play a significant role in driving nuclear warhead design work in the years to come. I have written previously here and elsewhere on proposed new strategic delivery systems, which may range from new long range bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles to reuseable launch vehicles, and their implications for nuclear weapons development (see, e.g., The Global Free Fire Zone: “Prompt Global Strike” and the Next Generation of U.S. Strategic Weapons; and U.S. strategic weapons programs: too many to talk about)

The time to stop the next cycle of the global missile and nuclear arms race is now. And it is long past time for the “arms control and disarmament” communities to develop an even-handed approach that demands a halt to the continuing development not only of nuclear warheads but of all long-range missiles and other long-range delivery systems, not just those of countries that the United States considers its enemies.