Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz has called for the nation’s reserve of nuclear weapons to be reduced, citing its size and expense to maintain.
Schwartz became the first sitting member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to suggest publiclythat the so-called “active reserve,” or backup supply of U.S. nuclear weapons should be cut back, the Boston Globe
“We have more backup systems in terms of weapons systems than we actually have deployed,” Schwartz said in an interview with the Globe. “Some of that is a reasonable hedge [but] there is probably room for reductions.”
The Globe said Schwartz’s call for cuts in the reserve to be considered is supported by a report earlier this year from retired Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, whom the Globe said had been in charge of all U.S. nuclear weapons.
According to the newspaper, the Cartwright report “recommended that the United States during the next 10 year years reduce its nuclear force to a total of 900 weapons, half of them on alert and half in reserve.”
Citing arms control specialists, the newspaper said the recommendation to “substantially reduce the reserve arsenal” could be used as a bargaining chip in future negotiations with Russia.
The Cartwright report, the Globe noted, “indicates that the the US arsenal of reserve warheads is about 2,800 — significantly larger than the deployed force, which is about 1,700 warheads mounted in silos, aboard submarines, and available to be dropped from aircraft.” Russia, the Globe report said, has some 2,000 warheads in reserve.
In both cases, the reserves are a legacy of the Cold War nuclear standoff between the United States and the former Soviet Union.
Any call for reductions is sure to draw fire from Congress, especially when other countries such as Iran are suspected of trying to develop nuclear weapons. Some are also likely to argue that maintaining a large U.S. arsenal will discourage China and other nuclear nations from trying to reach parity, the Globe noted.
Still, cuts are expected in both the U.S. and Russian arsenals by 2018 under a treaty agreement that reduces the weapons each country has on alert to no more 1,550.
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