Current U.S. Nuclear Weapons Issues: Monthly Update — December 15, 2021

FY 2022 National Defense Authorization Act: The Bad News.

As Politico put it:

PROGRESSIVES’ PENTAGON POUNDING: … progressives barely put their stamp on Pentagon policy this go-round. Bipartisan provisions requiring women to register for the draft, cracking down on Saudi Arabia and imposing sanctions on Russia were nixed; legislation repealing outdated Iraq war authorizations fell by the wayside; reforms to the military justice system and efforts to combat extremism in the ranks were pared back; and a proposal to give Washington, D.C., control of its National Guard was dropped,” they wrote. Democrats hold power in the House, Senate and White House for the first time in more than a decade, yet the high-profile defense bill got more GOP votes than from Biden’s own party. As progressive lawmakers made their dissatisfaction with the bill’s high price tag clear, centrist Democrats knew they needed Republican support to pass the House and Senate.”

Progressives truly felt they had a historic chance to turn their priorities into policy, but the realities of a 50-50 Senate with no filibuster made that near impossible. And with midterms next year, it’s likely they missed their best chance.

Nuclear weapons: Congress added $500 million to Biden’s request for NNSA Total Weapons Activities, which was essentially Trump’s request to begin with. Trump’s Sea-Launched Cruise Missile and B83 (1.2 megatons) service life program were kept. $1.72 billion request for “Plutonium Modernization” authorized.

  • However, the NDAA is authorization, not appropriations. The 2nd Continuing Resolution runs until February after which the appropriators will have to come up with something. There’s a chance that the Sea-Launched Cruise Missile and B83 sustainment program could be shot down. While those would be notable victories, they really only amount to damage control (i.e., rolling back two of Trump’s pet projects) as the $1.7 trillion modernization beast lumbers on.

Nuclear Posture Review: Still expected early February. While it’s a closed process there is little indication that it will offer much good. It could rescind the SLCM and B83 sustainment program, but that’s probably the best we can hope for. The escalating tensions with Russia and China are not helping.


  • Republican senator mentions nuclear strikes when asked about possible US action against Russia A GOP senator who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee casually suggested that the US could enter a massive ground war with Russia in defence of Ukraine as Russian troops are massing near the country’s borders.
  • Nuclear: Biden, Xi agree to plan arms control talks: White House
    US President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping agreed during their virtual summit to work on organizing talks between the nuclear-armed nations on arms control, a senior White House official said Tuesday. Biden and Xi met via teleconference for more than three hours late Monday (early Tuesday in Beijing) in a bid to ease tensions between the world’s top two economies and major geopolitical rivals.
  • Missiles: U.S. Air Force secretary says US in hypersonic ‘arms race’ with China Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall says the United States is in an “arms race” with China for developing hypersonic weapons.

In an interview with Reuters, Kendall said the arms race is “not necessarily for increased numbers, but for increased quality.” “It’s an arms race that has been going on for quite some time,” he continued. “The Chinese have been at it very aggressively.”

  • US Army Likely to Field DOD’s First Hypersonic Weapons in Next ‘Year or Two’: Nov. 16, 2021 | The first battle-ready U.S. hypersonic weapon will be fielded within a year or two by the Army, and the Navy is not far behind, according to the Department of Defense official overseeing research into the emerging and disruptive technology.
    • The Army’s Long Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) program has already fielded transporter-erector-launchers and other ground elements, noted Gillian Bussey, director of DOD’s Joint Hypersonics Transition Office. “The only thing that’s missing is the missile,” she said. But, “We’re looking at having that fielded in the next year or two.”
  • Politico: SECAF: 2 SECRET COMBAT DRONES IN WORKS: Secretary of the Air Force FRANK KENDALL told our BRYAN BENDER and LEE HUDSON his service is seeking funding to develop two secret combat drones next year that can operate alongside fighter planes and bombers… The disclosure is the strongest indication yet that the service is banking on autonomous weapon systems to give it an edge in the increasingly fierce military competition with China.
  • Nuclear: US nuclear weapons may end up in Eastern Europe if Germany rejects them — NATO US nuclear weapons may end up in Eastern Europe if Germany removes them from its territory, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at a conference on Friday.
  • Nuclear: Moscow concerned about US attitude towards role of nuclear weapons – senior diplomat Moscow is concerned about Washington’s attitude towards the role of nuclear weapons and its readiness to lower the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told Channel One on Thursday. “Many things that are happening in the US from the point of view of their attitude towards the role of nuclear weapons worry us. They are lowering the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons, preparing for this doctrinally and materially,” the diplomat said. (TASS)
  • NNSA Completes First Production Unit of B61-12 Life Extension Program – The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) successfully completed the B61-12 Life Extension Program (LEP) First Production Unit (FPU) on November 23, 2021. [In a few years that would likely be with the new B61-12 “smart” nuclear bomb delivered by the new stealthy F-35.]
  • Air Force lab awards largest-ever contract Albuquerque Journal: The Air Force Research Laboratory announced this week that is has awarded its largest-ever contract worth more than $1 billion over the next five years to a university-affiliated laboratory for space related technology development… According to an AFRL news release, research areas include:
    • Space-related sensor systems
    • Space-cyberspace and information related capabilities
    • Nuclear-related science and technology deterrence operations

Notice the growing militarization of space.

  • Albuquerque Journal came out with economic propaganda that Kirtland Air Force Base (KAFB) injects ~$4 billion annually into the local economy. FYI, KAFB is a nuclear weapons complex unto itself, hosting:
    • The US Air Force’s Nuclear Weapons Center (which lets out the contracts for new ICBMs, etc.);
    • The Kirtland Underground Munitions Maintenance and Storage Complex, the largest storage facility for nuclear weapons in the country (and perhaps the world), with up to an estimated 2,500 warheads in active reserve. It is located approximately two miles south of the runways of the Albuquerque International Airport.
    • The Defense Nuclear Weapons School.
    • The Directed Energy Directorate that develops “high-power microwaves, lasers, adaptive optics, imaging and effects to assure the preeminence of the United States in air and space.”
    • The Space Vehicle Directorate that “develops and transitions high pay-off space technologies supporting the warfighter.”
    • The Airborne Laser System Program Office that “develops, integrates, and transitions science and technology for directed energy to include high-power microwaves, lasers, adaptive optics, imaging and effects to assure the preeminence of the United States in air and space.”
    • The Operationally Responsive Space Office “to adapt space capabilities to changing national security requirements.”
    • The School for Advanced Nuclear Deterrence Studies that “consist[s] of AFGSC officers, civilians, and joint officers who seek to become masters of the nuclear enterprise.”
    • The National Nuclear Security Administration’s Office of Secure Transportation which transports nuclear weapons and parts around the NNSA nuclear weapons complex.
    • NNSA’s Sandia National Laboratories which designs the nonnuclear components that make the nuclear designs of the Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories deliverable weapons of mass destruction. “Sandia is the engineering arm of the U.S. nuclear weapons enterprise. We weaponize the nuclear explosive package to create an effective and sustainable nuclear deterrent.”

For more on Kirtland Air Force Base see

  • The Kansas City Plant (KCP) expanded itself by 50% through leases to meet all the Life Extension Programs and pending new-design nuclear weapons.

Accelerating nuclear arms race:

•     US warns Russia over Ukraine as fears of war rise United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken has met his Russian counterpart as the divide between Moscow and Washington widens over Ukraine. Blinken’s talks with Sergey Lavrov took place on Thursday on the sidelines of a summit of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Stockholm, where foreign ministers from the group’s 57 members discussed key regional security issues. Prior to their talks, Lavrov warned on Thursday of the “nightmare scenario of military confrontation … returning” amid the tensions, while Blinken cautioned Moscow would face “serious consequences” if it pursues confrontation with its neighbour. (Aljazeera)

Durable institution under fire? The NPT confronts emerging multipolarity The regime built around the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) has helped curtail the spread of nuclear arms for fifty years. In hindsight, it is remarkable only nine states possess the world’s most powerful weapon. The NPT achieved much success during Cold War bipolarity and U.S. unipolarity in its aftermath. But today, China’s rise and Russia’s resurgence have ushered in a new era of emerging multipolarity. Can the treaty withstand the potential challenges of this dynamic environment? There is a real risk that multipolarity may shake the scaffolding of the nonproliferation regime, presenting a significant test to the NPT’s durability. This article identifies four essential elements of the nonproliferation regime: widespread membership, adaptability, enforcement, and fairness. History suggests bipolarity and unipolarity in the international system largely sustained and promoted these NPT features. When international regimes lack such elements, it sharply curtails their long-term efficacy.

Outer Space: Russian Anti-Satellite Missile Launch Into Space ‘Dangerous And Irresponsible,’ United State Says The U.S. government has condemned a Russian anti-satellite missile launch that blew up a Russian satellite on Monday, generating debris that now endangers the International Space Station. “Today, miles above us, there are American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts on the International Space Station. What the Russians did today, with these 1,500 pieces of trackable orbital debris, poses a risk not only to those astronauts, not only to those cosmonauts but to satellites of all nations,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price. Price added that the impact also generated hundreds of thousands of pieces of debris too small to be tracked. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the United States was given no advance notice of the launch. (Defense One)

A great-power game is already underway in space
In the Pentagon corridor where Space Force commanders have their offices, a mural depicting military satellites warns that the heavens are “a new warfighting domain.” That stark assessment was demonstrated on Monday, as U.S. officials accused Russia of conducting a “reckless, dangerous and irresponsible” test of a new antisatellite (ASAT) weapon… State Department spokesman Ned Price used unusually pointed language in criticizing the Russian test, which he said threatens “the interests of all nations” that depend on space-based systems for communications, weather, location and myriad digital information. He said U.S. diplomats had “spoken to senior Russian officials multiple times to warn them” about the dangers of such a test. “This behavior is not something we will tolerate,” Price said several times “We [the United States] act as space traffic control for the world,” by keeping track of satellites and debris and warning of possible collisions, Raymond said. (David Ignatius for the Washington Post)

A shadow war in space is heating up fast When Russia blows up a satellite in space with a missile (as it did this month), or when China tests a new hypersonic missile (as it did last month), the ongoing arms race in space leaps into the news. But in between these “Sputnik”-like moments, outside the public’s view, the United States and its adversaries are battling in space every day. (Josh Rogin for The Washington Post)

Nuclear: Russia warns NATO against moving nuclear weapons east Russia’s top diplomat warned NATO against redeploying U.S. atomic weapons to Eastern Europe if Germany refuses to keep hosting them, saying Wednesday that such a move would be irresponsible and provocative. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was responding to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s comment this month that the alliance would need to consider relocating nuclear weapons east if the new German government changes the country’s policy on nuclear sharing. Lavrov described Stoltenberg’s statement as “absolutely irresponsible” and “outrageous.” “It’s not just fanning confrontation. It’s an attempt to provoke a hot conflict,” the minister said, speaking to members of the upper house of Russia’s parliament. (AP)

Nuclear: Belarus president offers to host Russian nuclear weapons The longtime president of Belarus said Tuesday that his country would be ready to host Russian nuclear weapons if NATO moves U.S. atomic bombs from Germany to Eastern Europe.

Relevant Diplomacy: AUKUS may be in breach of NPT rules, says France

France has warned the transfer of nuclear submarine technology to Australia under the AUKUS agreement could breach non-proliferation rules, and that the trilateral security pact with the US and UK was unnecessarily confrontational with China.

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