STRATCOM is emerging as the only consistent proponent of modernizing the nation’s nuclear arsenal. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is strongly in favor, too, but nuclear warhead money is spent at the Department of Energy, not the Department of Defense.
Overseas, things are different. All the major nuclear powers are planning warhead modernization, this official noted. The Chinese even sent a colonel from the Second Artillery Corps (their nuclear command) to speak at the international summit, a move that much impressed top U.S. officials.
Much depends on the quality of the extended deterrent. That brings up the question of modernizing the B61 warhead, a standard in NATO arsenals. To STRATCOM, the B61 is a good candidate to add safety, security, and reliability improvements through a major refurbishment that includes taking out the B61’s parachute.
Worries remain about other nations feeling forced to acquire nuclear weapons. If Iran gets the bomb, what’s to stop Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE from doing the same. They can all afford it.
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