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must revamp its strategy on atomic weapons

By Dirk Jameson April 25, 2012 President Obama recently told world leaders gathered in Seoul for a nuclear security conference that the massive nuclear arsenal we inherited from the Cold War is poorly suited for todays threats. The presidents statement comes as his administration is preparing to review Americas nuclear force and develop a plan for its future. The Defense Department will offer the president options for the size of our nuclear arsenal. The current stock of 1,550 deployed strategic weapons will represent the highest option. The United States must act on the presidents words. A new and effective strategy for deterring a nuclear attack can be achieved by substantially reducing our nuclear force. Our present strategy is outdated. The greatest threats to our security are weapons of mass destruction whether nuclear, biological or chemical in the hands of terrorist organizations or rogue states. These threats are not deterred by Americas arsenal of deployed nuclear weapons, or the thousands more in reserve. These systems are of limited practical use and pose tremendous costs. So how do we arrive at an appropriate level for our nuclear deterrent? First, nuclear policy must remain nonpartisan. Only by looking practically at the issue will we achieve a policy in line with the threats we face. Second, having more nuclear weapons doesnt mean we are winning or will even succeed in deterring others from pursuing them. It merely reflects that our strategy is ill-suited to our times. Third, the Cold War is over. We won. We dont need thousands of nuclear weapons to deter an enemy that no longer exists. At the end of World War II, we began rapidly dismantling and recycling our arsenal of weaponry to a size sustainable in peacetime.

Finally, we must work with other nations to reduce unnecessary weapons. The New START Treaty with Russia provides an example. It established modest reductions in each sides strategic nuclear forces in conjunction with boots on the ground in Russia to verify the treaty. The result was improved intelligence on Russian strategic nuclear weapons through mutual reporting and data exchange. Such information relieved our intelligence agencies of the burden of keeping an eye on Russias arsenal by other means. Consequently, weve freed up assets to spend elsewhere. American policymakers should recognize the success of New START and take things further with Russia not just by seeking additional nuclear arms reductions but also by scaling down our strategic and tactical weapons reserves. We can reduce the numbers of these weapons while still providing our nation with a strong and appropriate deterrent. Lets get on with this task so we can focus on truly strengthening our national security. Lt. Gen. Dirk Jameson (ret.) served as deputy commander in chief and chief of staff of the U.S. Strategic Command.