Why are Nuclear Weapons Shielded from the Sequester?

On the radar: Self-assurance masquerading as deterrence; $143 billion on nuclear weapons; New threats, new sanctions, new tension; Reduced numbers, reduced threat; History of threats; and the Rodman option on diplomacy.

March 8, 2013 | Edited by Benjamin Loehrke and Alyssa Demus

Nuclear narcissism - Department of Defense officials announced earlier this month that DOD will protect two missions from sequestration cuts - operations in Afghanistan and the U.S. nuclear deterrent. What’s so special about nuclear weapons, asks Jeffrey Lewis at Foreign Policy.

--Much of what passes for deterrence is actually about self-assurance, notes Lewis. ”If the Obama administration is serious about transforming our nuclear posture, that transformation needs to start with being honest that we have, at least in some important ways, been fooling ourselves all these years. We've talked about frightening our enemies when what we've really meant is giving ourselves a dose of courage.”

--Big thought on what really reduces the role of nuclear weapons: “It is the broader changes in technology and society over the past few decades that are responsible for reducing our reliance on nuclear weapons...Doing the right thing, then, doesn't mean doing everything we can, but consolidating and aligning our nuclear forces, policy, and posture with the limited role that nuclear weapons still credibly play,” argues Lewis. http://atfp.co/13JpAwD

Nuclear budget - “The United States will spend at least $143 billion over the next eight years on its nuclear arsenal,” estimates a new report from the Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

--“The costs for the nuclear mission are expected to grow substantially to well over $500 billion over the next 20 years if the United States decides to keep the nuclear triad.” Overview at NTI.org. http://bit.ly/12zvFMI

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Getting tense - North Korea responded to the UN Security Council’s unanimous decision to impose sanctions by saying the North was nullifying all nonaggression and denuclearization agreements with South Korea. “While weapons experts say North Korea does not have the technical capability to use nuclear-tipped missiles, that did not stop it from warning of their deployment,” notes The New York Times.

--”The higher decibel of invective is a bit worrisome...It’s the highest negative level I’ve ever seen, and it probably means that the hard-line elements, particularly the military and not the Foreign Ministry, are in control,” said former Gov. Bill Richardson. Choe Sang-hun and Rick Gladstone have the report. http://nyti.ms/ZlkHX9

UNSC Resolution - “The Security Council today passed unanimously a resolution strengthening and expanding the scope of United Nations sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by targeting the illicit activities of diplomatic personnel, transfers of bulk cash, and the country’s banking relationships, in response to that country’s third nuclear test on 12 February.” Press release and full resolution text here. http://bit.ly/W9WulF

Tweet - @SangerNYT: White House often talks of 'Eisenhower Model' for Obama. So now they may get chance to renegotiate Korean armistice.

Tweet - @MarthaRaddatz: @Cirincione: I talked with @MarthaRaddatz about NKorea threat. Here's the @ABCWorldNews clip. Great insight Joe! http://bit.ly/15CfhsO

Podcast - “The Presidential Inbox: Iran’s Nuclear Program.” Discussion with Amb. James Dobbins, Adm. William J. Fallon, Karim Sadjadpour, and Carol Giacomo at the Council on Foreign Relations. Listen to yesterday’s talk here. http://on.cfr.org/Z526N6

Budget winners & losers - “Round One Goes to the Budget Hawks: How the neocons lost the sequester battle -- but maybe not the war.” By Chris Preble in Foreign Policy. http://owl.li/izKMe

Less nukes, more safe - The administration’s renewed effort for nuclear arms control has drawn opposition from some in Congress, who argue that additional cuts undermine U.S. security. “These concerns are misplaced: Further nuclear weapons reductions are squarely in the national interest... [and] make the U.S. safer” says Kingston Reif in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

-Coordinated reductions “below New START levels reduce the number of Russian nuclear weapons pointed at the U.S.”; strengthen stability; dissuade Moscow from force modernization; and “pave the way for future Chinese participation,” says Reif. Full article here. http://owl.li/izxj5

Nuclear threats - Reflecting on North Korea’s hostile rhetoric recently, AP has a list of past nuclear threats between states. Included: Truman during the Korean War, China during the first Taiwan Strait Crisis, and a Chinese general talking about Taiwan in 2005. http://abcn.ws/15CgCzJ

Tweet - @JHerbTheHill: SASC Chairman Sen. Levin announces he isn't running for reelection in 2014.


--Hearing: U.S.Strategic Command and U.S. Cyber Command. Gen. Robert Kehler, Commander, U.S. Strategic Command, and Gen. Keith Alexander, Commander, U.S. Cyber Command. March 12th 9:30 a.m. @ G50 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington. View webcast here. http://owl.li/izQJt

--”Strategy, Not Math: The Emerging Consensus on National Security in an Era of Austerity.” Barry Blechman, Stimson Center; Steve Ellis, Taxpayers for Common Sense; and Nora Bensahel, Center for a New American Security. March 14th 12:00 p.m. @ Cato Institute, 1000 Mass. Ave N.W. WDC. RSVP here. http://owl.li/izRKO

--”Sustaining U.S. Nuclear Forces on a Tight Budget.” Barry Blechman, Russell Rumbaugh, Tom Collina and Daryl Kimball. March 19th from 9:30-11:00am at Carnegie. Details and RSVP. http://bit.ly/XUNrVs

--”PONI: 2012 Capstone Conference.” John Hamre, former Deputy Defense Secretary; Gen. Robert Kehler, Commander, U.S. Strategic Command; and other speakers. March 19th 8:00 a.m.-6:00p.m. @ U.S. Strategic Command, Omaha, NE. Register here. http://owl.li/izTcg


Worm’s wisdom - Though Dennis Rodman’s recent trip to the Hermit Kingdom has been widely criticized, Rodman’s suggestion that the president reach out to Kim Jong Un may not be so far fetched, according to Joel Wit and Jenny Town in Foreign Policy.

--The Obama “administration studiously avoided contact with the North Korean leadership for much of its first term,” which hasn’t produced the desired results. Instead, the administration should adopt a “strong diplomacy, strong containment approach,” write Wit and Town. Full article here. http://owl.li/izBeW