Trump’s false claim on nu­clear ar­se­nal

The pres­i­dent didn’t or­der a weapon mod­ern­iza­tion — Obama did in 2014.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By W.J. Hen­ni­gan wil­liam.hen­ni­gan @la­

WASH­ING­TON — Hours af­ter warn­ing North Korea that it would meet “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if its leader, Kim Jong Un, con­tin­ued to pro­voke the United States, Pres­i­dent Trump said the U.S. nu­clear ar­se­nal was stronger “than ever be­fore.”

“My first or­der as pres­i­dent was to ren­o­vate and mod­ern­ize our nu­clear ar­se­nal. It is now far stronger and more pow­er­ful than ever be­fore,” Trump tweeted Wed­nes­day.

Parts of the pres­i­dent’s claims are false.

He did not or­der the mod­ern­iza­tion of the nu­clear ar­se­nal. Pres­i­dent Obama did that in 2014, de­spite call­ing for a “vi­sion of ... a world with­out nu­clear weapons” just five years ear­lier.

The plan, ex­pected to cost $400 bil­lion through 2024, would up­grade nu­clear weapon pro­duc­tion fa­cil­i­ties, re­fur­bish war­heads and build new sub­marines, bombers and ground-based mis­siles. It will likely cost more than $1 tril­lion over the next 30 years, ac­cord­ing to out­side es­ti­mates.

Be­cause the sprawl­ing nu­clear force will take so long to re­build, the ar­se­nal is more or less at the same level of strength as it was when Trump took of­fice seven months ago.

Trump did be­gin a topto-bot­tom Nu­clear Pos­ture Re­view to de­ter­mine what the role of nu­clear weapons in U.S. se­cu­rity strat­egy should be, just like each of his re­cent pre­de­ces­sors did when they took of­fice.

The re­view has not yet been com­pleted, and it wasn’t Trump’s first or­der. The di­rec­tive was pre­ceded by more than a dozen or­ders on other top­ics.

The U.S. nu­clear weapons strat­egy rests on a triad of de­liv­ery sys­tems — bombers, sub­marines and land­based mis­siles — de­vel­oped early in the Cold War.

In ad­di­tion to the re­view of the nu­clear force, the White House has also pro­posed a $1.4-bil­lion bud­get in­crease for the Na­tional Nu­clear Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion, which over­sees the nu­clear weapons en­ter­prise. That money has yet to be al­lo­cated.

It’s un­clear what Trump meant when he said that the nu­clear ar­se­nal is stronger than be­fore. The Times has writ­ten at length on the de­te­ri­o­rat­ing state of var­i­ous as­pects of the nu­clear force.

In ad­di­tion, the U.S. mil­i­tary is lim­ited in how many weapons can be de­ployed un­der the New Strate­gic Arms Re­duc­tion Treaty signed in 2010. That agree­ment re­quires Rus­sia and the U.S. to re­duce de­ployed in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal mis­siles to 700 and the over­all num­ber of war­heads to 1,550, each by 2018. Rus­sia and the U.S. meet those lim­its, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est data re­leased by the State Depart­ment.

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