Gates backs warhead
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates recently dealt a political blow to anti-nuclear activists by informing Congress that he strongly supports efforts to develop a modernized nuclear warhead known as the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW).
Anti-nuclear activists say the warhead, an upgrading of the existing B-60 nuclear warhead, poses a proliferation risk and is undermining stability.
“Nuclear weapons continue to play a critical role in the defense of the United States, its allies and friends,” Mr. Gates said in a letter to Sen. Pete V. Domenici, New Mexico Republican. “Their unique capabilities contribute in vital and irreplaceable ways to the ability to deter adversaries and dissuade others from pursuing nuclear capabilities on their own.”
Mr. Gates said in a May 4 letter to Mr. Domenici that the military requirement for a replacement warhead is “clearly defined” to support up to 2,200 strategic nuclear warheads and a reserve as a “hedge against future needs.”
“I strongly support the RRW effort and believe it to be essential to supporting this requirement in the future with a smaller, safer, more reliable nuclear stockpile,” he said.
The RRW will replace old warheads and upgrade them with advanced safety and security features.
Regarding claims that the warhead will undermine the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Mr. Gates said “nonnuclear-weapon states, such as Iran and North Korea, are undermining the nonproliferation regime with nuclear programs that are contrary to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and its safeguards.”
He also left open the possibility that the United States might need to resume underground nuclear testing in the future but said the replacement warhead would decrease the need for future test blasts.