Nuclear review urges more reliance on precision weapons
By David Ensor
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A new Bush administration review of the nation's strategic nuclear policy calls for relying increasingly on precision-guided weapons to deter attacks against the United States instead of the thousands of nuclear weapons in U.S. stockpiles.
The classified Nuclear Posture Review says improvements to precision-guided weaponry -- as demonstrated in the war in Afghanistan -- means the U.S. military can now rely more on powerful, highly accurate conventional bombs and missiles to deter an enemy strike. The review was mandated by Congress.
"I think we need a broader array of forces -- not just nuclear" to deter attack, J.D. Crouch, assistant secretary of defense for international security policy, told reporters at the Pentagon. He said the end of the Cold War and the improving relationship with Russia have influenced strategy decisions, but an analysis of potential future threats to national security also contributed to the refocus.
Crouch said many of the nuclear warheads the administration plans to take out of deployment status would not be destroyed, but would be kept in an "active stockpile" that a future president could re-deploy in the event of a major nuclear threat to the United States. President Bush has said he wants to reduce the U.S. arsenal of deployed nuclear weapons from more than 6,000 to between 1,700 and 2,200.
The new document also calls for development of a ballistic missile defense shield, Crouch said.
Crouch said that the classified report calls for the United States to reduce the time it needs to prepare for a nuclear weapons test, in the event a president decided one was needed. Crouch said, however, the document reiterates the existing Bush administration policy on nuclear testing: Opposition to the international Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty but continued adherence to a moratorium on nuclear testing.
He also confirmed reports the Pentagon is examining different ways to develop a weapon that can hit deep underground targets. "We are looking at modification of existing (nuclear) weapons, and also looking at non-nuclear ways to do it," Crouch said.
The U.S. intelligence community Wednesday issued a new report projecting that before 2015 "the United States most likely will face ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) threats from North Korea and Iran and possibly from Iraq --barring significant changes in their political orientations."
The unclassified report by the National Intelligence Council also projects that Chinese ballistic missile forces will "increase sevenfold" by 2015 -- rising to between 75-100 warheads deployed. The projections are similar to those in the last such estimate, which was made public in 1999.
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