US Nuclear Weapons Policy: Challenges and Opportunities

September 25, 2009 — Dr. Charles Ferguson of the Council on Foreign Relations and Ambassador Linton F. Brooks, former Administrator of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, joined us for a discussion on the upcoming opportunities to revisit U.S. nuclear weapons policy and the direction that potential policy changes might take. The discussion centered on the CFR Independent Task Force Report, “U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy” (April 2009). The bipartisan Task Force, which was directed by Dr. Ferguson and on which Mr. Brooks served as a member, was chaired by William J. Perry and Brent Scowcroft.

Dr. Ferguson and Ambassador Brooks highlighted the various upcoming events that enable the U.S. to examine its nuclear policies, including the congressionally mandated Nuclear Posture Review, the 2010 Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the expiration of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Among the potential issues and challenges confronting the United States nuclear policy are its strategic relationship with Russia and China, its commitment to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and the possibility of further efforts towards arms reduction.

The discussion also delved into more tangible problems, including the need to maintain physical security of various nuclear stockpiles around the world to prevent them from falling into terrorist hands, as well as strengthening IAEA safeguards in an attempt to create a barrier between civilian and military nuclear projects. In the end, the opportunities and challenges currently facing U.S. nuclear weapons policy are many and varied, but the upcoming treaty reviews as well as the nuclear posture review provide a solid start point to deal with these challenges.

Security for a New Century is a bipartisan study group for Congress. We meet regularly with U.S. and international policy professionals to discuss the post-Cold War and post-9/11 security environment. All discussions are off-the-record. It is not an advocacy venue. For more information, please call Mark Yarnell at (202) 224-7560 or write to [email protected].

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