Modernizing the Nuclear Arsenal

July 29, 2016 • Volume 26, Issue 27
Is a new arms race brewing?
By William Wanlund


President Obama (Getty Images/Asahi Shimbun)
President Obama speaks May 27 in Hiroshima, Japan, where the U.S. detonated the first atomic bomb. Obama called on nations with nuclear weapons to “have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them.” (Getty Images/Asahi Shimbun)

In his first term, President Obama vowed to try to rid the world of nuclear weapons. Now, in his second term, while still hoping for a non-nuclear world, Obama has embarked on a vast plan to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal, a step he says is needed to keep the weapons reliable and safe. The effort — aimed at upgrading the nation's launch systems, warheads and the missiles, bombers and submarines that deliver them — could run nearly $350 billion in equipment and operational costs over the next decade and up to $1 trillion by 2050. The move comes amid rising tensions with Russia and China, the world's other top nuclear superpowers, as well as continuing skirmishes between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan and the nuclear ambitions of rogue states such as North Korea and Iran. Advocates of nuclear disarmament say the administration's plan will increase the danger of a nuclear holocaust by encouraging other countries to add to their nuclear stockpiles. But advocates of modernizing the U.S. arsenal say up-to-date and powerful nuclear weapons will discourage hostile nations from attacking the United States.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Weapons of Mass Destruction
Jul. 29, 2016  Modernizing the Nuclear Arsenal
Mar. 08, 2002  Weapons of Mass Destruction
Jan. 31, 1997  Chemical and Biological Weapons
Jun. 24, 1994  Nuclear Arms Cleanup
Jun. 05, 1992  Nuclear Proliferation
Jun. 29, 1990  Obstacles to Bio-Chemical Disarmament
Apr. 22, 1988  The Military Build-Down in the 1990s
May 24, 1987  Euromissile Negotiations
Jul. 11, 1986  Chemical Weapons
Apr. 27, 1984  Reagan's Defense Buildup
Jun. 04, 1982  Civil Defense
Jul. 17, 1981  Controlling Nuclear Proliferation
Jun. 05, 1981  MX Missile Decision
Aug. 15, 1980  The Neutron Bomb and European Defense
Sep. 07, 1979  Atomic Secrecy
Mar. 17, 1978  Nuclear Proliferation
May 27, 1977  Chemical-Biological Warfare
May 13, 1977  Politics of Strategic Arms Negotiations
Nov. 15, 1974  Nuclear Safeguards
Jul. 01, 1970  Nuclear Balance of Terror: 25 Years After Alamogordo
Jun. 18, 1969  Chemical–Biological Weaponry
Jun. 30, 1965  Atomic Proliferation
Mar. 21, 1962  Nuclear Testing Dilemmas
Aug. 16, 1961  Shelters and Survival
Oct. 12, 1959  Chemical-Biological Warfare
May 13, 1959  Nuclear Test Ban
Dec. 04, 1957  Scientific Cooperation and Atlantic Security
May 15, 1957  Changing Defense Concepts
Jul. 03, 1956  Civil Defense, 1956
Nov. 16, 1955  International Arms Deals
Oct. 04, 1954  Industrial Defense
Apr. 15, 1954  National Defense Strategy
Feb. 10, 1954  New Aproaches to Atomic Control
Oct. 10, 1953  Atomic Information
Apr. 11, 1952  Biological Warfare
Oct. 03, 1951  World Arms Race
Feb. 04, 1948  International Control of Atomic Energy
Dec. 06, 1946  International Inspection
Aug. 27, 1943  Gas Warfare
Jul. 24, 1937  The New Race in Armaments
May 05, 1932  Abolition of Aggressive Weapons
Arms Control and Disarmament
Cold War
General Defense and National Security
International Law and Agreements
Regional Political Affairs: Russia and the Former Soviet Union
Science and Politics
Terrorism and Counterterrorism
U.S. at War: Cold War
War and Conflict