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Nuclear Weapon Initiatives: Low-Yield R&D, Advanced Concepts, Earth Penetrators, Test Readiness

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Congressional rept.

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The Bush Administration completed its congress-mandated Nuclear Posture Review in December 2001. The review led to major changes in U.S. nuclear policy. It found that the United States Cold War relationship with Russia was very inappropriate and that this nation must be able to deal with new threats. It planned to retain Cold War-era nuclear weapons, which would suffice for many contingencies, though at reduced numbers. To complement these weapons so as to improve the United States ability to deal with new, more dispersed threats in various countries, the Administration sought to explore additional nuclear capabilities. Accordingly, the FY2004 request included four nuclear weapon initiatives 1 rescinding the ban that Congress imposed in 1993 on RD on low-yield nuclear weapons 2 6 million for the Advanced Concepts Initiative to begin certain studies of weapon-related science and technology 3 15 million to continue a study of the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, in which an existing bomb would be converted into a weapon able to penetrate into the ground before detonating to improve its ability to destroy buried targets and 4 25 million to enable the United States to conduct a nuclear test within 18 months of a presidential order to test, and for related purposes, as compared with the current 24- to 36-month time frame that was set shortly after the end of the Cold War. Congress acted on these requests in the FY2004 National Defense Authorization Act P.L. 108-136, and acted on the latter three in the FY2004 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act P.L. 108-137. This report provides the policy context for the four initiatives. For each, it presents a description, history, FY2004 legislative actions, and issues for Congress. It is designed for those who want a detailed introduction to the debate, those seeking arguments and counterarguments, and those looking for answers to specific questions.

Subject Categories:

  • Government and Political Science
  • Sociology and Law
  • Nuclear Weapons

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