But as U.S. officials look to the future, Chilton said, “What we need is a modernized nuclear weapon to go with our modernized delivery platforms that we’ve worked on and are working on, and a responsive infrastructure, one that can produce weapons.
“If we do that right ... you have an opportunity to lower what is referred to commonly as the hedge inventory, the backup inventory,” said Chilton, who is due to retire this summer.
The offer here is that, in return for backing the Reliable Replacement Warhead program (which is intended to produce a new generation of nuclear weapons), nuclear force levels will be substantially cut. The nugget of logic behind the deal is the argument that older weapons are less reliable, and that as such would need them in greater numbers than newer weapons.
And this, of course, is garbage. We do not now and have never needed every single nuclear weapon we launch to function properly; we have so many more than we need to do whatever job we could ever conceivably want to do. No plausible study suggests that our existing nuclear weapons are decaying at anything like the rate they would need to in order to threaten the robustness of the deterrent. More importantly, no enemy is ever going to make this analysis:
CRAZY FOREIGN DICTATOR: How many nuclear weapons will the Americans launch at us if we destroy New York?
LACKEY TO CRAZY FOREIGN DICTATOR: Dozens, sir. But perhaps half of those won't work, which means that we will only suffer half of... well, dozens of nuclear explosions.
CRAZY FOREIGN DICTATOR: Ha ha ha. The American fools. If only they had funded RRW back when they had the chance. The Democratic Party truly is our best friend. Launch our attack!
It comes down to this; STRATCOM wants new toys, and the major nuclear labs want new jobs. It's unclear to me why we should pay for either of those things.