The “four horsemen” were back today. Former Secretaries of State George Schultz (Reagan) and Henry Kissinger (Nixon and Ford), former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry (Clinton), and former Senator Sam Nunn (Sen. D-GA) have an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal reaffirming their past calls to eliminate nuclear weapons. They write today:
The four of us have come together, now joined by many others, to support a global effort to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons, to prevent their spread into potentially dangerous hands, and ultimately to end them as a threat to the world.
These four national security leaders – two Republicans and two Democrats – have been four of the most prominent and vocal advocates of eliminating nuclear weapons and their efforts have significantly influenced President Obama and the global nuclear debate.
Their op-ed today importantly does not support one of the key arguments made by conservatives like Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ), that the US needs to build new nuclear warheads because existing ones are “deteriorating.” The four statesmen conclude that:
Our recommendations for maintaining a safe, secure and reliable nuclear arsenal are consistent with the findings of a recently completed technical study commissioned by the National Nuclear Security Administration in the Department of Energy. This study was performed by JASON, an independent defense advisory group of senior scientists who had full access to the pertinent classified information. The JASON study found that the “[l]ifetimes of today’s nuclear warheads could be extended for decades, with no anticipated loss in confidence, by using approaches similar to those employed in Life Extension Programs to date.”
By supporting the findings of the JASON study, Schultz, Perry, Kissinger, and Nunn are in no way supporting the construction of a new nuclear warhead, since the study found that as long as current maintenance programs are in place, building a new nuclear warhead is simply unnecessary. While the op-ed calls for maintaining the efficacy of nuclear labs and for ensuring proper funding for nuclear programs relevant to maintaining the nuclear force, this is something that the Administration and arms-control advocates support as well and in no way conflicts with the effort to work toward eliminating nuclear weapons.
The op-ed also notably rejects Senator Kyl’s clamoring for testing new nuclear weapons. Kyl wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in October titled “why we need to test nuclear weapons” that also opposed the effort to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The four statesmen pour cold water on Kyl’s desire to explode more nuclear weapons, noting that work at US nuclear labs have:
led to important advances in the scientific understanding of nuclear explosions and obviated the need for underground nuclear explosive tests.