Sending Office: Honorable Earl Blumenauer
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Dear Colleague:

The United States has multiple weapons with “low-yield” nuclear options and multiple platforms to deliver those weapons. Yet, the
Trump administration in its Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) called for two
additional “low-yield” capabilities. Congress is now considering the first: a new, unprecedented, low-yield warhead – the W76-2 – for our D-5 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).

Our amendment to H.R. 5515, the FY19 NDAA, would withhold half of the funding for the W76-2 program until Secretary Mattis submits a report to Congress assessing the program’s impacts on strategic stability & options to reduce the risk of miscalculation.

Sec. George Shultz and Sen. Lugar recently wrote in a May 22, 2018 letter: “[The] justification for new Trident warheads fails on many levels […] it is unlikely that there is such a thing as a limited nuclear war; preparing for one is folly.”

The Trump argument that we need another new low-yield warhead fails for several reasons, but
at a minimum DOD should be able to deliver a simple report to Congress.

  • To pretend that we can control nuclear war – & that a “small-scale” nuclear war can stay small – flies in the face of commonsense. 
  • Putting low-yield warheads on quick-strike SLBMs entails severe risks of unintended escalation. Because our submarines currently carry high-yield warheads, if we were to launch a missile at Russia, its leadership would be unable to distinguish whether
    the missile contained a single, low-yield warhead, or one or several high-yield ones, and could precipitate a rapid escalation.
  • The argument that we cannot credibly deter Russia right now from using nuclear weapons is baseless.
    No compelling evidence has been presented to Congress that demonstrates Russia actually believes this. Further, General Hyten, head of U.S. Strategic Command, recently confirmed that they have “everything they need” to deter Russia.
  • The Pentagon already has more than enough low-yield options, & we are already spending tens of billions of $$ to modernize these and hundreds of billions of $$ to modernize their delivery platforms.
    Just to name a few…the low-yield B61 gravity bomb carried on bombers and fighters, and the air-launched cruise missile armed with rebuilt low-yield W80 warheads carried by bombers.
  • SSBNs have never been used to launch low-yield nuclear weapons, and experts have warned that launching a low-yield nuclear weapon from a submarine could increase the risk to the system’s survivability.
    We should not undermine the most important asset in our nuclear deterrent, particularly when other options – both nuclear and conventional – are already available.
  • Congress has previously dismissed the need for such capabilities. The Bush administration in 2005 and 2006 requested a new bunker-busting weapon, potentially with low-yield options, and the Republican-controlled Congress cancelled the program both



Earl Blumenauer Adam Smith John Garamendi
Member of Congress Member of Congress Member of Congress


Related Legislative Issues

Selected legislative information: Armed Services, Homeland Security

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