WASHINGTON – Maybe everything really is, as they say, on the table.
The Pentagon today confirmed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is weighing a reduction of the U.S. nuclear arsenal to help cut DOD spending and balance budgets.
The New York Times first reported Panetta was considering the cuts, deliberations that are perhaps given extra resonance this week by an alarming new International Atomic Energy Agency report on Iran’s ambitions to field nuclear weapons.
Pentagon press secretary George Little stressed that Panetta’s mention of nuclear arms reductions represented only “preliminary thinking” on the part of DOD budget analysts, and no cuts are currently planned.
“Our top priority is maintaining a nuclear deterrent, but the arsenal may not need to be as large as it is,” Little said.
Such an admission seems to fly in the face of recent rhetoric.
DOD officials including Air Force Secretary Michael Donley, who said at the Air Force Association Convention in September, “We must maintain the nuclear triad,” have repeatedly emphasized the priority of nuclear weapons in America’s arsenal. And in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee last month, Panetta appeared to take a dim view of any nuclear budget cuts.
“This is too important,” he said. “We have always been at the cutting edge of this technology, and we have to stay there. There are too many other countries that are trying to reach out to develop this capability. And if we aren't staying ahead of it, well, we jeopardize the security of this country. So for that reason, I certainly would oppose any reductions with regards to the funding for weaponization.”