Center for Strategic Communication

Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn, William Perry, and George Shultz are known not only for their national security credentials — Shultz and Kissinger served as secretary of state, Perry as secretary of defense, and Nunn as chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee — but also for their efforts to address nuclear security challenges.

In 2007 the statesman came together to urge action on nuclear issues, writing in the Wall Street Journal, “The end of the Cold War made the doctrine of mutual Soviet-American deterrence obsolete. Deterrence continues to be a relevant consideration for many states with regard to threats from other states. But reliance on nuclear weapons for this purpose is becoming increasingly hazardous and decreasingly effective.”

Kissinger, Nunn, Perry and Shultz are joined by a growing number of retired military leaders and national security experts on both sides of the aisle who support strategic reductions to bring U.S. nuclear policy in line with the 21st century. As ASP Consensus member LtGen. Dirk Jameson, former deputy commander in chief of the U.S. Strategic Command, recently wrote, “Having more weapons doesn’t mean we are “winning” — or will even succeed in deterring others from pursuing nuclear weapons. It merely reflects that our nuclear strategy is ill-suited to our times.”

Now, in their fifth Wall Street Journal op-ed, the statesmen continue to highlight the dangers of an over sized nuclear arsenal in “Next Steps in Reducing Nuclear Risks.”

“The continuing risk posed by nuclear weapons remains an overarching strategic problem, but the pace of work doesn’t now match the urgency of the threat,” the four statesmen write.

They offer several recommendations for addressing these challenges:

1. Securing nuclear materials to prevent catastrophic nuclear terrorism…At the next Nuclear Security Summit, planned for 2014 in the Netherlands, world leaders should commit to develop a comprehensive global materials security system—including procedures for international assurances—to ensure that all weapons-usable nuclear materials are secure from unauthorized access and theft…

2. Changes in the deployment patterns of the two largest nuclear powers to increase decision time for leaders…The U.S. should work with nuclear-armed nations world-wide to remove all nuclear weapons from the prompt-launch status in which nuclear-armed ballistic missiles are deployed to be launched in minutes. To jump-start this initiative, the U.S. and Russia should agree to take a percentage of their nuclear warheads off prompt-launch status—remembering Ronald Reagan’s admonition to “trust but verify.”

3. Actions following New Start. The progress in the strategic field has been considerable. Washington should carefully examine going below New Start levels of warheads and launchers, including the possibility of coordinated mutual actions. Such a course has the following prerequisites: a) strict reciprocity; b) demonstrable verification; and c) providing adequate and stable funding for the long-term investments required to maintain high confidence in our nuclear arsenal…

4. Without verification and transparency, nuclear-security agreements cannot be completed with confidence. The U.S. should launch a “verification initiative” that involves the U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories and global scientific experts in developing essential technologies and innovations for reducing and controlling nuclear weapons and materials. The principle of enhanced transparency could also be applied to missile defense so long as it doesn’t risk capabilities. Taking the lead in fostering greater transparency sets an important base line for all nations and can facilitate future verification of nuclear materials and weapons…

Read the full op-ed here.

Look for American Security Project’s paper to be released next month on nuclear policy recommendations.