The Bush Administration's Stockpile Reduction Plan

June 07, 2004

Too Many, Too Slow

The recent announcement by the Bush administration to significantly reduce the U.S. nuclear weapon stockpile is a welcome and positive step, but there are several caveats that warrant further discussion. An NRDC analysis of the proposal found it lacking for two main reasons: It will still leave approximately 6,000 nuclear weapons in the U.S. stockpile, and it will take eight years to accomplish.

On June 1, National Nuclear Security Administration Administrator Linton F. Brooks submitted a classified report to Congress detailing plans that have been approved by the Energy and Defense departments. In a conference call with reporters, Ambassador Brooks said the reductions would be "almost half" of the current stockpile. While the government does not discuss precise numbers, it is possible to estimate what is planned. NRDC's analysis concludes that over 4,300 warheads of six types are slated for retirement and disassembly. These include:

Warhead TypeNumber
W62 (MM III)730
W78 (MM III)425
W76 (Trident I)1,350
W80-1 (ACM/ALCM)1,000
W84 (GLCM)380

This will leave a future stockpile of nearly approximately 6,000 warheads of seven types;

W78 (MM III ICBM)400
W87 (MM III ICBM)545
W76 (Trident I/II SLBM)1,840
W88 (Trident II SLBM)400
W80-1 (ACM/ALCM)825
W80-0 (SLCM)265

This projected 2012 inventory would consist of nuclear warheads for strategic forces of 500 Minuteman III ICBMs and 14 Trident submarines, and nuclear bombs for 76 B-52 and 21 B-2 bombers. Non-strategic weapons would include nuclear bombs for F-16, F-15E and NATO Tornado aircraft and nuclear sea-launched cruise missiles (SLCMs) for attack submarines.

The following tables provide a breakdown of the current and future stockpiles.

Table 1. NRDC estimate of the current stockpile as of 2004 (PDF)
Table 2. NRDC estimate of U.S. nuclear forces in 2012, under the new 2004 stockpile plan (PDF)