Defense Secretary demands Congress fund new nuclear weapons program, offers veiled threats on testing
John Byrne
Published: Wednesday October 29, 2008

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Hints that the Pentagon will restart nuclear testing in effort to prod Congress to fund new generation of weapons

After making a comment the same day saying that Russia must reduce its nuclear arsenal, Defense Secretary Robert Gates called on the United States to begin testing its nuclear weapon program and fund a new generation of nuclear weapons.

The Bush Administration is at odds with Congress on a law that would authorize the funding for a Reliable Replacable Warhead project -- the so called "next generation" of nuclear weapon designs.

"To be blunt, there is absolutely no way we can maintain a credible deterrent and reduce the number of weapons in our stockpile without resorting to testing our stockpile or pursuing a modernization program," Gates told the Carnegie Endowment, where he spoke Thursday, according to prepared remarks posted by .

"In other words," Wired's Nathan Hodge remarks, "fund this thing, mothertruckers, or we start testing. The United States concluded the last full-scale underground test of a nuke in 1992, and declared an official moratorium two years later; a return to testing would be a really big deal. In a speech last month on the limits of U.S. power, he alluded � briefly � to the importance of RRW. That part of the speech earned few headlines, but for nuke-watchers, it was a telling moment."

"Currently, the United States is the only declared nuclear power that is neither modernizing its nuclear arsenal nor has the capability to produce a new nuclear warhead," Gates added. "The United Kingdom and France have programs to maintain their deterrent capabilities. China and Russia have embarked on ambitious paths to design and field new weapons."

Congress has blocked funding for the initiative in the past. For the last two years, $89 million needed to determine the cost of building a new warhead was axed.