Nuclear Weapons

Congressional Audit Reports That Nuclear Bomb Budget Falls Short
Building new weapons will cost 35 percent more, take longer

A U.S. Air Force F-16 similar to this aircraft dropped a mock, inert version of the B61-12 nuclear bomb in the Nevada desert last month, according to news reports. It was the first test of the bomb’s non-nuclear functions. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Building new atomic bombs to replace the oldest such weapons in the U.S. arsenal will cost 35 percent more than the Energy Department has budgeted for the effort, and production will start two years late, according to an internal department estimate cited in a new congressional audit.

Critics have assailed the rising cost of the B61-12 bomb program for several years. The new internal estimate is likely to add to the scrutiny, at a time when modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal is fast becoming one of the biggest federal budget challenges of the next two decades.

Gardner Sees ‘Refreshing’ New Focus on North Korea
Senators will be briefed on North Korea threat at the White House Wednesday

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner has been a leading voice in the Republican caucus on North Korea since he entered the Senate in 2015 after serving two terms in the House. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senators will be bused to the White House on Wednesday for a briefing on North Korea, and one Republican senator says attention on the threat is long overdue.

Sen. Cory Gardner has been among the lawmakers calling on the Trump administration to prioritize addressing the threat of North Korea launching nuclear weapons, and the Colorado Republican said it is “refreshing” to see some action.

Analysis: U.S. Military Options in North Korea — From Bad to Worse
Experts say chances of successful preemptive strike not great

Barbed wire fence near the Demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating South and North Korea on April 14, 2017 in Paju, South Korea. Tensions between the United States and North Korea are high. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

War on the Korean peninsula may or may not be growing more likely. But it sure feels like it is.

Leaders in North Korea and the United States are rattling sabers at each other and conducting military exercises in the region. The entire Senate is set to visit the White House Wednesday for a briefing on the North Korean threat. The U.N. Security Council ambassadors came to the White House Monday and the United States is convening a special U.N. Security Council meeting to talk options on North Korea on Friday.

Opinion: Weighing the Costs of War and Diplomacy
Military action is not always the courageous choice

Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly could do more listening and learning, Mary C. Curtis writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

John F. Kelly is getting a lot of criticism these days, and that’s understandable. As leader of the Department of Homeland Security, the retired Marine general now has to be more sensitive to the politics of any given situation.

So when he publicly said critics of his agency’s policies — whether they come from Congress, civil rights groups or the public — should “shut up,” he came off as what he once was, a military man giving orders. When the administration, Kelly’s department in particular, is challenged on its travel bans and inconsistent immigration enforcement, Kelly could do more listening and learning.

After Saber Rattling, Trump More Measured on North Korea, Russia
Spicer contends president not changing stances, but 'entities' moving toward him

President Donald Trump, seen here with daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, appeared eager to reassure the world Thursday morning after talking tough on North Korea and Russia. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images file photo)

Updated at 1:56 p.m. After a week of tough talk about North Korea and Russia, President Donald Trump on Thursday morning changed course on both issues. The shift followed an eyebrow-raising 48 hours during which the president also appeared to reverse several domestic policy stances.

Just 18 hours after declaring he is prepared to “go it alone” to deal with North Korea’s nuclear weapons and long-range missile programs, Trump struck a more measured tone in a morning tweet Thursday. And he indicated a growing confidence that Chinese President Xi Jinping will assist in addressing the North Korea challenge.

Pentagon Panel Urges Trump Team to Expand Nuclear Options
Report suggests ‘tailored nuclear option for limited use’

From left, First lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump, Maj. Gen. Bradley Becker, Vice President Mike Pence, and his wife Karen Pence prepare to review the troops on Inauguration Day. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A blue-ribbon Pentagon panel has urged the Trump administration to make the U.S. arsenal more capable of “limited” atomic war.

The Defense Science Board, in an unpublished December report obtained by CQ Roll Call, urges the president to consider altering existing and planned U.S. armaments to achieve a greater number of lower-yield weapons that could provide a “tailored nuclear option for limited use.”

Good Trump, Bad Trump — Who Will Appear at the Inaugural?
No guarantee what president-elect will say Friday

Listening to President-elect Donald Trump’s past speeches gives one the sense of a political leader torn between a good angel on his right shoulder and a malevolent demon on his left, Walter Shapiro writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

No matter how many drafts speechwriter Stephen Miller prepares, no matter how often the president-elect practices with a teleprompter, there is no guarantee what Donald Trump will say on Friday after he takes the oath of office. The man who is about to become the 45th president is too impulsive, too much of a creature of his own id, to be slavishly faithful to the final draft of the inaugural address. 

The majesty of the moment, the hand-on-the-Bible jolt of emotion for this child of Outer-Borough America, could send Trump in unexpected directions. Even an orator who revels in huge rallies, as Trump does, may be surprised — as Bill Clinton was in 1993 — at the way his oratory echoes off the monuments and how indistinct the faces of his audience appear as he gazes down from the heights of the West Front of the Capitol.

In Break from Trump, Mattis Pushes for Tough Stance on Russia

Secretary of Defense nominee James Mattis testifies during his confirmation hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

James Mattis, Donald Trump’s choice for Defense secretary, advocated several shifts in U.S. national security policy in his confirmation hearing Thursday, including a much tougher stance on Russia than the president-elect has articulated.

On several topics during his Senate Armed Services testimony, the retired Marine Corps four-star general differed in substance or tone from positions Trump took in the campaign. Unless Trump or Mattis changes his view, the contrasts could lead to tensions between the White House and the Pentagon.

Atomic Arsenal Costs Ballooning by Billions of Dollars

California’s Dianne Feinstein, ranking Senate Democrat on the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, talks with a reporter in Senate subway before the Senate Policy luncheons in the Capitol, September 13, 2016. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

America’s nuclear arsenal is getting billions of dollars more expensive with each passing year, the Obama administration said in a recent report to Congress obtained by CQ.

The report shows how nuclear weapons costs are beginning to crest as the Pentagon and the Energy Department move into a $1 trillion modernization effort over the next three decades. It is the biggest looming issue in the defense budget.

Trump Transforms GOP Into the Softer-On-Russia Party
Democrats may hit pay-dirt with anti-Putin tactics in special elections

President-elect Donald Trump’s tilt toward Russia represents a repudiation of American policy dating back 70 years, Walter Shapiro writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

If the rise of Donald Trump has taught us anything (a debatable assumption), it is that the news media has the attention span of an old-time Hollywood agent making deals on four phones simultaneously.

No matter how big the headlines or breathless the tweets, it’s on to the next frenzied furor within hours. That’s the 21st-century way. And it is probably going to doom any sustained outrage — no matter how justified — over Russian intervention during the 2016 campaign.