From today's edition of "Who Thought That Was A Good Idea", we have this from the NYTimes:
The Bush administration announced yesterday the winner of a competition to design the nation’s first new nuclear weapon in nearly two decades and immediately set out to reassure Russia and China that the weapon, if built, would pose no new threat to either nation.
If President Bush decides to authorize production and Congress agrees, the research could lead to a long, expensive process to replace all American nuclear warheads in the next few decades with new designs.
The first to be replaced with the new Reliable Replacement Weapon would be the W-76, a warhead for missiles deployed on submarines.
Officials said the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California would design the replacement warhead based on previously tested components, allowing the administration to argue that no new underground tests would be necessary before deploying the new weapon.
And just in time to test in, oh, say Iran? And why more now? Don't we have enough?
The Brookings Institution has this:
6. Total number and types of nuclear warheads and bombs built, 1945-1990: more than 70,000/65 types
U.S. Department of Energy; Natural Resources Defense Council, Nuclear Weapons Databook Project
7. Number currently in the stockpile (2002): 10,600 (7,982 deployed, 2,700 hedge/contingency stockpile)
Natural Resources Defense Council, Nuclear Weapons Databook Project
8. Number of nuclear warheads requested by the Army in 1956 and 1957: 151,000
History of the Custody and Deployment of Nuclear Weapons, July 1945 Through September 1977, Prepared by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Atomic Energy), February 1978, p. 50 (formerly Top Secret)
9. Projected operational U.S. strategic nuclear warheads and bombs after full enactment of the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty in 2012: 1,700-2,200
U.S. Department of Defense; Natural Resources Defense Council, Nuclear Weapons Databook Project
10. Additional strategic and non-strategic warheads not limited by the treaty that the U.S. military wants to retain as a "hedge" against unforeseen future threats: 4,900
U..S. Department of Defense; Natural Resources Defense Council, Nuclear Weapons Databook Project
Go read the entire page, "50 Facts About U. S. Nuclear Weapons", it's stunning.
So depending on the math, we either have 10,900, or 7,100 (4,900 + 2,200) warheads and bombs on the shelf, or in the field.
And yet we need more? Of course, GWBush signed the Moscow Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions in 2002:
Today, President George W. Bush and President Vladimir Putin signed the Moscow Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions. Under this Treaty, the United States and Russia will reduce their strategic nuclear warheads to a level of 1700-2200 by December 31, 2012, a level nearly two-thirds below current levels.
This new, legally-binding Treaty codifies the deep reductions announced by President Bush during the November 2001 Washington/Crawford Summit and by President Putin at that Summit and a month later. It is part of the new strategic framework that the United States and Russia have established. This framework includes a broad array of cooperative efforts in political, economic, and security areas, and marks a new era in our bilateral relationship.
The Treaty requires each country to reduce and limit its strategic nuclear warheads to 1700-2200 by December 31, 2012. Each side may determine for itself the composition and structure of its strategic forces consistent with this limit. A Bilateral Implementation Commission will meet at least twice a year to discuss issues related to the Treaty.
So I'm pretty sure that means that adding new nukes will violate that treaty.
Not that that's a problem of anything.