A real opportunity to remold nuclear policies for this century

It's time for the United States to scale down its stock of nuclear weapons.
A new and effective strategy for deterring a nuclear attack can be achieved
with a substantial reduction in our nuclear force.

Our present nuclear war-fighting strategy is outdated and geared against an
enemy that hasn't existed for 20 years -- the Soviet Union.

Today, the greatest threats to our nation's security are weapons of mass
destruction -- whether nuclear, biological, or chemical -- in the hands of
terrorist organizations or rogue states in unstable regions.

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These threats are not deterred by America's massive arsenal of 1,550
deployed nuclear weapons, or the thousands more we have in reserve. Indeed,
these weapon systems are of limited practical use and pose tremendous costs
that we can ill afford.

Some in Washington continue to hold on to the idea that America needs a massive nuclear force. But such thinking is outdated and no longer addresses today's strategic reality. Times have moved on, and so should we. The United States can still maintain a strong, effective nuclear deterrent with a dramatic reduction in deployed and non-deployed weapons.

Combined, the United States and Russia control ninety percent of the world's nuclear weapons. But Russia is not our enemy today. We must work together to reduce the nuclear threat to both our nations and to the world.

So how do we arrive at an appropriate level for our nuclear deterrent?

First, U.S. nuclear policy must remain nonpartisan. Our strategic security
must not be influenced by politics. Only by looking practically at our
nuclear policy will we achieve one that is in line with our interests and
the threats we face.

Second, we need to remember that 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.

Third, the Cold War is over -- we won. We no longer need thousands of
nuclear weapons ready to deter an enemy that no longer exists. Remember, at
the end of World War II, we began rapidly dismantling and recycling our
massive and expensive arsenal of weaponry to a size sustainable in
peacetime.

Finally, we must work with other nations to mutually reduce unnecessary
weapons. That is in everybody's interest.

The New START Treaty with Russia provides an instructive example. It
established modest reductions in each side's strategic nuclear forces in
conjunction with boots on the ground in Russia to verify the treaty. The
result was improved intelligence on Russian strategic nuclear weapons
through mutual reporting and data exchange.

Such information relieved our intelligence agencies of the expensive burden
of keeping an eye on Russia's arsenal by other means. The treaty created
both stability and predictability between our two nations. Consequently,
we've been able to free up assets and money to spend elsewhere.

American policymakers should recognize the success of New START and take
things further with Russia -- not just by seeking additional reductions in
nuclear arms, but also working to scale down our reserves of strategic and
tactical weapons.

The bottom line is that with modern nuclear strategy and geopolitical
reality, we no longer require a massive and complex Cold-War-era nuclear
force. We can reduce the numbers of these weapons while still providing our
nation with a strong and appropriate deterrent.

Let's get on with this task -- so we can focus on truly strengthening our
national security.

Jameson served as Deputy Commander in Chief and Chief of Staff of U.S. Strategic Command before retiring from the U.S. Air Force in 1996 after more than three decades of active service. He is a member of the Consensus for American Security.