Last week was a big one for nuclear news. First, the Obama administration submitted its proposed budget for the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (that’s the agency that, among other things, maintains our warheads). Second, an unnamed administration official announced an “agreement in principle” with the Russians for the START follow-on treaty.
These two things are connected beyond the obvious point of contact. The former is meant to be a down payment on the latter. The administration has been put on notice that it faces substantial opposition in the Senate, not only to the ratification of this new treaty (whatever it ends up being called), but to its other arms control priorities as well. The price, say a coalition of 41 mostly (but not entirely) Republican senators, is a serious commitment to upgrade the U.S. nuclear arsenal.