President Obama is poised to sign off on a new internal review of U.S. nuclear weapons strategy that would reduce the arsenal by one-third, resulting in billions in savings to the Pentagon and Energy Department.
The recommended reductions were included in a draft version of a classified decision directive compiled by top defense and national security officials inside the White House, according to a report by the Center for Public Integrity issued Friday.
While the president has yet to officially approve the directive, including the recommended one-third cut to the nuclear arsenal, sources tell CPI Obama has voiced no objection to the directive's findings.
Representatives from State Department, Strategic Command, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the office of Vice President Biden also played a part in drafting the directive.
White House officials had pushed to get the new directive finalized late last year, according to the CPI report. However, the administration pushed back against that plan.
Political advisers inside the White House did not want the directive released publicly — especially the information on the reductions — prior to President Obama's reelection bid last November, sources told CPI.
The draft directive outlines the slate of possible nuclear threats facing the United States in the coming years, and the ability of U.S. forces to deter or respond to those future threats, according to anonymous administration sources.
The Obama White House has adopted a nuclear defense strategy that eschews maintaining a large ballistic arsenal in favor of using a smaller arsenal to target a limited number of threats, such as China, North Korea and Iran.
Due to that smaller, more tailored target set adopted by the White House, the Pentagon can afford to slash the arsenal by at least one-third while still maintaining a viable nuclear deterrence strategy, according to the directive.
It remains unclear exactly how many nuclear weapons that one-third cut would come out to, because the actual total amount of nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal is classified.
The directive also is unclear as to when those cuts would take place, according to CPI.
But pending the successful confirmation of Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel, the White House is poised to send the final directive to the Pentagon and give the department the green light to begin cutting down the nuclear force.
The move is sure to roil congressional Republicans, who have hammered the Obama administration's stance on nuclear deterrence and missile defense.
Last year, House Republicans pressed a measure into the 2013 Defense Authorization Act calling for a new ballistic missile shield for the Eastern Seaboard.
At the time, House members argued the shield was necessary to deter potential nuclear attacks from North Korea and Iran.
Last week, Senate Armed Services ranking member James Inhofe (R-Okla.) grilled Hagel on his work with Global Zero, a group that supports the elimination of all nuclear weapons.
Hagel responded by saying he and the organization never supported unilateral disarmament, and quoted former President Reagan’s support for eliminating nuclear weapons.
“The position of Global Zero ... has never been unilateral disarmament ever. Never,” Hagel said at the time.
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