The Trump administration is reconsidering every piece of U.S. nuclear arms policy – even the broad end goal of global nuclear disarmament – in its upcoming Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), a senior National Security Council official said Tuesday.

B-2 Spirit bomber prepares for refueling. Air Force photo.
B-2 Spirit bomber prepares for refueling. Air Force photo.

“We’re being encouraged . . . to do a real honest-to-God, bottom-up review, to rethink things from the start, to look again at what policy alternatives might be available without being constrained by conventional wisdom or untested assumptions,” Christopher Ford, NSC senior director for weapons of mass destruction and counterproliferation and the Trump administration’s top nonproliferation appointee, said at the Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference in Washington, D.C.

Ford, who worked in the George W. Bush administration as deputy assistant secretary of state in the Arms Control and International Security Bureau, said an interagency team is “gradually” being built to work on the NPR. The review will focus “a bit more pragmatically on policies and programs that are fairly directly related to U.S. national security needs,” in contrast with the Obama administration’s 2010 review that outlined a broad agenda toward an eventual world without nuclear weapons, he said.

Ford pointed to an ongoing tension in U.S. policy between that ultimate goal and current national security needs.

“It’s a part of this review . . . to explore whether traditional U.S. fidelity of that visionary end-state of abolition, and demonstrating fidelity to it by pointing to rapid progress and reducing arsenals, is still a viable strategy,” he said. This means the administration is reconsidering whether a world without nuclear weapons fits into U.S. nuclear policy.

Other matters to be addressed in the review include the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty – Ford said President Donald Trump “has made very clear he will not accept a second place position in the nuclear weapons arena” – and a potential response to a Russian violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. “We need to do more to disincentivize violations and I think we need to do more to ensure . . . Russia doesn’t obtain a military advantage from its violations,” Ford said.