A report from Politico Pro revealed the Senate Armed Services Committee set aside $10 million to prepare for live nuclear testing. The Republican majority committee included the funds in the Senate’s version of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in a vote that went along party lines. The vote took place last week in a meeting behind closed doors.
The amendment says at least $10 million “shall be made available to carry out projects related to reducing the time required to execute a nuclear test if necessary.” According to Politico Pro, Senator Tom Cotton (R-KY) proposed the provision. The measure will likely face backlash from the Democrat-controlled House, as the two chambers will have to negotiate what is included in the final version of the 2021 NDAA.
In May, The Washington Post reported senior officials in the Trump administration discussed the possibility of starting live nuclear testing to send a message to China and Russia. The US has not conducted a live test since 1992. The report worried arms control advocates, and these new revelations show live tests are under serious consideration in Washington.
The news comes as the US and Russia are set to begin arms control discussions this month. The New START Treaty limits the amount of warheads signatories can have deployed and is the last nuclear arms control agreement between the two powers. The treaty is set to expire in February 2021.
Russia has offered to extend the New START, but the US insists on including China in the deal. Beijing has repeatedly rejected trilateral arms control agreements since the US and Russia have much larger nuclear arsenals than China.