Pentagon begins Nuclear Posture Review

Review will guide the strategy for U.S. military’s nuclear weapons programs.

"The Nuclear Posture Review is a legislatively-mandated review that establishes U.S. nuclear policy, strategy, capabilities and force posture for the next five to ten years," reads the Defense Department's website for the review.

According to a Pentagon statement issued Monday, the review will "ensure the U.S. nuclear deterrent is safe, secure, effective, reliable and appropriately tailored to deter 21st-century threats and reassure our allies."

A final report is expected to be presented to Trump by the end of the year.

According to a Defense Department fact sheet the U.S. also affirmed it would "not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and in compliance with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations."

"The United States would only consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States or its allies and partners," the fact sheet adds.

Last week, Trump characterized the state of U.S. and Russian relations as possibly being "at an all-time low".

Under that treaty, the U.S. and Russia have committed to reduce their deployed nuclear weapons stockpiles to 1,550 by February 2018. That is the number of nuclear warheads that can be deployed on intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarines or heavy bombers by the U.S. and Russia.

The United States currently has 1,411 deployed warheads and Russia has 1,765. The higher number of Russian warheads is attributed to an ongoing modernization program.

While Russia has abided by the New START Treaty, the U.S. has accused it of violating the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty by deploying a new nuclear-capable land-based cruise missile.

Current tensions in Asia with North Korea and China will also likely factor into the new review. Since 2010, North Korea has made significant strides in its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons program that have the stated goal of placing a nuclear warhead atop a long-range missile capable of reaching the American mainland.

The review will likely also have to take into account the Pentagon's planned modernization program of its nuclear triad: strategic bombers carrying nuclear weapons, ICBMs and submarine-launched ICBMs.

While the Pentagon has undergone a modernization process to keep these decades-old systems viable, it has plans to replace each leg of the triad in the coming decades.

The initial phase of modernization over the next decade could cost $400 billion beginning in 2021, according to initial estimates. With additional work needed after that, there estimates that the modernization of the nuclear triad could cost $1 trillion.

But the replacements for the Air Force's 450 Minuteman III missiles, a new long-range strategic Air Force bomber and a replacement the Navy's submarine ballistic missile fleet are still at least a decade away from becoming a reality.