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Biden’s nuclear agenda in trouble as Pentagon hawks attack

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One of President Joe Biden’s leading allies in his decadeslong attempt to reduce nuclear weapons has lost a battle with the Pentagon’s hawks.

The ouster of Leonor Tomero, who questioned the status quo on nuclear weapons, signals the Biden administration’s ambitious agenda to overhaul America's nuclear policy might be in trouble.

Early in his administration, Biden installed national security officials intent on negotiating new arms control treaties and curtailing nuclear weapons spending. One of them was Tomero, a leading voice for nuclear restraint on Capitol Hill and in the think tank community, who was appointed to oversee the Nuclear Posture Review that will set the administration’s atomic weapons policy and strategy.

But officials with more traditional views on nuclear weapons, who promote a status quo agenda to include modernizing the land, sea and airborne legs of America’s nuclear arsenal, did not take kindly to Tomero’s progressive ideology, according to 11 current and former defense officials, as well as others with insight into the debate.

One current U.S. official who works on nuclear issues, when asked about Tomero, said he considers some of her positions dangerous in the face of Russian and Chinese nuclear advancements.

The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, described her as among "the arms controllers who used to seem naive but now seem irrational given what China and Russia are doing.”

“Her appointment was something that people were immediately resistant to,” said Jeffrey Lewis, a professor and nuclear weapons expert at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies and host of the podcast Arms Control Wonk. “People with very traditional views of nuclear weapons policy did not want someone in charge of the Nuclear Posture Review who might think differently about those issues.”

That clash spilled into public this month when Tomero, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy, was unceremoniously edged out in what the Pentagon is officially calling a “reorganization” after just nine months on the job.

The Pentagon’s new assistant secretary for space, a position Congress recently created, will absorb the responsibility for........

© Politico

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