The United States was the first country to test an atomic bomb, with the Trinity test taking place in July 1945. It is also the only nation to use nuclear weapons in a conflict, dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. From 1945 to 1992, the United States conducted 1,032 nuclear tests, most of which occurred underground after the Limited Test Ban Treaty was signed in 1963. The United States signed and ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968. In doing so, the nation agreed to pursue negotiations and reductions in good faith, with the eventual goal of complete nuclear disarmament.
At its peak, the United States had more than 31,000 nuclear weapons in its stockpile. Through various arms control agreements and unilateral reductions, the United States has reduced this to its current nuclear inventory of 5,550 nuclear warheads, with around 3,800 active warheads in the stockpile and 1,750 retired warheads awaiting dismantlement. These weapons are deployed on air, sea, and land platforms in what is referred to as “The Nuclear Triad.” The United States currently plans to spend up to $1.5 trillion to overhaul its nuclear arsenal by rebuilding each leg of the triad and its accompanying infrastructure.
Under the Trump administration, many new nuclear weapons programs were proposed and modernization was largely pushed ahead of schedule while critical arms control and non-proliferation agreements like the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, Open Skies Treaty, and the Iran nuclear deal were abandoned.
In February 2021, the United States and Russia agreed to a five-year extension of the New START treaty, capping each country’s arsenal at 1,550 nuclear warheads on 700 deployed delivery systems with 18 on-site inspections each year. President Joe Biden has pledged to work with allies in pursuing a new era of arms control and diplomatic negotiations with countries such as Russia, Iran and North Korea.
Recent Analysis on the United States
- A Note of Caution on the U.S.-Russia Dialogue October 22, 2021
- Summary: Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (S. 2792) October 21, 2021
- Op-ed: Preventing an accidental nuclear crisis in Iran and beyond October 11, 2021
- Summary: Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4350) as Passed October 7, 2021
- NATO 2030: What the new Strategic Concept should say about nuclear weapons September 30, 2021
- Op-ed: Congress’s role in the AUKUS nuclear-powered submarine deal September 29, 2021
- Biden’s nuclear agenda in trouble as Pentagon hawks attack September 23, 2021
- What’s Beneath the Surface of Australia’s Decision to Build Nuclear-Powered Submarines September 17, 2021
- Summary: Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4350) September 13, 2021
- Rethinking Security in the Post-9/11 World September 10, 2021