For the first time in years, and in a stark reversal from the Trump presidency - who had ordered a blackout of the data during his administration - the Biden White House has made public the number of nuclear weapons in the US stockpile.
Citing the importance of "increasing transparency" the State Department said in a Tuesday official report that it is "releasing newly declassified information on the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile to update the information previously released in September 2017." The report indicated 3,750 nuclear warheads currently in America's stockpile, and among these 2,000 waiting to be dismantled.
Biden and Trump had been clearly divided on the issue during the 2020 presidential campaign, with Biden at the time vowing that "administration will work to maintain a strong, credible deterrent while reducing our reliance and excessive expenditure on nuclear weapons." Trump for his part had greatly ratcheted up spending on the Defense and Energy departments to sustain and modernize the nuclear arsenal, having last requested $44.5 billion for fiscal year 2021.
According to the newly released official count by the State Dept:
As of September 2020, the U.S. stockpile of nuclear warheads consisted of 3,750 warheads. This number represents an approximate 88 percent reduction in the stockpile from its maximum (31,255) at the end of fiscal year 1967, and an approximate 83 percent reduction from its level (22,217) when the Berlin Wall fell in late 1989. The below figure shows the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile from 1945 through September 30, 2020.
The bulk of this dismantling of non-strategic nuclear weapons occurred since 1991 - which correspond to the collapse of the Soviet Union - with the stockpile of nuclear weapons declining over 90% since the end of the Cold War.
This involved the US dismantling 11,683 nuclear warheads from 1994 to 2020, and an additional 711 nuclear warheads since September 30, 2017, according to the numbers.
The official report gave as rationale for making the numbers public, including to US 'enemies' and rivals like Russia and China, the following: "Increasing the transparency of states' nuclear stockpiles is important to nonproliferation and disarmament efforts, including commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and efforts to address all types of nuclear weapons, including deployed and non-deployed, and strategic and non-strategic," the State Department said.