Bush Stunned by U.S. Nuclear Arsenal Size

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush was stunned last month when told of the extent of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, Newsweek magazine reported in its June 25 edition, released on Sunday.

``I had no idea we had so many weapons,'' Bush was quoted as saying by an unidentified ``White House insider.''

``What do we need them for?'' the president was said to have asked at a briefing, according to the Newsweek report.

But that was not a dumb question, the magazine noted in detailing the vast U.S. nuclear arsenal, which includes 5,400 warheads on intercontinental ballistic missiles, 1,750 nuclear bombs and cruise missiles ready to be launched from B-2 and B-52 bombers, 1,670 ``tactical'' nuclear weapons and another 10,000 warheads in bunkers around the United States.

That potential for nuclear overkill may be reined in, however, as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld prepares at the Pentagon to implement Bush's stated goal of streamlining and downsizing the arsenal.

Rumsfeld has brought back retired Gen. George (Lee) Butler and former Reagan administration national security guru Richard Perle to spearhead an effort to reduce the arsenal to safer, more manageable and more cost efficient levels, Newsweek said.

``I see no reason why we can't go well below 1,000'' warheads, Perle told the magazine. ``I want the lowest number possible under the tightest control possible.''

``The truth is we are never going to use them,'' Perle added. ''The Russians aren't going to use theirs either.''


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