In 2009, a recently inaugurated Obama, speaking in Prague, announced "America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons."
"To put an end to Cold War thinking," Obama said, "we will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, and urge others to do the same."
Later that year, Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Committee cited that pledge, saying it "attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons."
Fast forward to last summer, when the US Air Force and National Nuclear Security Administration successfully tested an unarmed B61-12 nuclear gravity bomb as part of a program aimed at upgrading the aging weapon.
Designed in the 1960s, the B61 free falls or is deployed with a parachute from an aircraft. Its upgraded version, the B61-12, includes a guided tail kit and internal guidance system that can steer the bomb towards a target. It is more accurate than a traditional gravity bomb, but not as precise as a GPS-guided smart bomb.
In addition to improved accuracy, the B61-12 is capable of penetrating the earth and destroying underground targets, said Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists.
"Both the accuracy and the earth-penetration capability are significant new enhancements of this type of bomb," Kristensen said in an interview with Radio Sputnik's "Loud & Clear."
Almost seven years after Obama pledged to reduce the role of nuclear weapons, critics are questioning the upgrades. As Kristensen pointed out, many people forget about the president's remarks that immediately followed the his pledge.
"Make no mistake," Obama said in 2009, "as long as these weapons exist, the United States will maintain a safe, secure and effective arsenal to deter any adversary, and guarantee that defense to our allies … but we will begin the work of reducing our arsenal."
Kristensen said the conflicting messages in Obama's speech made it equally appealing to groups with opposing interests.
"You could say that everybody picked the piece of the speech they liked the best. The arms-control community liked the speech about the reductions and disarmament, and the defense contractors and the military, they liked the other part of the speech that had to do with maintaining a nuclear arsenal."
Those opposing messages, Kristensen added, reflect Obama's nuclear policy.
"The first half of the Obama administration's life, so to speak, the focus, you could say, was on arms control and trying to make progress on that. But in the second half, more of the attention focused on modernizing the remaining nuclear arsenal," he said.
Kristensen worries that the B12-61's ability to produce a lower yield, thereby lessening the chance of a nuclear fallout, will make it a more viable option in a severe crisis.