Saturday, September 29, 2007

Bill Richardson Announces Military Modernization Plan

New Mexico Governor and Democratic Presidential candidate Bill Richardson announced Wednesday a tremendously ambitious military modernization plan which “better prepares the American military to face the new challenges of the 21st century and returns the country to sound fiscal policy.”

The plan lists more than a dozen specific programs that can be cut, reduced, or delayed, which he claims “will give the United States $57.14 billion per year to reinvest in urgent domestic priorities.”

Among other things, the list includes:

  • $8 billion from scaling back the National Missile Defense program.
  • $3 billion from eliminating the Pentagon's ‘Space-Based Offensive Weapons'.
  • $5 billion from eliminating the Reliable Replacement Warhead and Complex 2030 programs to develop new nuclear weapons.
  • $8 billion from reducing the U.S. nuclear posture to 600 deployed warheads, with 400 in reserve and eliminating all "tactical" nuclear weapons.
  • $540 million from canceling the Airborne Laser Program.

Richardson’s proposal also includes plans to increase the personnel end-strength of the Army and Marine Corps, the intelligence community, and special operations forces.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Nuclear Missile Foul-Up

The Washington Post published today a letter to the editor that I wrote in response to Sunday's article, “Missteps in the Bunker,” that highlighted the dangerous breakdown of extensive Air Force command and control protocols for six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles:

The United States has a nuclear arsenal of nearly 10,000 warheads. Russia holds approximately 15,000.

The frightening B-52 incident seriously calls into question the wisdom of keeping thousands of these weapons on hair-trigger alert, ready to be launched at a moment's notice.

If six live nuclear missiles could be mistakenly sent across the country, despite elaborate safety protocols, it is not impossible to fathom another nightmare scenario: the accidental or unauthorized launch of submarine or land-based nuclear missiles. Faced with accidental or unauthorized incoming American nuclear missiles, Russia, China or some other nuclear power would have to quickly decide whether to retaliate. What started as a mistake could soon mushroom into a global nuclear exchange.

More than 15 years after the end of the Cold War, the United States should give itself some breathing room by leading a gloabal effort to take nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert.

Policy Fellow
Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Matthew Bunn: More to be Done to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism

Matthew Bunn, an Advisory Board Member at the Center, wrote a terrific op-ed in today’s Washington Post in which he argues that, “We urgently need a high-priority global campaign to make sure every nuclear weapon and every significant cache of potential bomb material is locked down.

The piece promotes the findings of "Securing the Bomb 2007," an annual report on the security of nuclear weapons and materials around the world, which Bunn helped write. The good news of the report “is that much progress has been made toward upgrading security for nuclear stockpiles. The bad news is that the essential ingredients of nuclear weapons exist in hundreds of buildings in more than 40 countries, and terrorists are actively trying to get a nuclear bomb or the materials to make one.”

Bunn states:

While [nuclear terrorism] is a global threat, Russia, Pakistan and research reactors using fuel made from highly enriched uranium pose the most urgent dangers of nuclear theft. Russia has the world's largest stockpiles of nuclear weapons and the materials to make them, scattered in numerous buildings and bunkers. Security measures have improved dramatically since the early 1990s, but serious weaknesses remain, and threats are posed by outside attackers as well as pervasive insider theft.

Pakistan has a relatively small nuclear stockpile, believed to be heavily guarded -- but the country faces threats from al-Qaeda, other jihadist groups and nuclear insiders with a demonstrated willingness to sell sensitive technology.

Roughly 140 research reactors fueled by highly enriched uranium exist in dozens of countries -- some of them on university campuses -- and many have only modest security measures in place.

Click here to read the complete op-ed and here to download the full report.

Monday, September 24, 2007

National Security Legislative Wrap-up, September 17-21 2007

The Senate continues its consideration of the Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Authorization bill this week but will be taking up other business as well. There were several votes on amendments to withdraw troops from Iraq last week, all unsuccessful. There will be more votes this week on Iraq. In addition, Congress must approve a Continuing Resolution, a bill to provide temporary funding early in a fiscal year when Congress has not completed funding on appropriations bills.



The Senate resumed its consideration of the bill on September 17. A Webb (D-VA) - Hagel (R-NE) amendment requiring more rest and training for U.S. troops before being sent back to Iraq or Afghanistan failed 56 - 44, with 60 votes required for passage. A Feingold (D-WI) - Reid (D-NV) amendment was defeated 28 - 70. The amendment would have mandated the beginning of the withdrawal of most American forces from Iraq 90 days after enactment of the bill, with funds cut off for any American forces remaining in Iraq after June 30, 2008 except for counterterrorism, training and protection of U.S. infrastructure and personnel. A Levin (D-MI) & Reed (D-RI) amendment also failed, this time 47 - 47, with 60 votes needed for adoption. It would have mandated the beginning of withdrawal of American forces from Iraq within 90 days of enactment and completed the withdrawal of most troops within nine months of enactment.

The Senate is expected to continue considering the bill the week of September 24.


The full Senate may consider the bill in last week of September -- or it may not. The portion of the request to pay for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars -- which now reportedly will reach up to $200 billion -- is not likely to be considered until October or November. Congress is waiting for additional Administration war requests.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Congressional Schedule for DoD and DoE Bills

Provided below is an updated schedule of Congressional action on key Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Energy (DoE) bills, as prepared by David Culp of FCNL.

Friday, September 21, 2007

One Mistake Too Many

In a moment of shameless self-promotion, I'm including below an op-ed that I wrote on the recent B-52 debacle which appeared today on openDemocracy.

One mistake too many
A slip-up in nuclear weapons controls in the United States is cause for global concern

Much to the disbelief of military officials and nuclear experts, on 30 August an American B-52 bomber accidentally carried six nuclear-armed cruise missiles from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. The accident demonstrates a dangerous breakdown in United States Air Force command and control and represents the most high-profile breach of nuclear weapons safety protocol in nearly 40 years.

The incident is chilling because it shows that, despite rigorous safeguards, accidents involving nuclear weapons can still happen. It calls into question the wisdom of keeping thousands of nuclear devices on hair-trigger alert, ready to be launched at a moment's notice - a policy the United States and other countries currently maintain.

Protocol ignored

Assuming that the B-52 really was mistakenly loaded (and some conspiracy theorists won't even concede that), numerous important security measures were either overlooked or ignored altogether. Each of the six nuclear-armed missiles should have been signed out from its storage bunker, transported by ground, and then loaded onto the bomber, a process that requires strict adherence to several safety protocols. Multiple layers of the chain of command should have been involved.

Large red markings on the nuclear-armed missiles should have made them easy to distinguish from the six unarmed missiles loaded under the B-52's other wing. The weight difference between the two missile types should also have tipped off the flight and munitions crews, who have loaded dozens of these missiles and even won two service-wide safety awards in 2006 for their work. The munitions crews involved have since been temporarily decertified and the commander relieved of his duties.

Especially troubling is that once the missiles arrived in Louisiana, they were not retrieved or even identified as being nuclear-tipped for nearly ten hours. The delay was caused by the inability of the airmen who first discovered the missiles to realise and, more importantly, convince their superiors that they were actually carrying live nuclear warheads.

Compounding this further was that several officers at the Pentagon didn't take the "Bent Spear" message - Defense Department code for this kind of mistake - coming from the Minot base seriously, thinking instead that the message had been sent in error. Including the B-52's three and a half hour flight, the nuclear-armed missiles were loose for approximately 13 hours.

Cause for concern

The Minot incident raises serious concerns about the security measures associated with nuclear weapons. If such a major error could happen once, it could happen again. It may even have happened before without the American ever public finding out.

More frightening are the wider implications of the Minot episode. If an accident of this magnitude could happen in the United States, which has some of the most stringent controls over its nuclear weapons in the world, something similar could very well happen in other countries with weaker controls. What if nuclear-tipped missiles were mistakenly flown to Pakistan's Samungli Air Force Base, where they might sit vulnerable on a tarmac not far from al-Qaida's training camps in northwest Pakistan?

The B-52 incident also goes to the heart of a bigger question. The US currently maintains a nuclear arsenal of nearly 10,000 warheads, thousands of which stand on hair-trigger alert. If six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles were mistakenly sent across the country, despite elaborate safety protocols, the most devastating mistake imaginable remains possible: an accidental or unauthorized launch of submarine or land-based nuclear missiles.

Faced with accidental or unauthorised incoming American nuclear missiles, Russia, China, or some other nuclear power would have to quickly decide whether or not to retaliate. What started as a mistake could soon mushroom into a nuclear exchange between global superpowers.

This is a gloomy scenario, and steps have been taken to mitigate the risk of an accidental launch, but the B-52 incident shows that mistakes can and do happen. The US should give itself some breathing room by leading an international effort to take nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert. After all, when it comes to nuclear weapons, one error is one too many.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Stuart Taylor Jr. on the Need to Eliminate All Nuclear Weapons

Stuart Taylor Jr. wrote an amazing column on Monday in the influential beltway publication, the National Journal, in which he argues that “We need to renew and take seriously our commitment to seek ultimate elimination of all nuclear weapons.

He begins:

Are we safer than we were six years ago? Emphatically not. The risk that we will see American cities go up in smoke has steadily increased since 9/11. The main reason is not the Iraq war or Al Qaeda's revival. It's not the surging numbers of America-haters and would-be terrorists, or the most publicized failings of the Bush administration, or the supposed weakness of the Democrats.

Rather, the central threat is the spread of nuclear weapons and bomb-building programs to more countries. The new nuclear threats already include the unstable Pakistani regime, the evil North Korean regime, and (before long, perhaps) the lunatic Iranian regime. More than anything else, such nuclear proliferation increases the risk that terrorists will get and use nukes.

At least as terrifying is the risk that a false alarm will spur someone to launch a multiple-missile attack -- perhaps Pakistan against nuclear-armed India or vice versa, perhaps Russia (by mistake) against America -- with catastrophic effects on all involved and, ultimately, on the entire human race.

We must work harder to keep nukes out of the hands of terrorists, especially through underfunded efforts such as the Nunn-Lugar program to secure and dismantle nuclear weapons and materials in the former Soviet Union. We must also better secure our borders to keep terrorists from smuggling in nuclear bombs. But such measures are, at best, fingers in the dike.

Click here to read the full piece, or go to the comments section where it is also included.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

New Republic Slams U.S.-India Nuclear Deal

The Editors of The New Republic penned an exceptional op-ed detailing the mine field that is the U.S.-India nuclear deal last week. (You might recall that PSR and The Economist also denounced the deal not long ago). The full piece requires a subscription, so I’m including the key portions below and the full text in the comments section.

Be careful what you wish for. That is the lesson of the Bush administration's newly unveiled deal to provide India with nuclear fuel and technology. For years, opponents of the White House's foreign policy have called for more diplomacy--for further inspections in Iraq, for direct talks with North Korea, for any talks whatsoever on Iran's nuclear program. Now it appears that, in eschewing negotiation, the Bush administration was doing the United States a favor. Because, when the Bushies negotiate, they're extremely dangerous.

Let's start with the very purpose of the agreement. Although U.S. assistance will be intended only for India's civilian power program, it can't avoid helping India's nuclear weapons program. India has limited uranium supplies, which constrain its civilian and military nuclear programs. With its reactors now guaranteed a steady supply of fuel, India's indigenous uranium can be devoted to making weapons. Given that India is a friend, one might argue that this isn't a problem. But India's enemy is an unstable, nuclear-armed nation rife with Islamic extremism. If India expands its atomic cache, Pakistan will almost certainly follow suit, and any growth of Pakistan's nuclear industry exacerbates the threat of nuclear terrorism.


In other words, if India has not broken the rules, it is only because it has ignored them altogether. And, although its record is far better than Pakistan's, its behavior has hardly been exemplary. Even putting aside India's illicit use of U.S. technology in the '70s, the Bush administration itself has sanctioned nine different Indian "entities" for proliferating WMD technology, mostly to Iran. In fact, the Indian government maintains that Iran has an "inalienable right" to enrich uranium.


So, in mid-2005, the president tried to buy India's friendship. Skipping over less radioactive carrots (like arms sales or G-8 membership), Bush offered India nuclear fuel and technology, in effect signaling acceptance of India's atomic arsenal. All that remained was to hammer out the terms of a "123 agreement," named for the section of U.S. code governing nuclear sales. But it took five rounds of negotiations before the agreement was finalized, as diplomats haggled over whether the Indians would allow us to restrict how they might use our technology. Yes, the administration that doesn't negotiate negotiated the terms of its own gift--and lost.

Now we have even less leverage with which to encourage India (and therefore Pakistan) to join the nonproliferation regime. Burns has claimed that the deal itself ties India to the regime, but the 123 agreement does no such thing. It does not, for example, require India to eschew nuclear testing. It does not forbid India from producing further fissile material for weapons (in fact, it will facilitate the production of plutonium). It does not require India to place all its nuclear facilities under international safeguards. It does not commit India to pursuing eventual nuclear disarmament. What it does is reward bad behavior.

Monday, September 17, 2007

National Security Legislative Wrap-up, September 10-14 2007

As mentioned below, the Senate resumes consideration of the FY 2008 Defense Authorization bill today. When the Senate last debated the bill, a great number of amendments were pending. The bill is likely to be the vehicle for a number of amendments on a variety of issues this week or next. Click here for amendments related to nuclear weapons and nonproliferation issues.



On September 11, the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee approved $459.3 billion for the Pentagon, about $3.5 billion less than the President's request but about 9.5% higher than the last fiscal year. The funds for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan will be considered separately, as in the House of Representatives. The Subcommittee approved $8.5 billion for missile defense, a cut of $310 million from the Pentagon request, reducing funding for the third missile defense site in Europe by $85 million, eliminating all funds for the Space Test Bed and fully funding the Airborne Laser program. It also cut $15 million of the $30 million for the Navy work on the Reliable Replacement Warhead. The Subcommittee also approved an amendment ordering a review of how nuclear weapons are handled after a recent incident in which six nuclear bombs were mistakenly flown over several states.

On September 12, the full Senate Appropriations Committee approved the bill.

The full Senate may consider the bill in last week of September. The portion of the request to pay for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars -- which now reportedly will reach up to $200 billion -- is not likely to be considered until October or November. Congress is waiting for additional Administration war requests.

Remember the FY08 Defense Authorization Bill?

The Senate resumes consideration of the FY 2008 Defense Authorization bill (H.R. 1585) today. On July 18, after the Senate voted 52 – 47 for cloture on the Levin (D-MI) - Reed (D-RI) amendment (with 60 votes required to close debate), Majority Leader Harry Reid pulled the Defense Authorization Bill from the Senate floor.

Highlighted below are the numerous amendments related to nuclear weapons and nonproliferation issues.


Missile defense
Sens. Vitter (R-LA) & Kyl (R-AZ) filed amendment No. 2010 to authorize an additional $87 million for Aegis missile defense for destroyers. Sens. Kyl (R-AZ), Vitter, Inhofe, Lieberman, and Lott filed amendment No. 2178 for the same purpose.

National Guard equipment from missile defense funds
Sen. Dodd (D-CT) filed amendment No. 2033 to provide $500 million for the Army National Guard to repair and replace war-battered equipment to address critical shortfalls identified by the National Guard Bureau, with the funds to be cut from the European Missile Defense system ($225 million) and Airborne Laser ($275 million).

Retirement of B-52 bombers
Sens. Conrad (D-ND), Dorgan, Landrieu and Vitter filed amendments No. 2053 & 2172 to require maintaining 63 B-52 bombers with 11 in reserve.

Chemical weapons destruction
Sens. McConnell (R-KY), Salazar, Allard and Bunning filed amendment No. 2061 to increase funding for chemical weapons demilitarization at Blue Grass Army Depot, Kentucky, and Pueblo Chemical Activity, Colorado, by $49 million.

Nuclear terrorism
Sens. Clinton (D-NY) & Whitehouse (D-RI) filed amendments No. 2109 and No. 2222, a version of her bill S. 1705, the Nuclear Terrorism Prevention Act, to establish the position of “Senior Advisor to the President for the Prevention of Nuclear Terrorism” and urging the President to make the prevention of a nuclear terrorist attack on the United States of the highest priority and to accelerate programs, requesting additional funding as appropriate, to prevent nuclear terrorism.

Cost of replacing nuclear warheads
Sen. Bingaman (D-NM) filed amendment No. 2118 which would add to the nuclear posture review included in the Defense Authorization bill requirements that any plan for replacing or modifying the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile include an assessment of the estimated cost and anticipated schedule for replacing warheads.

Nuclear workers
Sen. Reid (D-NV) filed amendment No. 2170 to include nuclear program workers in the occupational illness compensation program.

Protecting space assets
Sen. Kyl (R-AZ) filed amendment No. 2223 saying that it is the policy of the United States to protect its military and civilian satellites and to research all potential means of doing so.

Space test bed
Sen. Kyl (R-AZ) filed amendment No. 2225 to restore the Administration’s $10 million request for the Ballistic Missile Defense Space Test bed that the Senate Armed Services Committee had cut.

Minuteman III missiles
Sens. Baucus (D-MT) and Tester (D-MT) filed amendment No. 2325 to bar more than 40 Minuteman III missiles from being removed from the Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana until the Pentagon identifies additional missions for the base. The Air Force had planned to retire 50 of the 80 missiles.


Protection against Iranian ballistic missiles
Sessions (R-AL) modified amendment No. 2024 stating that it should be the policy of the United States to develop and deploy, as soon as technologically possible, an effective defense against “the threat from Iran” was adopted 90 – 5 (July 12). [Note: See my previous post about the Sessions amendment for more information.]

Op-Ed Questions Necessity of RRW

The Baltimore Sun put out an excellent op-ed by Bennett Ramberg yesterday questioning the necessity of the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program.

Ramberg begins:

As the Bush administration attempts to beat back the nuclear weapons ambitions of Iran and North Korea, it recently raised the specter that the United States has become perilously close to neutering its own atomic capacity. The alarmist forecast emerges in "National Security and Nuclear Weapons: Maintaining Deterrence in the 21st Century," a July statement by the secretaries of defense, state and energy. According to the secretaries, the "aging" and "hazardous" Cold War stockpile puts at risk "the long-term ability of the United States to sustain its strategy of deterrence [and] meet its security commitments to allies." [Ed. More analysis of this document is available here and here.]

The secretaries have called upon Congress this month to fund continued development of a new thermonuclear weapon, the Reliable Replacement Warhead, or RRW. Touted as safe, easy to maintain and regenerate, economical, politically sensible and, by definition, more reliable than the current arsenal, the RRW promotes the nonproliferation treaty's disarmament objective by promising to reduce the number of nuclear spares in the stockpile.

At first blush, the RRW makes sense. But like many sales pitches, this one is too good to be true. The premise - that old nukes make the country less secure - is patently false, and Congress should reject it.

Click here to read the full op-ed.

Russian Bomber Flights: The Real Cost of Missile Defense?

Last week, British fighters flew to intercept eight Russian bombers approaching British air space in what the Times of London called "the biggest aerial confrontation between the two countries since the end of the Cold War." Aerial starring matches like this were standard during the Cold War, but had been relatively unknown since then. In August, Putin resumed the practice of regular patrols over international waters by nuclear-capable Tu-95 bombers, leading to several incidents like this one involving Britain, the United States, Norway, and Canada.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack downplayed the importance of the Russian flights, referring to the bombers as "old aircraft taken out of mothballs" and characterizing this development as "an internal decision...That is a decision for them to take; it's interesting." McCormack implies that the causes of this policy are entirely endogenous to Russia (e.g. Putin's desire to flex military muscle at home or demonstrate his power to the world). It is also possible, however, that the roots of this decision are exogenous to Russia, which is to say, this is a response to the behavior of another state.

The decision to resume bomber flights may be closely related to Putin's fears about missile defense. Putin is concerned with the intrusion of NATO military capability into the Warsaw Pact area (i.e. the planned placement of missile defense interceptors in Poland). NATO expansion eastward is contrary to the deal that was struck between Russia and the United States on German reunification: Russia consented to a unified Germany joining NATO in exchange for a promise that NATO would not expand beyond Germany's eastern border. Thus, even the expansion of a missile defense system of dubious effectiveness is seen as a threat, and if the system were expanded it could
diminish or even eliminate Russia's ability to launch a nuclear strike using ICBMs.

The commander of Russia's Strategic Air Force said in March that he sees bombers as the antidote to American missile defense:

"Missile shield elements, which are located in silos, are very vulnerable and have weak defenses," Lieutenant-General Igor Khvorov said. "Therefore, all aircraft deployed by [Russian] strategic aviation can either apply electronic counter-measures against them or physically destroy them."

The resumption of bomber flights will have minimal implications on Russian military power, but with this decision Putin is publicly flexing a tool that happens to be extremely well suited to counteracting missile defense systems. Other counter-missile defense capabilities have been expanded in strategically significant ways: In May, Russia announced that it would begin equipping its Topol-M missiles with multiple independently targetable nuclear warheads. General Nikolai Solovstov explained to Pravda that this addition would "help penetrate missile defenses more effectively."

At the beginning of the Cold War, Western analysts understood Soviet domination of Eastern Europe as an act of aggression, a prelude to a possible invasion of Western Europe. In retrospect, many historians believe that Stalin had absolutely no intent of launching such an invasion, but was in fact acting defensively, seeking to create a buffer zone against a possibly resurgent Germany. The failure of the West to understand Russian actions as a reaction made those actions appear more aggressive then they actually were, which raised tensions significantly. If we fail to understand the possible connection between the Russian resumption of bomber flights and Putin's fears about missile defense, we run the risk of making the same mistake again, over half a century later.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Dominican Republic Brings CTBT Magic Number to 140

In a scarcely covered but important development, the Dominican Republic last week joined an ever-growing list of countries to ban all nuclear explosions by ratifying the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). (You might recall that Palau ratified the CTBT only a month prior).

The ratification comes ahead of next week’s Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the CTBT, also called Article XIV Conference, “to examine how the entry into force of the Treaty can be accelerated, and to urge countries that have not yet done so to sign and ratify the Treaty without delay.”

To date, 177 countries have signed the Treaty and the Dominican Republic now brings the total number of countries to have ratified the Treaty to 140. In order for the CTBT to enter into force, however, it must ratified by the 44 countries identified in Annex 2 of the Treaty (countries that participated in the negotiations of the Treaty in 1996 and possessed nuclear power or research reactors at the time).

While 41 of these countries have signed the Treaty, only 34 have ratified it, leaving the U.S. as only one of ten countries to stand in the way of its full implementation. The other countries are China, Columbia, North Korea, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, and Pakistan. Of these only North Korea, India and Pakistan have not signed the CTBT.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Highlights from Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Action

The Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee approved its Fiscal Year 2008 bill yesterday.

Few details were immediately available, but some notable arms control and non-proliferation highlights include:

* Funding missile defense programs $310 million below the President’s request
* Cutting funding for the third missile defense site in Europe by $85 million
* Cutting funding for the Kinetic Energy Interceptor by $30 million
* Zeroing out all funds for the Space Test Bed

* Funding the destruction of U.S. chemical weapons stockpiles as required under the Chemical Weapons Convention $62 million above the amended President’s budget request

One lowlight, however, was that the Subcommittee markup fully funds the Airborne Laser missile defense program.

No figures were provided on the Navy Reliable Replacement Warhead program.

It also appears that the debacle involving a B-52 mistakenly flying six nuclear-armed cruise missiles across the U.S. created enough of a stir to prompt a reaction. According to a write-up by Congressional Quarterly:

During the session, language offered by Sen. Byron L. Dorgan, D-N.D., regarding procedures for handling nuclear weapons was added to the measure as part of Inouye's manager's amendment. The language is likely a response to a recent incident in which a B-52 bomber was mistakenly allowed to fly over the Midwest loaded with nuclear bombs last month.

The full Senate Appropriations Committee will consider the Defense Appropriations bill today.

Click here for arms control and non-proliferation highlights from the House Appropriations Committee action on the FY08 Defense Appropriations bill.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Gary Hart Comments on the Sixth Anniversary of 9/11

Gary Hart, Chairman of the Center’s sister organization, Council for a Livable World, wrote a trenchant piece in the Huffington Post yesterday, discussing the status of America six years after 9/11.

Six years ago three thousand Americans lost their lives. They need not have. Their deaths could have been prevented. Their lives could have been saved.

The Bush administration was warned months before 9/11 that terrorists were going to attack America. They did nothing. They have yet to be held accountable for the preventable loss of American lives. Yet the administration blames its critics for not understanding the terrorist threat.

The perpetrator of those American deaths is still at large and the war to eliminate those who harbored him threatens to drag on inconclusively for many years. Instead, administration operatives, with the approval of their masters, find it convenient to use him to create fear, and therefore justify their positions of power.

Click here
to continue reading Hart's full commentary.

Monday, September 10, 2007

National Security Legislative Wrap-up, September 3-7 2007

Congress was principally focused on Iraq this past week, although there was some significant action on nuclear weapons and nonproliferation issues on the State, Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill, as I noted earlier.

Iraq will continue to dominate Capitol Hill in the foreseeable future, however, considering that Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker are scheduled to deliver their highly-anticipated report to Congress this week. New votes on amendments to end the war are not expected until mid-September or October. Some Democrats are talking about a compromise with Republicans to reach the 60-vote majority needed to pass legislation in the Senate.

Click here for a schedule of Congressional action on key Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Energy (DoE) bills.


The Senate is tentatively scheduled to resume consideration of the bill on September 17, but that schedule could easily be pushed back. The bill could be a vehicle for additional votes on the Iraq war -- although such measures could be considered in stand-alone votes.

The Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee is scheduled to consider its version of the bill the week of September 10.

The portion of the request to pay for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars -- which now reportedly will reach up to $200 billion -- may not be considered by the House until late October or November. Congress is waiting for additional Administration war requests. As a result, Congress may adopt the Defense Appropriations Bill without war funds as a separate measure rather than adopting a combined bill as previously planned.

On September 6, the Senate approved the bill by a vote of 81 - 12. Before doing so, it adopted by voice vote the Obama (D-IL) - Hagel (R-NE) amendment requiring the President to submit a comprehensive nuclear threat reduction and security plan, approved $500,000 to support talks with North Korea and adopted a Lieberman (I-CT) amendment appropriating $75 million to support democracy, the rule of law, and governance in Iran. By a vote of 30 - 63, the Senate rejected an Ensign (R-NV) to eliminate a provision in the bill that increases the limit on the United States' share for United Nations peacekeeping operations during fiscal year 2008 from 25% to 27.1%.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

WSJ Responses to Linton Brooks on RRW

Linton Brooks, former administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, wrote an interesting op-ed in the Wall Street Journal not long ago, in which he tries to defuse criticism of the Bush administration’s plan to build a new generation of nuclear weapons by arguing that the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program “is fully consistent with U.S. nuclear nonproliferation objectives.”

I found this argument unpersuasive when I heard Brooks present it at this year’s Carnegie International Nonproliferation Conference in June and I remain unpersuaded by it now.

And it looks like I’m not alone.

The Wall Street Journal recently published two responses to Brooks’ op-ed that hit the nail on the head. Both the article and the responses require a subscription, so instead I’m including the full responses below and the full article in the comments section.

Let's Not Play the Deadly Deterrent Game

September 6, 2007; Page A15

Mr. Brooks reminds us that questions about the U.S. nuclear arsenal remain first priority concerns. He asks the pertinent question, "Should the U.S. even have a nuclear deterrent?" but his answer is weak. He cites history and rests his case. Readers should agree with him only if we also agree that North Korea should have a nuclear deterrent, and Iran and Brazil and Egypt and Malaysia -- that's how the deterrent game is played.

In 1968, the U.S. signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Article VI of the NPT recognizes that rules of proliferation are quite simple. If anyone has nuclear weapons, everyone can have them. If we don't want others to have them, we have to give up ours. That's why we promised to disarm back in 1968.

To argue now that we need an enduring stockpile, either to support the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW), the NNSA's current darling, or the ongoing Stockpile Life Extension work in Oak Ridge, Tenn., which is upgrading our current arsenal one warhead at a time, is to stand arrogantly and wrongheaded in the face of reality.

The only path to safety -- as former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, former Sen. Sam Nunn, and former Secretary of Defense William Perry noted in the Journal last January -- is the path to disarmament, and an enduring stockpile won't get us there. Nothing else Mr. Brooks can say will overcome that simple fact, and his arguments in favor of the RRW even lack the virtue of being supported by facts.

"Whole classes of U.S. weapons have been eliminated," he says. What he doesn't add is -- but only when they were deemed no longer useful or were replaced by alternative weapons. "The number of nuclear weapons dismantled this year will increase by 50% over last year," he says, neglecting to mention that we have a 15-year backlog of bombs awaiting dismantlement, and capacity issues at the Y12 Plant in Oak Ridge and safety concerns at Pantex limited the number of bombs dismantled in 2006. "We're reducing the deployed stockpile to 2,200 by 2012," he says, failing to point out this falls short of the commitments of the Moscow Treaty (1,700 is the low end of the treaty's goal) and the missiles being withdrawn from the field are not scheduled for dismantlement; they are merely being shelved in a strategic reserve.

So, fellow readers, make no mistake. If Congress funds the RRW, it is funding the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Agree with Linton Brooks at your peril. Literally.

Ralph Hutchison
, Tenn.

Linton Brooks ("Bombs Away, For Good," editorial page, Aug. 29) is asking all the wrong questions when it comes to the "Reliable Replacement Warhead" program. Why isn't he asking, "Will building new nuclear weapons make other states (such as Iran) more or less likely to pursue a nuclear weapons program of their own?" Or what about, "In a world where we face no superpower threat, is it really necessary to keep thousands of nuclear weapons deployed around the world, ready to launch at a moment's notice?"

Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) calls for the U.S. and other Nuclear Weapon States to "pursue negotiations in good faith . . . on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control." Such negotiations have not happened in the 37 years since the NPT came into effect.

Building thousands of new nuclear weapons under the Reliable Replacement Warhead program will not bring us closer to the ultimate goal of the NPT; rather, it will perpetuate life under the shadow of nuclear destruction for decades to come.

Rick Wayman
Santa Barbara, Calif.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Key Senate Amendments to State, Foreign Operations Bill on North Korea and Nuclear Threat Reduction

By a vote of 81-12, the Senate passed yesterday H.R. 2764, the 2008 Department of State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Act, with two key amendments on North Korea and nuclear threat reduction. The former amendment provides continued support for informal dialogue relating to North Korea, while the latter requires a comprehensive nuclear threat reduction and security plan. The full text of both is provided below.

Leahy Modified Amendment No. 2767, to provide continued support for informal dialogue relating to North Korea. [adopted by voice vote]

On page 255, line 5, before the period, insert the following:

"Provided further, That of the funds appropriated under this heading, not more than $500,000 should be made available for the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration to support initiatives which bring together public officials and private individuals from nations involved in the Six-Party Talks for informal discussions on resolving the North Korea nuclear issue:''

Leahy (for Obama/Hagel) Amendment No. 2692, to require a comprehensive nuclear threat reduction and security plan. [adopted by voice vote]

On page 410, between lines 15 and 16, insert the following:


Sec. 699B. (a) Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall submit to Congress a comprehensive nuclear threat reduction and security plan, in classified and unclassified forms--

(1) for ensuring that all nuclear weapons and weapons-usable material at vulnerable sites are secure by 2012 against the threats that terrorists have shown they can pose;

(2) for working with other countries to ensure adequate accounting and security for such materials on an ongoing basis thereafter; and

(3) for making security improvements to ensure, to the maximum extent possible, that the existing U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile and weapons-usable material are protected from the threats terrorists have shown they can pose.

(b) For each element of the accounting and security effort described under subsection (a)(2), the plan shall--

(1) clearly designate agency and departmental responsibility and accountability;

(2) specify program goals, with metrics for measuring progress, estimated schedules, and specified milestones to be achieved;

(3) provide estimates of the program budget requirements and resources to meet the goals for each year;

(4) provide the strategy for diplomacy and related tools and authority to accomplish the program element;

(5) provide a strategy for expanding the financial support and other assistance provided by other countries, particularly Russia, the European Union and its member states, China, and Japan, for the purposes of securing nuclear weapons and weapons-usable material worldwide;

(6) outline the progress in and impediments to securing agreement from all countries that possess nuclear weapons or weapons-usable material on a set of global nuclear security standards, consistent with their obligation to comply with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540;

(7) describe the steps required to overcome impediments that have been identified; and

(8) describe global efforts to promulgate best practices for securing nuclear materials.

(c) Sense of the Senate. The Administration shall not sign any agreement with the Russian Federation on low enriched uranium that does not include a requirement that a portion of the low enriched uranium be derived from highly enriched uranium.

Quote of the Day

When asked by South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun if he could be "clearer" on his stance to officially end the Korean War, which ended in 1953 without a formal peace treaty, President Bush responded:

I can't make it any more clear, Mr. President. We look forward to the day when we can end the Korean War. That will happen when Kim Jong Il verifiably gets rid of his weapons programs and his weapons.
Yeah. Think about it.

Congressional Schedule for DoD and DoE Bills (Updated)

With Congress having returned from summer recess this week, it's time to take a look at some of the unfinished business they'll be turning to.

Provided below is an updated schedule of Congressional action on
key Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Energy (DoE) bills, as prepared by David Culp of FCNL.

Note: These dates are estimates and subject to delay.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Nuclear Weapons Mistakenly Flown Over U.S.

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a bomber loaded with nuclear weapons flying over U.S. soil?!?

The Military Times reported yesterday that a B-52H bomber mistakenly carried five nuclear-armed Advanced Cruise Missiles (ACMs) from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana on August 30. (The Associated Press later upped this figure to six.)

The missiles, mounted onto pylons under the bomber’s wings, were being transported as a part of a Defense Department plan to decommission 400 ACMs. But the mistake wasn’t discovered until the plane landed at Barksdale, leaving them unaccounted for during the 3 ½ hour flight spanning approximately 1500 miles over multiple states.

The Air Force has since issued a statement on the incident, commenting that, “There was an error which occurred during a regularly scheduled transfer of weapons between two bases,” and that “At no time was there a threat to public safety.” It also states that they have initiated a full investigation, relieved the Munitions Squadron commander of his duties, and temporarily decertified the crews involved in loading the missiles.

Between July 1961 and January 1968, the Air Force maintained a dozen bombers loaded with nuclear weapons in the air at any time during the so-called Chrome Dome missions of Dr. Strangelove fame.

Those missions were scrapped after a B-52 carrying four thermonuclear bombs crashed on the ice off Thule Air Base in Greenland during an emergency landing. (The bombs didn’t explode, but their radioactive material was dispersed at the crash site.) The accident, which followed another crash in Spain in 1966 and several other nuclear incidents, led to the decision to ground all nuclear-armed aircraft, a policy which has stood for nearly 40 years.

For the twenty-five years that followed the Greenland incident, bombers continued to be loaded with nuclear weapons, but were kept on alert on the ground with flight crews ready to take off within minutes. The ground alert ended in September 1991 when the bombers were taken off nuclear alert and the nuclear weapons ordered to be removed from the aircraft and kept in nearby storage facilities.

But, as noted by Hans Kristensen of FAS,

Beyond the safety issue of transporting nuclear weapons in the air, the most important implication of the Minot incident is the apparent break-down of nuclear command and control for the custody of the nuclear weapons. Pilots (or anyone else) are not supposed to just fly off with nuclear bombs, and base commanders are not supposed to tell them to do so unless so ordered by higher command. In the best of circumstances the system worked, and someone “upstairs” actually authorized the transport of nuclear cruise missiles on a B-52H bomber.

He also later notes,

The really important implication is beyond the immediate: The United States is in the beginning of a transition to a deep integration of nuclear and conventional capabilities.


If the B-52 incident tells us that the military's command and control system cannot ensure with 100% certainty which weapons are nuclear and which ones are not, imagine the implications of the wrong weapon being used in a crisis or war. "Sorry Mr. President, we thought it was conventional."

I am reminded of the introductory faux-warning of Dr. Strangelove, “It is the stated position of the U.S. Air Force that their safeguards would prevent the occurrence of such events as are depicted in this film.”

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Potter and Dhanapala: The perils of non-proliferation amnesia

William C. Potter of the Monterey Institute’s Center for Nonproliferation Studies and Jayantha Dhanapala recently put out a well-placed op-ed in the influential Indian daily, The Hindu, arguing, “The India-U.S. civilian nuclear deal, if endorsed by the NSG and the U.S. Congress, will virtually ensure the demise of global nuclear export restraints.”

Potter and Dhanapala begin:

Indo-U.S. nuclear cooperation means different things to different people — a reversal of decades of U.S. non-proliferation policy, a promising new market for U.S. nuclear commerce, violation of the fundamental principles of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and the prospect of a strategic partnership among vibrant democracies.

One thing it definitely does not mean is strengthened export controls. Despite efforts by the White House to portray the deal as a plus for combating the spread of nuclear weapons, the terms of the latest round of U.S.-Indian nuclear negotiations confirm the opposite conclusion. Repeatedly outfoxed by their Indian counterparts and hindered by the political unwillingness of a lame-duck administration to walk away from the negotiations, U.S. diplomats have achieved an embarrassing accord. If endorsed by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and the U.S. Congress, it will virtually ensure the demise of global nuclear export restraints.

Click here to the complete op-ed.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Travis Sharp and Max Postman: Pressure Pakistan over Khan

The Center’s Travis Sharp and Max Postman wrote an excellent commentary for United Press International last week, arguing that “The United States must pressure Pakistan to deal appropriately with A.Q. Khan, the Pakistani nuclear scientist and weapons smuggler former CIA Director George Tenet labeled at least as dangerous as Osama Bin Laden.”

Sharp and Postman explain:

The United States has been reluctant to rock the boat over Khan these past few years, refraining from criticizing Musharraf for fear of alienating a key ally against terrorism. But now, alarmed by the clustering of terrorist camps in Pakistan's tribal areas and frustrated by ongoing nuclear disputes with Khan customers like Iran and North Korea, some American officials are starting to voice their displeasure over Khan's legal limbo.


American officials' dissatisfaction is well-founded. Unraveling and preventing nuclear smuggling operations allows the international community to halt the process through which hostile nations and terrorists might acquire the bomb. The ineffective punishment handed down to Khan continues to be a burr in the saddle of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime for several key reasons.

First, Pakistan's unwillingness to provide other countries access to Khan limits the vital intelligence that can be extracted from him. Unless Pakistan vigorously interrogates Khan or allows other countries to question him, much of his nuclear network will remain unidentified and undocumented.

Second, Khan's punishment -- or lack thereof -- signals that future nuclear perpetrators will get off scot-free. Earlier this year a maintenance worker at a nuclear cleanup site in Tennessee was arrested for attempting to sell centrifuge components to an undercover agent posing as a French official. Wherever there is nuclear technology, there is the risk that someone will attempt to proliferate for profit, but the Khan saga has done little to deter would-be smugglers.

Third, nuclear proliferators like Khan could enable terrorists like bin Laden to carry out their ultimate ambition: detonating a nuclear device in an American city, a tactic the National Intelligence Council recently declared a resurgent al-Qaida "would not hesitate to use." The less capable the United States appears at apprehending nuclear proliferators, the more terrorist groups will see nuclear weapons as acquirable and worth pursing.

Sharp and Postman conclude:

With Musharraf vulnerable and looking for support, now is the time for U.S. officials to ask for access to Khan and a clarification and strengthening of his murky legal status. Agreement on dealing with Khan would be a good first step toward negotiating the thornier issue of eliminating terrorist encampments in Pakistan's tribal areas, an issue that will figure prominently in U.S.-Pakistani relations regardless of whether Musharraf, Bhutto, Sharif or some combination of the three is leading Pakistan.

Monday, September 3, 2007

B is for Bomb

Click below to watch "B is for Bomb," winner of last year's Cannes Online Competition. Directed by Carey Schonegevel McKenzie of "Original Child Bomb" acclaim, the short film is a child's alphabetical listing of the history of the Atomic Age and the hazards of nuclear weapons.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

President Bush Cites Iran’s Nuclear Program as a Reason for Not Leaving Iraq

I normally leave Iraq to Travis Sharp’s Iraq Insider and Iran to Carah Ong’s Iran Nuclear Watch, and instead focus on nuclear weapons and nonproliferation issues, but wanted to make note of an important development involving the explicit connection of all three.

In case you missed it, President Bush commented earlier this week that, according to the New York Times, an American withdrawal from Iraq would embolden a belligerent Iran, whose nuclear program threatens to put “a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust.” (That Bush chose to use the evocative phrase “nuclear holocaust” provides interesting insight into his thinking.)

Bush’s comments suggest that Iran’s nuclear program is next in the ever growing and evolving list of reasons given to justify the invasion and continued military presence in Iraq, which includes (nonexistent) weapons of mass destruction, toppling a repressive dictator, spreading democracy and human rights, combating al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, preventing regional instability, etc.

A likely reason for adding Iran’s nuclear program to the list is that it evokes a great deal of concern among the American people, with a recent poll showing that 63% of Americans view Iran’s influence as mostly negative and other polls indicating deep skepticism over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions and intentions. Similar apprehension also exists across both parties in Congress, although there is significant disagreement as to how to contain Iran’s nuclear program.

By piggybacking on this concern, it seems that the Bush administration hopes to increase support for its efforts in Iraq among a public and Congress weary of war but also frightened of a nuclear armed Iran. Whether this approach will actually work is another story.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Steve Andreasen: New Nuclear Weapons Policy Needed

My hometown newspaper, the Star Tribune, published an interesting op-ed by Steve Andreasen this week, in which he argues that the presidential candidates should articulate a new policy that emphasizes nuclear weapons solely as deterrence. While Andreasen’s proposed policy change would rightfully rule out first-use of nuclear weapons, he could have gone further in calling for their abolition, as William Hartung recently advocated.

Andreasen writes:

Historically, America has maintained a policy of "strategic ambiguity," refusing to rule out a nuclear first strike. Richardson's statement aside, the early salvos in the 2008 campaign suggest that by next summer, there will be little divergence from this norm. … But this is one instance where the seemingly safest political course may be far divorced from today's reality and counterproductive to America's long-term security interest in reversing reliance on nuclear weapons around the globe.

Andreasen argues that, “it is hard to define a credible scenario for the first use of American nuclear arms” and that “it is also hard to see how the threat of nuclear first use would play any discernible role in deterring a committed terrorist.”

Additionally, “the first use of nuclear weapons by the United States in the 21st century would inevitably lower the global nuclear threshold,” potentially opening the door for a devastating attack against the U.S.

And lastly, “the possibility of nuclear arms in the hands of more nations in volatile regions of the globe raises the possibility of another costly preemptive U.S. military strike or competition with a nuclear-armed adversary.”

Andreasen concludes, “For these reasons, America's national interest would be best served by advancing the proposition that nuclear weapons are legitimate in only one role: preventing their use.” This may be a difficult task during a presidential campaign, but “a candidate who can articulate a new policy designed to make the use of any nuclear weapon even more remote might hit a welcome note with the American people.”