Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Years!

Here's to wishing everyone a Happy New Years!

And if you don't quite remember what's happened over the past year, the Jib Jab 2008 Year in Review is a great start...

Monday, December 29, 2008

John Isaacs on Obama Admin Personnel and Nuclear Policies

The Center's Executive Director, John Isaacs, has a great update on incoming Obama Administration personnel and the implications on the direction of his nuclear policies, included below.

People looking for clues about the nuclear policies of the incoming Obama Administration tended to draw overly-broad implications from the big-dog appointments announced a few weeks ago: Sen. Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, Robert Gates continuing as Secretary of Defense and General Jim Jones as National Security Advisor.

It is the next level of appointments that will tell us more about the direction of Obama's nuclear policies.

While you were away (or still are) celebrating the holidays, the first key appointments below the cabinet-level have been made and the news is good.

Take the announcement of Dr. John Holdren as the President's Science Adviser. Holdren is a leading expert on nuclear arms issues.

A 1997 he chaired a National Academy of Sciences report entitled “The Future of Nuclear Weapons Policy” that recommended reducing U.S. and Russian nuclear forces to 1,000 total warheads and exploring going below that number, taking nuclear weapons off hair trigger alert and adopting a no-first use policy.

In a 2005 Arms Control Today article, Dr. Holdren argued that the 1997 proposals were still relevant and recommended ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, moving to very deep reductions of nuclear weapons to a few hundred on each side, and trying "create the conditions that would make possible a global prohibition of nuclear weapons along the lines of those already in force against chemical and biological weapons."

James B. Steinberg, who has served in other government positions, has been named to the number two position at the Department of State. He too has long been involved in nuclear issues.

On January 1, 2008, he wrote "Washington must begin devaluing nuclear weapons."

In a November 2007 speech, he praised the Kissinger, Shultz, Perry and Nunn proposal for a world free of nuclear weapons and applauded some of their endorsed steps, including ratification of the test ban treaty, a fissile material cut-off treaty and a reopened debate on missile defenses.

In a 2006 OpEd, he suggested that the U.S.-India deal "will seriously undermine the longer-term effort to rein in the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons programs."

Antony Blinken, most recently staff director of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been named Vice President-elect Joseph Biden's Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs.

Blinken joined with Steinberg -- and a number of other authors who could well be appointed to key Obama Administration positions -- in a July 2008 Center for New American Security report that recommended: "The next president should reaffirm that America seeks a world free of nuclear weapons."

The report suggested a number of steps in that direction, including:

"The United States should propose to Moscow new negotiations that would reduce their respective nuclear inventory to 1,000 weapons of all ranges. The inspection and transparency provisions of existing arms control agreements that are due to expire in 2009 would be maintained. And remaining forces would end their reliance on hair-trigger alerts to ensure survivability. In addition, the United States should ratify the CTBT at the earliest practical opportunity and propose to negotiate a worldwide, verifiable ban on the production of fissile materials for weapons purposes."

While there are many other key appointments to be made, these first appointments are a good start and presage significant progress on nuclear issues.

Click here for the full list of open key positions, including transition personnel.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Consensus from 60 Experts on Arms Control Priorities for Obama Admin.

We all know that when President-elect Obama is sworn into office on January 20, 2009, the list of issues vying for his time will be extensive. From the economy to Iraq to energy to loose nukes, he is going to face one of the – if not the – most challenging set of problems any incoming administration has faced in U.S. history. This is already a given. What's not, however, is exactly which priorities will top his agenda from day one.

To that end, the Center just released a report that identifies key recommendations for how the Obama Administration can address what every presidential candidate since 2000 has said is the gravest threat to international security: the spread of nuclear weapons and materials.

The report is the result of six meetings with 60 leading national security experts from backgrounds as diverse as think tanks, foundations, academia, advocacy, and Congress, which were co-chaired by the Center's chairman, Lt. Gen. Robert Gard (USA, ret.) and the chairman, Sen. Gary Hart (ret.), of its sister organization, Council for a Livable World.

The "clear consensus" of the group on the top three nuclear non-proliferation priorities for the incoming administration were to:

  • Provide a new direction on nuclear weapons policy, emphasizing "minimum deterrence," extension of START, and negotiations for further reductions with Russia
  • Secure all vulnerable fissile material in four years to reduce the risk of nuclear terrorism
  • And ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
In addition, the group outlined a second tier set of priorities that included:
  • Negotiations with Iran without preconditions
  • Re-committing to promises made at the 1995 NPT entension
  • Conditioning further deployment of the third missile defense site on proven tests
  • And restructuring government to deal at a higher level with arms control
Find this clear, direct discussion of concrete and vital arms control priorities in its entirety on the Center's website. Find the executive summary and list of participants here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

ACA's Nominations for the 2008 "Arms Control Person of the Year"

The past year has had its ups and downs, and in this business you have to maintain an optimistic outlook. So, to help accentuate the positive, the staff of the Arms Control Association have nominated people and institutions for the 2008 "Arms Control Person of the Year."

Last year's winners were Representatives Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.) and David Hobson (R-Ohio) for leading the House of Representatives and Congress to zero out funding for the controversial Reliable Replacement Warhead program.

For 2008, there are a number of repeat nominees as well as new additions to the list.

Click here to vote (just one vote, please) or suggest another candidate worthy of mention and why.

And the nominees are...

Jonas Gahr Støre, Foreign Minister of Norway for spearheading his government's initiative to bring states together to negotiate the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which bans existing types of these weapons and was signed by 94 countries in December.

Former Secretaries of State George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry, and former Sen. Sam Nunn for their catalytic January 2007 and 2008 op-eds in The Wall Street Journal calling for renewed U.S. leadership on practical steps "toward a world free of nuclear weapons."

Christopher Hill, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, for persistently maintaining a difficult dialogue with North Korea on steps leading to its eventual denuclearization, potentially preventing the resumption of its plutonium production for nuclear weapons.

General Secretary Randall Howard of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) who declared that its port members would not unload a Chinese cargo ship loaded with weapons supplies destined for the Mugabe government in Zimbabwe for fear that the weapons would contribute to internal repression in Zimbabwe. SATAWU instead called for the ship to return to China with the arms onboard and for a peaceful solution to be sought to the political instability in Zimbabwe.

Thomas Fingar, Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis and Chairman, National Intelligence Council (May 2005 - November 2008) for improving information sharing between intelligence agencies and helping to re-establish integrity and objectivity to the analytical process. The November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, produced under his supervision, proved pivotal in reframing the conversation about Iran's nuclear program and timeframe for nonmilitary measures.

Representatives Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) and Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), and Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) for standing up for the principles of the nuclear nonproliferation regime and for offering amendments that would have addressed some of the deep flaws in the U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation agreement.

The legislators of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, for completing the ratification process for the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone (CANFWZ) in 2007 and 2008. The CANFWZ is the world's fifth such zone free of nuclear weapons, and the first to require its members to adhere to the IAEA Additional Protocol, the Comprehensive Nuclear Text Ban Treaty, and the Convention for the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.

Desmond Tutu and other members of The Elders, including Jimmy Carter, who continue to speak out about humanitarian crises fueled by arms and recently supported an effort under the Global Zero initiative to set a date for the elimination of all nuclear weapons.

Stuart Levey, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, for raising international awareness regarding the issue of proliferation financing and leading negotiations with governments, businesses, and financial institutions to warn them of the risks of doing business with suspected proliferators.

The Panel of Experts on the Sudan established pursuant to Security Council resolution 1591 (2005) for monitoring and reporting on violations of the arms embargo against Sudan and recommending in November that the embargo extend to all of Sudan, Chad, and parts of the Central African Republic in order to stem the tide of violence ongoing in Darfur.

Former U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, in collaboration with Thai authorities, for their role in the March apprehension of notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout, preventing the sale of arms to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and potentially other war torn regions around the world.

Lt. Gen Robert Gard: Right Wing Fear Machine

The Huffington Post published today an excellent piece by the Center’s chairman, Lt. Gen. Robert Gard, that responds to some bombastic missile defense claims (no pun intended) made by the Heritage Foundation. Full text below.

The younger and more internet-savvy members of our staff showed me a new video clip last week entitled "33 Minutes." It comes courtesy of the unabashed hawks at the right-wing Heritage Foundation. The title refers to the amount of time it would take an intercontinental ballistic missile or 'ICBM' to reach the United States. Apparently the clip is merely a preview of a longer movie set to be released in February 2009.

Watch it for yourself, but you might want to put the kids to bed first.

Kudos to Heritage for catching the typo they included in the YouTube version at 1:54 - "Balliatic"? - and correcting it on their website. Sadly they forgot to iron out other mistakes of a more substantive nature. I'll leave the mockery to others and stick to three main points.

First, Heritage commits the ultimate faux pas in national security analysis: It proposes a solution that doesn't achieve their primary objective. Robert Joseph, a committed arms racer and intellectual heir to John Bolton, says early on in the video that "my number one concern today is a terrorist with a nuclear weapon." A legitimate fear, to be sure, especially when you consider that the final report of the bipartisan Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism predicted that such an attack will "more likely than not" occur somewhere in the world by 2013.

The problem, of course, is that missile defense won't stop nuclear terrorism. How exactly will missile defense interceptors in Europe stop a terrorist with a small nuclear explosive device from entering the United States through Canada? Or prevent a shielded nuclear device, invisible to cargo detectors, from being smuggled into a U.S. port aboard a ship? Missile defense, obviously, is useless against these kinds of terrorist attacks.

Second, Heritage is guilty of fear-mongering without supplying the appropriate facts and context. That is the height of irresponsibility. The video begins by stating that over 20 countries have a ballistic missile capability. Yet, as arms control expert Joseph Cirincione pointed out at a congressional hearing on missile defense earlier this year, nearly all countries that possess ballistic missiles today are allies of the United States and possess only short-range missiles that threaten their neighbors, not the American homeland.

Lt. Gen. Henry Obering raises the specter of the United States only having 33 minutes to respond if Iran or North Korea launches an ICBM at us. Unfortunately, this frightening scenario becomes not quite so scary when you remember that neither country currently possesses a missile proven to be capable of hitting the continental United States. Though U.S. intelligence assessments have concluded that North Korea and Iran could develop such an ICBM several years in the future, deploying an unproved and unworkable missile defense system is not the way to change these states' behavior in the meantime. Currently deployed long-range missile defense systems remain an answer in search of a problem.

Third, Heritage praises missile defense for things it can't yet do. The reason for this boosterism is simple: missile defense is a theology, not a technology, for many conservatives. Gen. Obering claims that missile defense technology is so advanced that "we now are able to hit a spot on the bullet with a bullet." Later in the video, however, Kim Holmes confesses that "we do not have enough capability right now to do what we need to do." Well, which is it guys? Does the system work or doesn't it?

In the past nine years, the ground-based midcourse missile defense system has made eight successful intercepts out of thirteen tests. Because the system is still in the developmental phase, all of these tests have been highly scripted - including the "successful" test on December 5. They do not represent what might happen were a missile actually to be launched at the United States. That's why the Government Accountability Office concluded in February 2008 that tests completed to date "are developmental in nature and do not provide sufficient realism" to determine whether the system "is suitable and effective for battle." Our missile defense system still cannot neutralize a missile threat that employs even relatively simple decoys that could be developed by any country able to build complex, long-range, nuclear-tipped missiles.

Robert Joseph opens the video with a cheap shot at President-elect Barack Obama. "Hope is not a good foundation for a national security strategy," Joseph sneers. I'm sure Joseph would point to President Ronald Reagan, patron saint of the Heritage Foundation, as the model for a strong national leader.

What's funny is that in one of the most famous speeches of his administration, Reagan talked about something that offered "hope for our children in the 21st century" and "hope for the future" and "a vision of the future which offers hope." Know which speech it was?

It was Reagan's address to the nation introducing the Strategic Defense Initiative or 'Star Wars,' his flagship missile defense program.


Diplomacy, deterrence, and containment have been and will continue to be far more effective than missile defense as protection against a ballistic missile threat to the United States. One should keep that in mind when the Heritage Foundation's movie accompanies a full court press for more money to field an unworkable missile defense system in 2009.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Economist on "Banning the Bomb" in 2009

Speaking of bringing the discussion of nuclear abolition to the mainstream, I recently learned of another terrific article by Peter Craig on the topic in The Economist’s “The World in 2009” that came out a couple of days ago. (h/t Masoud Shafaee)

One prediction about 2009 can be made with absolute confidence: nuclear weapons will not be abolished. However wonderful it may be in theory to remove the threat of nuclear annihilation once and for all, the idea of simply banning the bomb has long seemed like so much pie in the sky. But here’s a paradox. Talk about abolition is going to grow louder. And the talkers will not be only the usual dreamers. Some hard-headed practitioners of realpolitik will be joining the fray.

Oddly enough, what will drive the growing talk about outright abolition is the world’s failure to achieve the much more modest objective of preventing new countries from joining the nuclear club. George Bush made stopping “evil” regimes such as North Korea and Iran from getting the bomb a big part of his presidency. In neither case did he succeed. North Korea let off some kind of bomb in 2006, and nobody is certain that it will honour a later promise to disarm. Iran has meanwhile ignored United Nations resolutions (and sanctions) calling on it to stop enriching uranium, which many governments think, despite Iran’s denials, it intends to use for a nuclear weapon.

If dangerous-looking countries such as Iran and North Korea build nuclear weapons, why should the official nuclear-armed powers (America, Russia, Britain, France and China), let alone the “unofficial” ones (India, Pakistan and Israel), give up theirs? They won’t. But their recent failure to halt actual proliferation in North Korea and potential proliferation in Iran has taught the nuclear powers a lesson. The haves have learnt that unless they start at least to talk about their own eventual disarmament they will find it hard to get many of the have-nots on their side when it comes to preventing further proliferation.

Click here for the full article.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Boston Globe on “No Nukes”

The Boston Globe published an interesting piece yesterday on the growing support for nuclear abolition. Though not exactly groundbreaking, it is noteworthy in that the idea is moving from an inside the beltway discussion towards a mainstream debate.

FOR MANY AMERICANS, the idea of a world without nuclear weapons is a bit like the idea of a world without war or disease - it would be nice, but, contra John Lennon, it's hard to imagine.

That's not to say lots of people haven't devoted themselves to the cause. As the atomic age was dawning, Gandhi was already demanding its end, and today Pope Benedict XVI echoes that call. A host of international organizations, from Greenpeace to Mayors for Peace to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament to the German Green Party, are dedicated to the abolition of nuclear weapons. Many of them have been at it for decades.

The movement, however, has always carried utopian associations, and been conflated in the popular imagination with pacifism. The leaders of the world's nuclear powers, their global stature buttressed by their atomic arsenals, have, with a few exceptions, shown little real interest in the idea.

This is changing. Total nuclear disarmament - "getting to zero" in the arms-control argot - has become a mainstream cause. Voices from the heights of the American foreign policy establishment have begun to argue that, in a world of inevitably unruly globalization, increasing interest in nuclear energy, incomplete alliances, ambitious suicide terrorists, and ever-present human fallibility, it will never be enough to improve controls on the world's nuclear weapons, or to reduce their numbers. We have to commit to eliminating them altogether.

These arguments are being made not by popes and mahatmas and Greens but by former secretaries of state and secretaries of defense, by generals and nuclear scientists, Democrats and Republicans. The leaders of the new no-nuke movement are George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, William Perry, and Sam Nunn, four of the most respected figures in American foreign policy circles. Over the past two years, they have, in speeches, at arms-control conferences and, most prominently, in two widely circulated op-ed pieces, lent their authority to an idea that is still seen as fairly radical.

And there is evidence that these arguments are being taken seriously by the people who are going to be making decisions about nuclear policy in the new administration. On the campaign trail, Barack Obama repeatedly committed himself to a nuclear-free future. One of his key foreign policy advisers, Ivo Daalder, coauthored an article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, a leading foreign policy journal, laying out a plan for how to get there.

Click here for the full article.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Obering’s Missile Defense Exaggerations

Last week, Missile Defense Agency Director Lt. General Henry Obering gave a press briefing that involved numerous exaggerations about the capabilities of U.S. missile defense. The Center's John Isaacs responded with a keen analysis that identifies where Obering went wrong.

Gen. Obering: Our testing has shown not only can we hit a bullet with a bullet, we can hit a spot on the bullet with a bullet. The technology has caught up. (CNN)

Reality: A common public relations tactic employed by the MDA is to talk about “missile defense” as a monolithic whole so that it can ascribe achievements to the entire enterprise that should really only apply to specific programs. During Fleet Exercise Pacific Blitz on November 1, the Navy scored one hit and one miss with the Aegis missile defense system. Aegis is one of the most promising missile defense programs, but it cannot “hit a bullet with a bullet” every time. The U.S. missiles planned for installation in Poland involve an untested two-stage interceptor that is derived from the systems presently deployed in Alaska and California – systems that regularly fail even heavily-scripted flight tests. Gen. Obering cannot say whether or not European missile defense “technology has caught up” because the system hasn’t been tested at all.

Gen. Obering: We have come a hell of a long way since 2000. Our primary objective is going to be just, frankly, educating [people] on what we have accomplished, what we have been able to do…Not only are [current U.S. ground-based and sea-based systems] workable, they've been proven in combat. (AP, Washington Times)

Reality: First, there is no current U.S. missile defense system than can neutralize a ballistic missile threat that employs even simple decoys. Knowledgeable defense scientists believe missile defense will never be able to defeat countermeasures that any nation capable of fielding complex intercontinental ballistic missiles will be able to employ with ease. This refutes Gen. Obering’s assertion that missile defense is ready for combat.

Second, any accomplishments claimed by Gen. Obering have more to do with moving the goalposts than legitimate technological breakthroughs. Upon entering office, the Bush administration gave the MDA unprecedented latitude by exempting it from standard budgeting and reporting requirements. In a January 2008 report, the Pentagon's Director of Operational Test and Evaluation noted that a recent increase in operational realism in tests “has uncovered unanticipated deficiencies that will require additional development and testing.” A February 2008 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report noted that tests completed to date “are developmental in nature and do not provide sufficient realism” to determine whether the system “is suitable and effective for battle.” Given these assessments, Gen. Obering’s confidence is off-base.
Find John's complete analysis, including rebuttals to Obering's assertions that the third missile defense site would undermine U.S. leadership in NATO and that Russia's concerns are invalid, here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Cirincione on Obama’s Nuclear Future

The National Journal’s Lost in Translation has a great interview with Joe Cirincione on President-elect Obama’s nuclear future here.

The interview includes further potential reductions with Russia, prospects for the CTBT, missile defense, and de-alerting nuclear weapons.

Good stuff. Check it out.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

New Analysis on Nuclear Terrorism

The Center’s Travis Sharp and Erica Poff published a new policy briefing on November 14 titled “Understanding and Preventing Nuclear Terrorism.” Read the whole thing here.

Below are some excerpts:

Since the creation of the atomic bomb, government officials, scientists, and concerned citizens have been aware that weapons of mass destruction could fall into the hands of dangerous terrorist groups or rogue regimes. The rise of Al Qaeda and the events of September 11, however, brought the threat of nuclear terrorism into a whole new light for the United States. Suddenly, the detonation of a crude nuclear device in a major American metropolitan area no longer seemed like something out of a science fiction movie. Indeed, as President-Elect Barack Obama said during the 2008 presidential campaign, nuclear terrorism is “the gravest danger we face.”


It is not the odds but the consequences of such an attack that propel nuclear terrorism to the top of the U.S. national security agenda. A March 2003 report by Harvard University’s Project on Managing the Atom found that if a ten-kiloton nuclear weapon, approximately the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, were detonated at Manhattan’s Grand Central Station in New York, it would instantly kill over 500,000 people, injure hundreds of thousands, and cause over $1 trillion in direct damages.


If the United States and countries around the world are serious about preventing a nuclear attack by a terrorist group, efforts to contain the threat at its source need serious attention. According to the Partnership for a Secure America, the biggest problem is the lack of coordination on counter-nuclear terrorism efforts across federal agencies. Congress tried to remedy this shortcoming in 2007 with H.R. 1, the 9/11 Commission Act, which created a White House Coordinator for the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism. Unfortunately, the Bush administration chose to ignore the law and never filled the position. Failures in coordination are similarly reflected at the international level, where bilateral and multilateral engagement to prevent nuclear terrorism is equally fragmented.

Read the full briefing for five key recommendations the U.S. government ought to incorporate into a comprehensive strategy to prevent nuclear terrorism.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Lost US Nuclear Bomb in Greenland

Using declassified documents obtained under the US Freedom of Information Act, BBC news released details this week about a story of a missing US nuclear bomb.

No, not the 1,000 misplaced nuclear missile components from June.

Not the six armed nuclear cruise missiles that were shipped from North Dakota to Louisiana either.

Or the mistaken shipment of nuclear missile nose cone fuses to Taiwan.

This is a different scenario: a missing nuclear bomb we lost after a 1968 plane crash in Greenland. (Click here to watch a short video on it.)

The story? On January 21, 1968, a United States nuclear-armed B52 bomber, flying a routine "Chrome Dome" mission over Thule Air Base in northern Greenland, crashed just a few miles from the base.

From the BBC,

A remarkable operation would unfold over the coming months to recover thousands of tiny pieces of debris scattered across the frozen bay, as well as to collect some 500 million gallons of ice, some of it containing radioactive debris.


The high explosives surrounding the four nuclear weapons had detonated but without setting off the actual nuclear devices, which had not been armed by the crew.

The Pentagon maintained that all four weapons had been "destroyed".

This may be technically true, since the bombs were no longer complete, but declassified documents obtained by the BBC under the US Freedom of Information Act, parts of which remain classified, reveal a much darker story, which has been confirmed by individuals involved in the clear-up and those who have had access to details since.

The documents make clear that within weeks of the incident, investigators piecing together the fragments realised that only three of the weapons could be accounted for.

Even by the end of January, one document talks of a blackened section of ice which had re-frozen with shroud lines from a weapon parachute. "Speculate something melted through ice such as burning primary or secondary," the document reads, the primary or secondary referring to parts of the weapon.

By April, a decision had been taken to send a Star III submarine to the base to look for the lost bomb, which had the serial number 78252. (A similar submarine search off the coast of Spain two years earlier had led to another weapon being recovered.)

But the real purpose of this search was deliberately hidden from Danish officials.
The original underwater search was abandoned because of technical problems, and soon, winter began and the ice froze over. The search was abandoned.

According to former Los Alamos nuclear weapons designer William Chambers, who previously dealt with accidents, including this crash, "It would be very difficult for anyone else to recover classified pieces if we couldn't find them."

Not exactly a comforting national security story, given that, they contained uranium and plutonium, and "the abandoned weapons parts were highly sensitive because of the way in which the design, shape and amount of uranium revealed classified elements of nuclear warhead design," reports BBC - Not to even mention the health and environmental impact of the released radioactive material.

Read the full report here.

Friday, November 7, 2008

APCO on Future Obama Foreign Policy

Lobbyists and consultants are busy trying to figure out what an Obama administration will mean to their business interests. Although largely a recap of old news, APCO has a great rundown of Obama’s foreign policy that includes an emphasis on nuclear non-proliferation.

Obama has outlined the following key foreign policy priorities: secure loose nukes from terrorists; pursue tough, direct diplomacy without preconditions to end the threat from Iran; and renew American diplomacy.

As much as these are driven by the political requirements of a presidential election, they also signal clearly a sincere concern about nuclear safety and a desire for collaborative diplomacy. Obama also emphasized his intention to end the war in Iraq responsibly and to work hard with the Iraqi leadership to achieve political consensus. He also noted that addressing the Israeli-Palestinian issue, stopping the genocide in Darfur and engaging China are priorities as well. In his discussions of foreign affairs, he often mentions that he will undertake smart diplomacy and will try to address problems by rallying international support for collaborative American leadership.


Obama is likely to undertake an early initiative to form a genuine consensus with Europe – through NATO, the European Union and bilaterally – on a variety of issues, starting especially with the financial crisis, but including: global social issues (poverty, health, water, narcotics, trafficking in persons); security issues (nuclear weapons, terrorism, arms control); and governance (rule of law, corruption, political choice, media freedom, human rights, religious tolerance). He will press hard for greater European participation in addressing these problems, especially as they manifest themselves in Afghanistan and Pakistan. NATO member states can expect to be pressured strongly and early to contribute more substantially to the effort in Afghanistan.

Obama has signaled that he will turn to addressing issues with Russia once he has built a clear consensus with Europe on the way ahead. It will no longer be easy for the Russian leadership to split Europe and the United States on energy, climate change, missile defense, democracy and human rights, and nuclear safety. While this probably means trade-offs and some compromises to achieve consensus on some issues, do not expect a weakening of core U.S. principles.


Obama maintains that he will deploy tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions, offering WTO membership, investment and normal diplomatic relations in exchange for abandoning its nuclear program and support for terrorism. Failure to take this path will result in increased economic pressure and political isolation. He would strengthen the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty to provide for international sanctions against countries such as North Korea and Iran if they break the rules. Obama also wants to secure existing stockpiles of nuclear weapons and materials and to negotiate a global ban on the production of nuclear weapons material, principally to keep these out of the hands of terrorists. His ultimate goal is a nuclear-free world. This is the issue on which Obama concentrated while in the Senate, and he has gathered around him individuals with considerable technical expertise and political weight on this issue.

(via Politico)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


If you’re reading this and haven’t yet voted, click here to find your nearest polling place.

Before you head out, if you’re still curious where Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain stand on arms control, click here for a side-by-side comparison of 15 key issues.

Now go vote!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Dueling Articles on Candidates’ Positions on Missile Defense

James Hackett of the Washington Times and Shelby Spires of the Huntsville Times both put out dueling pieces on the positions of Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain on missile defense today.

Hackett opines:

The effort to defend against Iran's missiles took a new turn in late September when Washington delivered an X-band radar manned by 120 U.S. personnel to the first permanent U.S. military base in Israel.

Iran's missiles are a real and growing threat to U.S. forces and allies in the Middle East. Add the nuclear weapons Tehran is determined to acquire and Iran's longer-range missiles will be a threat to Europe and even the United States. The choice next Tuesday is between a candidate who supports missile defense and one who does not.


We do not have the luxury of waiting for Iran to get such weapons before fielding defenses, which take years to get in place. Deploying an X-band radar and other defenses in Israel and around the Middle East is prudent. And installing an X-band radar in the Czech Republic and ground-based interceptors in Poland is equally important, to protect NATO bases and cities in Europe and the United States.

Sen. John McCain has said he supports a strong missile defense, including the planned bases in Poland and the Czech Republic. Sen. Barack Obama has made it crystal clear he will cut missile defense spending. When asked what he will cut in the whole federal budget, he mentions missile defense. The choice is clear.

Shelby, by contrast, reports:

Continued support for missile defense programs seems a lock for either a John McCain or Barack Obama White House given their campaign statements, says a defense expert, but programs still on the drawing board could be slashed.


In campaign speeches and online policy statements, McCain and Obama support overall missile defense and continued testing.

Obama's statement says the Democratic nominee's support comes with the reservation that he will "ensure that it is developed in a way that is pragmatic and cost-effective, and, most importantly, does not divert resources from other national security priorities until we are positive the technology will protect the American public."

McCain's statement says the Republican nominee "strongly supports the development and deployment of theater and national missile defenses" to deter attacks on America, allies and military units.

The statement continues, "Effective missile defenses are also necessary to allow American military forces to operate overseas without being deterred by the threat of missile attack from a regional adversary."

Apparently the choice isn’t so clear after all.

Friday, October 31, 2008

SecDef Gates on Nuclear Weapons

H/T to our great research assistant for writing and to Nick Roth for great notes

On October 28, Secretary Robert Gates began his speech on nuclear weapons at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace citing Andrew Carnegie’s dedication to achieving peace in the world. He then said:

I mention all of this because one of the hard lessons of history is that it has a way of defying even the best of intentions - especially on matters of war and peace... And so even as we strive to live up to our noblest goals, as Carnegie did, we must deal with the messy realities of the world in which we live. One of those realities is the existence of nuclear weapons.

Perhaps a good additional quote arguing the need for peace in a time of conflict would have been from someone who grew up knowing the devastating power of nuclear weapons. A quote from Ronald Reagan is one example:

I call upon the scientific community in our country, those who gave us nuclear weapons, to turn their great talents now to the cause of mankind and world peace, to give us the means of rendering these nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete.

Gates Speech

Overall, Gates's speech made a direct case for the development of the so-called Reliable Replacement Warhead. Some highlights:

  • Gates said today’s US nuclear weapons are currently, “safe, reliable, and secure,” but warns that the shelf life on these weapons is soon approaching. “The program we propose is not about new capabilities…It is about the future credibility of our strategic deterrent.” (The 2006 study JASONS report, of course, concluded that the plutonium cores, which are the most sensitive component of the nuclear stockpile, have lifetimes of at least 85 years. The average age of nuclear weapons in our stockpile is 21 years old. The oldest warheads are 28.)
  • He argued that the stockpile is increasingly outdated, and moves further away from test design with every adjustment.
  • The United States is the only nuclear power that is not modernizing or cannot build new nuclear weapons.
  • "To be blunt," he argued, "there is absolutely no way we can maintain a credible deterrent and reduce the number of weapons in our stockpile without resorting to testing or pursuing a modernization program," (h/t to William Hartung's commentary on this false choice on TPM Café)

Based on Q&A

  • The US could "probably should" ratify the CTBT if there were adequate verification measures.
  • The Pentagon could accept RRW without nuclear explosive testing. (Does it seem slightly hard to believe that the US would accept a new nuclear weapon without testing if we also argue that we can't accept our current, scientifically-verified stockpile?)
  • On START, Gates said there is a willingness and ability to make deeper reductions in the US and Russian nuclear stockpiles, and there will be another agreement. But, it took years to negotiate START and SALT, and he is not sure that such long and comprehensive agreements are in either country’s best interest.

Looking Ahead

With a few positive notes intertwined, Gates' speech gave cause for concern to those of us working to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons. But the good news is that the increasingly-likely-to-be-elected presidential candidate, Barack Obama, has endorsed this vision:

I believe the United States should lead the international effort to deemphasize the role of nuclear weapons around the world. I also believe that our policy towards the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) affects this leadership position. We can maintain a strong nuclear deterrent to protect our security without rushing to produce a new generation of warheads. I do not support a premature decision to produce the RRW.

Now that would be a tribute to a legacy of peace.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Sinking AIG Lobbied for U.S-India Nuclear Deal

From the “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” file, comes this story from ProPublica:

As AIG was on the brink of bankruptcy and facing a government takeover, the insurance giant made sure Congress knew where it stood—on U.S.-India nuclear relations, that is.

AIG deployed its lobbyists to Washington last month to influence a bill that allows U.S. companies to sell nuclear technology to India. Signed by President Bush earlier this month, the bill overturns a 30-year-old ban on such sales imposed after India first developed a nuclear bomb. (Critics complain that the U.S.-India deal undermines non-proliferation efforts.)

Why would AIG care about a U.S.-India nuclear pact at a time when its own existence was uncertain?

“We were looking at this to see if there’s a potential business aspect” for AIG, company spokesman Nick Ashooh said. “We do a lot of business in India.” Ashooh said he was “not sure” if that business included insuring contracts between U.S. military technology companies and their Indian counterparts.

Click here for the full story.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Lt. Gen. Robert Gard and Kingston Reif: Time to Rethink Missile Defense

The Center’s chairman, Lt. Gen. Robert Gard, and Kingston Reif wrote a terrific piece on what should be done about missile defense that appears in today’s Defense News.

Time to Rethink Missile Defense

By Lt. Gen. Robert Gard and Kingston Reif
Published in Defense News on October 20, 2008

Despite the Bush administration's investment of an estimated $60 billion since 2001, U.S. national missile defense continues to be an unnecessary and counterproductive enterprise. Testing objectives consistently are not met, cost overruns and scheduling delays are rampant, and relations between the United States and Russia are worse than at any time since the end of the Cold War, thanks in no small part to squabbling over the proposed third missile defense site in Europe.

With the U.S. government on autopilot until January 2009, it falls to the next president and Congress to set realistic expectations about what national missile defense can and cannot do. Three essential changes should be made immediately to shake off the misguided policy-making of the Bush years and set U.S. missile defense back on a productive course.

1. Shift resources away from expensive, unproven and unnecessary systems aimed at countering future long-range threats, and reallocate funding to higher priority systems aimed at existing short- and medium-range missiles.

According to the U.S. intelligence community, a state seeking to strike the U.S. homeland with a nuclear weapon would find it far simpler and less expensive to employ either ship-launched, short-range missiles or some form of non-missile means, such as a container entering a U.S. port.

American troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan or in bases across the world are not threatened by intercontinental missiles, but by short- and medium-range missiles, of which Iran and North Korea possess plenty.

Iran and North Korea, the raison d'être of America's intercontinental missile defense programs, are likely a decade away, at the earliest, from developing nuclear-armed intercontinental missiles. Thus, short- and medium-range missiles constitute the clear and present danger to the United States, not intercontinental missiles.

2. Restructure the extensive resources of the U.S. government to effectively combat the ballistic missile threat.

In exempting it from normal acquisition, testing and reporting requirements, the Bush administration gave the organization responsible for developing missile defenses, the Missile Defense Agency, unprecedented decision-making flexibility. This allowed the agency to avoid providing full cost estimates of its systems while deploying interceptor missiles not rigorously tested under realistic battlefield conditions.

The next administration should dissolve the Missile Defense Agency and transfer the various systems back to the military services that originally oversaw them before the agency was created.

3. Spend greater political capital pursuing diplomatic engagement to reduce the missile threat.

Deterrence, containment and diplomacy have been and will continue to be far more effective weapons against ballistic missiles than interceptors.

During the Cold War, the United States successfully negotiated reductions in the number of U.S. and Soviet missiles and bombers, as well as the elimination of intermediate-range missiles from each country's respective arsenals. There is no reason this approach cannot be repeated successfully today.

While the Bush administration should be commended for negotiating an end to Libya's nuclear program and making progress on denuclearization talks with North Korea, it remains adamantly opposed to direct diplomatic engagement with Iran and has shunned efforts to negotiate deeper, binding and verifiable nuclear weapon reductions with Russia. Such an a la carte attitude to diplomacy has not made America safer.

Executing these three changes will not be easy, as the status quo has the support of key constituencies inside and outside of government. However, with strong presidential and congressional backing, they could go a long way toward ensuring America's missile defense programs are focused on real threats, remain cost-effective, and are deployed as a complement - not an alternative - to deterrence, containment and diplomacy.

Retired Lt. Gen. Robert Gard is chairman of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, where Kingston Reif served as the Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellow.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Will Ill Kim Jong-Il Derail Disarmament?

What has North Korea suspended its de-nuclearization activities since it agreed to dismantle its nuclear program in February of 2007? Why was the nation not removed from the U.S. state sponsors of terror list, a key condition to the agreement? How will Kim Jong-Il's recently reported illness factor into continued negotiations?

The Center's Leonor Tomero and Adam Ptacin just released an excellent update and analysis on the questions above.

Key excerpts included below, or find the full report available on the Center's website.

According to Tomero and Ptacin, following early (credible) optimism, including demolition of the Yongbyon reactor cooling tower,
Congressional concerns about verification mechanisms delayed action…and the deadline for taking North Korea off the terrorism list passed on August 11, 2008. Soon after, North Korea halted its reactor disablement program in protest. In September, Pyongyang asked the IAEA to remove the seals from its Yongbyon plant that are part of the verification effort to ensure that nuclear work does not resume.

Washington maintains that North Korea has not been removed from the list of state-sponsors of terrorism because verification mechanisms which meet “international standards” have not yet been put in place. The United States is seeking unlimited inspections of North Korean nuclear facilities, soil sampling tests, and interviews with key scientists involved in the nuclear program.

The North Koreans regard these measures as an encroachment on their national sovereignty, a view supported by independent nongovernmental experts. As David Albright, a former UN weapons inspector who heads the Institute for Science and International Security, said recently, “The United States was demanding verification measures of North Korea no state would accept unless it was defeated in war.
The two analysts suggest,
One possible explanation is that the North’s suspension of its de-nuclearization activities may be nothing more than mere brinksmanship – a final push for concessions before the Bush administration leaves office. If this is indeed the case, this recent derailment may be viewed as nothing more than another hiccup in what has been a challenging Six Party process over the last several years.
What does this mean for U.S. policy?
Despite much frustration, now is not the time to abandon continued engagement with North Korea, especially given its danger of reopening its reprocessing facility and producing additional nuclear weapons material. The alternative to engagement is the potential resumption of nuclear weapons production by North Korea, an outcome that poses a grave threat to international security.
Read the full text of the article here.

Monday, October 6, 2008

National Security Legislative Wrap-Up

Congress is now in recess for the election. In its final item of national security business last week, Congress approved the U.S.-India nuclear cooperation agreement. An attempt to win approval of new sanctions on Iran failed in the Senate. The Senate is expected to return for a lameduck session in mid-November; the House schedule is not clear.



On October 1, in the waning days of the session, the Senate approved the agreement by a vote of 86 – 13. A Dorgan (D-ND) - Bingaman (D-NM) amendment to prohibit nuclear trade with India in the event that India detonates a nuclear weapon and to impose certain reporting requirements was defeated by voice vote.


Just before the beginning of the election recess, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to gain unanimous consent to bring up and pass new sanctions on Iran, but Republicans objected.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Nukes in the VP debate

Props to Moderator Gwen Ifill for raising the issue of nuclear weapons in last night's debate... for better or for worse.

Gwen Ifill:

Governor, on another issue, interventionism, nuclear weapons. What should be the trigger, or should there be a trigger, when nuclear weapons use is ever put into play?
Gov. Palin:
Nuclear weaponry, of course, would be the be all, end all of just too many people in too many parts of our planet, so those dangerous regimes, again, cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons, period.
Come again?
Our nuclear weaponry here in the U.S. is used as a deterrent. And that's a safe, stable way to use nuclear weaponry.
But for those countries -- North Korea, also, under Kim Jong Il -- we have got to make sure that we're putting the economic sanctions on these countries and that we have friends and allies supporting us in this to make sure that leaders like Kim Jong Il and Ahmadinejad are not allowed to acquire, to proliferate, or to use those nuclear weapons. It is that important.
Sen. Biden:
Nuclear weapons require a nuclear arms control regime. John McCain voted against a Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty that every Republican has supported.
Or not?
John McCain has opposed amending the Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty with an amendment to allow for inspections. John McCain has not been -- has not been the kind of supporter for dealing with -- and let me put it another way. My time is almost up.

Barack Obama, first thing he did when he came to the United States Senate, new senator, reached across the aisle to my colleague, Dick Lugar, a Republican, and said, "We've got to do something about keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists." They put together a piece of legislation that, in fact, was serious and real. Every major -- I shouldn't say every -- on the two at least that I named, I know that John McCain has been opposed to extending the arms control regime in the world.
Ifill again raised the issue in a question about Iran:
Let's move to Iran and Pakistan. I'm curious about what you think starting with you Sen. Biden. What's the greater threat, a nuclear Iran or an unstable [Pakistan]? Explain why.
Well, they're both extremely dangerous. I always am focused, as you know Gwen, I have been focusing on for a long time, along with Barack on Pakistan. Pakistan already has nuclear weapons. Pakistan already has deployed nuclear weapons. Pakistan's weapons can already hit Israel and the Mediterranean. Iran getting a nuclear weapon would be very, very destabilizing. They are more than - they are not close to getting a nuclear weapon that's able to be deployed. So they're both very dangerous. They both would be game changers.

But look, here's what the fundamental problem I have with John's policy about terror instability. John continues to tell us that the central war in the front on terror is in Iraq. I promise you, if an attack comes in the homeland, it's going to come as our security services have said, it is going to come from al Qaeda planning in the hills of Afghanistan and Pakistan. That's where they live. That's where they are. That's where it will come from. And right now that resides in Pakistan, a stable government needs to be established. We need to support that democracy by helping them not only with their military but with their governance and their economic well-being.

There have been 7,000 madrassas built along that border. We should be helping them build schools to compete for those hearts and minds of the people in the region so that we're actually able to take on terrorism and by the way, that's where bin Laden lives and we will go at him if we have actually intelligence.
Governor, nuclear Pakistan, unstable Pakistan, nuclear Iran? Which is the greater threat?
Both are extremely dangerous, of course. And as for who coined that central war on terror being in Iraq, it was the Gen. Petraeus and al Qaeda, both leaders there and it's probably the only thing that they're ever going to agree on, but that it was a central war on terror is in Iraq. You don't have to believe me or John McCain on that. I would believe Petraeus and the leader of al Qaeda.

An armed, nuclear armed especially Iran is so extremely dangerous to consider. They cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons period. Israel is in jeopardy of course when we're dealing with Ahmadinejad as a leader of Iran. Iran claiming that Israel as he termed it, a stinking corpse, a country that should be wiped off the face of the earth. Now a leader like Ahmadinejad who is not sane or stable when he says things like that is not one whom we can allow to acquire nuclear energy, nuclear weapons. Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong Il, the Castro brothers, others who are dangerous dictators are one that Barack Obama has said he would be willing to meet with without preconditions being met first.

And an issue like that taken up by a presidential candidate goes beyond naivete and goes beyond poor judgment. A statement that he made like that is downright dangerous because leaders like Ahmadinejad who would seek to acquire nuclear weapons and wipe off the face of the earth an ally like we have in Israel should not be met with without preconditions and diplomatic efforts being undertaken first.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

U.S.-India Nuclear Deal Passes

With 26 more votes than necessary for passage – 86 yeas to 13 nays – the Senate passed the U.S.-India Nuclear Deal yesterday, overcoming the deal's only legislative obstacle left after the House passed the deal on September 27.

To see how your representatives voted, enter your zip in the box below, and hit "enter".

Now, after a more than 30 year ban on nuclear trade imposed on India for conducting illicit nuclear tests, the deal heads to the President's desk for signature, an event that seemed highly unlikely just months ago.

As a result of the deal, civilian nuclear trade between India and the United States will open. India will receive U.S. technology and nuclear energy, and will allow IAEA inspectors to inspect those civilian nuclear facilities. Nuclear weapons facilities will not be opened for inspection, one of the many remaining serious concerns.

In order to pass the agreement before adjournment, Congress was pressured into foregoing the required 30-day review period. In a matter of days, the United States approved a deal that undercuts decades of work by the global non-proliferation community, and even by Congress itself.

The passage is being widely touted as a much-needed foreign policy victory for the Bush administration before it leaves office in January.


Thirteen Senators voted against the deal, including Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), who highlighted the work of the Center's Leonor Tomero and Lt. Gen. Robert Gard.

According to Harkin,
"Leading arms control experts have condemned this agreement. Leonor Tomero, director of nuclear nonproliferation at the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation, rendered this verdict:

'The Bush administration ignored congressional conditions and gave away the store in its negotiations with India, with nothing to show for the deal now except having helped foreign companies, enabled the increase of nuclear weapons and nuclear-weapons materials in India, and seriously eroded a thirty-year norm of preventing nuclear proliferation."
He also quoted Gard:
'The greatest threat to the security of the United States is the proliferation of nuclear weapons. This deal [with India] significantly weakens U.S. and international security by granting an exception to the rules of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and American laws, thereby undermining the entire non-proliferation regime and inviting violations by other nations."
Several other Senators spoke out against the deal, and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Byron Dorgan (D-ND) introduced an amendment to explicitly place conditions - to scrap the deal if India detonates a weapon and impose several reporting requirements - on India. Sen. Rich Lugar (R-IN) and others rejected these qualifications, arguing that, "if India resumes testing, the 123 agreement is over," and U.S. laws would already require termination of the agreement.


Yesterday, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani told reporters, "You don't have to be worried about [the deal]. Pakistan will now be justified to also make a demand for a similar deal as we don't want discrimination."

Now, about those opponents who argued that an exemption for India would undermine nuclear non-proliferation efforts and encourage an arms race in the region…

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Update on the U.S.-India Nuclear Deal


The U.S. – India nuclear deal inched closer to completion on September 27th as the U.S. House of Representatives approved the agreement by a 298-117 margin - a relatively close vote, considering the agreement would have been blocked with just 1/3 of the total votes cast as "nay". This submission followed the necessary waiver secured at the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) on September 6, exempting India from international rules barring nuclear trade with countries that do not accept full-scope safeguards over all of their nuclear facilities.

Throughout its judicial process, the Bush administration has continuously disregarded non-proliferation concerns and has been pressuring Congress to approve the 123 Agreement, namely by foregoing the required 30-day review period. At the moment, the 123 Agreement lies in the Senate, where it has bi-partisan support and many, including Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D-NV), want it passed before Congress adjourns. Before the Senate votes on the agreement (expected within the next few days), several non-proliferation concerns - which earlier debate and discussion have yet to resolve - must be reviewed.


Leading up to the vote, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on September 18th questioning the U.S. State Department of the wisdom in proceeding with the 123 Agreement. Providing testimony was Under Secretary for Political Affairs, William J. Burns, and Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security, John G. Rood. Rood attempted to allay the Committee’s fears, stating, “India has committed itself to follow the same practices as responsible nations with advanced nuclear technology. It has agreed to participate in cooperative efforts to deal with the challenges posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems." However, as others pointed out, these are non-binding commitments, giving India the potential to pursue future policies expanding nuclear proliferation without international legal ramifications.

Several Senators, recognizing the 123 Agreement’s safeguards and perpetuity clause that reserves India's right to take "corrective measures" if there is a disruption in fuel supplies, are skeptical of the State Department’s optimism. Sen. Feingold (D-WI), one of two Senators on the Foreign Relations Committee voting against the agreement, has said he is still “concerned that this agreement does not have adequate protections to guard against the spread of nuclear weapons and nuclear technology… this deal seriously undermines nonproliferation efforts and could contribute to an arms race that would have global implications.” The 123 Agreement fails to include key conditions that Congress mandated in the 2006 Hyde Act, the very document that allowed the Administration to pursue negotiations with India.

Regardless of the Agreement’s deficiencies, the Senate Committee voted in favor of the Agreement by a margin of 19-2 on September 23rd.


As the Senate prepares to vote on the deal, the efforts of independent organizations to continue to actively oppose the agreement for its many loopholes and flaws should not be ignored. On September 19, thirty four independent experts and organizations – including John Isaacs for the Center's sister organization, Council for a Livable World - sent a letter to members of Congress asking them to resist pressure to rush toward approving the U.S.-India nuclear agreement in its current form.

The letter identifies that the agreement now presented to Congress ignores many of the critical restrictions – common sense restrictions, like termination of the agreement if India tests nuclear weapons - from Congress's 2006 Hyde Act, (again, the very document that allowed the Administration to pursue negotiations with India).

The experts' concerns include:

  • India has not signed the CTBT and therefore has no legally-binding commitment towards nuclear disarmament.
  • The Agreement would indirectly assist India’s nuclear weapons program because foreign supplies of nuclear fuel to India’s civil sector will free domestic supplies for weapons-grade plutonium production.
  • Additional safeguarded reactors provide little non-proliferation value as India’s nuclear weapons program lies outside its civilian sector.
  • The Hyde Act’s terms regarding safeguards “in perpetuity” and “consistent with IAEA standards and practices” is yet to be agreed upon between India and the U.S.
  • A declaration of facilities to be safeguarded has yet to be filed with the IAEA.
  • There are no IAEA safeguards preventing India from replicating imported nuclear technologies for use in its non-safeguarded military sector.
  • There are no safeguards keeping India from continuing nuclear testing.
  • India has strong connections to Iran.
These concerns and others - like the future ramifications of a precedent that runs over rules like the Hyde Act - were discussed publicly during the Center's September 24th Congressional briefing with the Non-Proliferation Policy Education Center's Henry Sokolski, the Arms Control Association's Daryl Kimball, the Bi-partisan Security Working Group's Amb. Robert Grey, and the Center's Leonor Tomero.

In another forum, the GW's Elliott School of International Affairs recently hosted a panel discussion, “New Energy for the U.S.-India Nuclear Deal,” during which members from the U.S.-Business Council discussed forseeing a burgeoning cooperation from reactor building contracts, the generation of $23-45 billion in revenue, and the creation of 75,000-150,000 jobs. Dr. Michael Krepon held these predictions as overly optimistic, and argued that Senate ratification would – in essence - -make the IAEA and NSG, the institutions that have been carefully resurrected to ensure non-proliferation policies, complicit in proliferation.


The Senate cannot afford to forego critical debate and discussion of this controversial deal. The Center, along with its allied organizations, advocates that Senators consider the future problems of voting for, what Lt. Gen. Robert G. Gard Jr. defines as an agreement “significantly weaken[ing] U.S. and international security,” in favor of pushing it through haphazardly before recess. The risks to years of work – including by Congress itself – for global non-proliferation are far too great.

Monday, September 29, 2008

National Security Legislative Wrap-Up

Last week, Congress completed action on both the Fiscal Year 2009 Defense Authorization Bill and the Fiscal Year 2009 Defense Appropriations Bill. The latter measure was passed in a package of bills that included the Continuation Resolution to fund through March government agencies for which no appropriations bill has been passed, three appropriations bills, loans to Detroit auto makers, and other bills. The House also passed a new Iran sanctions bill and the latest version of the U.S.-India nuclear deal. The fate of these two measures remains uncertain, as Congress is about to adjourn for the year.



On September 24, the House adopted H.R. 2638, a package of three appropriations bills -- Defense, Homeland Security and Military Construction-Veterans' Administration -- as part of the Continuing Resolution to fund through March government agencies for which no appropriations bill has been approved. This procedure was highly unusual. The bill provides $487.7 billion in total defense funding, $4 billion less than the administration's request but 6.2 percent above the FY2008 funding level. The package does not appropriate any funding for ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Noteworthy provisions in the Defense Appropriations bill:

  • Prohibits the use of funds to establish any permanent military installation or base in Iraq.
  • Appropriates $434 million, $20 million above the administration's request, for the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) or "Nunn-Lugar" program.
  • Funds a 3.9 percent across-the-board pay raise for military personnel, 0.5 percent higher than the administration's request.
  • Includes the Defense Department's requested active duty personnel increases of 7,000 for the Army (to 532,400) and 5,000 for the Marine Corps (to 194,000). The Navy would decrease by 4,821 (to 325,300) while the Air Force would decrease by 12,792 (to 316,771), rather than by the 12,963 requested.

On Saturday, September 27, the Senate passed the same measure by a vote of 78 - 12, with one Senator voting present. The opponents were mostly fiscal conservatives.


On September 23, the House and Senate Armed Services Committees came to agreement on a compromise bill.

Among the victories in the bill:

  • Cut all funds for the Reliable Replacement nuclear Warhead.
  • Denied any funds for the Space Test Bed for space-based interceptor weapons.
  • Authorized $465.8 million for the missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic, a cut of $246.3 million, while adding some tough restrictions on the program.
  • Increased funding for non-proliferation programs.
  • Declined to add any new sanctions on Iran.
  • Severely criticized the national missile defense program.

On September 24, the House approved the bill by a vote of 392 to 39.

On September 27, in a rare Saturday session, the Senate approved the bill by unanimous consent. Earlier, objections to the bill had led Senate Majority Leader Reid to file cloture to force a vote, but opponents relented and let the bill slide through. The President is expected to sign the bill.


On September 27, the House approved the U.S.-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval by a vote of 298 - 117. The measure as passed by the House is identical to the version approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on September 23 by a vote of 19 -2, with only Sens. Feingold (D-WI) and Boxer (D-CA) voting no. The Senate still has to pass the measure before it can go to the President for signing, and Senate action is up in the air.


On September 26, the House approved by voice vote H.R. 7112, a bill to place additional sanctions on Iran. The bill closely resembles S. 3445, a bill in the Senate. However, with Congress winding down for the year, the measure that passed the House may die.