Thursday, March 19, 2009

Nukes of Hazard Moving

The stalling economy has even hit the blogosphere causing Nukes of Hazard to downsize.

Ok, not exactly.

In reality, we’re simply moving to a wonderful new blog by the same name, available here (

Coverage will include not only the trademark issue of congressional action on nuclear weapons and nonproliferation issues, but also biological and chemical weapons, homeland security, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, military policy, and national security spending.

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A tremendous thank you to everyone who read and supported this blog.

Jeff Lindemyer
Founder, Editor, Proofreader, Blogger
Nukes of Hazard
August 2006 to March 2009

Proliferation Concerns and Implications of GNEP

The March issue of The Nonproliferation Review includes an article that I wrote on the proliferation concerns and implications of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). The journal and its publisher have graciously made the full article available online here.

Cutting to the chase, I argue:

In sharp contrast to its stated goals, GNEP will not solve the problems associated with nuclear waste disposal and may actually increase the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation. The initiative has already sparked a newfound interest in a number of countries to acquire sensitive nuclear technologies, while doing little to restrict the spread of such technologies from partner countries that already possess them. And despite the “proliferation-resistant” label, all of the reprocessing technologies proposed under GNEP would actually make a proliferator's task comparatively easier.

The resumption of reprocessing domestically under GNEP would also likely have a long-lasting and detrimental impact on the nonproliferation regime. Breaking with its thirty-year position that has successfully limited the spread of reprocessing technologies around the globe would significantly hinder the ability of the United States to challenge the claim by other countries of the necessity of reprocessing. Combined with the softening of rules governing nuclear trade, this reversal threatens to further weaken the nuclear nonproliferation regime, with potentially disastrous consequences.

More than five decades ago, the United States launched an ambitious program to spread nuclear technology and knowledge for peaceful purposes throughout the world. Despite its best intentions, the program did not adequately weigh the various possibilities for misuse and consequently contributed to the nuclear weapons programs of several countries. As the United States today considers pursuing a program of comparable vigor, it must remember the lessons learned from the Atoms for Peace experience and realize that greater risk does not necessarily always yield greater reward.

You can find the full article here.

Monday, March 16, 2009

National Security Legislative Wrap-up

Last week, the Senate approved the omnibus package of the nine remaining Fiscal Year 2009 appropriations bills, including those for the Department of Energy and foreign assistance. The bill has been signed by the President.



During the week of March 3, the Senate attempted to complete action on the $410 billion bill, but couldn't achieve the 60 votes necessary to stop a filibuster. However, on March 10, the Senate voted 62 - 35 to end debate on the bill and then completed final passage by voice vote. All attempts to amend the bill were rejected, so no conference committee with the House was required. An amendment by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) to bar use of funds in the bill to contract with any company that does business with Iran's energy sector failed with a vote of 41 - 53.


During the week of March 3, the Senate attempted to complete action on the $410 billion bill, but couldn't achieve the 60 votes necessary to stop a filibuster. However, on March 10, the Senate voted 62 - 35 to end debate on the bill and then completed final passage by voice vote. All attempts to amend the bill were rejected, so no conference committee with the House was required.


The bill may be considered in the House Appropriations Committee by the end of March, with floor action completed in both the House and Senate before the May recess. House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee chairman John Murtha (D-PA) is talking about adding more than $10 billion to the bill for new weapons.


The House and Senate Budget Committees may consider the Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Resolution the week of March 23. The measure establishes ceilings on large categories of spending, including defense. The House and Senate hope to complete action on the budget resolutions before the spring recess that begins on April 4.

Monday, March 9, 2009

National Security Legislative Wrap-up

Last week, the Senate was bogged down with the omnibus package of the nine remaining Fiscal Year 2009 appropriations bills, including those for the Department of Energy and foreign assistance. It will continue work this week.



The Senate attempted to complete action on the bill, but couldn't achieve 60 votes to stop a filibuster. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hopes to complete the bill by Tuesday, March 10. Thus far, all attempts to amend the bill have been rejected. An amendment by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) to bar use of funds in the bill to contract with any company does business with Iran's energy sector failed with a vote of 41 - 53.


The Senate attempted to complete action on the bill, but couldn't achieve 60 votes to stop a filibuster. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hopes to complete the bill by Tuesday, March 10. Thus far, all attempts to amend the bill have been rejected.

Monday, March 2, 2009

National Security Legislative Wrap-up

Last week, the House approved in one omnibus package the nine remaining Fiscal Year 2009 appropriations bills, including those for the Department of Energy and foreign assistance. The Senate is expected to consider the same bill this week. In addition, the Administration released an outline of the Fiscal Year 2010 budget, but the detailed program will not follow until April.



The Omnibus appropriations bill, a collection of nine appropriations bills, included $33.3 billion for the Fiscal Year 2009 Energy and Water Appropriations bill. Congress once again refused to provide any funding for the Reliable Replacement Warhead. It provided $1.5 billion for nuclear non-proliferation programs, $146 million above 2008 and $395 million for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, double 2008, to recover nuclear and radioactive materials from sites around the world that could be used as weapons and to secure sites in the U.S. and Russia. The Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) was zeroed out, although $145 million was approved for the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative, the research portion of GNEP.

On February 25, the House approved the $410 Omnibus appropriations measure by a vote of 245 - 178. The Senate is expected to consider the measure the week of March 2.


The Omnibus appropriations bill, a collection of nine appropriations bills, included $38.2 billion for the Fiscal Year 2009 International Affairs Budget. The largest component – $36.6 billion or 96% of the International Affairs Budget – is the State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations bill. The $38.2 billion base total represents and 11.4%or $3.9 billion increase above Fiscal Year 2008 base funding levels and a 4% or $1.6 billion decrease below the Bush Administration’s Fiscal Year 2009 request.


On February 26, the Administration requested $75.5 billion in war funding for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2009, which, when combined with the $68.5 billion already approved in 2008, brings the total war funding for 2009 to $144 billion. The Administration also requested $130 billion in war funding for Fiscal Year 2010.


On February 26, the Obama Administration released a preliminary outline of the Fiscal Year 2010 defense budget, although the detailed budget request will not be released until April. The topline request provides $534 billion in Fiscal Year 2010 funding for the Department of Defense’s “base” budget, which excludes funding for Iraq, Afghanistan, and nuclear weapons activities. The request also includes $130 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thus the total request is $664 billion. This figure does not include funding for nuclear weapons or miscellaneous non-DOD defense costs, which were approximately $23 billion in FY 2009. Without adjusting for inflation, the $534 billion topline request is $21 billion, or 4.1 percent, greater than the $513 billion appropriated by Congress in FY 2009 for DOD’s base budget. For a more thorough analysis, see the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation’s analysis.

The President requested $51.7 billion for the Fiscal Year 2010 International Affairs Budget, an estimated $4.5 billion or 9.5% above the comparable amount for Fiscal Year 2009. The details of the request will be presented later. This total includes the money included in the Fiscal Year 2009 Omnibus appropriations bill and two supplemental bills.

Friday, February 27, 2009

DOE and DOE Budget "Toplines" Released

It's been a busy fifth week for the Obama administration, as President Obama yesterday released his FY2010 budget "toplines," or overall departmental funding levels, and today presented his plan to remove all U.S. combat troops from Iraq by 2010.

Budget numbers for specific programs within DOE and DOD (such as specific budgets for the National Nuclear Security Administration or the Missile Defense Agency) were not released, consistent with the administration's plan to pursue an "exhaustive line-by-line" budgetary review, but the numbers do give us some important information.

Some NoH highlights:

  • Now available on the Office of Management and Budget website is the summary for the FY2010 DOE budget. A victory for arms control advocates, funding for the so-called Reliable Replacement Warhead program will again be zeroed out in the FY2010 budget. (However, the summary also states that "continued work to improve the nuclear stockpile’s safety, security, and reliability [will be] enhanced with more expansive life extension programs," and it is unclear exactly what this will mean.)
  • Also according to the summary, the budget will provide "significant increases in funding for…[the] development of clean energy" and "increased efforts to secure and dispose of nuclear material and invests in innovative science and technology to detect and deter nuclear smuggling and the development of weapons of mass destruction programs." Given that DOE's budget will be flat, some project that this could mean a decrease of funding for NNSA.
  • A highlight as well for missile defense: According to leaked reports, the White House has asked the Pentagon to cut about $2 billion from its missile defense budget for FY2010, which would leave the expected budget for the costly and ineffective system at approximately $8 billion.
Travis Sharp, military policy analyst at the Center, put together a fantastic series of analyses on the DOD numbers, including a recap of the FY09 budget and a summary of the FY2010 toplines.

The rest remains to be seen in the details when the full budget is released in April.

Monday, February 23, 2009

National Security Legislative Wrap-up

This week, Congress returns from Presidents Day recess. President Obama delivers an address to Congress Tuesday evening, February 24, an almost "State of the Union" address. On Thursday, February 26, the Administration releases an outline of the Fiscal Year 2010 budget, but the detailed program will not follow until April. The House is scheduled to consider in one omnibus package the nine remaining Fiscal Year 2009 appropriations bills, including the Department of Energy and foreign assistance.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

National Security Legislative Wrap-up

Congress is now in recess for the Presidents Day holiday. Before leaving town, it completed action on the President’s $787 billion economic stimulus package. In conference action, it eliminated $1 billion that was to go to the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). In the next few weeks, Congress may deal with the uncompleted Fiscal Year 2009 appropriations measures through an Omnibus appropriations bill (a collection of appropriations bills). This Omnibus bill would include the Department of Energy budget, which contains money for nuclear weapons and is currently being funded at the Fiscal Year 2008 level through a continuing resolution or ‘CR’ that expires on March 6. Congress could also take up a supplemental appropriations bill to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, by the end of February, the White House is expected to deliver to Congress the broad outlines of its Fiscal Year 2010 budget request, although the detailed bu! dget is not expected until April.



On February 13, Congress approved the President’s $787 billion economic stimulus bill. The House-Senate conferees working out differences between the House and Senate bills knocked out $1 billion that the Senate had added for the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), primarily for infrastructure projects. Arms control groups opposed the funding because of a lack of clarity on how the funds would be used and a fear that the money could be used to advance new nuclear weapons.


On June 17, 2008, the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee marked up or wrote its annual bill that included $33.3 billion for Fiscal Year 2009. It cut all funds for the Reliable Replacement Warhead and prohibited any spending for the project. It increased nuclear non-proliferation funding by $283 million. The Subcommittee also cut the $302 million requested for the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership to $120 million and restricted the use of the remaining funds; recommended no funding (a cut of $145 million) for the manufacture of new nuclear weapons pits (which are the core of the weapons); and recommended no funds (a cut of $100 million) for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Facility Replacement. It increased funding for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative from $220 million to $407 million; Non-Proliferation and International Security from $140 million to $185 million; and International (nuclear) Materials Protection and Cooperation from $430 million to ! $609 million. On June 25, the full House Appropriations Committee approved the bill as reported by the Subcommittee.

The Senate Energy and Water Subcommittee completed its mark-up on July 8, 2008 and the full Committee on July 10. The Committee cut the entire $10 million request for the Reliable Replacement Warhead but approved $145 million for plutonium pit manufacturing.

A House-Senate compromise version will be included in the Fiscal Year 2009 Omnibus Appropriations bill.


On July 16, 2008, the House State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee approved the Fiscal Year 2009 State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs appropriations bill. On July 17, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of the bill. Both bills provide $36.6 billion in funding and represent the largest component of the Fiscal Year 2009 International Affairs Budget. When combined with the proposed $1.3 billion in funding for the International Food Aid Programs (Agriculture Appropriations) and $300 million for the Global AIDS Fund (HHS-Labor Appropriations), total spending for the Fiscal Year 2009 International Affairs Budget will be $38.2 billion. This spending level represents a $1.6 billion reduction from the Administration's request and a $4 billion increase or 11% increase over Fiscal Year 2008 base spending levels. On June 25, the full House Appropriations Committee approved the bill as reported by the Subcommittee.

A House-Senate compromise version will be included in the Fiscal Year 2009 Omnibus Appropriations bill.


The Department of Defense is soon expected to submit to Congress a new request of about $69 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in Fiscal Year 2009. In 2008, Congress approved $68 billion for the wars for the first months of Fiscal Year 2009. This $68 billion is expected to run out sometime in June.


The White House is expected to deliver to Congress the broad outlines of its Fiscal Year 2010 budget request by the end of February, although the detailed budget is not expected until April. However, there are already reports in the trade press that missile defense funding will be cut by $2 billion and there will be no funding for the Reliable Replacement Warhead. For a preview of the Fiscal Year 2010 request, see the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation’s analysis.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Missile Defense in the Obama Budget

One of the top recommendations for the Obama administration from a recent Center report was to condition further deployment of the third missile defense site in Europe on tests that prove the system actually works. President Obama agreed during his campaign that deployment of missile defense should be postponed until proven effective. He said in 2007, " If we can responsibly deploy missile defenses that would protect us and our allies, we should — but only when the system works…The Bush administration has in the past exaggerated missile defense capabilities and rushed deployments for political purposes."

In a report released yesterday, the Center's Travis Sharp predicts what this might mean for missile defense in the FY2009 budget. He predicts a loss of funding for the program, and lists missile defense among four weapons systems likely to see budget cuts in 2009. (Alongside missile defense are the F-22 Raptor, the DDG-1000 destroyer, and Future Combat Systems.)

In the absence of this year's budget release on the usual first Monday in February, we don't know, of course, what Obama's request actually is. But Travis's report – which documents the skyrocketing recent growth in defense spending, catalogs calls for budget cuts by key policymakers, and looks at the complicated procedure the fiscal year 2010 budget is set to follow - provides a good appetizer for all those who are eager to see what's on Obama's full budget plate.

Excerpt below, and full report available on the Center website.

Technical experts, budget analysts, and military strategists have debated the pros and cons of missile defense for decades. In the past few years, Congress repeatedly has reduced funding for expensive and unproven missile defense technologies aimed at countering future long-range threats and reallocated it toward higher priority systems aimed at existing short- and medium-range missiles.

The final FY 2009 base budget provided $10.5 billion for missile defense research and development, military construction, and procurement. The final appropriation rearranged funding among various ballistic missile defense program elements and was $328 million less than the Bush administration’s request. Within the $10.5 billion, Congress provided $618 million for research and development and military construction on the missile defense system in Europe, a $94 million reduction from the Bush administration’s request.

Given these preferences, Aegis ballistic missile defense (BMD), Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) (funded by the Army, not the Missile Defense Agency), and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) may pass muster in 2009. These programs protect U.S. troops in the field from theater ballistic missiles, a far more realistic threat than long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Full report available here.

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. Click to enlarge.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Nonpro Positions of WMD Coordinator Gary Samore

The Center's Executive Director, John Isaacs, produced a great report on the positions of Gary Samore, who was recently tapped by President Obama to be WMD Coordinator. The text of the report is below.

Gary Samore Joining the Obama Administration as WMD Coordinator: A Look at His Issue Positions

Gary Samore has been selected by President Barack Obama to coordinate government-wide efforts to combat weapons of mass destruction proliferation. As “Nonproliferation Czar,” Samore will be a member of the National Security Council staff. His portfolio will include everything from nuclear and conventional arms control to threat reduction to nuclear terrorism.

Samore previously was employed by the Council on Foreign Relations. His professional experience includes past tours on the NSC (1995-2001) as well as positions at the State Department, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Rand Corporation, and Harvard.

Below is a brief summary of some of Samore’s recently expressed views on key nuclear nonproliferation issues.


On reaffirming the U.S. commitment to nuclear disarmament

“The first thing the Obama administration needs to do is a very forceful statement of policy that nuclear disarmament remains the ultimate U.S. objective, even though it's not going to be achieved anytime soon.”

- Panel discussion on U.S.-Japan relations, December 2008


On providing assistance to North Korea

Washington and Seoul should coordinate some energy and economic assistance projects to North Korea in return for North Korean disarmament steps.”

- Speech on inter-Korean relations, September 2008

On normalizing relations with North Korea and signing a peace treaty

“I think the first immediate step for President Obama when he comes in is through statements and speeches to reassure the Asian countries and to warn the North Koreans that the U.S. is not going to fully normalize relations with North Korea, sign a peace treaty with North Korea until it gives up its nuclear weapons.”

- Panel discussion on North Korea, November 2008

On staying committed to the long, painful process of negotiations with North Korea

“I don't think we need to run the risk of precipitating a crisis with North Korea by threatening them. I think the North Koreans are willing to play ball in exchange for food and heavy fuel oil and fertilizer and so forth but in a process that's going to be torturous…We can't ignore North Korea because they'll make mischief. We can't coerce them and force them to give up their nuclear weapons. And the only alternative, I think, is a long-term disarmament process which will involve very painful, slow, incremental progress.”

- Panel discussion on North Korea, November 2008

On the long-term strategy for dealing with North Korea

“At some point, I think, the North Korean regime is likely to fade and collapse. So our game is to sort of manage this process until it eventually disappears.”

- Panel discussion on North Korea, November 2008


On Iran’s nuclear weapon timeline

“In my view, Iran is probably still a few years away from having a credible break out option – in terms of being confident that it could produce sufficient quantities of weapons grade material to support a small nuclear arsenal before any action could be taken to prevent it, but this a matter of political judgment, not technical certainty.”

- Speech on Iran, December 2008

On the near-term objective for engaging Iran

“The immediate objective of engaging Iran is to restore the suspension of Iran’s enrichment program in exchange for a suspension of sanctions. This ‘double suspension’ would create space for much more complicated and lengthy international negotiations on the nuclear issue and bilateral U.S.-Iranian negotiations on other issues.”

- Speech on Iran, December 2008

On involving other countries in negotiations with Iran

“Before we enter into…talks with Iran, we will need to try to reach agreement with other countries – such as Russia, China, and the European powers - that the U.S. is offering reasonable terms and that the failure to reach an agreement is Iran’s fault, in order to justify subsequent steps, such as serious sanctions or - as a last resort – military force.”

- Speech on Iran, December 2007

On when to talk to Iran, and who we should be talking to

“I don't think we can afford to wait. I think Iran is moving ahead so quickly that we should at least try to find a way to engage Iran without helping Ahmadinejad take credit for bringing the Americans to the bargaining table. And I guess the way to do that is to try to make a direct approach to the Supreme Leader, who is, after all, the most important figure in terms of making decisions on foreign and defense policy. So I think, just tactically, it would make sense to try to have a representative of President Obama meet with a representative of the Supreme Leader and see if they could begin a dialogue.”

- Panel discussion on the Middle East, January 2009

On how a military strike against Iran would be perceived by the international community

“I would argue that the use of military force in that kind of scenario where Iran is detected trying to make a breakout, where they've expelled the inspectors or where we learn that they're producing weapons-grade uranium, I think that's relatively easy to justify to an international audience…That's not to say the use of military force is necessarily a wise thing to do, but it's much easier to justify under those circumstances.”

- Panel discussion on the Middle East, December 2008

On effectively communicating the threat of attack to Iran

“We also want the Iranians to believe that if they actually try to make nuclear weapons, or if they build secret facilities that we detect, they run the risk of being attacked.”

- Panel discussion on Iran, September 2008

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Daring to Disarm: A Conversation with Lt. Gen. Robert Gard

George Kenney of the blog Electric Politics recently interviewed the Center's Chairman, Lt. Gen. Robert Gard Jr. (USA-ret.), on not only arms control, but also NATO, Afghanistan, Gard’s combat experience in Korea and Vietnam, and a few other topics. Click here for the intro or here to jump straight into the interview (MP3).

From Electric Politics:

The thing about nuclear weapons is, nobody can easily afford to make a mistake. Odds are, the more nuclear weapons people have, the more likely a mistake, and the more likely that a warhead, equipment, or know-how goes astray. On the other side of it, arguments about how to "win" a nuclear war remain implausible. So it's hard to see how these particular weapons are good for anything. Frankly, they're too dangerous to keep. But having built them, how do we get rid of them? For some deep insight I turned to Lt. General Robert G. Gard, Jr. (USA, ret.), Chairman of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. He's got a lot of sensible suggestions that should be relatively easy to implement, provided, of course, that some Republican Senators can agree to new, and renewed, nuclear arms control treaties. We also talk about NATO, Afghanistan, the General's early combat experience in Korea and Vietnam, and several other topics. It was very gracious of General Gard to take the time and I much appreciate it. Total runtime an hour and ten minutes. It's an honor to serve.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

William Hartung on Nuclear Pork Wrapped in an Economic Stimulus Blanket

Bill Hartung wrote a great piece on TPMCafe on the audacious move by the Senate Appropriations committee to include an obscene amount of money for NNSA activities in their portion of the economic stimulus plan.

Any time Congress spends hundreds of billions of dollars in a hurry we'd better read the fine print. So it is with today's Senate Appropriations Committee mark-up of the next installment -- over $365 billion -- of the economic stimulus package. Tucked away in the bill is $7.8 billion for the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration -- the agency responsible for researching, developing and maintaining nuclear weapons. The funding is set aside for a variety of purposes, from construction of facilities to clean-up of weapons sites to "laboratory infrastructure," to "advanced computing development." Whatever the appropriations committee chooses to call it, it represents a bailout for an agency that should be reduced in size, not increased.

At a time when President Obama has committed himself to seeking a world without nuclear weapons -- backed up with specific pledges to seek a global test ban and a prohibition on the production of bomb-making materials -- Congress should not be throwing money at the nuclear weapons complex.

This blatant exercise in pork barrel spending comes at a time when the NNSA has been pushing a "modernization" and upgrade of the nuclear weapons complex under the antiseptic phrase "Complex Transformation." The plan includes the construction of at least three new nuclear weapons factories, and could cost up to $200 billion over the next two decades. It is incumbent upon the Obama administration to put the brakes on this ill-conceived initiative and send the agency back to the drawing boards to come up with a plan to put the weapons complex on a low-level, standby status appropriate to a time of deep reductions -- or ideally, total elimination -- of nuclear weapons.

But first things first -- Senate Appropriations Committee's attempt to slip $7.8 billion to the nuclear weapons complex must be rejected. Then we need to get on with the job of reducing the size and scope of the complex to reflect the reality that nuclear weapons can and should be eliminated once and for all.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Gary Hart: An Early Victory for Obama Leadership

Gary Hart, Chairman of the Center’s sister organization, Council for a Livable World, penned a terrific short piece in HuffPo today on what could be an early victory for Obama: reaching an agreement with Russia to cap the nuclear arsenal of each country at 1000 nuclear weapons.

Every era creates its own legacy. The least worthwhile legacy of the Cold War is nuclear arsenals. They provide no meaningful deterrence to terrorists. No war plans envision their use. They serve no military or diplomatic purpose.

Very soon, against the backdrop of international banking crises and restructuring of soaring social safety net obligations, the new Obama administration must look for meaningful victories that are affordable and that increase security. Of the achievable goals, none could come closer to making the world safer than the reduction and possible eventual elimination of nuclear arsenals.

Arms reduction negotiations were not vigorously pursued during recent years. Strangely, the end of the Cold War made getting rid of nuclear weapons less, rather than more, important. To the skeptics who question whether elimination of the worst weapons of mass destruction can be accomplished, the question has to be asked: Why not?

Within the first Obama term, the U.S. and Russia could readily agree to overall ceilings of 1000 nuclear weapons each. Military commanders on both sides clearly understand this is more than enough to obliterate each other and still have plenty left over to destroy most of the rest of the world. As verification of the destruction of excessive weapons takes place, both sides then have political and moral authority to call upon the Chinese, the French, and the British, and other nuclear states, to begin dismantling their arsenals, and negotiations can continue to reduce overall numbers, step by step, even more drastically.

This is not a military problem. Even the most hard-line strategist admits we don't have any use for our current nuclear arsenals. It is a problem of political will and determination, and leaders who wake up one day and say: Let's do it.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Retooled Republican SFRC Lineup

From's The Cable:

Senators George Voinovich (R-OH), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and David Vitter (R-LA) have dropped off the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, along with retired Sen. Chuck Hagel, while Roger Wicker (R-Miss) and Jim Risch (R-ID) have joined. "The Republican side, with the sole exception of Lugar, is now a very conservative group and could seek to frustrate international treaty ratification, e.g. Law of the Sea, Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)," a Hill staffer notes.

UPDATE: Also on the SFRC's schedule this morning: confirmation hearings for deputy secretary of state nominees James Steinberg and Jacob "Jack" Lew.

Center Chairman, Lt. Gen. Robert Gard, at Gitmo Signing

An interesting historical note: The Center's Chairman, Lt. Gen. Robert Gard Jr. (USA-ret.), was on hand today for President Obama's signing of the executive order that requires Gitmo be closed within a year. Gard is second from the right.

Obama recognized Gard and others for their work on Gitmo.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Joe Cirincione on “False Claims of Bush's Success on WMD”

Joe Cirincione, President of the Ploughshares Fund, and Alexandra Bell, Research Associate at Ploughshares, put out a great piece on HuffPo on Tuesday that reviews and debunks many of the somewhat outrageous claims made by the Bush administration about its legacy, including many nuclear weapons issues. The full piece is available here, although I’m also including the full text of it below as well.

The victors write history. Few would ascribe that right to the outgoing Bush Administration. The "Highlights of Accomplishments and Results of the Administration of George W. Bush" is fifty pages of glossy photos and false claims of the last eight years, complete with "Did You Know" sections usually seen in 8th grade textbooks.

Some of the claims have already been rebutted on Huffington Post.

Here, we just want to set the record straight on the 10 big wins claimed on nuclear weapons. Rather than making us safer, President Bush leaves office with nearly every proliferation problem more dangerous than when he entered. Here are the claims and the facts.

"1-Prevented our Enemies from Threatening America and our Allies with
Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)"

True, that there were no attacks in the seven years following 9/11, but there were also none in the seven years previous. Globally, threats have grown. Every member of the "axis of evil" is more dangerous to America today than in 2001. Iraq is in turmoil; Iran and North Korea advanced their nuclear programs more in the past five years than in the previous ten. The Taliban and Al Qaeda have regrouped in unstable and nuclear-armed Pakistan. Nuclear sites around the world remain at risk while funding for securing and eliminating nuclear threats stagnates. Net risk has increased.

"2-Secured a commitment from North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program."

True, but only after the neoconservative fantasy of overthrowing the Pyongyang regime thwarted negotiations for five years. Vice-President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Undersecretary of State John Bolton championed policies that let North Korea go from having enough fissile material for 2 weapons in 2001 to enough for 12 by 2006. It restarted its plutonium processing, withdrew from the NPT, tested new missiles and detonated a nuclear bomb. It also may have traded nuclear secrets with Syria, Pakistan and Iran. At the end of 2006, the Bush Administration finally began negotiations in earnest and got the tenuous agreement that stands today. It is a deal we could have secured eight years ago.

"3- Persuaded Libya to disclose and dismantle all aspects of its WMD and
advanced missile programs and renounce terrorism."

This is the most notable success of the Bush years, but made possible only by breaking with the neocon strategy. Instead of trying to change the Libyan regime, we changed the regime's behavior. US military strength played a role, but so did strong alliances, negotiations, sanctions, security assurances and persuasion over four administrations. Diplomacy delivered the victory, not force. Libya has now dismantled its nuclear, chemical and long-range missile programs. It provided the model for stopping the North Korean programs and could be applied to Iran.

"4- Withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and operationalized missile defense."

We did withdraw from the treaty, but all we have to show for it is a scarecrow of a weapons system. Over the past 8 years, the U.S. has spent almost $70 billion on anti-missile systems with no real increase in capability. The Bush-created Missile Defense Agency Pentagon faked tests, misled Congress and adopted a bizarre "spiral development" process in which interceptors and radars are deployed before they are fully tested, fail, are fixed, fail again, are fixed again, etc. This $9 billion dollar-a-year booster club should be disbanded; the weapons devolved back to the management and budgets of the military services from whence they came.

"5- Dismantled the A.Q. Khan nuclear proliferation network."

Partially true. The A.Q. Khan smuggling network was finally disrupted in 2004, only after sensitive technology was transferred to Iran, Libya, North Korea and possibly other states. Pakistan's lack of cooperation, including its refusal to allow Khan to be questioned, has thwarted attempts of the U.S. and its allies to determine if the network persists. European intelligence reports note that nuclear black market sales continue in the region.

"6- Established the Proliferation Security Initiative and multilateral coalitions to stop WMD proliferation and strengthen our ability to locate and secure nuclear and radiological materials around the world."

The Proliferation Security Initiative is a good idea of marginal benefit. It is good at detecting and stopping illicit shipments of large items, like missiles and centrifuges, but cannot stop a suitcase full of plutonium or key nuclear components shipped through legitimate channels. This program was a major talking point of the administration, but did little to stop the nuclear program in Iran, for example. The legacy booklet points out that Bush programs have removed enough material from insecure sites for 30 nuclear bombs. That's good, but there is enough material in the world for 200,000, says Harvard's Matt Bunn. This boast is like bragging about throwing a bucket of water on a burning building.

"7- Halved the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile five years ahead of schedule."

This has been positive. We have moved ahead of schedule to cut weapons down to the numbers negotiated with Russia in the 2002 Moscow Treaty. The problem is that the treaty has no verification provisions, no dismantlement requirement and expires the day it comes into force. After this treaty the Bush Administration ended arms negotiations with Russia, leaving the increasingly authoritarian state with over ten thousands thermonuclear bombs and a deteriorating command and control system.

This is dangerous even during good times; today, U.S.-Russian relations are at their worst point since before the collapse of the Soviet Union. Administration plans to expand NATO and deploy anti-missile bases on Russia's borders inflamed Russian concerns over U.S. intentions.
There remains no coherent plan for addressing the danger from the almost 1,300 Russian nuclear warheads poised for attack within 15 minutes and thousands more in insecure storage. Former Senator Sam Nunn warns, "It's insane for us, 16 years after the Cold War, to think of the Russian president having four or five minutes to make a decision about whether what may be a false warning requires a response before he loses his retaliatory force."

The War to Nowhere

Finally, the greatest sin in the Bush Legacy Book is one of omission. Nowhere does the history note that senior officials led by President Bush and Vice-President Cheney intentionally misled the American people on the threat from chemical, biological and nuclear weapons from Iraq. Not one claim was true. At the time of the invasion Iraq did not have any significant quantities of these weapons or weapons components, did not have any programs for making these weapons, did not have any plans to restart programs to make these weapons and did not have any operational ties to Al Qaeda or involvement in the attacks of September 11.

President Bush called the failure to find any weapons in Iraq "a disappointment." It is much more. President Bush committed the greatest mistake any president can: he lead the nation into an unnecessary war. That is a legacy we will never forget.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

U.N. Acquires Nuclear Weapon

Ok, well not exactly. But this faux-article from The Onion is probably one of the best pieces of imaginary journalism I've read in a while. You can read the whole thing here, but I'm also including the full text below because it's just too good to pass up.

NEW YORK—The United Nations, a highly organized governing body bent on world peace, has obtained a nuclear warhead and intends to use the dangerous device to pursue its radical human rights agenda, sources reported Monday.

The U.N. Headquarters in New York has flags from all over the world and enough uranium to wipe Israel off the map.

News of the nuclear weapon first surfaced late last week when the United Nation's own watchdog group, the International Atomic Energy Agency, released startling new satellite photos of the uranium-based device. Shortly thereafter, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a short and brazen list of demands, calling on all nations to "bow down at once to social progress."

"Tremble before the awesome might of this cooperative assembly of appointed representatives," said Ban, boldly holding a stack of diplomatic resolutions in his hand. "At last, when the United Nations calls for the development of more sustainable agricultural practices, the world at large will listen."

Added Ban, "We will no longer be ignored."

The warhead, an Oralloy U-235 thermonuclear detonator encased in a long-range ballistic missile, is believed to be currently housed beneath the parking lot of the U.N. complex in New York. According to Pentagon officials, it is likely that the United Nations has already tested the weapon, and may in fact be prepared to deploy it if its demands for global harmony are not met.

"All efforts are being made to engage this nationless threat in diplomatic talks, but so far, they remain uncooperative," U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said. "However, I can assure you that the United States will not be pushed around. We will not be bullied into limiting our carbon-dioxide emissions or honoring the conditions established by the Geneva Conventions. The United States will not bend."

Speaking at a press conference Tuesday, President Bush echoed Chertoff's sentiments.

"This rogue group of unbiased mediators will not be tolerated," said Bush, who has promised to continue his eight-year pledge not to negotiate with the United Nations under any circumstances. "If the U.N. thinks it can force the world to appreciate the equality of all people and their right to live free of poverty, hunger, and inhumane treatment, I say to them, 'Bring it on.'"

While no country has admitted to selling enriched uranium to the United Nations, experts claimed that acquiring the necessary materials was probably fairly easy, as the U.N.'s own Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty has been largely disregarded since being signed in 1968.

"The Russians, the Israelis, a rogue Pakistani arms trader—there are plenty of people out there who could have done it," said Katherine Boushie, a world politics professor at Columbia University. "After all, who knows better than the United Nations where someone can find nukes? They've spent years watching nation after nation illegally stockpile arms. Might have been what pissed them off, actually."

Despite outspoken concerns from many nations, including North Korea, Iran, and Serbia, Secretary-General Ban has assured the international community that the U.N.'s nuclear arsenal will only be used for deterrent purposes. Chief among these is deterring other countries from thinking they can sign a chemical weapons ban and then act like the whole thing never happened, and coming to the U.N. only when it's convenient or profitable for them to do so.

"I will say this as clearly as I can, so you all can hear me," said Ban, his finger hovering inches away from the small red button on his podium. "Either attend the next Follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development to Review the Implementation of the Monterrey Consensus, or prepare to suffer the consequences."

Many, however, refuse to be intimidated by the peacekeeping organization's threats.

"They're bluffing," Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said. "The United Nations is still 15 years away from a nuclear bomb. Hell, they're 20 years away from achieving universal primary school education, and knowing them, they'll probably focus on that first."

Anticipated Democratic Committee Assignments Related to Nuke and Nonpro Issues

Majority Leader Harry Reid announced Tuesday the anticipated committee assignments for Democrats in the 111th Congress (subject to negotiations following Republican leadership elections). I haven’t seen an equivalent for Republicans but will try to post the list if possible. Included below are a few relevant committees.

Senate Committee on Appropriations

  1. Daniel K. Inouye, of Hawaii, Chairman
  2. Robert C. Byrd, of West Virginia
  3. Patrick J. Leahy, of Vermont
  4. Tom Harkin, of Iowa
  5. Barbara A. Mikulski, of Maryland
  6. Herb Kohl, of Wisconsin
  7. Patty Murray, of Washington
  8. Byron L. Dorgan, of North Dakota
  9. Dianne Feinstein, of California
  10. Richard Durbin, of Illinois
  11. Tim Johnson, of South Dakota
  12. Mary L. Landrieu, of Louisiana
  13. Jack Reed, of Rhode Island
  14. Frank R. Lautenberg, of New Jersey
  15. E. Benjamin Nelson, of Nebraska
  16. Mark L. Pryor, of Arkansas
  17. Jon Tester, of Montana

Senate Committee on Armed Services

  1. Carl Levin, of Michigan, Chairman
  2. Edward M. Kennedy, of Massachusetts
  3. Robert C. Byrd, of West Virginia
  4. Joseph I. Lieberman, of Connecticut
  5. Jack Reed, of Rhode Island
  6. Daniel K. Akaka, of Hawaii
  7. Bill Nelson, of Florida
  8. E. Benjamin Nelson, of Nebraska
  9. Evan Bayh, of Indiana
  10. Jim Webb, of Virginia
  11. Claire McCaskill, of Missouri
  12. Kay Hagan, of North Carolina
  13. Mark Udall, of Colorado
  14. Mark Begich, of Alaska
  15. (tba)

Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

  1. Jeff Bingaman, of New Mexico, Chairman
  2. Byron L. Dorgan, of North Dakota
  3. Ron Wyden, of Oregon
  4. Tim Johnson, of South Dakota
  5. Mary L. Landrieu, of Louisiana
  6. Maria Cantwell, of Washington
  7. Robert Menendez, of New Jersey
  8. Blanche L. Lincoln, of Arkansas
  9. Bernard Sanders, of Vermont
  10. Evan Bayh, of Indiana
  11. Debbie Stabenow, of Michigan
  12. Mark Udall, of Colorado
  13. Jeanne Shaheen, of New Hampshire

Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
  1. John F. Kerry, of Massachusetts, Chairman
  2. Christopher J. Dodd, of Connecticut
  3. Russell D. Feingold, of Wisconsin
  4. Barbara Boxer, of California
  5. Robert Menendez, of New Jersey
  6. Benjamin L. Cardin, of Maryland
  7. Robert P. Casey, Jr., of Pennsylvania
  8. Jim Webb, of Virginia
  9. Jeanne Shaheen, of New Hampshire
  10. (tba)
  11. (tba)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Gary Hart: What a Year It Might Be

Gary Hart, Chairman of the Center’s sister organization, Council for a Livable World, wrote a great piece in the Huffington Post yesterday on what 2008 may portend for the nuclear arsenals of the United States and Russia, included below.

Even as the new president and administration struggle to restructure and transform the American economy in 2009, consider this possibility: 2009 could be the year when the two former Cold warriors, America and Russia, decide to make dramatic reductions in nuclear weapons and convene an international conference of all nuclear nations to agree to the complete elimination of nuclear weapons from the face of the earth.

By December 2009, the START I treaty will terminate unless renewed. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty must be reviewed by 2010. And a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has been in abeyance for years. These are all relics of the Cold War which, thank God, ended 18 years ago, but there are the framework for more dramatic action.

A year ago four prominent Americans proposed elimination of all nuclear weapons. An international organization has been formed to support this ideal. Both involve conservative figures who, during the Cold War, were not known as leading arms reduction advocates. Clearly, a serious groundswell is forming to collectively embrace a goal few of us ever thought possible -- elimination of the most dangerous instruments of war ever devised by man.

Improvement in the US-Russian relationship is imperative in our own interest. We have many more areas of common interests than we have differences. Climate change, energy security, combating terrorism, pandemic protections, and stopping proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are among these common interests. At the center, however, is the issue of reversing the Cold War competition in nuclear weapons and leading other nations to do likewise.

Some will say "it's the economy, stupid," and thus suggest that nothing else can be done until we recover. But that suggests the United States and its new president can only do one thing at a time. This is flawed thinking. Even while building a new 21st century economy, the Obama administration must look for bold initiatives such as Nuclear Zero that demonstrate we live in a new world and new century featuring entirely new realities and the United States intends to play a new and creative leadership role in it.

This would make 2009 one of the happiest new years of all time.