Preview to the NPT Pre-conference

“If the bomb gets out of hand, if we do not learn to live together so that science will be our help and not our hurt, there is only one sure future. The cities of men on earth will perish.”

Dr. Philip Morrison, Manhattan Project scientist and one of the founders of FAS, wrote this line in his work “If the bomb gets out of hand.” While he wrote this in 1946 following his survey of the effects of the Hiroshima bomb, these words still ring very true today.

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FAS and the 2010 NPT Review Conference

by: Alicia Godsberg

The 2010 Review Conference of the States Parties to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (or NPT RevCon) will be taking place at the United Nations in New York from 3-28 May.  You can follow the events of the RevCon here on the SSP blog, which will be updated every other day.  This Sunday FAS will be participating in an International Day of Action with a table at the civil society-organized peace and disarmament festival – if you are in New York please come visit us under the tent (see link for more info).  Our new NPT RevCon page is up and running as well for more RevCon information.  A full length report and issue brief on FAS’s recommendations for the U.S. delegation to the RevCon, as well as a podcast on the NPT and Conference, are all online and available now.  Stay tuned for more!

Virulent Emerging Fungal Pathogen Infects Humans, Animals

Damage caused by C. gattii to lung cells (Credit: PLOS Pathogens)
Damage caused by C. gattii to lung cells (Credit: PLOS Pathogens)

A report in PLOS Pathogens last week has produced new details about an unusually virulent fungal infection caused by Cryptococcus gattii, which has emerged recently in the Northwest US and Canada.  The new study tracked the virulent fungus, which infected a wide array of mammals including humans, dogs, cats, sheep and alpaca, confirming a total of 18 infections in humans and 21 cases in other mammals that were isolated from Washington state and Oregon since 2005.  Continue reading

Rise in Fratricide Seen in the War on Terror

Incidents of fratricide in the U.S. war on terrorism increased in recent years, according to a new report (pdf) from the U.S. Army.

“Fratricide” — the unintended killing or injury of friendly forces — “is a harsh reality during combat operations,” the study states.  “Over the course of 2004-2007, the number of fratricide incidents increased, and experts speculate this is due to the high operational tempo and the reliance on technology during the current war.”

According to official data, “there were 55 U.S. Army fratricide incidents from 11 September 2001 to 30 March 2008.  Forty of these were Class A accidents” — involving damage costs of $2 million or more and/or destruction of an Army aircraft, missile or spacecraft and/or fatality or permanent total disability — “resulting in the deaths of 30 U.S. Army personnel.”

Human error is a primary causal factor in many fratricide incidents, the study indicated, and “therefore, human error must be considered in the design and development of fratricide countermeasures, including both technical and human-centric solutions… Improved supervision and leadership may have the greatest potential to reduce U.S. fratricide incidents.”

See “An Analysis of U.S. Army Fratricide Incidents during the Global War on Terror (11 September 2001 to 31 March 2008)” by Catherine M. Webb and Kate J. Hewett, U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory, March 2010.

The War Powers Resolution, and More from CRS

Although the U.S. Constitution assigned the power to declare war to Congress, the use of armed forces has often been initiated by the President without congressional authorization.  The enactment of the War Powers Resolution in 1973 was an attempt by Congress to reassert its constitutional role and to regulate military action by the executive branch.  For the most part, it failed to accomplish those goals.

“The main purpose of the Resolution was to establish procedures for both branches to share in decisions that might get the United States involved in war,” a new report (pdf) from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) observes. “The drafters sought to circumscribe the President’s authority to use armed forces abroad in hostilities or potential hostilities without a declaration of war or other congressional authorization, yet provide enough flexibility to permit him to respond to attack or other emergencies.”

“But the record of the War Powers Resolution since its enactment has been mixed, and after 30 years it remains controversial,” the CRS report said.

The new report documents that mixed record, listing all of the instances from 1973 to December 2009 in which Presidents submitted reports to Congress under the Resolution, as well as instances of the use of U.S. armed forces that were not reported.  See “The War Powers Resolution: After Thirty-Six Years,” April 22, 2010.

For reasons that defy easy comprehension, Congress does not believe that CRS reports should be made readily available to members of the public, so identifying and acquiring reports of interest takes a bit of extra effort.  Noteworthy new CRS reports obtained by Secrecy News include the following (all pdf).

“Monitoring and Verification in Arms Control,” April 21, 2010.

“Emergency Communications: Broadband and the Future of 911,” April 27, 2010.

“Unauthorized Aliens in the United States,” April 27, 2010.

“Bangladesh: Political and Strategic Developments and U.S. Interests,” April 1, 2010.

“Guinea’s New Transitional Government: Emerging Issues for U.S. Policy,” April 23, 2010.

Security Clearance Modernization, and More Hearings

The Department of Defense denied security clearances to 8,065 individuals in 2008, according to a recent congressional hearing volume.  “These numbers represent a small percentage of the total number of security clearance investigations.  The vast majority of investigations are adjudicated favorably.”  See “Security Clearance Reform: Moving Forward on Modernization,” Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, September 15, 2009 (published April 2010). (Update: The statistics on clearance denials are given on page 92 of the PDF version of the hearing.)

Among other recently published congressional hearing volumes on national security topics are these:

“An Uneasy Relationship: U.S. Reliance on Private Security Firms in Overseas Operations” (pdf), Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, February 27, 2008 (published March 2010).

“Reauthorizing the USA PATRIOT Act: Ensuring Liberty,” Senate Judiciary Committee, September 23, 2009 (published April 2010).

“A Strategic and Economic Review of Aerospace Exports” (pdf), House Foreign Affairs Committee, December 9, 2009 (published April 2010).

German Subs Off the Atlantic Coast (1920)

The threat of German submarines laying explosive mines off the east coast of the United States was a source of alarm during World War I, but the residual hazards had diminished within a few years of the war’s end, according to a comprehensive survey (large pdf) published by the U.S. Navy in 1920.

“The reports of the sightings of submarines have been without number,” the Navy said, “and great care has been exercised to try to corroborate or validate the reports, and all have been rejected which do not answer such conditions as to accuracy.”

“The information received as to the number of mines in each area and the reports of their destruction leave little or no doubt that the Atlantic coast is free from any danger as to mines,” according to the 1920 Navy report, which was digitized by the Combined Arms Research Library at Fort Leavenworth.  See “German Submarine Activities on the Atlantic Coast of the United States and Canada,” Department of the Navy, 1920.

“A Nuclear Weapons Free NATO”

Imagine that: a nuclear weapons free NATO working for nuclear disarmament?

By Hans M. Kristensen

While NATO struggles with whether and how it can discuss the future of nuclear weapons in the alliance, the Obama administration timidly avoids addressing the issue head on, and NGOs try to play government by proposing sensible steps such as consolidation and gradual reductions, three U.S. active duty military officers have taken the leap and written a thought-provoking and visionary article in American Diplomacy in which they argue that the United States should withdraw its nuclear weapons from Europe and NATO adopt a nuclear weapons-free policy.

The core of their proposal is for NATO to “talk the talk” and “walk the walk” by ending the Cold War nuclear structure of direct allied involvement in nuclear planning and leave potential nuclear missions in support of Article V to US, British, and French national nuclear capabilities outside of the NATO Command and Control architecture. NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group and SHAPE’s Nuclear Operations Branch would be disestablished and a Nuclear Weapons Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Group established in Brussels to lead the international effort of reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons.

Now that’s what I call a vision!

Additional information: Kleine Brogel Nukes

This publication was made possible by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York and Ploughshares Fund. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.