FAS Roundup: April 16, 2012

France’s nuclear forces, water security in Yemen, innovation in secrecy policy and much more.

From the Blogs

  • Secret Satellite Promptly Detected in Orbit: On April 3, the National Reconnaissance Office successfully launched a classified intelligence satellite into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base.  Notwithstanding the usual operations security measures, amateur satellite trackers were able to locate the satellite in orbit within a few hours and videotape its passage overhead.
  • Technological Assessment at the Congressional Research Service: The elimination of the congressional Office of Technology Assessment in 1995 was a self-inflicted wound that left Congress with diminished capacity to evaluate the challenging scientific and technological issues that continue to confront it.  Steven Aftergood writes that the need for such an enterprise to support the legislative process has not gone away, and to a limited extent it is now being addressed by the Congressional Research Service (as well as the Government Accountability Office).
  • A Closer Look at Water Security in Yemen: A few weeks ago, the State Department took advantage of World Water Day to announce the release of a National Intelligence Council report entitled “Water Security,” which assessed the possible effects of water shortages on U.S. national security over the next several decades. Mark Jansson investigates the relationship between water security and U.S. national security, and how the NIC report relates to Yemen’s current water challenges on the FAS in a Nutshell Blog.
  • Fermi Versus Some Guy from Podunk: In a new post on the ScienceWonk Blog, Dr. Y writes that the world is the way that it is and the job of science is to try to tease out the rules that describe its workings. No vote – no matter how overwhelmingly one-sided – will change the rules of nature. So why is it that a recent University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) survey showed that belief in science continues to dwindle in the United States?
  • Institutionalizing Innovation in Secrecy Policy: Steven Aftergood writes that it is possible to imagine all kinds of changes in government secrecy policy that would make the secrecy system smaller, more efficient, more susceptible to error correction, and more attuned to shifting security requirements. But before any change could be adopted in practice, it would almost certainly need to be tested and validated for use, particularly if it involved a real departure from current procedures.
  • A New Edition of the Manual for Courts-Martial: Last week, the Department of Defense published the 2012 edition of the Manual for Courts-Martial (MCM). The Manual contains the Rules for Courts-Martial (RCM), the Military Rules of Evidence (MRE), and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.  The latest edition incorporates legislative amendments and other changes introduced since the previous edition was published in 2008.




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FAS in the News

New Article: French Nuclear Modernization

A new report describes worldwide nuclear weapons modernization efforts

By Hans M. Kristensen

The organization Reaching Critical Will has published a collection of articles about the nuclear weapons modernization programs that are underway in the various nuclear weapons states around the world.

My modest contribution is the chapter on France (pages 27-33).

The report – Assuring Destruction Forever – illustrates that although the Cold War nuclear arms race has ended, a global effort to modernize and improve nuclear weapons is in full swing. For some regions (India-Pakistan and India-China) this effort has elements of an arms race, but for most countries it is about extending and improving a nuclear weapons capability indefinitely.

This should remind us why it is increasingly meaningless to assess nuclear arms control progress in numerical terms by comparing the sizes of today’s arsenals with those of the Cold War. Progress increasingly must be measured in constraint: yes, by reducing arsenals further, but perhaps more importantly by curtailing deployments, operations, missions, life-extensions, modernizations and improvements.

Otherwise, the dynamic efforts to extend and modernize the remaining nuclear arsenals may end up working against the nuclear arms control process. Because life-extension and modernization efforts are accompanied by declarations by the nuclear weapon states and alliances about the continued importance of nuclear weapons to national and international security, there is a risk that they will combine to reaffirm and prolong the nuclear weapons era instead of delegitimizing and shortening it.

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.