New Detailed Data For US Nuclear Forces Counted Under New START Treaty

Air Force personnel perform New START Treaty inspection training on a Minuteman III ICBM payload section at Minot AFB in 2011. Nearly two years into the treaty, there have been few reductions of U.S. deployed strategic nuclear forces.

By Hans M. Kristensen

The U.S. State Department today released the full (unclassified) and detailed aggregate data categories for U.S. strategic nuclear forces as counted under the New START treaty. This is the forth batch of data published since the treaty entered into force in February 2011.

Although the new data shows a reduction compared with previous releases, a closer reading of the documents indicates that changes are due to adjustments of delivery vehicles in overhaul at any given time and elimination on so-called phantom platforms, that is aircraft that carry equipment that make them accountable under the treaty even though they are no longer assigned a nuclear mission. Actual reduction of deployed nuclear delivery vehicles has yet to occur.

The joint U.S.-Russian aggregate data and the full U.S. categories of data are released at different times and not all information is made readily available on the Internet. Therefore, a full compilation of the September data is made available here. Continue reading

Securing U.S. Diplomatic Facilities, and More from CRS

In almost every year since 2007, Congress appropriated less money for diplomatic security than had been requested.  In FY2012, the State Department sought $2.9 billion for security, and Congress enacted $2.6 billion.

The diplomatic security function, including its funding profile, was discussed in the light of recent attacks of U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya and elsewhere in a new report from the Congressional Research Service. See Securing U.S. Diplomatic Facilities and Personnel Abroad: Background and Policy Issues, November 26, 2012.

Some other new and updated CRS reports that have not been made publicly available include the following.

Panama: Political and Economic Conditions and U.S. Relations, November 27, 2012

The Judgment Fund: History, Administration, and Common Usage, November 26, 2012

Financing the U.S. Trade Deficit, November 16, 2012

Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations, November 27, 2012

Some Basic Budget Tutorials from CRS

In a series of newly updated reports presumably intended for new Members of Congress who are unfamiliar with basic features of the federal budget, the Congressional Research Service presented the very rudiments of the budget process.  See:

Basic Federal Budgeting Terminology, November 26, 2012

Overview of the Authorization-Appropriations Process, November 26, 2012

Baselines and Scorekeeping in the Federal Budget Process, November 26, 2012

Budget Reconciliation Legislation: Development and Consideration, November 26, 2012

Entitlements and Appropriated Entitlements in the Federal Budget Process, November 26, 2012

Legislative Procedures for Adjusting the Public Debt Limit: A Brief Overview, November 26, 2012

Evolution of Remote Sensing and National Security

A study performed for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) “chronicles the policy history of civil and commercial remote sensing from 1960 through 2008.”

The study “highlights the difficulties in establishing a consistent government role in a field where public good and private profit exist side-by-side, and where business interests have the potential to contribute to and conflict with national security interests.”

See U.S. National Security and Economic Interests in Remote Sensing: The Evolution of Civil and Commercial Policy by James A. Vedda, The Aerospace Corporation, February 20, 2009.

The unclassified study was released yesterday by NGA three years after it was requested under the Freedom of Information Act.

B61-12: Contract Signed for Improving Precision of Nuclear Bomb

The first contract was signed yesterday for the development of the guided tail kit that will increase the accuracy of the B61 nuclear bomb. This conceptual drawing illustrates the principle of adding a guided tail kit assembly to the gravity bomb.

By Hans M. Kristensen

The U.S. Air Force’s new precision-guided nuclear bomb B61-12 moved one step closer to reality yesterday with the Pentagon issuing a $178.6 million contract to Boeing. The contract covers Phase 1 (Engineering and Manufacturing Development) to be completed in October 2015. The contract also includes options for a Phase 2 and production.

In a statement on the contract, Boeing said that the tail kit program “further expands Boeing’s Direct Attack weapons portfolio” and that the precision-guided B61-12 would “effectively upgrade a vital deterrent capability.”

The expensive B61-12 project will use the 50-kiloton warhead from the B61-4 gravity bomb but add the tail kit to increase the accuracy and boost the target kill capability to one similar to the 360-kiloton strategic B61-7 bomb.

Because the B61-4 warhead also has selective lower-yield options, the tail kit will also allow war planners to select lower yields to strike targets that today require higher yields, thereby reducing radioactive fallout of an attack. The Air Force tried in 1994 to get a precision-guided low-yield nuclear bomb (PLYWD), but Congress rejected it because of concern that it would lead to more useable nuclear weapons. Now the Air Force get’s a precision-guided nuclear bomb anyway.

The U.S. Air Force plans to deploy some of the B61-12s in Europe late in the decade for delivery by F-15E, F-16, F-35 and Tornado aircraft to replace the B61-4s currently deployed in Europe. The improved accuracy will increase the capability of NATO’s nuclear posture, which will be further enhanced by delivery of the B61-12 on the stealthy F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Increasing the capability of NATO’s nuclear posture contradicts the Deterrence and Defense Posture Review (DDPR) adopted in May 2012, which concluded that “the Alliance’s nuclear force posture currently meets the criteria for an effective deterrence and defense posture.” Moreover, improving NATO’s nuclear capabilities undercuts efforts to persuade Russia to decrease its non-strategic nuclear forces.

Instead of improving nuclear capabilities and wasting scarce resources, the Obama administration must re-take the initiative to reduce the role of nuclear weapons and work with NATO to withdraw the nuclear weapons from Europe.

See also: Modernizing NATO’s Nuclear Forces: Implications for the Alliance’s Defense Posture and Arms Control
And: Previous blogs about NATO and nuclear weapons

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

Classification Decisions are Reviewable by Courts, Govt Admits

Executive branch decisions to classify national security information are subject to judicial review in Freedom of Information Act cases, government attorneys acknowledged in a brief filed yesterday.

That potentially explosive question arose following an extraordinary ruling by a federal judge ordering the U.S. Trade Representative to release a one-page classified document that had been requested under the FOIA by the Center for International Environmental Law.  The document’s classification was not “logical,” said DC District Judge Richard W. Roberts last March, and therefore it was not exempt from public disclosure.

The government appealed that ruling in September, but stopped short of asserting that the court had no authority to order release of the classified document.

Yesterday, in response to arguments presented in an amicus brief from media organizations, government attorneys made their acceptance of judicial review explicit in a final reply brief.

“We agree that district courts (and courts of appeals) play an important role in evaluating the government’s compliance with its obligations under FOIA, in Exemption 1 cases [involving national security classification] as well as others….”

“We have not sought to diminish the role of courts in FOIA Exemption 1 cases, nor have we suggested that the Executive’s determination that a document is classified should be conclusive or unreviewable,” attorneys wrote in the November 27 brief (at p. 8).

In other words, the government did not assert that the executive has some kind of transcendent Article II classification power, nor did government attorneys contend (à la Egyptian President Morsy) that the judicial review provisions of FOIA are an unconstitutional infringement on executive authority.

This was the crucial information policy question that was raised by the move to appeal Judge Roberts’ highly unusual disclosure order, and the government has more or less resolved it by submitting to the discipline of judicial review.

What remains is a bona fide dispute:  Was the decision to classify the USTR document well-founded and plausible, as the government insists, and therefore entitled to judicial deference?  Or was it illogical, as the lower court ruled, nullifying the document’s exemption from FOIA?

Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for February of next year.

Does Foreign Aid Work?, and More from CRS

New and newly updated reports from the Congressional Research Service obtained by Secrecy News that have not been made publicly available include the following.

Does Foreign Aid Work? Efforts to Evaluate U.S. Foreign Assistance, November 19, 2012

Congressional Redistricting: An Overview, November 21, 2012

Update on Controlling Greenhouse Gases from International Aviation, November 19, 2012

The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR): Answers to Frequently Asked Questions, November 16, 2012

Gangs in Central America, November 26, 2012

The Federal Food Safety System: A Primer, November 26, 2012

The President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy: Issues for Congress, November 26, 2012

Nuclear Modernization Talk at BASIC Panel

Linton Brooks and I discussed nuclear modernization at a November 13 panel organized by BASIC.

By Hans M. Kristensen

BASIC invited me to discuss nuclear weapons modernization with Linton Brooks at a Strategic Dialogue panel held at the Capitol Hill Club on November 13, 2012. We’re still waiting for the official transcript, but BASIC has a rough recording and my prepared remarks are available here. [Update: all material, including transcript with questions/answers, is available from BASIC].

In my talk, I argued that the Obama administration’s nuclear arms control profile is at risk of being overshadowed by extensive nuclear weapons modernization plans, and that the approach must be adjusted to ensure that efforts to reduce the numbers and role of nuclear weapons and put and end to Cold War thinking are clearly visible as being the priority of U.S. nuclear policy.

The administration has nearly completed a strategic review of nuclear targeting and alert requirements to identify additional reductions of nuclear forces. Release of the findings was delayed by the election, but the administration now needs to use the review to reinvigorate the nuclear arms reduction agenda that has slowed with the slow implementation of the modest New START Treaty and the disappointing “nuclear status quo” decision of the NATO Chicago Summit.

White House Advances Insider Threat Policy

In a memorandum to agency heads last week, President Obama transmitted formal requirements that agencies must meet in order “to deter, detect, and mitigate actions by employees who may represent a threat to national security.”

Along with espionage and acts of violence, the National Insider Threat Policy notably extends to the “unauthorized disclosure of classified information, including the vast amounts of classified data available on interconnected United States Government computer networks.” To combat such unauthorized disclosures, agencies are required to “monitor employee use of classified networks.”

The new standards, which have not been made publicly available [update: now available here], were developed by an interagency Insider Threat Task Force that was established by President Obama in the October 2011 executive order 13587, and they reflect the ongoing tightening of safeguards on classified information in response to the voluminous leaks of the last few years.

But the latest issuance also illustrates the superfluousness (or worse) of current congressional action concerning leaks.  Executive branch agencies do not need Congress to tell them to develop “a comprehensive insider threat program management plan,” as would be required by the Senate version of the pending FY2013 Intelligence Authorization Act (section 509).  Such plans will go forward in any case.

Sen. Ron Wyden has placed a hold on the pending intelligence bill, citing objections to several of the proposed anti-leak provisions contained in Title V of the bill. He said the proposed steps were misguided or counterproductive.

“I am concerned that they will lead to less-informed public debate about national security issues, and also undermine the due process rights of intelligence agency employees, without actually enhancing national security,” he said on November 14.  (See related coverage from FDL, POGO, LAT.)

The most problematic measures in the Senate bill are those intended to restrict contacts between reporters and government officials.

Senator Wyden said that legislative actions to limit the ability of the press to report on classified matters could undermine or cripple the intelligence oversight process.

“I have been on the Senate Intelligence Committee for 12 years now, and I can recall numerous specific instances where I found out about serious government wrongdoing–such as the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program, or the CIA’s coercive interrogation program–only as a result of disclosures by the press,” he said.

*    *    *

The record of a July 2012 House Judiciary Committee hearing on National Security Leaks and the Law has recently been published.

IG Review of FISA Compliance Completed But Not Released

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Justice said it had recently completed a review of the Department’s use of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act (FAA), but the report is classified and its findings have not been released.

“The OIG examined the number of disseminated FBI intelligence reports containing a reference to a U.S. person identity, the number of U.S. person identities subsequently disseminated in response to requests for identities not referred to by name or title in the original reporting, the number of targets later determined to be located in the United States, and whether communications of such targets were reviewed.  The OIG also reviewed the FBI’s compliance with the required targeting and minimization procedures,” according to a November 7 OIG memorandum on Top Management and Performance Challenges in the Department of Justice.

A copy of the classified report has been requested under the Freedom of Information Act.

Earlier this year, Sen. Ron Wyden placed a hold on reauthorization of the FISA Amendments Act “because I believe that Congress does not have enough information about this law’s impact on the privacy of law-abiding American citizens, and because I am concerned about a loophole in the law that could allow the government to effectively conduct warrantless searches for Americans’ communications.”