Unconventional Monetary Policy, and More from CRS

New and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service that Congress has chosen not to make available to the public include the following.

Federal Reserve: Unconventional Monetary Policy Options, February 19, 2013

Federal Assault Weapons Ban: Legal Issues, February 14, 2013

Pharmaceutical Patent Settlements: Issues in Innovation and Competitiveness, February 15, 2013

Unauthorized Aliens: Policy Options for Providing Targeted Immigration Relief, February 13, 2013

Cars, Trucks, and Climate: EPA Regulation of Greenhouse Gases from Mobile Sources, February 14, 2013

Japan-U.S. Relations: Issues for Congress, February 15, 2013

Exemptions for Firearms in Bankruptcy, February 15, 2013

FAS Roundup: February 18, 2013

De-alerting nuclear weapons, Army use of drones, North Korea’s test and much more.

From the Blogs

  • Army Use of Drones in U.S. is Constrained, Not Prohibited: There are significant barriers to the Army’s use of unmanned aerial systems within the United States, according to a new Army manual, but they are not prohibitive or categorical. The question arises in the context of Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA), referring to military assistance to government agencies in disaster response and other domestic emergencies.
  • Options for Reducing Nuclear Weapons Requirements: The Obama administration has decided that it can meet national and international security requirements with 1,000-1,100 deployed strategic nuclear warheads – 450-550 warheads less than planned under the New START Treaty. Hans Kristensen writes that this lower force level has the potential to save billions of dollars, but how much depends on how the administration decides to implement it. Additionally, Kristensen examines the possibilities of what the new  the new U.S. arsenal will look like with these cuts.

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Meteors Against Nukes

The meteor impacted near large Russian nuclear weapons facilities..

By Hans M. Kristensen

When the news media reported that a meteor had exploded over Chelyabinsk in Russia, the location name sounded familiar: the region is home to some of Russia’s most important nuclear weapons production and storage facilities.

Impact sites still have to be found but one reportedly was Chebarkul Lake, some 72 kilometers (45 miles) southwest of the city of Chelyabinsk. Another piece impacted near the town of Zlatoust some 80 kilometers (49 miles) to the northwest.

Approximately 88 kilometers (55 miles) northeast of Chebarkul Lake is Chelyabinsk-65 (Mayak), a plutonium production and fissile material storage complex. Another 40 miles to the north is Chelyabinsk-70 (Snezhinsk), a nuclear warhead design and storage complex.

Right in the meteor’s path, approximately 115 kilometers (72 miles) southwest of Chebarkul Lake, is Zlatoust-36, one of the two main warhead assembly and disassembly facilities in Russia. Adjacent to the facility is a national-level nuclear weapons storage site.

The odds of a meteor hitting one of these nuclear weapons production or storage site are probably infinitely small, but on a cosmic scale it got pretty close. Just how much damage a direct hit of a sizable chunk of the meteor could have caused is unknown, but the 17-meter (55 feet) meteor reportedly released energy equivalent to nearly 500 kilotons of TNT. That’s roughly the explosive yield of one of the W88 warheads carried on Trident II missiles onboard U.S. ballistic missile submarines.

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.

Army Use of Drones in U.S. is Constrained, Not Prohibited

There are significant barriers to the Army’s use of unmanned aerial systems within the United States, according to a new Army manual, but they are not prohibitive or categorical.

“Legal restrictions on the use of unmanned aircraft systems in domestic operations are numerous,” the manual states.  The question arises particularly in the context of Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA), refering to military assistance to government agencies in disaster response and other domestic emergencies.

“Use of DOD intelligence capabilities for DSCA missions–such as incident awareness and assessment, damage assessment, and search and rescue–requires prior Secretary of Defense approval, together with approval of both the mission and use of the exact DOD intelligence community capabilities. Certain missions require not only approval of the Secretary of Defense, but also coordination, certification, and possibly, prior approval by the Attorney General of the United States.”

As a general rule, “military forces cannot use military systems for surveillance and pursuit of individuals.”  This is precluded by the Posse Comitatus Act, as reflected in DoD Directive 5525.5.

But there is a possibility that exceptions may arise, the manual indicates.  “[Unmanned aircraft] operators cannot conduct surveillance on specifically identified U.S. persons, unless expressly approved by the Secretary of Defense, consistent with U.S. laws and regulations.”  See U.S. Army Field Manual FM 3-52, Airspace Control, February 2013 (especially Appendix G).

“Commanders decide to employ unmanned aircraft systems judiciously. Use of unmanned aircraft systems requires approval at high levels within the DOD and the FAA prior to employment in DSCA,” the manual states.

“Certain unmanned aircraft systems such as Global Hawk can operate far above normal commercial traffic while providing situation assessment to ground commanders. Intermediate systems such as the Predator have supported recent disaster operations, dramatically increasing situational awareness at the joint field office level. If available and authorized, these systems can provide near-real-time surveillance to command posts for extended periods. The approval process is not automatic.”

The Army manual asserts that the perceived risks of drone failure or accident are out of proportion to the actual documented risks.

“For example, from 2003 to 2010, small, unmanned aircraft systems flew approximately 250,000 hours with only one incident of a collision with another airspace user. However, the perception of the risk posed by small, unmanned aircraft systems was much greater.” (page A-1).

What’s the Difference Between an Executive Order and a Directive?

The Obama Administration issued policy statements this week on critical infrastructure protection and cyber security, including measures to encourage information sharing with the private sector and other steps to improve policy coordination.  Curiously, the Administration issued both an Executive order and a Presidential directive devoted to these topics.

Executive Order 13636 focuses on “Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity” while Presidential Policy Directive 21 deals more broadly with “Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience.”

But the simultaneous release of the two types of Presidential instruction on overlapping themes raises the question:  What is the difference between an Executive Order and a Presidential Directive?

“There are probably two significant differences between an EO and a PD, at least to my understanding,” said Harold Relyea, who served for decades as a Specialist in American National Government at the Congressional Research Service.

“First, in almost all cases, for an EO to have legal effect, it must be published in the Federal Register.  This is a statutory requirement.  A PD does not have to meet this publication requirement, which means it can more readily be ‘born classified’.”

“Second,” he added, “is the matter of circulation and accountability.  EOs are circulated to general counsels or similar agency attorneys, which can be readily accomplished by FR publication.  Again, a PD may be more selectively circulated, and this is done through developed routing procedures.  Ultimately, EOs are captured not only in the FR, but also in annual volumes (Title 3) of the CFR [Code of Federal Regulations].  PDs are maintained in the files of the NSC staff and, God knows, if anywhere else!  I might also add that a form for EOs has been prescribed (in an EO); no form has been prescribed (as far as I know) for PDs.”

A CRS overview of the various types of “Presidential Directives” authored by Dr. Relyea in 2008 is available here.

The Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel wrote in a 2000 opinion that executive orders and directives are equivalent in their force and impact.  “As this Office has consistently advised, it is our opinion that there is no substantive difference in the legal effectiveness of an executive order and a presidential directive that is not styled as an executive order.”

For reasons that are not immediately clear, President Obama has issued presidential directives much less frequently than his predecessors.  The latest directive, PDD-21, is only the 21st such Obama directive.  By comparison, President George W. Bush had issued 42 directives by the first January of his second term.  President Clinton had issued 53 directives by the beginning of his second term.

North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons, and More from CRS

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

North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons: Technical Issues, February 12, 2013

Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons: Proliferation and Security Issues, February 13, 2013

Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty: Background and Current Developments, February 12, 2013

Filling U.S. Senate Vacancies: Perspectives and Contemporary Developments, February 13, 2013

Child Well-Being and Noncustodial Fathers, February 12, 2013

Abortion and Family Planning-Related Provisions in U.S. Foreign Assistance Law and Policy, February 12, 2013

Latin America and the Caribbean: Key Issues for the 113th Congress
, February 8, 2013

U.S. Manufacturing in International Perspective, February 11, 2013

New Report: Reducing Alert Rates of Nuclear Weapons

click on image to download report

.By Hans M. Kristensen

The United States and Russia have some 1,800 nuclear warheads on alert on ballistic missiles that are ready to launch in a few minutes, according to a new study published by UNIDIR. The number of U.S. and Russian alert warheads is greater than the total nuclear weapons inventories of all other nuclear weapons states combined.

The report Reducing Alert Rates of Nuclear Weapons is co-authored by Matthew McKinzie from the Natural Resources of Defense Council and yours truly.

France and Britain also keep some of their nuclear force on alert, although at lower readiness levels than the United States and Russia. No other nuclear weapon state has nuclear weapons on alert.

The report concludes that the warning made by opponents of de-alerting, that it could trigger a re-alerting race in a crisis that count undermine stability, is a “straw man” argument that overplays risks, downplays benefits, and ignores that current alert postures already include plans to increase readiness and alert rates in a crisis.

According to the report, “while there are risks with alerted and de-alerted postures, a re-alerting race that takes three months under a de-alerted posture is much preferable to a re-alerting race that takes only three hours under the current highly alerted posture. A de-alerted nuclear posture would allow the national leaders to think carefully about their decisions, rather than being forced by time constraints to choose from a list of pre-designated responses with catastrophic consequences.”

During his election campaign, Barack Obama promised to work with Russia to take nuclear weapons off “hair-trigger” alert, but the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) instead decided to keep the existing alert posture. The post-NPR review that has now been completed but has yet to be announced hopefully will include a reduction of the alert level, not least because the Intelligence Community has concluded that a Russian surprise first strike is unlikely to occur.

The UNIDIR report finds that the United States and Russia previously have reduce the alert levels of their nuclear forces and recommends that they continue this process by removing the remaining nuclear weapons from alert through a phased approach to ensure stability and develop consultation and verification measures.

Full report: Reducing Alert Rates of Nuclear Weapons (FAS mirror)

This publication was made possible by a grant from the Swiss Government. General nuclear forces research is supported by the Ploughshares Fund. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the authors.

Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons Discussed in Warsaw

The conference was held in this elaborate room at the Intercontinental Warsaw hotel.

By Hans M. Kristensen

In early February, I participated in a conference in Warsaw on non-strategic nuclear weapons. The conference was organized by the Polish Institute of International Affairs, the Norwegian Institute for Defense Studies, and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. It was supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland, with the participation of the U.S. State Department.

The conference had very high-level government representation from the United States and NATO, and included non-governmental experts from the academic and think-tank communities in Russia and NATO countries. The Russian government unfortunately did not send participants.

The United States and NATO want to broaden the arms control agenda to non-strategic nuclear weapons, which have so far largely eluded limitations and verification. The objective of the conference was to try to identify options for how NATO and Russia might begin to discuss confidence-building measures and eventually limitations on non-strategic nuclear weapons.

The conference commissioned eight working papers to form the basis for the discussions. My paper, which focused on identifying common definitions for categories of non-strategic nuclear weapons, recommended starting with air-delivered weapons as the only compatible category for negotiations on U.S-Russian non-strategic nuclear weapons.

Background: Working papers and lists of participants are available on the PISM web site. For background on non-strategic nuclear weapons, see this FAS report.

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.

The State of the Union Address, and More from CRS

New and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service that Congress has opted not to make directly available to the public include the following.

U.S.-South Korea Relations, February 5, 2013

Government Assistance for AIG: Summary and Cost, February 7, 2013

Prospects for Coal in Electric Power and Industry, February 4, 2013

Role of Home State Senators in the Selection of Lower Federal Court Judges, February 11, 2013

Nondiscrimination in Environmental Regulation: A Legal Analysis, February 6, 2013:

Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy, February 8, 2013

The Debt Limit: History and Recent Increases, February 7, 2013

Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress, February 11, 2013

Navy DDG-51 and DDG-1000 Destroyer Programs: Background and Issues for Congress, February 11, 2013

The President’s State of the Union Address: Tradition, Function, and Policy Implications, December 17, 2012

February 11, 2013

Letter to Congress on B61 Bomb, DoD Special Access Programs and much more.

From the Blogs

  • Spotlight on DoD Special Access Programs: The procedures for establishing, managing and overseeing special access programs (SAPs) in the Department of Defense are spelled out in an updated DoD Instruction that was issued on February 6. A special access program is a classified program that employs security measures above and beyond those that would normally be used to protect ordinary (or “collateral”) classified information. DoD SAPs have been a focus of controversy in the past, because their intensive secrecy seemed to foster mismanagement.
  • Judge Walton Named Presiding Judge of FISA Court: Steven Aftergood writes that Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts has appointed Judge Reggie B. Walton of the D.C. District Court to serve as Presiding Judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, effective February 22, 2013. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court reviews and authorizes applications for electronic surveillance and physical search under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

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