Declining Deterrent Patrols Indicate Too Many SSBNs


By Hans M. Kristensen

Does the U.S. Navy have more ballistic missile submarines than it needs? Dramatic reductions in deterrent patrols – but not submarines – suggest so.

Over the past thirteen years, the number of deterrent patrols conducted each year by U.S. ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) has declined by more than half.

During most of the same period, the size of the SSBN fleet has remained relatively steady at 14 boats, after four were retired in 2001-2003. Yet the decline in deterrent patrols has continued.

As a result, each SSBN now conducts one deterrent patrol less per year, in average, than it did a decade ago. At any given time, there are fewer SSBNs on deterrent patrol today than in the early-1960s when SSBN patrols first began.

The development indicates that the U.S. Navy may currently be operating more SSBNs than are needed for U.S. security needs, and that the current patrol rate could in fact be maintained with fewer submarines.

This also raises questions about the navy’s plan to build a new class of 12 SSBNs to replace the current class of 14 Ohio-class SSBNs. Fewer than 12 submarines would be able to meet the current deterrent patrol level and the number of patrols may even decline further in the future. Continue reading

FAS Roundup: April 29, 2013

B-2 to carry new nuclear missile, report on aftermath of Fukushima and much more.

From the Blogs

Groups Urge White House to Take Lead in Reducing Secrecy: FAS has joined 29 public interest organizations in urging President Obama to reduce national security secrecy. In a letter to the White House, the group calls upon  President Obama to adopt a recommendation of the Public Interest Declassification Board to set up a White House-led Security Classification Reform Steering Committee.

B-2 Stealth Bomber to Carry New Nuclear Cruise Missile: Hans Kristensen writes that the U.S. Air Force plans to arm the B-2A stealth bomber with a new nuclear cruise missile that is in the early stages of development, according to Air Force officials and budget documents. The B-2A bomber, which is designed to slip through air defenses undetected, does not currently have a capability to deliver nuclear cruise missiles, a role reserved exclusively for B-52H bombers.

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FBI Terrorism Investigations, and More from CRS

“Intelligence activity in the past decades has, all too often, exceeded the restraints on the exercise of governmental power that are imposed by our country’s Constitution, laws, and traditions,” according to the Congressional Research Service.

The CRS, which shuns polemical claims, presents that assertion as a simple statement of fact (although cautiously sourced to the 1976 Church Committee report) in a newly updated report on FBI terrorism investigations.

The report reviews the FBI investigative process, the statutory framework within which it operates, and the tools at its disposal, along with oversight considerations for Congress.  See The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Terrorism Investigations, April 24, 2013.

Other new or newly updated CRS reports include the following.

Terrorism, Miranda, and Related Matters, April 24, 2013

Terrorism Risk Insurance: Issue Analysis and Overview of Current Program, April 26, 2013

U.S. Air Force Bomber Sustainment and Modernization: Background and Issues for Congress, April 23, 2013

Multiyear Procurement (MYP) and Block Buy Contracting in Defense Acquisition: Background and Issues for Congress, April 25, 2013

U.S.-South Korea Relations, April 26, 2013

Iran Sanctions, April 24, 2013

Intelligence Issues for Congress, April 23, 2013

Inflation-Indexing Elements in Federal Entitlement Programs, April 24, 2013

Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress, April 25, 2013

Prevalence of Mental Illness in the United States: Data Sources and Estimates, April 24, 2013

DoD Policy on Non-Lethal Weapons, and Other New Directives

The Department of Defense has revised its 1996 directive on non-lethal weapons (NLW) to guide future development and procurement of this category of weaponry.

“Unlike conventional lethal weapons that destroy their targets principally through blast, penetration, and fragmentation, NLW employ means other than gross physical destruction to prevent the target from functioning. NLW are intended to have relatively reversible effects on personnel or materiel,” the revised directive explains.

“It is DoD policy that NLW doctrine and concepts of operation will be developed to reinforce deterrence and expand the range of options available to commanders.”

The directive does not apply to information operations, cyber operations or electronic warfare capabilities.  See DoD Executive Agent for Non-Lethal Weapons (NLW), and NLW Policy, DoD Directive 3000.03E, April 25, 2013.

Other noteworthy new or updated DoD issuances include the following.

DoD Nuclear Weapons Surety Program, DoD Directive 3150.02, April 24, 2013

DoD Counterfeit Prevention Policy, DoD Instruction 4140.67, April 26, 2013

Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Oversight (ATSD(IO)), DoD Directive 5148.11, April 24, 2013

Use of Excess Ballistic Missiles for Space Launch, Directive-Type Memorandum (DTM) 11-008, July 5, 2011, Incorporating Change 3, April 25, 2013

PREPCOM Nuclear Weapons De-Alerting Briefing


By Hans M. Kristensen

Greetings from Geneva! I’m at the Palais des Nations for the second Preparatory Committee (PREPCOM) meeting for the 2015 Review Conference of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). I was invited by the Swiss and New Zealand UN Missions to brief our report Reducing Alert Rates of Nuclear Weapons.

With me on the panel was Richard Garwin, an FAS board member who for more than five decades has advised U.S. governments on nuclear weapons and other issues, and Gareth Evans, former Australian Foreign Minister and now Chancellor of the Australian National University.

The panel was co-chaired by Ambassador H.E. Dell Higgie, the head of the New Zealand UN Mission and Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Conference on Disarmament, and Ambassador Benno Laggner, the head of the Swiss Foreign Ministry’s Division for Security Policy and Ambassador for Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation. Switzerland and New Zealand have for several years spearheaded efforts in the United Nations to reduce the alert level of nuclear weapons.

I wrote the de-alerting report together with Matthew McKinzie who directs the nuclear program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Click to download my briefing slides (7.6 MB) and prepared remarks.

Armed Conflict in Syria, and More from CRS

The latest updates from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response, April 22, 2013

Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations, April 23, 2013

Department of Defense Implementation of the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative: Implications for Federal Information Technology Reform Management, April 23, 2013

Security Assistance Reform: “Section 1206” Background and Issues for Congress, April 19, 2013

Promoting Global Internet Freedom: Policy and Technology, April 23, 2013

Overview and Issues for Implementation of the Federal Cloud Computing Initiative: Implications for Federal Information Technology Reform Management, April 23, 2013

Internet Governance and the Domain Name System: Issues for Congress, April 23, 2013

Regular Vetoes and Pocket Vetoes: An Overview, April 22, 2013

Country-of-Origin Labeling for Foods and the WTO Trade Dispute on Meat Labeling, April 22, 2013

Congressional or Federal Charters: Overview and Current Issues, April 19, 2013

Common Questions About Postage and Stamps, April 19, 2013

Shutdown of the Federal Government: Causes, Processes, and Effects, April 23, 2013

The Federal Communications Commission: Current Structure and Its Role in the Changing Telecommunications Landscape, April 17, 2013

Groups Urge White House to Take Lead in Reducing Secrecy

The White House should undertake a focused effort to reduce national security secrecy, some 30 public interest organizations urged President Obama in a letter today.

The groups called upon the President to adopt a recommendation of the Public Interest Declassification Board to set up a White House-led Security Classification Reform Steering Committee.

“A presidentially appointed Steering Committee would provide a mechanism for identifying and coordinating needed changes and for overcoming internal agency obstacles to change,” the group letter said. “It would also reflect the urgency of reining in a classification system that is largely unchecked.”

To be effective, though, the proposed Steering Committee would need to be something more than just a deliberative, coordinating body, such as the ill-fated Security Policy Board of the 1990s.

Specifically, it would require “a clear mandate to reduce the size and scope of the national security classification system,” the group letter said, as well as active White House participation to ensure agency cooperation and compliance.

In principle, reductions in national security secrecy can actually benefit government agencies by diminishing the significant financial and operational costs they incur for classification. But in practice, such reductions have been hard to accomplish and agencies have resisted any externally imposed limits on their presumed autonomy to classify as they see fit.

Of all the potential ways to reduce secrecy that could be envisioned, the proposal for a White House-led Steering Committee is currently the most salient.  That’s because it was recommended by the Public Interest Declassification Board, who developed it in response to a request from President Obama himself.

“I also look forward to reviewing recommendations from the study that the National Security Advisor will undertake in cooperation with the Public Interest Declassification Board to design a more fundamental transformation of the security classification system,” the President wrote in a December 29, 2009 memorandum.

Now the recommendations that the President looked forward to are in hand, and it will be up to the White House to act.

Survey of Federal Whistleblower Laws, and More from CRS

Dozens of federal laws protect employees who report waste, fraud or abuse by their employers. Some of those laws, particularly those that apply to private-sector workers, have been strengthened in recent years, according to a new survey from the Congressional Research Service.

“Eleven of the forty laws reviewed in this report were enacted after 1999. Among these laws are the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act,” the CRS report said.

The report “focuses on key aspects of the federal whistleblower and anti-retaliation laws. For each law, the report summarizes the activities that are protected, how the law’s protections are enforced, whether the law provides a private right of action, the remedies prescribed by the law, and the year the law’s whistleblower or anti-retaliation provisions were adopted and amended.”

The report does not address national security whistleblowers, or those who disclose classified information with or without authorization. See Survey of Federal Whistleblower and Anti-Retaliation Laws, April 22, 2013.

Other new or newly updated CRS reports that Congress has not made publicly available include the following.

State Taxation of Internet Transactions, April 19, 2013

Drought in the United States: Causes and Issues for Congress, April 22, 2013

Department of Homeland Security Appropriations: A Summary of Congressional Action for FY2013, April 22, 2013

The FY2014 State and Foreign Operations Budget Request, April 18, 2013

U.S.-EU Cooperation Against Terrorism, April 22, 2013

Expediting the Return to Work: Approaches in the Unemployment Compensation Program, April 18, 2013

Economic Recovery: Sustaining U.S. Economic Growth in a Post-Crisis Economy, April 18, 2013

Federal Research and Development Funding: FY2013, April 19, 2013

The U.S. Export Control System and the President’s Reform Initiative, April 19, 2013

Mexico’s Drug Trafficking Organizations: Source and Scope of the Violence, April 15, 2013

B-2 Stealth Bomber To Carry New Nuclear Cruise Missile


By Hans M. Kristensen

The U.S. Air Force plans to arm the B-2A stealth bomber with a new nuclear cruise missile that is in the early stages of development, according to Air Force officials and budget documents.

The B-2A bomber, which is designed to slip through air defenses undetected, does not currently have a capability to deliver nuclear cruise missiles, a role reserved exclusively for B-52H bombers.

Under the Air Force’s plans, however, the new nuclear cruise missile – known as the Long-Range Standoff Weapon – will arm three nuclear bombers: the B-2A, the B-52H, and the next-generation Long-Range Strike Bomber. Continue reading

FAS Roundup: April 22, 2013

Chinese ICBMs, Q&A on North Korea, new CRS reports and much more.

Better Understanding North Korea: Q&A with Seven East Asian Experts

Researchers from FAS asked seven individuals who are experts in East Asia about the the recent escalation in tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Is North Korea’s recent success with its nuclear test and satellite launch evidence that it is maturing? Is there trepidation in Japan over the perceived threat of North Korea attacking Japan with a nuclear weapon? How does the increase in tension affect South Korean President Park Guen-he’s political agenda?

Part 1

Part 2

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