US Nuclear Weapons Stockpile Number Declassified: Only 309 Warheads Cut By Obama Administration

The Obama administration has yet to make a visible dent in the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. Click on graph for larger format.

By Hans M. Kristensen

After a transparency hiatus of four years, the Obama administration has declassified the size of its nuclear weapons stockpile: 4,804 warheads as of September 2013.

The new stockpile size is 309 warheads fewer than the 5,113 warheads that the administration in 2010 reported were in the stockpile as of September 2009.

The new number of 4,804 warheads is 154 warheads more than Norris and I have in our latest Nuclear Notebook, in which we estimated a stockpile of 4,650 warheads. That estimate was, in part, based on the statement by Donald Cook, the NNSA administrator for defense programs, who in an email in February 2013 informed us that the reduction had been “approximately 85%” since 1967.

The new State Department announcement also mentions the “85 percent reduction,” although the 4,804 warheads actually correspond to a reduction of approximately 84 percent from the peak of 31,255 warheads in 1967.  We thought 154 additional warheads had been retired, but apparently that will take a little longer.

What the declassification does not include, unfortunately, is a number for how many retired warheads are awaiting dismantlement. That number includes “several thousand” warheads, according to the fact sheet; we estimate approximately 2,500. Continue reading

Who’s Minding the Nukes?

In the wake of recent problems related to Air Force officer morale and test cheating, 60 Minutes examined the U.S. land-based nuclear missile program, one part of the nuclear triad which includes submarines and bombers. Reporter Lesley Stahl visited an underground control room at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming and spoke to the young officers who watch over these weapons which are on high alert. The control centers were built in the 1960s and due to aging infrastructure, officers who oversee the world’s deadliest weapons are working with computers so old they use floppy disks and outdated, faulty phones.

Hans Kristensen, Director of the Nuclear Information Project, worked with the production team of this piece to provide factual information on the status of the U.S. ICBM force. In 2013, FAS and the Natural Resources Defense Council examined the status of U.S. and Russian nuclear alert forces and provided recommendations to reduce the alert levels of nuclear forces; the report is available here.

60 Minutes piece (video and transcript) available here. 

ODNI Seeks to Obscure CIA Role in Human Intelligence

Updated below

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence is attempting to conceal unclassified information about the structure and function of U.S. intelligence agencies, including the leading role of the Central Intelligence Agency in collecting human intelligence.

Last month, ODNI issued a heavily redacted version of its Intelligence Community Directive 304 on “Human Intelligence.” The redacted document was produced in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from Robert Sesek, and posted on ScribD.

The new redactions come as a surprise because most of the censored text had already been published by ODNI itself in an earlier iteration of the same unclassified Directive from 2008. That document has since been removed from the ODNI website but it is preserved on the FAS website here.

Meanwhile, the current version of the Directive — without any redactions — is also available in the public domain, despite the attempt to suppress it. (Thanks to Jeffrey Richelson for the pointer.)

A comparison of the redacted and unredacted versions shows that ODNI is now seeking to withhold the fact that the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency functions as the National HUMINT Manager, among other things.

ODNI also censored the statement that the Central Intelligence Agency “Collects, analyzes, produces, and disseminates foreign intelligence and counterintelligence, including information obtained through clandestine means.”

Among intelligence agencies, in my experience, ODNI is usually the most responsive to Freedom of Information Act requests, while CIA leads the competition to be the least helpful and cooperative. In this case, it appears that CIA’s pattern of defiance overcame ODNI’s better judgment.

Update, May 8, 2014: The redactions to ICD 304 were a mistake, an ODNI official said. The full, unredacted text of the Directive was posted May 6 on the ODNI website.

Assessing the Effect of Sanctions on Iran, and More from CRS

Noteworthy new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service that Congress has withheld from online public distribution include the following.

Achievements of and Outlook for Sanctions on Iran, April 22, 2014

The Target Data Breach: Frequently Asked Questions, April 22, 2014

The Republic of the Philippines and U.S. Interests–2014, April 23, 2014

Malaysia: Background and U.S. Relations, April 21, 2014

Moldova: Background and U.S. Policy, April 23, 2014

Trade Promotion Authority (TPA): Frequently Asked Questions, April 21, 2014

Immigration Detainers: Legal Issues, April 24, 2014

Judicial Activity Concerning Enemy Combatant Detainees: Major Court Rulings, April 21, 2014


FAS Roundup: April 28, 2014

B61 nuclear bomb family, DNI bans employees from talking to journalists, China SSBNs and more.

The B61 Nuclear Bomb Family

Hans Kristensen and Robert Norris take a look at the B61 nuclear bomb family, and the half a dozen different types of B61 nuclear weapons that were derived from the original design in a new article published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The Obama administration is about to give birth to the newest member of the B61 family: the B61-12; this golden baby is estimated to cost about $10 billion.

The new B61-12 will be capable of holding at risk the same targets as current gravity bombs in the US stockpile (apparently even those currently covered by the B61-11 nuclear earth-penetrator that the Air Force no longer needs), but it will able to do so more effectively and with less yield (thus less collateral damage and radioactive fallout) that the existing bombs.

In Europe, the effect of the B61-12 will be even more profound because its increased accuracy essentially will add high-yield targeting capability to NATO’s non-strategic arsenal. When mated with the stealthy F-35A fighter-bomber planned for Europe in the mid-2020s, the B61-12 will represent a considerable enhancement of NATO’s nuclear posture in Europe.

Blog post here.

Full article here. 

Continue reading

China SSBN Fleet Getting Ready – But For What?

jin-drydock_tnBy Hans M. Kristensen

China’s emerging fleet of 3-4 new Jin-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines is getting ready to deploy on deterrent patrols, “probably before the end of 2014,” according to U.S. Pacific Command.

A new satellite image taken in October 2013 (above) shows a Jin SSBN in dry dock at the Bohai shipyard in Huludao. Two of the submarine’s 12 missile tubes are open. It is unclear if the submarine in the picture is the fourth boat or one of the first three Jin SSBNs that has returned to dry dock for repairs or maintenance.

The U.S. intelligence community predicts that “up to five [Jin-class (Type 094) SSBNs] may enter service before China proceeds to its generation SSBN (Type 096) over the next decade,” an indication that the noisy Jin-class design might already be seen as outdated.

This and numerous other commercial satellite images (see below) show how China over the past decade has built an infrastructure of naval facilities to service the new SSBN fleet. This includes upgrades at naval bases, submarine hull demagnetization facilities, underground facilities and high-bay buildings for missile storage and handling, and covered tunnels and railways to conceal the activities from prying eyes in the sky.

Apart from how many Jin SSBNs China will build, the big question is whether the Chinese government will choose to operate them the way Western nuclear-armed states have operated their SSBNs for decades – deployed continuously at sea with nuclear warheads on the ballistic missiles – or continue China’s long-held policy of not deploying nuclear weapons outside Chinese territory but keeping them in central storage for deployment in a crisis.  Continue reading

The B61 Family of Nuclear Bombs


By Hans M. Kristensen

Robert Norris and I have made an update to our Nuclear Notebook on the B61 nuclear bomb family. Kind of an arcane title but that cozy-feeling title is what the nuclear weapon designers call that half a dozen different types of B61 nuclear weapons that were derived from the original design.

And it’s kind of timely, because the Obama administration is about to give birth to the newest member of the B61 family: the B61-12. And this is a real golden baby estimated at about $10 billion.  Continue reading

FAS Roundup: April 21, 2014

B61-12 nuclear bomb design features, crisis in Ukraine and more.

From the Blogs

History of 1953 CIA Covert Action in Iran to be Published: In 1989, the Department of State published a notorious volume that purported to document U.S. foreign policy towards Iran in the early Eisenhower Administration. The volume triggered an avalanche of criticism because it omitted any mention of the CIA’s role in a 1953 covert action that helped overthrow the government of Iran. Later this year, the State Department will publish a supplemental volume of declassified documents in its Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series that is expected to fill in the missing pieces of the documentary record of the 1953 coup against the Mossadeq government of Iran.

B61-12 Nuclear Bomb Design Features: Last week, additional design details of the new B61-12 guided standoff nuclear bomb emerged with the publication of new images. The B61-12 will have a new guided tail kit to improve accuracy and will give the bomber a limited standoff capability. The NNSA budget request for FY2015 includes $643 million for development of the B61-12, which is expected to cost $8 billion to $10 billion to develop and produce. An estimated 480 B61-12 bombs are planned, with first production unit in 2020.

Continue reading

Intelligence Directive Bars Unauthorized Contacts with News Media

The Director of National Intelligence has forbidden most intelligence community employees from discussing “intelligence-related information” with a reporter unless they have specific authorization to do so, according to an Intelligence Community Directive that was issued last month.

“IC employees… must obtain authorization for contacts with the media” on intelligence-related matters, and “must also report… unplanned or unintentional contact with the media on covered matters,” the Directive stated.

The new Directive reflects — and escalates — tensions between the government and the press over leaks of classified information. It is intended “to mitigate risks of unauthorized disclosures of intelligence-related matters that may result from such contacts.” See Intelligence Community Directive 119, Media Contacts, March 20, 2014.

Significantly, however, the new prohibition does not distinguish between classified and unclassified intelligence information. The “covered matters” that require prior authorization before an employee may discuss them with a reporter extend to any topic that is “related” to intelligence, irrespective of its classification status.

The Directive prohibits unauthorized “contact with the media about intelligence-related information, including intelligence sources, methods, activities, and judgments (hereafter, ‘covered matters’).”

If an employee’s contact with the media involves an unauthorized disclosure of classified information, then he could be subject to criminal prosecution. But even if classified information were not communicated to the reporter, the Directive indicates, violation of the new policy “at a minimum… will be handled in the same manner as a security violation.”

“IC employees who are found to be in violation of this IC policy may be subject to administrative actions that may include revocation of security clearance or termination of employment,” the Directive states.

The new Directive creates an anomalous situation in which routine interactions that are permissible between an intelligence employee and an ordinary member of the public are now to be prohibited if that member of the public qualifies as “media.”

So under most circumstances, an intelligence community employee is at liberty to discuss unclassified “intelligence-related information” with his or her next-door neighbor. But if the neighbor happened to be a member of the media, then the contact would be prohibited altogether without prior authorization.

Meanwhile, the Directive defines membership in “the media” expansively. It is not necessary to be a credentialed reporter for an established news organization. It is sufficient to be “any person… engaged in the collection, production, or dissemination to the public of information in any form related to topics of national security….”

Moreover, even approved contacts are to be formally documented for future review. “IC elements should ensure their records on media contacts are sufficient to support executive and legislative branch oversight requirements.”

Essentially, the Directive seeks to ensure that the only contacts that occur between intelligence community employees and the press are those that have been approved in advance. Henceforward, the only news about intelligence is to be authorized news.

The IC policy bears some resemblance to a proposal that was advanced by the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2012, and then withdrawn in response to widespread criticism.

The Senate’s initial version of the FY2012 intelligence authorization act (Section 506) would have required that only specifically designated officials would be permitted to provide “background or off-the-record information regarding intelligence activities to the media.”

That provision would “lead to a less-informed debate on national security issues, by prohibiting nearly all intelligence agency employees from providing briefings to the press, unless those employees give their names and provide the briefing on the record,” said Sen. Ron Wyden at the time.

“I haven’t seen any evidence that prohibiting the intelligence agencies from providing these briefings would benefit national security in any way, so I see no reason to limit the flow of information in this manner,” he said then.

Likewise, there is no particular reason to think that routine interactions between intelligence agency employees and reporters — especially on unclassified matters — pose any kind of threat to national security, or that limiting them will offer any benefit. However, the new policy is likely to be effective in reducing the quality, independence and critical content of intelligence-related information that is available to the press and the public.

“I think we are going to make headway over the next few weeks on media leaks,” said outgoing National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander at an event on March 4. At the time, it was unclear what he was referring to, but he might have had the March 20 Intelligence Community Directive 119 in mind.

Iran-North Korea-Syria Cooperation, and More from CRS

The executive branch today provides less unclassified information to Congress concerning proliferation of weapons mass destruction than it used to do, a new report from the Congressional Research Service observes.

“The number of unclassified reports to Congress on WMD-related issues has decreased considerably in recent years,” the report said. “Congress may wish to consider requiring additional reporting from the executive branch on WMD proliferation.” That suggestion appeared in a new CRS report entitled Iran-North Korea-Syria Ballistic Missile and Nuclear Cooperation, published April 16, 2014.

Other new and newly updated CRS reports that Congress has withheld from online public distribution include the following.

NATO: Response to the Crisis in Ukraine and Security Concerns in Central and Eastern Europe, April 16, 2014

Obstruction of Justice: an Overview of Some of the Federal Statutes that Prohibit Interference with Judicial, Executive, or Legislative Activities, April 17, 2014

Same-Sex Marriage: A Legal Background After United States v. Windsor, April 17, 2014

Executive Orders: Issuance, Modification, and Revocation, April 16, 2014

Returning to Full Employment: What Do the Indicators Tell Us?, April 15, 2014

Chemical Facility Security: Issues and Options for the 113th Congress, April 16, 2014

Social Media in the House of Representatives: Frequently Asked Questions, April 16, 2014

Declarations of War and Authorizations for the Use of Military Force: Historical Background and Legal Implications, April 18, 2014