Contrasting Views on Public Release of CRS Reports

Last year, the Congressional Research Service produced more than 1,000 new reports and more than 2,500 updates of previous reports for the use of Congress, according to the latest CRS annual report. Those figures do not include “approximately 62,000 requests for custom analysis and research” for individual members or Committees. “For all public policy issues, Congress could rely on the authoritative, objective, timely, and confidential support that CRS offered at each stage of the legislative […]

Read More

The Risk of Nuclear Winter

Since the early 1980s, the world has known that a large nuclear war could cause severe global environmental effects, including dramatic cooling of surface temperatures, declines in precipitation, and increased ultraviolet radiation. The term nuclear winter was coined specifically to refer to cooling that result in winter-like temperatures occurring year-round. Regardless of whether such temperatures are reached, there would be severe consequences for humanity. But how severe would those consequences be? And what should the world be doing about it? To the first question, the short answer is nobody knows. The total human impacts of nuclear winter are both uncertain and under-studied. In light of the uncertainty, a risk perspective is warranted that considers the breadth of possible impacts, weighted by their probability. More research on the impacts would be very helpful, but we can meanwhile make some general conclusions. That is enough to start answering the second question, what […]

Read More

Who was Willy Higinbotham?

Editor’s note: The following is a compilation of letters by Dr. William Higinbotham, a nuclear physicist who worked on the first nuclear bomb and served as the first chairman of FAS. His daughter, Julie Schletter, assembled these accounts of Higinbotham’s distinguished career.   Thank you for this opportunity to share with you my father’s firsthand accounts of the inception of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS).  After my father died in November 1994, I inherited a truly intimidating treasure of letters, correspondence and most importantly a nearly complete manuscript (mostly on floppy disks) of his unpublished memoirs.  Over the last couple of decades, I have read widely and deeply, collected resources, transcribed and sorted through this material and am planning to publish a personal history of Willy in the near future. Having studied this man from a more distant perspective, I am sure about certain things.  Willy was at his […]

Read More

The False Hope of Nuclear Forensics? Assessing the Timeliness of Forensics Intelligence

Nuclear forensics is playing an increasing role in the conceptualization of U.S. deterrence strategy, formally integrated into policy in the 2006 National Strategy on Combatting Terrorism (NSCT). This policy linked terrorist groups and state sponsors in terms of retaliation, and called for the development of “rapid identification of the source and perpetrator of an attack,” through the bolstering of attribution via forensics capabilities.1)National Strategy for Combating Terrorism, September 2006, pg. 5: Available at http://www.cfr.org/counterterrorism/national-strategy-combating-terrorism-2006/p11389 2)Ibid. pg. 15. This indirect deterrence between terrorist groups and state sponsors was strengthened during the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit when nuclear forensics expanded into the international realm and was included in the short list of priorities for bolstering state and international capacity. However, while governments and the international community have continued to invest in capabilities and databases for tracking and characterizing the elemental signatures of nuclear material, the question persists as to the ability of nuclear forensics […]

Read More

FAS Roundup: May 11, 2015

How South Korea Could Acquire and Deploy Nuclear Weapons With security concerns in Northeast Asia regarding North Korea’s build up of its nuclear weapons arsenal, there is a possibility that states in the region, including South Korea and Japan, would consider and start to develop nuclear weapons. In a new paper published by the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, FAS President Dr. Charles Ferguson examines the rationale for South Korea to acquire these weapons, and presents […]

Read More

Obama Administration Releases New Nuclear Warhead Numbers

By Hans M. Kristensen In a speech to the Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty in New York earlier today, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry disclosed new information about the size of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. Updated Stockpile Numbers First, Kerry updated the DOD nuclear stockpile history by declaring that the stockpile as of September 2014 included 4,717 nuclear warheads. That is a reduction of 87 warheads since September 2013, when the DOD stockpile […]

Read More

FAS Roundup: April 27, 2015

Russia Nuclear Forces, 2015 Currently, Russia is modernizing its strategic and nonstrategic warheads; it currently has 4,500 nuclear warheads and 1,780 are deployed on missiles and bomber bases. Additionally, there are 700 strategic warheads and 2,000 nonstrategic warheads in storage, and an estimated 3,200 retired but largely intact warheads awaiting dismantlement. In the latest Nuclear Notebook, Hans Kristensen and Robert Norris examine Russia’s nuclear arsenal and strategy. Despite Russian nuclear threats, they are not building […]

Read More

Is China Planning To Build More Missile Submarines?

By Hans M. Kristensen Is China increasing production of nuclear ballistic missile submarines? Over the past few months, several US defense and intelligence officials have stated for the record that China is planning to build significantly more nuclear-powered missile submarines than previously assumed. This would potentially put a bigger portion of China’s nuclear arsenal out to sea, a risky proposition, and further deepen China’s unfortunate status as the only nuclear-armed state party to the nuclear […]

Read More

New Nuclear Notebook: Russian Nuclear Forces 2015

By Hans M. Kristensen Russian nuclear weapons have received a lot of attention lately. Russian officials casually throw around direct or thinly veiled nuclear threats (here, here and here). And U.S. defense hawks rail (here and here) about a Russian nuclear buildup. In reality, rather than building up, Russia is building down but appears to be working to level off the force within the next decade to prevent further unilateral reduction of its strategic nuclear force […]

Read More

FAS Roundup: April 20, 2015

From the Blogs No Fly List: Govt Offers New Redress Procedures: The government will no longer refuse to confirm or deny that persons who are prevented from boarding commercial aircraft have been placed on the “No Fly List,” and such persons will have new opportunities to challenge the denial of boarding, the Department of Justice announced in a court filing. Until now, the Government refused to acknowledge whether or not an individual traveler had been placed on the […]

Read More