FAS Engagement With China

“Supporting and expanding on Frank von Hippel’s cogent and exciting narrative of some of the great accomplishments of the Federation of American Scientists, I detail below two endeavors, at least one of which may have had far-reaching impact. The first was the initiative of FAS Director (and later President) Jeremy J. Stone who, in 1971, wrote the president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences to introduce FAS and to begin some kind of dialogue…”

Read on: View the full version of the article here.

Nuclear Legacies: Public Understanding and FAS

“In late 1945, a group of scientists who had been involved with the Manhattan Project felt it was their civic duty to help inform the public and political leaders of both the potential benefits and dangers of nuclear energy. To facilitate this important work, they established the Federation of Atomic Scientists, which soon became the Federation of American Scientists. Over the years, FAS has evolved into a model non-governmental organization that plays a leading role in providing scientifically-sound, non-partisan analyses of nuclear and broader security issues. I have long admired FAS and was therefore deeply honored when President Charles D. Ferguson asked if I would be interested in preparing a brief essay for a special edition of the PIR that would commemorate the organization’s 70th anniversary. A period of mild apprehension then followed: What could I say on the relationship between science and society that had not been said a thousand times before?

Read on: View the full version of the article here.

More From FAS: Highlights and Achievements Throughout Recent Months


After finishing up his second MacArthur Foundation-sponsored research project on issues related to verifying a nuclear agreement with Iran, Christopher Bidwell, FAS Senior Fellow for Nonproliferation Law and Policy, and his team are now focused on a third project that will look at the increased role played by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in verifying compliance and noncompliance with nuclear nonproliferation obligations. Special attention will be paid to how the privacy rights of entities and individuals whose data are used to make a determination can be protected.


In a letter dated March 26, 2016, 35 Nobel Laureates from physics, chemistry, and medicine urged national leaders attending President Obama’s fourth and final Nuclear Security Summit on March 31st to reduce the risk of nuclear or radiological terrorism to near-zero in three sectors. The signees stressed that because terrorist threats “cross national boundaries,” they “require the concerted work of all nations to prevent… terrorist acts from happening.” They also “urge” world leaders “to devote the necessary resources to make further substantial progress in the coming years to real risk reduction in preventing nuclear and radiological terrorism.” The letter, written by Dr. Burton Richter, a Nobel Laureate in physics and the Paul Pigott Professor in the Physical Sciences at Stanford University and Director Emeritus, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, and Dr. Charles D. Ferguson, President of FAS, and list of signees is available online at: https://fas.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/nobel-laureates-letter-to-nss-march-20162.pdf.


To date, Japan’s peaceful nuclear energy use has taken the form of a nuclear fuel recycling policy that reprocesses spent fuel and effectively utilizes the plutonium retrieved in light water reactors (LWRs) and fast reactors (FRs). With the aim to complete recycling domestically, Japan has introduced key technology from abroad and has further developed its own technology and industry. However, Japan presently seems to have issues regarding its recycling policy and plutonium management and, because of recent increasing risks of terrorism and nuclear proliferation in the world, the international community seeks much more secure use of nuclear energy. Yusei Nagata, an FAS Research Fellow from MEXT, Japan, analyzes U.S. experts’ opinions and concerns about Japan’s problem and considers what Japan can (and should) do to solve it.. A full version of the report can be accessed online at: https://fas.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/japannukefuelrecyling_final.pdf.


In this study, Christopher Bidwell and Dr. Randall Murch explore the use of microbial forensics as a tool for creating a common base line for understanding biologically-triggered phenomena, as well as one that can promote mutual cooperation in addressing these phenomena. A particular focus is given to the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region, as it has been forced to deal with multiple instances of both naturally-occurring and man-made biological threats over the last 10 years. Although the institution of a microbial forensics capability in the MENA region (however robust) is still several years away, establishing credibility of the results offered by microbial forensic analysis performed by western states and/or made today in workshops and training have the ability to prepare the policy landscape for the day in which the source of a bio attack, either man-made or from nature, needs to be accurately attributed. A full version of the report can be accessed online at: http://fas.org/pub-reports/microbial-forensics-middle-east-north-africa/.


The threat from the manufacture, proliferation, and use of biological weapons (BW) is a high priority concern for the U.S. Government. As reflected in U.S. Government policy statements and budget allocations, deterrence through attribution (“determining who is responsible and culpable”) is the primary policy tool for dealing with these threats. According to those policy statements, one of the foundational elements of an attribution determination is the use of forensic science techniques, namely microbial forensics. In this report, Christopher Bidwell and Kishan Bhatt, an FAS summer research intern and undergraduate student studying public policy and global health at Princeton University, look beyond the science aspect of forensics and examine how the legal, policy, law enforcement, medical response, business, and media communities interact in a bioweapon’s attribution environment. The report further examines how scientifically based conclusions require credibility in these communities in order to have relevance in the decision making process about how to handle threats. The report can be found online at: http://fas.org/pub-reports/biological-weapons-and-forensic-science/.


From the start of the development of the new $10 billion B61-12 guided nuclear bomb, FAS has been at the forefront of providing the public with factual information about the status and capabilities of the program. In November 2015, Hans Kristensen, Director of the FAS Nuclear Information Project, was featured in a PBS Newshour program about the weapon where former STRATCOM commander and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General James Cartwright confirmed FAS assessments that the increased accuracy of the B61-12 could make it a more usable weapon [http://fas.org/blogs/security/2015/11/b61-12_cartwright/]. In early 2016, FAS and NRDC used a government video of a B61-12 test drop to analyze the bomb’s increased accuracy and earth-penetrating capability [http://fas.org/blogs/security/2016/01/b61-12_earth-penetration/]. The analysis was used in a New York Times feature article, “As U.S. Modernizes Nuclear Weapons, ‘Smaller’ Leaves Some Uneasy.”[1]


The official entry of the term “climate change” in the latest revision of the Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms reflects a growing awareness of the actual and potential impacts of climate change on military operations. Steven Aftergood, Director of the FAS Project on Government Secrecy, reported in Secrecy News that according to a Pentagon directive issued in January 2016, “The DoD must be able to adapt current and future operations to address the impacts of climate change in order to maintain an effective and efficient U.S. military.” Among other things, the new directive requires the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and the Director of National Intelligence to coordinate on “risks, potential impacts, considerations, vulnerabilities, and effects [on defense intelligence programs] of altered operating environments related to climate change and environmental monitoring.” In a report to Congress last year, the DoD said that “The Department of Defense sees climate change as a present security threat, not strictly a long-term risk.” Read Aftergood’s analysis in full here: http://fas.org/blogs/secrecy/2016/01/dod-climate/.


The FAS Nuclear Information Project provided the public with important analysis about the mission and capabilities of the new nuclear air-launched cruise missile the Air Force is developing: the Long-Range Standoff missile (LRSO). The analysis was the first to highlight an overview of the mission government officials say the missile is needed for, a mission that includes a worrisome nuclear war-fighting role [http://fas.org/blogs/security/2015/10/lrso-mission/]. Hans Kristensen was also quick to point out that a new long-range conventional air-launched cruise missile being deployed by the Air Force could do much of the LRSO mission and he recommended canceling the LRSO, a measure which would save $20-$30 billion [http://fas.org/blogs/security/2015/12/lrso-jassm/].


FAS research on the status and modernization of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons was covered extensively in news media reports in connection with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Washington in October 2015. The FAS Nuclear Notebook, co-authored by Hans Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, FAS Senior Fellow for Nuclear Policy, published by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, estimated that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal has grown by 20 weapons since 2011 to 130 warheads presently, including new tactical nuclear weapons. The research was used by the New York Times in a background article, “U.S. Set to Sell Fighter Jets to Pakistan, Balancing Pressure on Nawaz Sharif,”[2] and an editorial, “The Pakistan Nuclear Nightmare,”[3] as well as by the Associated Press and Indian and Pakistani news media. The Nuclear Notebook can be accessed at: https://fas.org/blogs/security/2015/10/pakistan-notebook/.


Transparency is not ordinarily a trait that one associates with intelligence agencies. But the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has released a transparency implementation plan that establishes guidelines for increasing public disclosure of information by and about U.S. intelligence. Based on a set of principles on transparency that were published earlier last year, the plan prioritizes the objectives of transparency and describes potential initiatives that could be undertaken. Thus, the plan aims “to provide more information about the IC’s governance framework; to provide more information about the IC’s mission and activities; to encourage public engagement [by intelligence agencies in social media and other venues]; and to institutionalize transparency policies and procedures.” FAS Secrecy News reports that the plan neither includes any specific commitments nor sets any deadlines for action. Moreover, it is naturally rooted in self-interest. Its purpose is explicitly “to earn and retain public trust” of U.S. intelligence agencies. Nonetheless, it has the potential to provide new grounds for challenging unnecessary secrecy and to advance a corresponding “cultural reform” in the intelligence community. Read Aftergood’s analysis here: http://fas.org/blogs/secrecy/2015/10/transparency-plan/.


The number of people in the Department of Defense holding security clearances for access to classified information declined by 100,000 in the first six months of FY2015, recounts FAS Secrecy News. The latest available data show 3.8 million DoD employees and contractors with security clearances, down from 3.9 million earlier in 2015, and a steep 17.4 percent drop from 4.6 million two years ago. Furthermore, only 2.2 million of the 3.8 million cleared DoD personnel are actually “in access,” meaning that they have current access to classified information. Thus, further significant reductions in clearances would seem to be readily achievable by shedding those who are not currently “in access.” The total number of security-cleared persons government-wide is roughly 0.5 million higher than the number of DoD clearances, putting it at around 4.3 million, down from 5.1 million in 2013. The new DoD security clearance numbers were presented in the latest quarterly report on Insider Threat and Security Clearance Reform, FY2015 Quarter 3, September 2015. The reduction in security clearances is not simply a reflection of programmatic or budgetary changes – rather, it has been defined as a policy goal in its own right. A bloated security bureaucracy is harder to manage, more expensive, and more susceptible to catastrophic security failures than a properly streamlined system would be. The full post is available to view here: http://fas.org/blogs/secrecy/2015/10/clearances-down/.



[1] Broad, William J., and David E. Sanger. “As U.S. Modernizes Nuclear Weapons, ‘Smaller’ Leaves Some Uneasy.” New York Times. January 11, 2016. Web. <http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/12/science/as-us-modernizes-nuclear-weapons-smaller-leaves-some-uneasy.html>.

[2] Rosenberg, Matthew and David E. Sanger. “U.S. Set to Sell Fighter Jets to Pakistan, Balancing Pressure on Nawaz Sharif.” New York Times. October 21, 2015. Web. <http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/22/world/asia/white-house-set-to-sell-new-fighter-jets-to-pakistan-in-bid-to-bolster-partnership.html>.

[3] The Editorial Board. “The Pakistan Nuclear Nightmare.” New York Times. November 7, 2015. Web.

FAS Nuclear Notebook Published: Russian Nuclear Forces, 2016

borei-pacificBy Hans M. Kristensen

In our latest FAS Nuclear Notebook published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Norris and I take the pulse on Russia’s nuclear arsenal, reviewing its strategic modernization programs and the status of its non-strategic nuclear forces.

Despite what you might read in the news media and on various web sites, the Russian modernization is not a “buildup” but a transition from Soviet-era nuclear weapons to newer and more reliable types on a less-than-one-for-one basis.

As a result, the Russian nuclear arsenal will likely continue to decline over the next decade – with or without a new arms control agreement. But the trend is that the rate of decline is slowing and Russian strategic nuclear forces may be leveling out around 500 launchers with some 2,400 warheads.

Because Russia has several hundred strategic launchers fewer than the United States, the Russian modernization program emphasizes deployment of multiple warheads on ballistic missiles to compensate for the disparity and maintain rough parity in overall warhead numbers. Before 2010, no Russian mobile launcher carried multiple warheads; by 2022, nearly all will.

As a result, Russia currently has more nuclear warheads deployed on its strategic missiles than the United States. But not by many and Russia is expected to meet the limit set by the New START treaty by 2018.

Russia to some extent also uses its non-strategic nuclear weapons to keep up. But non-strategic nuclear forces have unique roles that appear to be intended to compensate for Russia’s inferior conventional forces, which – despite important modernization such as long-range conventional missiles – are predominantly made up of Soviet-era equipment or upgraded Soviet-era equipment.

Russia’s non-strategic nuclear forces are currently the subject of much interest in NATO because of concern that Russian military strategy has been lowering the threshold for when nuclear weapons could potentially be used. Russia has also been increasing operations and exercises with nuclear-capable forces, a trend that can also be seen in NATO and U.S. military posturing.

More information:

FAS Nuclear Notebook: Russian nuclear forces, 2016
Who’s Got What: Status of World Nuclear Forces

The research for this publication was made possible by a grant from the New Land Foundation, and Ploughshares Fund. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.

Nuclear Transparency and the Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan

ssmp2016By Hans M. Kristensen

I was reading through the latest Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan from the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and wondering what I should pick to critique the Obama administration’s nuclear policy.

After all, there are plenty of issues that deserve to be addressed, including:

– Why NNSA continues to overspend and over-commit and create a spending bow wave in 2021-2026 in excess of the President’s budget in exactly the same time period that excessive Air Force and Navy modernization programs are expected to put the greatest pressure on defense spending?

– Why a smaller and smaller nuclear weapons stockpile with fewer warhead types appears to be getting more and more expensive to maintain?

– Why each warhead life-extension program is getting ever more ambitious and expensive with no apparent end in sight?

– And why a policy of reductions, no new nuclear weapons, no pursuit of new military missions or new capabilities for nuclear weapons, restraint, a pledge to “put an end to Cold War thinking,” and the goal of disarmament, instead became a blueprint for nuclear overreach with record funding, across-the-board modernizations, unprecedented warhead modifications, increasing weapons accuracy and effectiveness, reaffirmation of a Triad and non-strategic nuclear weapons, continuation of counterforce strategy, reaffirmation of the importance and salience of nuclear weapons, and an open-ended commitment to retain nuclear weapons further into the future than they have existed so far?

What About The Other Nuclear-Armed States?

Despite the contradictions and flaws of the administration’s nuclear policy, however, imagine if the other nuclear-armed states also published summaries of their nuclear weapons plans. Some do disclose a little, but they could do much more. For others, however, the thought of disclosing any information about the size and composition of their nuclear arsenal seems so alien that it is almost inconceivable.

Yet that is actually one of the reasons why it is necessary to continue to work for greater (or sufficient) transparency in nuclear forces. Some nuclear-armed states believe their security depends on complete or near-compete nuclear secrecy. And, of course, some nuclear information must be protected from disclosure. But the problem with excessive secrecy is that it tends to fuel uncertainty, rumors, suspicion, exaggerations, mistrust, and worst-case assumptions in other nuclear-armed states – reactions that cause them to shape their own nuclear forces and strategies in ways that undermine security for all.

Nuclear-armed states must find a balance between legitimate secrecy and transparency. This can take a long time and it may not necessarily be the same from country to country. The United States also used to keep much more nuclear information secret and there are many institutions that will always resist public access. But maximum responsible disclosure, it turns out, is not only necessary for a healthy public debate about nuclear policy, it is also necessary to communicate to allies and adversaries what that policy is about – and, equally important, to dispel rumors and misunderstandings about what the policy is not.

Nuclear transparency is not just about pleasing the arms controllers – it is important for national security.

So here are some thoughts about what other nuclear-armed states should (or could) disclose about their nuclear arsenals – not to disclose everything but to improve communication about the role of nuclear weapons and avoid misunderstandings and counterproductive surprises: Continue reading

DOE Requests Increase in Nuclear Weapons Budget

The Department of Energy budget request for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) would again increase spending on nuclear weapons in Fiscal Year 2017.

“The budget request for FY2017 seeks $9,243.1 million for Weapons Activities within a total budget of $12,884 million for NNSA,” according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service. “This represents an increase of approximately 4.4% in the Weapons Activities Account over FY2016.”

“The Obama Administration has requested increased funding for the nuclear weapons complex in each of its annual budgets,” CRS noted. But the latest request still exceeds expectations.

In particular, “the FY2017 budget request and projections for subsequent years now exceed the amount predicted in [a] 2010 report [to Congress],” CRS said.

The details are presented in Energy and Water Development: FY2017 Appropriations for Nuclear Weapons Activities, April 1, 2016.

Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Supreme Court Vacancies: Frequently Asked Questions, March 31, 2016

Supreme Court Appointment Process: President’s Selection of a Nominee, updated April 1, 2016

Medicare Primer, updated March 31, 2016

Iran, Gulf Security, and U.S. Policy, updated March 30, 2016

Mexico: Background and U.S. Relations, updated March 30, 2016

China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities — Background and Issues for Congress, updated March 31, 2016

Cybersecurity: Legislation, Hearings, and Executive Branch Documents, updated March 30, 2016

New START Data Shows Russian Increases and US Decreases

By Hans M. Kristensen

[Updated April 3, 2016] Russia continues to increase the number of strategic warheads it deploys on its ballistic missiles counted under the New START Treaty, according to the latest aggregate data released by the US State Department.

The data shows that Russia now has almost 200 strategic warheads more deployed than when the New START treaty entered into force in 2011. Compared with the previous count in September 2015, Russia added 87 warheads, and will have to offload 185 warheads before the treaty enters into effect in 2018.

The United States, in contrast, has continued to decrease its deployed warheads and the data shows that the United States currently is counted with 1,481 deployed strategic warheads – 69 warheads below the treaty limit.

The Russian increase is probably mainly caused by the addition of the third Borei-class ballistic missile submarine to the fleet. Other fluctuations in forces affect the count as well. But Russia is nonetheless expected to reach the treaty limit by 2018.


The Russian increase of aggregate warhead numbers is not because of a “build-up” of its strategic forces, as the Washington Times recently reported, or because Russia is “doubling their warhead output,” as an unnamed US official told the paper. Instead, the temporary increase in counted warheads is caused by fluctuations is the force level caused by Russia’s modernization program that is retiring Soviet-era weapons and replacing some of them with new types.

Strategic Launchers

The aggregate data also shows that Russia is now counted as deploying exactly the same number of strategic launchers as when the New START Treaty entered into force in 2011: 521.

But Russia has far fewer deployed strategic launchers than the United States (a difference of 220 launchers) and has been well below the treaty limit since before the treaty was signed. The United States still has to dismantle 41 launchers to reach the treaty limit of 700 deployed strategic launchers.

The United States is counted as having 21 launchers fewer than in September 2015. That reduction involves emptying of some of the ICBM silos (they plan to empty 50) and denuclearizing a few excess B-52 bombers. The navy has also started reducing launchers on each Trident submarine from 24 missile tubes to 20 tubes. Overall, the United States has reduced its strategic launchers by 141 since 2011, until now mainly by eliminating so-called “phantom” launchers – that is, aircraft that were not actually used for nuclear missions anymore but had equipment onboard that made them accountable.

Again, the United States had many more launchers than Russia when the treaty was signed so it has to reduce more than Russia.

New START Counts Only Fraction of Arsenals

Overall, the New START numbers only count a fraction of the total nuclear warheads that Russia and the United States have in their arsenals. The treaty does not count weapons at bomber bases or central storage, additional ICBM and submarine warheads in storage, or non-strategic nuclear warheads.

Our latest count is that Russia has about 7,300 warheads, of which nearly 4,500 are for strategic and tactical forces. The United States has about 6,970 warheads, of which 4,670 are for strategic and tactical forces.

See here for our latest estimates: https://fas.org/issues/nuclear-weapons/status-world-nuclear-forces/

See analysis of previous New START data: https://fas.org/blogs/security/2015/10/newstart2015-2/

The research for this publication was made possible by a grant from the New Land Foundation, and Ploughshares Fund. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.

Questions About The Nuclear Cruise Missile Mission


During a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on March 16, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the ranking member of the committee, said that U.S. Strategic Command had failed to convince her that the United States needs to develop a new nuclear air-launched cruise missile; the LRSO (Long-Range Standoff missile).

“I recently met with Admiral Haney, the head of Strategic Command regarding the new nuclear cruise missile and its refurbished warhead. I came away unconvinced of the need for this weapon. The so-called improvements to this weapon seemed to be designed candidly to make it more usable, to help us fight and win a limited nuclear war. I find that a shocking concept. I think this is really unthinkable, especially when we hold conventional weapons superiority, which can meet adversaries’ efforts to escalate a conflict.”

Feinstein made her statement only a few hours after Air Force Secretary Deborah James had told the House Armed Services Committee on the other side of the Capitol that the LRSO will be capable of “destroying otherwise inaccessible targets in any zone of conflict.”

Lets ignore for a moment that the justification used for most nuclear and advanced conventional weapons also is to destroy otherwise inaccessible targets, what are actually the unique LRSO targets? In theory the missile could be used against anything that is within range but that is not good enough to justify spending $20-$30 billion.


So Air Force officials have portrayed the LRSO as a unique weapon that can get in where nothing else can. The mission they describe sounds very much like the role tactical nuclear weapons played during the Cold War: “I can make holes and gaps” in air defenses, then Air Force Global Strike Command commander Lieutenant General Stephen Wilson explained in 2014, “to allow a penetrating bomber to get in.”

And last week, shortly before Admiral Haney failed to convince Sen. Feinstein, EUCOM commander General Philip Breedlove added more details about what they want to use the nuclear LRSO to blow up:

“One of the biggest keys to being able to break anti-access area denial [A2AD] is the ability to penetrate the air defenses so that we can get close to not only destroy the air defenses but to destroy the coastal defense cruise missiles and the land attack missiles which are the three elements of an A2AD environment. One of the primary and very important tools to busting that A2AD environment is a fifth generation ability to penetrate. In the LRSB you will have a platform and weapons that can penetrate.” (Emphasis added.)

Those A2/AD targets would include Russian S-400 air-defense, Russian Bastion-P coastal defense, and Chinese DF-10A land-attack missile launchers (see images).

Judging from Sen. Feinstein’s conclusion that the LRSO seems “designed candidly to make it more usable, to help us fight and win a limited nuclear war,” Admiral Haney probably described similar LRSO targets as Lt. Gen. Wilson and Gen. Breedlove.

After hearing these “shocking” descriptions of the LRSO’s warfighting mission, Senator Feinstein asked NNSA’s Gen. Klotz if he could do a better job in persuading her about the need for the new nuclear cruise missile:

Sen. Feinstein: “So maybe you can succeed where Admiral Haney did not. Let me ask you this question: Why do we need a new nuclear cruise missile?”

Gen. Klotz: “My sense at the time, and it still is the case, is that the existing cruise missile, the air-launched cruise missile, is getting rather long in the tooth with the issues that are associated with an aging weapon system. It was first deployed in 1982. And therefore it is well past it service life. In the meantime, as you know from your work on the intelligence committee, there has been an increase in the sophistication and capabilities as well as proliferation of sophisticated air- and missile-defenses around the world. Therefore the ability of the cruise missile to pose the deterrent capability, the capability that is necessary to deter, is under question. Therefore, just based on the ageing and the changing nature of the threat we need to replace a system we’ve had, again, since the early 1980s with an updated variant….I guess I didn’t convince you any more than the Admiral did.”

Sen. Feinstein: “No you didn’t convince me. Because this just ratchets up warfare and ratchets up deaths. Even if you go to a low kiloton of six or seven it is a huge weapon. And I thought there was a certain morality that we should have with respect to these weapons. If it’s really mutual deterrence, I don’t see how this does anything other…it’s like the drone. The drone has been invented. It’s been armed. Now every county wants one. So they get more and more sophisticated. To do this with nuclear weapons, I think, is awful.”

Conclusion and Recommendations

Senator Feinstein has raised some important questions about the scope of nuclear strategy. How useful should nuclear weapons be and for what type of scenarios?

Proponents of the LRSO do not seem to question (or discuss) the implications of developing a nuclear cruise missile intended for shooting holes in air- and coastal-defense systems. Their mindset seems to be that anything that can be used to “bust the A2AD environment” – even a nuclear weapon – must be good for deterrence and therefore also for security and stability.

While a decision to authorize use of nuclear weapons would be difficult for any president, the planning for the potential use does not seem to be nearly as constrained. Indeed, the nuclear LRSO anti-A2AD mission that defense officials describe raises some serious questions about how soon in a conflict nuclear weapons might be used.

Since A2AD systems would likely be some of the first targets to be attacked in a war, a nuclear LRSO anti-A2AD mission appears to move nuclear use to the forefront of a conflict instead of keeping nuclear weapons in the background as a last resort where they belong.

And the nuclear LRSO anti-A2AD mission sounds eerily similar to the outrageous threats that Russian officials have made over the past several years to use nuclear weapons against NATO missile defense systems – threats that NATO and US officials have condemned. Of course, they don’t brandish the nuclear LRSO anti-A2AD mission as a threat – they call it deterrence and reassurance.

Nor do LRSO proponents seem to ask questions about redundancy and which types of weapons are most useful or needed for the anti-A2AD mission. The A2AD targets that the military officials describe are not “otherwise inaccessible targets,” as suggested by Secretary James, but are already being held at risk with conventional cruise missiles such as the Air Force’s JASSM-ER (extended range Joint Air-to-Surface Missile) and the navy’s Tactical Tomahawk, as well as with other nuclear weapons. The Air Force doesn’t have endless resources but must prioritize weapon systems.

Gen. Klotz defended the LRSO as if it were a choice between having a nuclear deterrent or not. But, of course, even without a nuclear LRSO, US stealth bombers will still be armed with the new B61-12 guided nuclear bomb and the US nuclear deterrent will still include land- and sea-based long-range ballistic missiles as well as F-35A stealthy fighter-bombers also armed with the B61-12.

The White House needs to rein in the nuclear warfighters and strategists to ensure that US nuclear strategy and modernization plans are better in tune with US policy to “reduce the role of nuclear weapons in deterring non-nuclear attacks” and enable non-nuclear weapons to “take on a greater share of the deterrence burden.” Canceling the nuclear LRSO would be a good start.

The research for this publication was made possible by a grant from the New Land Foundation, and Ploughshares Fund. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the authors.

FAS Nuclear Notebook Published: US Nuclear Forces, 2016


By Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris

Our latest FAS Nuclear Notebook has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. This issue provides a new overview of the status and plans for US nuclear forces and updates our estimate of the number of nuclear weapons in the stockpile and deployed force.

The next issue scheduled for May will be on Russian nuclear forces.

For an update on worldwide nuclear weapons inventories, see our World Nuclear Forces web page.

The research for this publication was made possible by a grant from the New Land Foundation, and Ploughshares Fund. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the authors.

New B-21 Bomber or B-2 Mod 1?

B-21disclosureBy Hans M. Kristensen

The US Air Force has published the first official image of the next-generation bomber, formerly known as LRS-B (Long Range Strike Bomber). Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James revealed the image during her talk to the 2016 Air Warfare Symposium and gave it its official designation: B-21.

The “21” refers to the 21st Century and is intended to signal cutting-edge technology and capability. (Last time the Pentagon named a major defense program after the 21st Century was the SSN-21, the Navy’s Seawolf-class attack submarine. That program was canceled after only three boats.)

But just how different the B-21 is remains to be seen. The B-21 image shows the new bomber is not a significantly new design but looks more like an upgrade of the B-2. The main focus may have been to improve stealth and sensors. The Air Force has promised to disclose more details in March. They’ll certainly have to, if they want all the money they’re asking for it. Continue reading