Author: Katie Colten

FAS Roundup: May 19, 2014

Nuclear weapons modernization, nuclear exercises amidst crisis in Ukraine and more. Nuclear Weapons Modernization: A Threat to the NPT? In 1968, the five declared nuclear-weapon states pledged under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to pursue negotiations to cease production of nuclear arms. However, all of the world’s nuclear-armed states are busy modernizing their arsenals, and by doing so, continue to reaffirm the importance of such weapons. In a new article published in Arms Control Today, Hans Kristensen, Director of the Nuclear Information Project, examines the modernization programs underway in the nine nuclear-armed countries, and finds that none of the countries appear to be planning to eliminate its nuclear weapons program; instead they are committing hundreds of billions of dollars to modernize their nuclear forces. Without some form of limitations on the pace and scope of nuclear modernization, the goals of deep cuts and elimination of nuclear weapons remains elusive and unlikely with modernization programs that reaffirm the value of these weapons. Read the article here. 

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FAS Roundup: May 12, 2014

Russian ICBM modernization, ODNI requires pre-publication review of all public information and more. From the Blogs JASON Views Challenges of Electronic Health Data: The ongoing transition to electronic storage of individual health information was examined in a newly released study from the JASON scientific advisory panel. The JASON study addresses the tension between personal health information, which is “sensitive and therefore must be carefully safeguarded,” and aggregated population health data, which are “a highly valuable, and largely untapped, resource for basic and clinical research.” The JASONs, who normally deal with defense science and technology, strain to affirm a relationship between health and national security. (“From a national security perspective it is important to have an accurate assessment of the current health and potential health vulnerabilities of the population.”) Russian ICBM Force Modernization: There is a significant upgrade that’s underway in Russia’s force of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Over the next decade, all Soviet-era ICBMs will be retired and replaced with a smaller force consisting of mainly five variants of one missile: the SS-27. After more than a decade-and-a-half of introduction, the number of SS-27s now makes up a third of the ICBM force. The new force will be smaller and carry fewer nuclear warheads than the old, but a greater portion of the remaining warheads will be on missiles carried on mobile launchers. The big unknowns are just how many SS-27s Russia plans to produce and deploy, and how many new (RS-26 and Sarmat “heavy”) ICBMs will be introduced. Without the new systems or increased production of the old, Russia’s ICBM force would probably level out just below 250 missiles by 2024. In comparison, the U.S. Air Force plans to retain 400 ICBMs.

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FAS Roundup: May 5, 2014

U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile number declassified, ODNI seeks to obscure CIA role in human intelligence and more. From the Blogs Using Classification to Curb Secrecy: When government employees believe that classified information in their possession is improperly classified, they “are encouraged and expected” to challenge its classification status, according to President Obama’s executive order 13526 (section 1.8). And sometimes they do. In FY 2012, there were 402 classification challenges filed by government employees. Such classification challenges have the potential to serve as a powerful internal check on over-classification. But that potential is not yet being fully realized, either because the procedure is unknown to employees or because its use is implicitly discouraged. U.S. Nuclear Weapons Stockpile Number Declassified: Only 309 Warheads Cut by Obama Administration:  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 size is 309 warheads fewer than the 5,113 warheads that the administration reported in 2010 were in the stockpile as of September 2009. What the declassification does not include is a number for how many retired warheads are awaiting dismantlement.

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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…

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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. 

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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.

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FAS Roundup: April 14, 2014

Obama admin decision weakens New START, countering CIA's conflict of interest in declassification and more. From the Blogs Countering the CIA's Conflict of Interest in Declassification: Last week the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to submit the 480-page executive summary, findings and conclusions of its five-year investigation into the post-9/11 CIA Detention and Interrogation Program for declassification review. But in an obvious conflict of interest, the review is expected to be performed by the CIA itself. The standard process for declassification therefore puts the CIA in the awkward and untenable position of deciding whether to enable (or to prevent) the release of information that portrays the Agency itself, or some of its personnel, as having engaged in behavior that was brutal, lawless, and unaccountable. Obama Administration Decision Weakens New START Implementation: The U.S. Air Force has decided to empty 50 ICBM silos, but instead of destroying the silos they will be kept to allow for future reloading of the missiles if necessary. Hans Kristensen writes that the decision to retain the 50 silos reduced under the NEW Start treaty instead of destroying them is a disappointing development that threatens to weaken New START implementation.

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FAS Roundup: April 7, 2014

New START data, classified nuclear weapon drawings missing at labs and more. From the Blogs Classified Nuclear Weapon Drawings Missing at Labs: According to a report released by the Department of Energy Inspector General, classified design drawings used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons have not been properly and reliably maintained by nuclear weapons labs managed by the National Nuclear Security Administration. “NNSA sites could not always locate as-built product definitions or associated drawings for nuclear weapons and components in official records repositories.” At the Pantex Plant, “officials were concerned and surprised at the difficulty in finding as-built product definitions for the nuclear weapons,” the DoE IG report said. New START Data Shows Russian Increase, U.S. Decrease of Deployed Warheads: The latest data released by the State Department for the New START treaty shows that Russia has increased its counted deployed strategic nuclear forces over the past six months, while the United States has decreased its deployed launchers. Both countries are slowly reducing their strategic nuclear weapons to meet the New START treaty limit by 2018 of no more than 1,550 strategic warheads on 700 deployed launchers.

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In Closing

Last week, I was walking through Ueno Park as part of my annual cherry blossom pilgrimage. Among the trees and temples, I came across “The Flame of Hiroshima and…

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