NNSA Moves to Expand Plutonium Pit Production

The National Nuclear Security Administration said last week that it will proceed with a plan to sharply expand production of plutonium “pits” — the explosive triggers for thermonuclear weapons — without performing a full “programmatic” environmental review. NNSA envisions producing “no fewer than 80 pits per year by 2030,” including a minimum of 30 pits […]

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White House Rebuffs Declassification, Disclosure Requirements

Congress adopted numerous new disclosure and reporting requirements in the government spending bill that was signed into law last week. But the Trump White House said that many of them encroach on executive authority and that they may not be implemented as written. Several provisions of the FY2020 Consolidated Appropriations Act “purport to mandate or regulate the […]

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Many Reports to Congress May Go Online

Many of the hundreds or thousands of reports that are submitted to Congress by executive branch agencies each year may be published online pursuant to a provision in the new Consolidated Appropriations Act (HR 1158, section 8092). That provision states that any agency that is funded by the Act shall post on its website any […]

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Confronting Foreign Threats to Basic Research

Foreign scientists working in the U.S. are a vital part of the U.S. scientific research enterprise, a new report from the JASON scientific advisory panel said, and this country could hardly do without them. Yet in some cases they pose a challenge to the integrity of U.S. research programs. “In 2019, eight Americans were awarded […]

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Carter Page: Corruption Can Erode Secrecy Authority

Corruption in the executive branch diminishes the ability of federal agencies to preserve secrecy, wrote a then-21 year old named Carter Page in 1993 when he was a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy. See Balancing Congressional Needs for Classified Information: A Case Study of the Strategic Defense Initiative by Carter W. Page, May 17, 1993. […]

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JASON Science Advisory Panel Preserved

Congress has directed the Department of Defense to reach an “arrangement with the JASON scientific advisory group to conduct national security studies and analyses.” Last spring DoD officials sought to let the existing contract with the JASONs lapse, leaving the panel without a sponsor and threatening its continued viability. The new legislation rejects that move, although […]

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DoD To Report on Nuclear Programs of US, Russia, China

In a challenge to Pentagon secrecy, Congress has told the Secretary of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence to prepare an unclassified report on the nuclear weapons programs of the United States, Russia and China. The requirement was included in the new House-Senate conference version of the FY2020 defense authorization act (sect. 1676). The mandated […]

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Improved Access to Open Source Intelligence Urged

Congress should require the Director of National Intelligence to make open source intelligence more widely available, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission recommended in its latest annual report. Open source intelligence refers to information of intelligence value that is openly published and can be freely gathered without resort to clandestine methods. Such material, and […]

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Artificial Intelligence and National Security, and More from CRS

The 2019 defense authorization act directed the Secretary of Defense to produce a definition of artificial intelligence (AI) by August 13, 2019 to help guide law and policy. But that was not done. Therefore “no official U.S. government definition of AI yet exists,” the Congressional Research Service observed in a newly updated report on the subject. But plenty […]

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