Transport of Laboratory Personnel Exposed to Dangerous Pathogens, MD

An NBIC facility at Ft. Detrick, MD (Credit: US Army Corps of Engineers)

The Federal Register published a notice today from the Department of Health and Human Services detailing the transport of potentially infected laboratory workers at the new National Interagency Biodefense Campus (NIBC) in Ft. Detrick, MD.  The campus hosts researchers from a variety of agencies, including the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC), and the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID),which conduct research in Biosafety level  3 and 4 laboratories.  Such laboratories are required to work with dangerous pathogens, such as Bacillus anthracis (anthrax) and Ebolavirus sp (Ebola).
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Will Iran Give Up Twenty Percent Enrichment?

by Ivanka Barzashka

In response to sanctions, Iran’s parliament adopted the Nuclear Achievement Protection Bill on July 18. Among other things, the law requires the government to continue 20 percent enrichment and provide fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR). Although this aspect of the legislation has largely fallen below the news radar, it raises important questions about the future of nuclear talks, which Iran has postponed until September as “punishment” of the West.

Iran says it is enriching to higher concentrations to manufacture its own fuel for the TRR, but a stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium will reduce by more than half Iran’s time to a bomb (when compared to its current stockpile of 3.5 percent LEU). Now Iran’s higher-level enrichment may have become the connection between sanctions and a fuel deal that will hinder any engagement options. However, there is still time to explore resolutions to the impasse.

Ivan Oelrich and I have co-authored an FAS issue brief that traces the history of Iranian higher-level enrichment efforts in an effort to understand Tehran’s nuclear intentions. We were driven by the question: Will Iran, at this stage, give up twenty percent enrichment? Three distinct periods were analyzed: (1) from the beginning of 20 percent enrichment to the Tehran Declaration, (2) from the Tehran Declaration to the passing of UN sanctions, and (3) after sanctions. Continue reading

Clapper: Military Intel Budget to be Disclosed

The size of the annual budget for the Military Intelligence Program (MIP), which has been classified up to now, will be publicly disclosed, said Gen. James R. Clapper, Jr., the nominee to be the next Director of National Intelligence.  He said that he had personally advocated and won approval for release of the budget figure.

“I pushed through and got Secretary [of Defense Robert M.] Gates to approve revelation of the Military Intelligence Program budget,” Gen. Clapper told Senator Russ Feingold at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday.

Since 2007, the DNI has declassified and disclosed the size of the National Intelligence Program (NIP) at the end of each fiscal year, in response to a legislative requirement.  But despite its name, the NIP is not literally the whole “national intelligence program.”  Rather, it is one of the two budget constructs, along with the MIP, that make up the total U.S. intelligence budget.

Thus, when former DNI Dennis Blair said last September that the total intelligence budget was around $75 billion, he was referring to the sum of the NIP (which was $49.8 billion at that time) plus the MIP.

“I thought, frankly, we were being a bit disingenuous by only releasing or revealing the National Intelligence Program, which is only part of the story,” said Gen. Clapper.  “And so Secretary Gates has agreed that we could also publicize that [i.e., the MIP budget]. I think the American people are entitled to know the totality of the investment we make each year in intelligence.”

The MIP budget figure has not yet been formally disclosed.  A Freedom of Information Act request for the number that was filed in October 2009 by the Federation of American Scientists remains open and pending.

Seeking Structural Reform of the Intel Budget

Open government advocates believe that intelligence budget disclosure is good public policy and may even be required by the Constitution’s statement and account clause.  But what makes it potentially interesting to policymakers is that it would permit the intelligence budget to be directly appropriated, rather than being secretly funneled through the Pentagon budget as it is now.

“I would support and I’ve also been working [on] actually taking the National Intelligence Program out of the DoD budget,” said DNI-nominee Gen. James R. Clapper at his confirmation hearing yesterday, “since the original reason for having it embedded in the Department’s budget was for classification purposes.  Well, if it’s going to be publicly revealed, that purpose goes away.”

Removing classified NIP funding from the DoD budget would be appealing to the Pentagon since it would make the DoD’s total budget appear smaller.  “It serves the added advantage of reducing the topline of the DoD budget, which is quite large, as you know, and that’s a large amount of money that the Department really has no real jurisdiction over,” Gen. Clapper said.

The primary obstacle to such a change in the structure of the intelligence budget may now lie in Congress, not in the intelligence community.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has just weakened an amendment to require annual disclosure of the NIP budget request at the start of the budget process — which is a prerequisite to an open intelligence budget appropriation — by making disclosure subject to a presidential waiver.

The original amendment, offered by Senators Feingold, Bond and Wyden, “was intended to make possible a recommendation of the 9/11 Commission to improve congressional oversight by passing a separate intelligence appropriations bill,” explained Senator Feingold.  But the effort to implement that recommendation “would be seriously complicated by the year-to-year uncertainty of a presidential waiver,” he said in the revised markup (pdf) of the FY2010 intelligence authorization act, released yesterday (at p. 76).

Clapper Embraces GAO Intel Oversight, SSCI Doesn’t

The Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, won plaudits for its contributions to intelligence oversight from Gen. James R. Clapper at his July 20 confirmation hearing to be the next Director of National Intelligence.  But in the latest version of the intelligence authorization bill, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence yielded to White House opposition and abandoned a provision that would have enhanced GAO’s role in intelligence oversight.

“The GAO has produced very useful studies,” Gen. Clapper said. “I would cite as a specific recent case in point the ISR [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] road map that we’re required to maintain and the GAO has critiqued us on that.”

“I’ve been very deeply involved in personnel security clearance reform,” he said. “The GAO has held our feet to the fire on ensuring compliance with IRTPA [intelligence reform legislation] guidelines on timeliness of clearances and of late has also insisted on the quality metrics for ensuring appropriate clearances.”

“So I think the GAO serves a useful purpose for us,” Gen. Clapper told Sen. Feingold.

But under pressure from the Obama White House, the Senate Committee stripped out a provision that would have ensured authorized GAO access to the intelligence community.

Paradoxically, executive branch opposition to GAO involvement in intelligence oversight may be a positive sign.  It implies that GAO oversight would represent a meaningful change in the status quo and that it could usefully destabilize entrenched bad habits.

On the other hand, congressional reluctance to embrace GAO oversight is somewhat scandalous.  If there is a single policy issued raised by the Washington Post’s sprawling account of the sprawling intelligence industrial complex this week, it is the questionable adequacy of intelligence oversight.

Simply put, the size of the intelligence bureaucracy has more than doubled since 2001, but intelligence oversight capacity has not increased accordingly.  A focused use of GAO assets offers one immediate way to correct that oversight deficit.

But in its new report (pdf) on the intelligence authorization act, the Senate Intelligence Committee said further study was needed before it could endorse GAO oversight.

“The Committee believes it is important to explore further the scope of current GAO arrangements with the Intelligence Community, the history of GAO’s work on classified matters outside of the Intelligence Community, existing GAO procedures for working with classified information, and the extent to which future GAO investigations and audits of the Intelligence Community can be conducted by mutual agreement,” the Committee said (at p. 71).

But the case in favor of GAO oversight is already quite strong and clear.  General Clapper’s personal testimony aside, there is a solid record on the subject thanks especially to Senator Daniel Akaka, who held a hearing on it in 2008.  And a new DoD Directive specifies a role for GAO in oversight of DoD intelligence programs.

Legislation endorsing GAO oversight of intelligence sponsored by Rep. Anna Eshoo and colleagues remains pending in the House, and is strongly supported by Speaker Pelosi.  I discussed the subject in a July 12 interview with Federal News Radio.

The new Senate markup of the intelligence authorization bill has some features that would improve accountability, said Sen. Feingold in a statement appended to the Committee report, but it “removes many other important provisions … that were aimed at improving oversight and transparency, as well as accountability.”

Costs of Major U.S. Wars Compared

More than a trillion dollars has been appropriated since September 11, 2001 for U.S. military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.  This makes the “war on terrorism” the most costly of any military engagement in U.S. history in absolute terms or, if correcting for inflation, the second most expensive U.S. military action after World War II.

A newly updated report from the Congressional Research Service estimated the financial costs of major U.S. wars from the American Revolution ($2.4 billion in FY 2011 dollars) to World War I ($334 billion) to World War II ($4.1 trillion) to the second Iraq war ($784 billion) and the war in Afghanistan ($321 billion).  CRS provided its estimates in current year dollars (i.e. the year they were spent) and in constant year dollars (adjusted for inflation), and as a percentage of gross domestic product.  Many caveats apply to these figures, which are spelled out in the CRS report.

In constant dollars, World War II is still the most expensive of all U.S. wars, having consumed a massive 35.8% of GDP at its height and having cost $4.1 trillion in FY2011 dollars.  See “Costs of Major U.S. Wars,” June 29, 2010.

Military Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan

The Department of Defense has more contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan than it has uniformed military personnel, another newly updated report from the Congressional Research Service reminds us.

“The Department of Defense increasingly relies upon contractors to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, which has resulted in a DOD workforce that has 19% more contractor personnel (207,600) than uniformed personnel (175,000),” said the CRS report — which forms a timely counterpoint to this week’s Washington Post “Top Secret America” series on the tremendous expansion of the intelligence bureaucracy, including the increased and often unchecked reliance on contractors.

The explosive growth in reliance on contractors naturally entails new difficulties in management and oversight.  “Some analysts believe that poor contract management has also played a role in abuses and crimes committed by certain contractors against local nationals, which may have undermined U.S. counterinsurgency efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan,” the CRS said.  See “Department of Defense Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan: Background and Analysis,” July 2, 2010.

And see, relatedly, “U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF): Background and Issues for Congress,” July 16, 2010.

Unmanned Aerial Systems and Homeland Security

The potential benefits and limitations of using unmanned aerial vehicles for homeland security applications were considered by the Congressional Research Service in yet another updated report.  See “Homeland Security: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Border Surveillance,” July 8, 2010.

The same set of issues was examined in a newly published master’s thesis on “Integrating Department of Defense Unmanned Aerial Systems into the National Airspace Structure” by Major Scott W. Walker.

Another new master’s thesis looked at the comparatively high accident rate of unmanned systems and their susceptibility to attack or disruption.  See “The Vulnerabilities of Unmanned Aircraft System Common Data Links to Electronic Attack” by Major Jaysen A. Yochim.

The “secret history” of unmanned aircraft was recounted in an informative new study published by the Air Force Association.  See “Air Force UAVs: The Secret History” by Thomas P. Ehrhard, July 2010.

FAS in the News

This weekly digest provides links to headlines that feature FAS projects, staff, and important issues. Stay up-to-date with FAS IN THE NEWS.

Roundup For Week Ending July 16, 2010

Mexican Drug Cartels’ Newest Weapon: Cold War Era Grenades Made in U.S.A – Washington Post – 16 July 2010:
“The administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush sent 300,000 hand grenades to friendly regimes in Central America to fight leftist insurgents in the civil wars of the 1980s and early 1990s, according to declassified military data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by the Federation of American Scientists.”

Hard to Protect Helos From Insurgent RPG Fire – Army Times – 16 July 2010:
“Matt Schroeder, manager of the Arms Sales Monitoring Project at the Federation of American Scientists, said funding of these systems has been “money well spent,” as MANPADS have appeared in arms caches in Iraq and, to a lesser extent, in Afghanistan.”

Obama Plan Outlines Reductions in U.S. Nuclear Arsenal – Washington Post – 14 July 2010:
“The documents, which were sent in May to key members of the House and Senate Armed Services and Appropriations committees, were made public this week by the Federation of American Scientists and the Union of Concerned Scientists, two nonpartisan groups specializing in nuclear weapons…Hans M. Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists said his analysis of NNSA’s stockpile plan showed spending of “a whopping $175 billion over the next 20 years for new nuclear weapons factories, testing and simulation facilities, and warhead modernizations.”

U.S. Plans to Increase Nuclear Spending – Los Angeles Times – 14 July 2010:
“We have to think carefully about what signal we’re sending to other countries,” said Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists.

Obama Plans to Cut Up To 40 Percent of Nukes – Salon – 14 July 2010:
“The document was presented to Congress in May and posted Tuesday on the websites of the Federation of American Scientists and the Union of Concerned Scientists.”

Obama Plans to Cut Up To 40 Percent of Nukes – Associated Press – 14 July 2010:
“The document was presented to Congress in May and posted Tuesday on the websites of the Federation of American Scientists and the Union of Concerned Scientists.”
* Also ran in Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, Orlando Sentinel.

Fewer Nukes, More Cash: Energy Department Wants $175 Billion for Weapons Complex – Wired – 13 July 2010:
“According to an Energy Department plan submitted to Congress in May that the Federation of American Scientists and the Union of Concerned Scientists obtained and published, the department’s National Nuclear Security Administration proposes to slash the 5,000-warhead nuclear arsenal down to “approximately 3,000 to 3,500″ warheads. So far, so clear. Nukes going down. President Obama’s plan for a nuke-free world going up. But then the hedges come in. The Federation points out that the nuclear-arms reduction treaty with Russia making its way through the Senate, known as New START, would create a substantially smaller arsenal, allowing the U.S. to maintain up to 1550 deployed warheads. When not speaking for attribution, administration officials express hope that before the Obama leaves office, they’ll be able to conclude another treaty with Russia that cuts the arsenal even further.”

U.S. Details Planned Nuclear Stockpile Cut, Funding Priorities – Global Security Newswire – 13 July 2010:
“The United States foresees eliminating between 30 and 40 percent of its nuclear weapons within 12 years, slashing its existing stockpile of more than 5,100 weapons down to fewer than 3,500 bombs, the Federation of American Scientists concluded yesterday in an analysis of the nation’s stockpile management plan (see GSN, May 4; Hans Kristensen, Federation of American Scientists, July 12). “The 3,000 to 3,500 total warhead target is a ceiling,” Hans Kristensen, heads of the federation’s Nuclear Information Project, said in a statement. “Of course, the United States could reduce its arsenal to even lower levels through negotiated agreements with Russia and the other nuclear-weapon states.”

DOE Plan to Cut Nuke Weapons by 40 Percent – United Press International (UPI) – 13 July 2010:
“The Federation of American Scientists and the Union of Concerned Scientists released the U.S. Department of Energy’s fiscal 2011 budget, which calls for reducing the arsenal to 3,000 to 3,500 warheads — as much as a 40 percent reduction.”

Iran Vows to Increased Enriched Uranium Stock Sixfold by 2011 – BusinessWeek – 12 July 2010:
“Enriching uranium to 90 percent from 20 percent accounts for about half the time needed to get the raw heavy metal into the concentrated form needed for a weapon, Federation of American Scientists physicist Ivan Oelrich said in a May 19 note. Iran is “perfectly capable” of enriching to 90 percent, he said.”

Entering the Secret World of Wikileaks, National Public Radio (NPR), Show: Fresh Air – 14 July 2010:
“Now I read that Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists Secrecy News blog was invited at some point to get involved with WikiLeaks and looked it over, and he’s somebody who believes in disclosure, and declined. Do you have cases like this where people who are interested in whistle-blowing and exposing government wrongdoing look at WikiLeaks and say, not so sure about this?”