Position Filled – Biosecurity Education Project Manager

The Biosecurity Program at the Federation of American Scientists is expanding!

Job Title: Biosecurity Education Project Manager

Location: Washington, D.C.

Job Type: Temporary position ending September 16, 2011 but with a possibility of becoming a permanent position thereafter.
Description: The Federation of American Scientists’ Biosecurity Program is seeking a smart, energetic individual to manage the Biosecurity Education Project and further develop existing research projects on the responsible use of science and technology, and biological weapons control.
Candidates should have taken graduate-level courses in biology and have knowledge of educational methods, html, CSS, WordPress, web design, social media, and image/video editing. Strong writing skills are required and the candidate should have previous scientific publications. Continue reading

The need for a resilient energy policy in Japan

While the disaster continues to unfold in Japan, it is not too early to learn lessons for Japan’s future energy policy. One immediate lesson is that Japan may be taking too great of a risk by having a relatively large portion of electricity generated by nuclear power. As of March 16, four reactors at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant have suffered significant damage. The March 11 earthquake and tsunami forced the shutdown of about 12 gigawatts of electricity generating capacity. In comparison, Japan’s nuclear power fleet has a capacity of 49 gigawatts; thus, about one-fourth of Japan’s nuclear generation was knocked out by the natural disaster. While most of that nuclear power will be brought back online eventually, the four damaged reactors at Fukushima Daiichi are still a major loss. Before the disaster, nuclear energy provided almost 30 percent of Japan’s electricity.

Read my article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

The Virtual Biosecurity Center

Please do not forget to check out one of our exciting new additions to the Biosecurity Program: The Virtual Biosecurity Center.
The Virtual Biosecurity Center (VBC) is the ‘one stop shop’ for biosecurity information, education, best practices, and collaboration.

To find out more about the VBC and how you may play a role in coordinating this global approach to biosecurity, please visit the VBC.

Total Intelligence Budget for 2007-2009 Disclosed

Military intelligence budget figures that were disclosed last week document the steady rise of the total U.S. intelligence budget from $63.5 billion in FY2007 up to last year’s total of $80.1 billion.

The total intelligence budget is composed of two separate budget constructs:  the National Intelligence Program and the Military Intelligence Program.  Last October, the DNI revealed that the FY2010 budget for the National Intelligence Program (NIP) was $53.1 billion.  And the Secretary of Defense revealed that the FY2010 budget for the Military Intelligence Program (MIP) was $27.0 billion, the first time the MIP budget had been disclosed, for an aggregate total intelligence budget of $80.1 billion for FY 2010. But prior year aggregate figures were unavailable.

Previous year budget figures for the NIP had been released since 2007.  ($43.5 billion in FY2007, $47.5 billion in FY 2008, $49.8 billion in FY2009).  But those numbers provided an incomplete picture, officials admitted.

“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 DNI James R. Clapper at his July 20, 2010 confirmation hearing.  “And so Secretary Gates has agreed that we could also publicize that [the MIP budget]. I think the American people are entitled to know the totality of the investment we make each year in intelligence.”

Last week, the Pentagon quietly disclosed the budget figures for the Military Intelligence Program for FY 2007 to 2009 ($20.0 billion in FY2007, $22.9 billion in FY2008, $49.8 $26.4 billion in FY 2009).

The latest disclosure finally makes it possible to report the total U.S. budget (NIP plus MIP) for the last four years:  $63.5 billion in FY2007, $70.4 billion in FY2008, $76.2 billion in FY2009, and $80.1 billion in FY2010.

Collectively, these figures — for the NIP, the MIP and the total — represent the most sustained and detailed disclosure of U.S. intelligence spending that has been achieved to date.

Public release of the FY2007-2009 MIP budget figures was requested by the Federation of American Scientists under the Freedom of Information Act on October 2, 2009.

Why does intelligence budget disclosure matter?  There are several reasons.  As a general principle, nothing should be secret without a compelling reason.  Unnecessary secrecy needs to be challenged and overcome at every turn.

More particularly, the sharp rise in intelligence spending prompts the question whether it is justified by a valid requirement and a satisfactory record of performance.  The question deserves an answer, if only indirectly by means of competent congressional oversight.

Furthermore, budget disclosure is unique in that it is the only category of executive branch information whose periodic publication is specifically required by the U.S. Constitution (Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7):  “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.”

“Publication of the aggregate figure for national intelligence would begin to satisfy the constitutional requirement,” the Church Committee concluded in its monumental 1976 report on U.S. intelligence activities (Book 1, Chapter XVI [pdf]), “and would not damage the national security.”

Therefore, “the Committee recommends the annual publication of the aggregate figure.”  That 35 year old recommendation languished for decades but has now been realized to an unprecedented degree.  (Aggregate budget figures were previously disclosed for the years 19971998.)

“The Committee also recommends that any successor committees study the effects of publishing more detailed information on the budgets of the intelligence agencies,” the Church Committee report added.  No such study has been performed.

“No other MIP budget figures or program details will be released, as they remain classified for national security reasons,” the Pentagon said upon release of the new data on March 11.  However, it said precisely the same thing upon release of the 2010 budget figure last October, which nevertheless were followed by the latest disclosures.

Despite the preemptive warning, we have asked the Pentagon to release the MIP budget request for the coming year, in light of the fact that the FY2012 NIP budget request has already been released.

Instances of Use of US Forces Abroad, More from CRS

U.S. military forces have been deployed in military conflicts abroad hundreds of times over the past two centuries — not including covert actions or training exercises.  An updated tabulation is given in “Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2010” (pdf), Congressional Research Service, March 10, 2011.

Some other noteworthy new CRS reports include the following (all pdf).

“Middle East and North Africa Unrest: Implications for Oil and Natural Gas Markets,” March 10, 2011.

“The Strategic Petroleum Reserve and Refined Product Reserves: Authorization and Drawdown Policy,” March 11, 2011.

“Terrorist Use of the Internet: Information Operations in Cyberspace,” March 8, 2011.

“International Criminal Court and the Rome Statute: 2010 Review Conference,” March 10, 2011.

“International Criminal Court Cases in Africa: Status and Policy Issues,” March 7, 2011.

“Closing Yucca Mountain: Litigation Associated with Attempts to Abandon the Planned Nuclear Waste Repository,” March 4, 2011.

“U.S. Tsunami Programs: A Brief Overview,” March 14, 2011.

Mary B. Mazanec has been appointed acting director of the Congressional Research Service. Ms. Mazanec is the current CRS deputy director.  She will serve in an acting capacity until the selection of a new director is made by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington.  The current director, Daniel P. Mulhollan, will retire on April 2.

Public interest groups hope that the change in CRS leadership will coincide with, or will help to promote, a change in CRS publication policy.  Currently, at congressional direction, CRS does not permit direct public access to its reports.

OPINION: Future of Nuclear Power in Japan – Advice from American Friend

TOKYO, March 15, Kyodo

Originally published by Kyodo News

I know that it can be difficult receiving advice from an outsider. I write as someone who greatly admires Japanese culture, science and engineering.

Japan has made some smart energy decisions. Tokyo responded wisely to the Arab oil embargo in 1973 by shifting electricity generation away from oil. In 1974, oil was used to generate about 66 percent of Japan’s electricity and today is only used for 11 percent. Nuclear energy was then a smart choice because Japan has very limited fossil fuel reserves.

However, Japan risks becoming too dependent on nuclear power especially in light of the events at Fukushima Daiichi. Presently about 30 percent of electricity is generated from nuclear energy, but Tokyo plans to increase this capacity to as much as 50 percent by 2050.

I am not recommending that Japan phase out nuclear power. Instead, I am offering advice that I learned from Japanese colleagues. They have often said that they prefer a balanced portfolio in which a mix of energy sources is used for electricity generation.

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