FAS Roundup: July 5, 2016

Scientist Spotlight with Dr. Cameron Reed

Scientist Spotlight returns with Dr. Cameron Reed, the Charles A. Dana Professor of Physics at Alma College, who teaches courses ranging from first-year algebra-based mechanics to senior-level quantum mechanics. His research has included both optical photometry of intrinsically bright stars in our Milky Way galaxy and the history of the Manhattan Project. Read the full interview here.

From the Blogs

Navy Builds Underground Nuclear Weapons Storage Facility; Seattle Buses Carry WarningThe US Navy has quietly built a new $294 million underground nuclear weapons storage complex at the Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific (SWFPAC), a high-security base in Washington that stores and maintains the Trident II ballistic missiles and their nuclear warheads for the strategic submarine fleet operating in the Pacific Ocean. To bring public attention to the close proximity of the largest operational nuclear stockpile in the United States, the local peace group Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action has bought advertisement space on 14 transit buses. The buses will carry the posters for the next eight weeks. FAS is honored to have assisted the group with information for its campaign.

FOIA Improvement Act Signed Into Law: President Obama signed into law the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Improvement Act of 2016 yesterday. The Act places a 25 year limit on the use of the deliberative process exemption, codifies a presumption of openness, and makes various procedural improvements in the FOIA. The Department of Justice summarized its understanding of the new law here.

Slow Economic Growth, and More from CRS: Noteworthy new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service.

Security-Cleared Population Continues to Shrink: The number of people with security clearances for access to classified information dropped in 2015 for the second year in a row, according to a new report to Congress from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. See the 2015 Annual Report on Security Clearance Determinations, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, June 2016.

The Right to Remain Silent Around the World: The Miranda warning advising detained persons that they have the right to remain silent has counterparts in the legal systems of 108 countries or jurisdictions around the world. These were collected and described in anew staff study performed for the Law Library of Congress.

Censure and Condemnation, and More from CRS: Between 1973 and 2016, Members of Congress introduced resolutions of censure directed against federal officials on 59 occasions, according to the Congressional Research Service. Of those, 14 were filed against the Obama Administration. Such resolutions have little or no practical significance, though they may serve a limited political purpose.

FAS in the News

FAS Roundup: June 28, 2016

Hans Kristensen Granted SIPRI Fellowship

Hans M. Kristensen, Director of the FAS Nuclear Information Project, has been appointed as an Associate Senior Fellow of SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute). Kristensen has been co-authoring the World Nuclear Forces overview in the SIPRI Yearbook since 2001 and the fellowship formalizes this long-term relationship. The SIPRI Yearbook is one of the world’s most widely used references for factual information on nuclear arsenals, arms control, arms trade, and military spending, and is translated into Chinese, Russian, Arabic, and Spanish. Kristensen will continue as a full-time employee with FAS where he has been directing the Nuclear Information Project since 2005.

From the Blogs

Foreign Aid: An Introduction, and More from CRS: U.S. aid to foreign countries and populations takes many forms in support of a range of objectives, from strategic to humanitarian. A newly updated report from the Congressional Research Service illuminates the structure of U.S. foreign aid, and traces the evolution of U.S. spending abroad.

2017 Intelligence Bill Would Constrain Privacy Board: The jurisdiction of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) would be restricted for the second year in a row by the Senate Intelligence Committee version of the FY2017 Intelligence Authorization Act (S.3017). Section 603 of the Act would specifically limit the scope of PCLOB’s attention to the privacy and civil liberties “of United States persons.”

Growing District Court Vacancies, and More from CRS: The number of vacancies in U.S. district courts around the country increased by a hefty 71% from the beginning of the Obama Administration (when there were 41 vacancies) until June 1 of the Administration’s eighth year (when there were 70 vacancies), according to a new analysis from the Congressional Research Service.

FAS in the News

FAS Roundup: June 21, 2016

From the Blogs

Red Teams Needed to Critique Military Operations: U.S. military commanders would do well to make use of “red teams,” composed of independent experts to evaluate and critique U.S. military operations as they are being planned, according to a new publication from the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Red teams can “help commanders and staffs think critically and creatively; challenge assumptions; mitigate groupthink; reduce risks by serving as a check against complacency and surprise; and increase opportunities by helping the staff see situations, problems, and potential solutions from alternative perspectives.” See Command Red Team, Joint Doctrine Note 1-16, 16 May 2016.

Islamic State Acolytes, and More from CRS: Domestic supporters of the Islamic State “have accounted for 67 homegrown violent jihadist plots between 2014 and early June 2016” involving more than 100 individuals, according to a new analysis from the Congressional Research Service. “In November 2015, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reportedly had more than 900 investigations of IS suspects in the United States.” See The Islamic State’s Acolytes and the Challenges They Pose to U.S. Law Enforcement, June 13, 2016.

Congress Passes FOIA Improvement Act: The House of Representatives approved theFreedom of Information Act Improvement Act on June 13, which had previously been adopted by the Senate. If signed by President Obama, as expected, it will strengthen several provisions of the FOIA and should enhance disclosure of government records. The bill “reaffirms the public’s right to know and puts in place several reforms to stop agencies from slowly eroding the effectiveness of using FOIA to exercise that right,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC).

Funding Overseas Contingency Ops, and More from CRS: The use of the “overseas contingency operations” budget construct to circumvent limits on discretionary spending was examined in a recently published report from the Congressional Research Service. “Some DOD officials argue that this funding approach is essential to enable a timely military response to a dynamic enemy operating in a complex battlespace,” the CRS report said. “Critics however, have described the DOD’s continued use of the OCO/GWOT account as creating a ‘slush fund’ for military spending.” See Overseas Contingency Operations Funding: Background and Status, June 13, 2016.

FAS in the News

FAS Roundup: June 14, 2016

From the Blogs

Flawed Pentagon Nuclear Cruise Missile Advocacy: In its quest to secure Congressional approval for a new nuclear cruise missile, the Pentagon is putting words in the mouth of President Barack Obama and spinning and overstating requirements and virtues of the weapon. Last month, DOD circulated an anonymous letter to members of Congress after it learned that Senator Dianne Fenstein (D-CA) was planning an amendment to the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act to put limits on funding and work on the new Long-Range Standoff (LRSO) nuclear air-launched cruise missile. The letter not surprisingly opposes the limits but contains a list of amazingly poor justifications for the new weapon. Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project, discusses these claims  and the potential ramifications they could have for the LRSO program.

Briefing to Arms Control Association Annual Meeting: On June 6, Kristensen gave a talk at the the Arms Control Association’s annual meeting: “Global Nuclear Challenges and Solutions for the Next U.S. President,” where he described enhancement of military capabilities of the B61-12 nuclear bomb, the new air-launched cruise missile (LRSO), and the W76-1 warhead on the Trident submarines.

SSCI Bill Adopts Fundamental Classification Review: The Fundamental Classification Guidance Review (FCGR) that was launched by President Obama’s 2009 executive order 13526 would be written into statute by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in its version of the FY intelligence authorization act (S. 3017), released this week. The FCGR has become the primary mechanism for systematically updating agency classification rules and deleting obsolete secrecy requirements. Performed every five years, it entails the review of thousands of individual classification guides. After the first FCGR in 2012, hundreds of such guides were eliminated.

Social Media in Congress, and More from CRS: “In less than 20 years, the entire nature of Member-constituent communication has been transformed, perhaps more than in any other period in American history,” observes a new report from the Congressional Research Service. Congressional offices now receive hundreds of millions of electronic communications from constituents each year, vastly more than they ever did using postal mail or other traditional forms of messaging.

Intelligence Reform in the Jimmy Carter Era: “Public trust and confidence in the Intelligence Community have been seriously undermined by disclosures of activities in the past that were illegal, injudicious or otherwise improper by today’s standards,” according to a 1977 interagency memorandum circulated by National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski.

DoD’s Rotation to the Philippines, and More from CRS: “On March 18, 2016, the United States and the Republic of the Philippines announced the selection of five military sites that will host a rotation of U.S. military units. This marks the first time that U.S. units will be welcomed by the Republic on regularly scheduled visits since the last permanent garrisons were withdrawn in 1992,” according to a new brief from the Congressional Research Service.

FAS in the News

FAS Roundup: May 24, 2016

New Publication: 70th Anniversary Edition of the Public Interest Report

This exclusive edition of the PIR attempts to encapsulate FAS’s continual reinvention with a glimpse into FAS’s past and a look to the future and what it may hold. A stellar assemblage of authors discuss the many aspirations, accomplishments, and challenges of FAS. Read the journal, in full, here.

From the Blogs

Pentagon Report And Chinese Nuclear Forces: Although the Pentagon’s latest annual report on Chinese military developments mainly deals with non-nuclear issues, it does contain important new information about China’s current nuclear forces, including ICBM developments, deployment of a new medium-range ballistic missile, submarine capabilities, bomber potential, and a summary of Chinese nuclear policy and strategy.

DoD Biometric Collection, and More Military Doctrine: Department of Defense procedures for collecting biometric data are presented in a newly updated manual, which also provides some insight into the military and intelligence applications of such data. “Biometrics are the measurable physical and behavioral characteristics that can establish and verify an individual’s identity,” the manual explains. See Multi-Service Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for Tactical Employment of Biometrics in Support of Operations, ATP 2-22.85, May 2016.

National Security Space Launch, and More from CRS: In a worst-case scenario, the United States could be left without a launch vehicle needed to deploy national security space payloads within the next several years. The ongoing turbulence within national security space policy is reviewed in a new report from the Congressional Research Service. See National Security Space Launch at a Crossroads, May 13, 2016.

FAS in the News

FAS Roundup: May 17, 2016

70th Anniversary Edition of the Public Interest Report

This exclusive edition of the PIR attempts to encapsulate FAS’s continual reinvention with a glimpse into FAS’s past and a look to the future and what it may hold. A stellar assemblage of authors discuss the many aspirations, accomplishments, and challenges of FAS. Read the journal, in full, here.

FAS Special Event: “30 Years After the Accident: the Meaning of Chernobyl Today?”

Leading experts came together to discuss Chernobyl on the eve of its 30th anniversary, the lessons learned, and possible implications that this fateful event has for the nuclear industry today. Speaker presentations and the full recording of the event are available now.

 From the Blogs

Using Social Media in Background Investigations: A directive signed by the Director of National Intelligence yesterday formally authorizes the use of social media by official investigators who are conducting background investigations for security clearances. See Collection, Use, and Retention of Publicly Available Social Media Information in Personnel Security Background Investigations and AdjudicationsSecurity Executive Agent Directive 5, May 12, 2016.

What Kind of Military Officers Does the US Need? (CRS): There is a lack of consensus about what the U.S. military officer corps should look like, a new report from the Congressional Research Service says. Divergent views exist about what type of military officers the country needs, what skills they should have, how they should be distributed by grade, what criteria should be used for their promotion or separation, and more. “This report provides an overview of selected concepts and statutory provisions that shape and define officer appointments, assignments, grade structure, promotions, and separations.”  See Military Officer Personnel Management: Key Concepts and Statutory Provisions, May 10, 2016.

Delivery Drones, Confederate Flags, and More from CRS: The growing prospect of the use of drones for commercial delivery purposes is considered in a new memorandum from the Congressional Research Service. “Can you prevent a drone from flying over your house to deliver a package to your neighbor? Until now, that question has been of purely theoretical interest. However, the Senate recently passed a bill that could significantly change the operational landscape for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS or drones) and make these kinds of hypothetical delivery drones a reality,” the CRS memo begins. See Delivery Drones: Coming to the Sky Near You?, CRS Legal Sidebar, May 6, 2016.

FAS in the News

FAS Roundup: May 10, 2016

FAS Special Event: “30 Years After the Accident: the Meaning of Chernobyl Today?”

Leading experts came together to discuss Chernobyl on the eve of its 30th anniversary, the lessons learned, and possible implications that this fateful event has for the nuclear industry today. Speaker presentations and the full recording of the event are available now.

 From the Blogs

Archivist Won’t Call “Torture Report” a Permanent Record: Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero last week rebuffed requests to formally designate the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA interrogation practices a “federal record” that must be preserved. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Patrick Leahy had urged the Archivist to exercise his authority to certify that the Senate report is a federal record.

HASC Favors Classified National Military Strategy: The forthcoming National Military Strategy, unlike previous versions of the Strategy, should be a classified document, the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) said in its markup of the FY2017 defense authorization bill. Paradoxically, the Committee said that classifying the Strategy would enable increased disclosure of information– to the Committee, not to the public.

Questions for the Record: Arctic Camouflage: The camouflage netting used by the U.S. Army in the Arctic region is obsolete and ineffective, Army officials told Congress in response to a question for the record in a newly published hearing volume. “The existing Arctic camouflage system has not been upgraded since its inception in the mid-1970s…Due to improvements in technology, these variants are now ineffective against current and emerging advanced sensor threats and are in need of updates,” the officials said.

Judge Garland’s Opinions, and More from CRS: The Congressional Research Service continues to devote substantial attention to the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, even if the U.S. Senate remains unwilling or unable to act on the nomination. This week CRS issued a new report presenting an annotated tabulation of hundreds of decisions written by Judge Garland.

Punishing Leaks Through Administrative Channels: The Obama Administration has famously prosecuted more individuals for unauthorized disclosures of classified information to the media than all of its predecessors combined. But behind the scenes, it appears to have sought administrative penalties for leaks — rather than criminal ones — with equal or greater vigor. “This Administration has been historically active in pursuing prosecution of leakers, and the Intelligence Community fully supports this effort,” said ODNI General Counsel Robert S. Litt in testimony from a closed hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2012 that was released last week in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

Judge Garland’s Jurisprudence, and More from CRS: A new report from the Congressional Research Service examines Judge Merrick Garland’s approach to various domains of the law in an attempt to assess what the impact would be if his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court were ever confirmed by the U.S. Senate. “The report focuses on those areas of law where Justice Scalia can be seen to have influenced the High Court’s approach to particular issues, or served as a fifth and deciding vote on the Court, with a view toward how Judge Garland might approach that same issue if he were to be confirmed.”

FAS in the News

FAS Roundup: May 3, 2016

FAS Special Event: “30 Years After the Accident: the Meaning of Chernobyl Today?”

Leading experts came together to discuss Chernobyl on the eve of its 30th anniversary, the lessons learned, and possible implications that this fateful event has for the nuclear industry today. Speaker presentations are available on fas.org and stay tuned for a full recording of the event.

Op-Ed: “Chernobyl After 30: The Vesuvius of Our Time”

In light of the 30th Anniversary of the cataclysmic accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, Edward Friedman, Professor Emeritus of Technology Management at Stevens Institute of Technology, takes the opportunity to explore the meaningful lessons learned from that pivotal day in history. Read the full article here.

Op-Ed: “What Happened at Chernobyl 30 Years Ago?”

In this op-ed, Tara Drozdenko, Managing Director for Nuclear Policy and Nonproliferation at the Outrider Foundation, examines the science behind the catastrophic accident that occurred on April 26, 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Pripyat, Ukraine, and discusses the lessons learned from that fateful day. Read the full piece here.

From the Blogs

ODNI Revises Costly Declassification Rule: As promised, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) last week formally withdrew a new rule on requesting declassification of classified ODNI records after receiving public complaints that it would have imposed onerous costs on requesters. A revised rule was then issued.

Defense Reform: Yes, But How? (and more from CRS): There is widespread dissatisfaction with the organization and performance of the Department of Defense, a new Congressional Research Service report says, but no consensus on what to do about it. The report “is intended to assist Congress as it evaluates the variety of reform proposals currently under discussion.”

FAS in the News

FAS Roundup: April 26, 2016

FAS Attends GEO Review Panel

Chris Bidwell, Senior fellow for Law and Policy, was invited to participate in a recent GAO review panel on Gaps in DHS and FBI Biological Attribution Capabilities. The review took place over a two day period at GAO headquarters in Washington DC. GAO will eventually publish its findings in an upcoming report to Congress.

Op-Ed: What Happened at Chernobyl 30 Years Ago?

In this op-ed, Tara Drozdenko, Managing Director for Nuclear Policy and Nonproliferation at the Outrider Foundation, examines the science behind the catastrophic accident that occurred on April 26, 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Pripyat, Ukraine, and discusses the lessons learned from that fateful day. Read the full piece here.

From the Blogs

FAS Nuclear Notebook Published: Russian Nuclear Forces, 2016: In the latest FAS Nuclear Notebook published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Norris and Kristensen take the pulse on Russia’s nuclear arsenal, reviewing its strategic modernization programs and the status of its non-strategic nuclear forces. Russia’s non-strategic nuclear forces are currently the subject of much interest in NATO due to concerns 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.

Cross-Cutting Intelligence Issues, and More from CRS: A new report from the Congressional Research Service raises the possibility that polygraph testing of intelligence employees could be phased out in favor of “continuous evaluation” (CE), i.e. the automated monitoring of financial, criminal and other databases. The notion was suggested in a CRS overview of selected intelligence policy issues, including budget management, the quality of analysis, big data, workforce diversity, global coverage, and transparency.

Air Force Updates Doctrine on Cyberspace Operations: Within living memory, even a passing mention of cyber weapons or U.S. offensive activities in cyberspace was deemed sufficient to justify national security classification. Now, although the Obama Administration generally neither claims nor receives credit for it, military cyberspace doctrine has become one of a number of significant policy areas in which this Administration is demonstrably “more transparent” than its predecessors. A new US Air Force directive “provides policy guidelines for planning and conducting AF cyberspace operations to support the warfighter and achieve national security objectives.”

Border Security Doesn’t Yield Consistent Results (CRS): Border security to prevent unauthorized migration along the U.S-Mexico border is a dynamic and challenging problem that has not consistently been mitigated by allocating increased resources, such as fencing and surveillance, says a newly updated report from the Congressional Research Service.

DoD Directs “Equal Attention” to Secrecy, Declassification: Declassification of national security information should be pursued on a par with classification, according to a Department of Defense directive that was reissued on April 21, 2016. “Declassification of information will receive equal attention as the classification of information so that information remains classified only as long as required by national security considerations,” said DoD Instruction 5200.01, signed by Marcel Lettre, the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence.

FAS in the News

FAS Roundup: April 19, 2016

From the Blogs

Counting Casualties in Syria & Iraq, and More from CRS: The number of people killed in Syria since March 2011 is variously estimated to be between 250,000 and 470,000. The number of estimated casualties in Iraq ranges from 19,000 to 41,650 deaths since January 2014. A new report from the Congressional Research Service somewhat clinically discusses “the difficulties of collecting war-related casualty data in both countries and provides an overview of some of the current estimated figures available through selected organizations.”

Next U.S. National Military Strategy to be Classified: In a number of national security policy areas, there is a long-term trend in favor of greater transparency and disclosure. For example, the U.S. Army openly published a manual last week on Techniques for Information Collection During Operations Among Populations (ATP 3-55.4). It supersedes and replaces a previous publication from 2007 (FM 2-91.6) that was for restricted distribution and was marked For Official Use Only. But in some other areas, the arrow of transparency is pointed backwards and previously unclassified categories of records are becoming newly restricted or classified.

Preparing for the Presidential Transition, and More from CRS: The transfer of presidential power from one Administration to the next “is a complex and multi-faceted undertaking” that actually begins several months before the general election, an updated report from the Congressional Research Service explains.

DoD: Some FOIA Requesters “Try to Monopolize the System”: Criticism of the Freedom of Information Act is frequently directed at the way that agencies implement the FOIA process, or the ways that they fail to do so. Requesters complain that responses to requests are delayed, often for years, that exemptions from disclosures are interpreted too broadly or in self-serving ways, and that fee waivers are arbitrarily withheld. It sometimes seems to be necessary to file a lawsuit just in order to get an agency’s attention. But it turns out that government agencies also have complaints of their own, including what they consider to be abusive behavior by some FOIA requesters. See the latest report from the DoD Cheif FOIA Officer.

DNI Establishes Intelligence Transparency Council: The notion of “intelligence transparency,” which once would have been considered an oxymoron, is instead becoming institutionalized with the establishment of a new Intelligence Transparency Council. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper signed the Charter of the new Council on April 5.

Brazil in Crisis, and More from CRS: New and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service.

FAS in the News