Public Interest Report

The Journal for Science and Security

Summer/Fall 2015- Volume 68 Number 3

More From FAS

Understanding the Dragon Shield: Likelihood and Implications of Chinese Strategic Ballistic Missile Defense (Sept. 30)

  • While China has received growing attention for modernizing and expanding its strategic offensive nuclear forces over the last decade, little attention has been paid to Chinese activities in testing and developing ballistic missile defenses (BMD). Motivated to understand the strategic implications of this testing and to learn Chinese views and interpretations, Adjunct Senior Fellow and Professor, Bruce MacDonald and FAS President, Dr. Charles Ferguson, have studied these issues and have had extensive discussions with more than 50 security experts in China and the United States over the past twelve months. Ever since the end of the Cold War, U.S. security policy has largely assumed that only the United States would possess credible strategic ballistic missile defense capabilities with non-nuclear interceptors. This tacit assumption has been valid for the last quarter century but may not remain valid for long. Since 2010, China has been openly testing missile interceptors purportedly for BMD purposes, but also useful for anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons. Read the full report detailing their findings here.

Russian Pacific Fleet Prepares For Arrival of New Missile Submarines (Sept. 14)

  • Later this fall, the first new Borei-class (sometimes spelled Borey) nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) is scheduled to arrive at the Rybachiy submarine base near Petropavlovsk on the Kamchatka Peninsula. More are expected to follow over the next few years to replace the remaining outdated Delta-III SSBNs currently operating in the Pacific. Satellite images reveal that in preparation for the arrival of the new submarines, submarine base piers, missile loading piers, and nuclear warhead storage facilities are also undergoing renovations. The influx of the Borei SSBNs marks the first significant upgrade to the Russian Pacific Fleet SSBN force in more than three decades. Hans Kristensen, Director of the Nuclear Information Project, discusses possible implications and recommendations here 

Upgrades at U.S. Nuclear Bases in Europe Acknowledge Security Risk (Sept. 10)

  • Recent commercial satellite images reveal that security upgrades are currently underway at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey and Aviano Air Base in Italy, indications that U.S. nuclear weapons have been deployed in Europe under unsafe conditions for more than two decades. Kristensen raises a pertinent question: since NATO now has decided that it is necessary after all to enhance security perimeters around underground vaults with nuclear weapons at Incirlik and Aviano, doesn’t that imply that security at the four European national bases that currently store nuclear weapons (Büchel, Ghedi, Kleine Brogel, and Volkel) is also inadequate? Read the full article here.

A Baseline for U.S. Counterintelligence Programs (Sept. 1)

  • A 2013 Intelligence Community Directive was released the first week of September, “establishing the baseline for CI [counterintelligence] programs across the Intelligence Community (IC).” Counterintelligence is defined as “Information gathered and activities conducted to identify, deceive, exploit, disrupt, or protect against espionage, other intelligence activities, sabotage, or assassinations conducted for or on behalf of foreign powers, organizations, or persons, or their agents, or international terrorist organizations or activities.” Counterintelligence Programs, Intelligence Community Directive 750, was signed by DNI James R. Clapper on July 5, 2013, and was released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. CI programs within the Intelligence Community are directed to address CI analysis, awareness and education, risk assessments, and critical asset protection. Steven Aftergood, Director of the Government Secrecy Project, examines the Directive and potential ramifications of the release here.

President May Withhold WMD Info from Congress (Aug. 26)

  • Despite an explicit statutory requirement to keep Congress “fully and currently informed” about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the President may withhold proliferation-related information from Congress if he determines that doing so could harm the national security, according to a sweeping opinion from the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) that was prepared in 2003.  Aftergood discusses this OLC opinion and how it takes an “uncompromising view of presidential authority” and seems “muddled and poorly argued (even to a layman).” Yet it does have some positive features, including how, during the George W. Bush administration, it prompted an inquiry, from the White House to OLC, indicating that the authority to withhold was not self-evident. Read the full post here.

Moving Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems to Global Deployment (Aug. 20)

  • In this FAS Special Report, Charles D. Ferguson, FAS President, identifies the major factors that will affect deployment of advanced reactors (often referred to as Generation IV reactors) in the coming years to decades and analyzes what industry and governments must do in order to reach the ultimate goal of widespread deployment of highly energy-efficient, much safer, more proliferation-resistant, and economically-competitive nuclear power systems. Moreover, the report examines historical Generation II and III reactors to learn the reasons for the predominant use of light water reactors. It then seeks to apply these “lessons learned” to current efforts to develop advanced nuclear energy systems. In the process of that assessment, the report reviews the status of the global cooperative and national efforts to develop and eventually deploy advanced nuclear energy systems. The report intends to act as a guide to policymakers in the form of findings that lay out potential pathways to forward deployment of one or more advanced nuclear power systems within the next ten to twenty years.

Nuclear Weapon Declassification Decisions (Aug. 13)

  • The Department of Energy issued twenty “declassification determinations” between April 2011 and March 2015 to remove certain specified categories of nuclear weapons-related information from classification controls. As a result of such determinations, the specified information need no longer be redacted from documents undergoing declassification review, and it can also now be incorporated freely in any new unclassified documents. Aftergood notes how this will increase transparency and further the publication of comprehensive, up-to-date information, such as the June 2012 release of The United States Plutonium Balance, 1944-2009; knowledge of current U.S. plutonium balance and the locations of these materials is vital in understanding the Department’s plutonium storage, safety, and security strategies. View the full list of declassification determinations and Aftergood’s analysis here.

Pentagon Report: China Deploys MIRV Missile (May 11)

  • One of the biggest surprises in the Pentagon’s latest annual report on Chinese military power is the claim that China’s ICBM force now includes the “multiple independently-targetable re-entry vehicle (MIRV)-equipped Mod 3 (DF-5).” Kristensen reports that this is (to his knowledge) the first time the US Intelligence Community has made a public claim that China has fielded a MIRVed missile system. If so, China “joins the club” of four other nuclear-armed states that have deployed MIRV for decades: Britain, France, Russia, and the United States. While not a significant increase, the development and fielding of multiple warhead capability strains China’s claim of having a “minimum nuclear deterrent,” another worrisome sign that China (like the other nuclear-armed states) is locked in a dynamic technological nuclear arms competition. Kristensen discusses Chinese MIRV history and the potential consequences of MIRV deployment here.

Implementing an Effective Verification Regime for a Nuclear Agreement with Iran (Aug. 6)

  • Now that an agreement has been reached between the P5+1 and Iran, a non-partisan task force convened by FAS has published Six Achievable Steps for Implementing an Effective Verification Regime for a Nuclear Agreement with Iran, a report that addresses anticipated implementation challenges and offers findings and recommendations for strengthening the implementation process both internationally and within the United States. The report was released to the public on Thursday, August 6, 2015 and the Task Force hosted a panel discussion in Washington, D.C. later that day to present their findings and discuss possible implications of the agreement. Over 50 attendees from the political, scientific, and NGO circles gathered to express their thoughts and share their opinions on the issue at hand.