NGOs AND THEIR ROLES IN THE VERIFICATION OF NUCLEAR AGREEMENTS – APRIL 2016
After finishing up his second MacArthur Foundation-sponsored research project on issues related to verifying a nuclear agreement with Iran, Christopher Bidwell, FAS Senior Fellow for Nonproliferation Law and Policy, and his team are now focused on a third project that will look at the increased role played by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in verifying compliance and noncompliance with nuclear nonproliferation obligations. Special attention will be paid to how the privacy rights of entities and individuals whose data are used to make a determination can be protected.
35 NOBEL LAUREATES CALL ON WORLD LEADERS TO TAKE ACTION ON NUCLEAR TERRORISM – MARCH 2016
In a letter dated March 26, 2016, 35 Nobel Laureates from physics, chemistry, and medicine urged national leaders attending President Obama’s fourth and final Nuclear Security Summit on March 31st to reduce the risk of nuclear or radiological terrorism to near-zero in three sectors. The signees stressed that because terrorist threats “cross national boundaries,” they “require the concerted work of all nations to prevent… terrorist acts from happening.” They also “urge” world leaders “to devote the necessary resources to make further substantial progress in the coming years to real risk reduction in preventing nuclear and radiological terrorism.” The letter, written by Dr. Burton Richter, a Nobel Laureate in physics and the Paul Pigott Professor in the Physical Sciences at Stanford University and Director Emeritus, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, and Dr. Charles D. Ferguson, President of FAS, and list of signees is available online at: https://fas.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/nobel-laureates-letter-to-nss-march-20162.pdf.
REPORT: SUGGESTIONS ABOUT JAPAN’S NUCLEAR FUEL RECYCLING POLICY BASED ON U.S. CONCERNS – MARCH 2016
To date, Japan’s peaceful nuclear energy use has taken the form of a nuclear fuel recycling policy that reprocesses spent fuel and effectively utilizes the plutonium retrieved in light water reactors (LWRs) and fast reactors (FRs). With the aim to complete recycling domestically, Japan has introduced key technology from abroad and has further developed its own technology and industry. However, Japan presently seems to have issues regarding its recycling policy and plutonium management and, because of recent increasing risks of terrorism and nuclear proliferation in the world, the international community seeks much more secure use of nuclear energy. Yusei Nagata, an FAS Research Fellow from MEXT, Japan, analyzes U.S. experts’ opinions and concerns about Japan’s problem and considers what Japan can (and should) do to solve it.. A full version of the report can be accessed online at: https://fas.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/japannukefuelrecyling_final.pdf.
REPORT: USE OF MICROBIAL FORENSICS IN THE MIDDLE EAST/NORTH AFRICA REGION – MARCH 2016
In this study, Christopher Bidwell and Dr. Randall Murch explore the use of microbial forensics as a tool for creating a common base line for understanding biologically-triggered phenomena, as well as one that can promote mutual cooperation in addressing these phenomena. A particular focus is given to the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region, as it has been forced to deal with multiple instances of both naturally-occurring and man-made biological threats over the last 10 years. Although the institution of a microbial forensics capability in the MENA region (however robust) is still several years away, establishing credibility of the results offered by microbial forensic analysis performed by western states and/or made today in workshops and training have the ability to prepare the policy landscape for the day in which the source of a bio attack, either man-made or from nature, needs to be accurately attributed. A full version of the report can be accessed online at: /pub-reports/microbial-forensics-middle-east-north-africa/.
REPORT: USE OF ATTRIBUTION AND FORENSIC SCIENCE IN ADDRESSING BIOLOGICAL WEAPON THREATS – FEBRUARY 2016
The threat from the manufacture, proliferation, and use of biological weapons (BW) is a high priority concern for the U.S. Government. As reflected in U.S. Government policy statements and budget allocations, deterrence through attribution (“determining who is responsible and culpable”) is the primary policy tool for dealing with these threats. According to those policy statements, one of the foundational elements of an attribution determination is the use of forensic science techniques, namely microbial forensics. In this report, Christopher Bidwell and Kishan Bhatt, an FAS summer research intern and undergraduate student studying public policy and global health at Princeton University, look beyond the science aspect of forensics and examine how the legal, policy, law enforcement, medical response, business, and media communities interact in a bioweapon’s attribution environment. The report further examines how scientifically based conclusions require credibility in these communities in order to have relevance in the decision making process about how to handle threats. The report can be found online at: /pub-reports/biological-weapons-and-forensic-science/.
THE NEW B61-12 GUIDED NUCLEAR BOMB – JANUARY 2016
From the start of the development of the new $10 billion B61-12 guided nuclear bomb, FAS has been at the forefront of providing the public with factual information about the status and capabilities of the program. In November 2015, Hans Kristensen, Director of the FAS Nuclear Information Project, was featured in a PBS Newshour program about the weapon where former STRATCOM commander and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General James Cartwright confirmed FAS assessments that the increased accuracy of the B61-12 could make it a more usable weapon [/blogs/security/2015/11/b61-12_cartwright/]. In early 2016, FAS and NRDC used a government video of a B61-12 test drop to analyze the bomb’s increased accuracy and earth-penetrating capability [/blogs/security/2016/01/b61-12_earth-penetration/]. The analysis was used in a New York Times feature article, “As U.S. Modernizes Nuclear Weapons, ‘Smaller’ Leaves Some Uneasy.” 1
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE CONFRONTS “CLIMATE CHANGE” – MARCH 7, 2016
The official entry of the term “climate change” in the latest revision of the Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms reflects a growing awareness of the actual and potential impacts of climate change on military operations. Steven Aftergood, Director of the FAS Project on Government Secrecy, reported in Secrecy News that according to a Pentagon directive issued in January 2016, “The DoD must be able to adapt current and future operations to address the impacts of climate change in order to maintain an effective and efficient U.S. military.” Among other things, the new directive requires the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and the Director of National Intelligence to coordinate on “risks, potential impacts, considerations, vulnerabilities, and effects [on defense intelligence programs] of altered operating environments related to climate change and environmental monitoring.” In a report to Congress last year, the DoD said that “The Department of Defense sees climate change as a present security threat, not strictly a long-term risk.” Read Aftergood’s analysis in full here: /blogs/secrecy/2016/01/dod-climate/.
THE NEW NUCLEAR CRUISE MISSILE – OCTOBER-DECEMBER 2015
The FAS Nuclear Information Project provided the public with important analysis about the mission and capabilities of the new nuclear air-launched cruise missile the Air Force is developing: the Long-Range Standoff missile (LRSO). The analysis was the first to highlight an overview of the mission government officials say the missile is needed for, a mission that includes a worrisome nuclear war-fighting role [/blogs/security/2015/10/lrso-mission/]. Hans Kristensen was also quick to point out that a new long-range conventional air-launched cruise missile being deployed by the Air Force could do much of the LRSO mission and he recommended canceling the LRSO, a measure which would save $20-$30 billion [/blogs/security/2015/12/lrso-jassm/].
PAKISTANI NUCLEAR FORCES – OCTOBER 2015
FAS research on the status and modernization of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons was covered extensively in news media reports in connection with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Washington in October 2015. The FAS Nuclear Notebook, co-authored by Hans Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, FAS Senior Fellow for Nuclear Policy, published by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, estimated that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal has grown by 20 weapons since 2011 to 130 warheads presently, including new tactical nuclear weapons. The research was used by the New York Times in a background article, “U.S. Set to Sell Fighter Jets to Pakistan, Balancing Pressure on Nawaz Sharif,”2 and an editorial, “The Pakistan Nuclear Nightmare,”3 as well as by the Associated Press and Indian and Pakistani news media. The Nuclear Notebook can be accessed at: https://fas.org/blogs/security/2015/10/pakistan-notebook/.
ODNI ISSUES TRANSPARENCY IMPLEMENTATION PLAN – OCTOBER 28, 2015
Transparency is not ordinarily a trait that one associates with intelligence agencies. But the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has released a transparency implementation plan that establishes guidelines for increasing public disclosure of information by and about U.S. intelligence. Based on a set of principles on transparency that were published earlier last year, the plan prioritizes the objectives of transparency and describes potential initiatives that could be undertaken. Thus, the plan aims “to provide more information about the IC’s governance framework; to provide more information about the IC’s mission and activities; to encourage public engagement [by intelligence agencies in social media and other venues]; and to institutionalize transparency policies and procedures.” FAS Secrecy News reports that the plan neither includes any specific commitments nor sets any deadlines for action. Moreover, it is naturally rooted in self-interest. Its purpose is explicitly “to earn and retain public trust” of U.S. intelligence agencies. Nonetheless, it has the potential to provide new grounds for challenging unnecessary secrecy and to advance a corresponding “cultural reform” in the intelligence community. Read Aftergood’s analysis here: /blogs/secrecy/2015/10/transparency-plan/.
DOD SECURITY-CLEARED POPULATION DROPS AGAIN – OCTOBER 7, 2015
The number of people in the Department of Defense holding security clearances for access to classified information declined by 100,000 in the first six months of FY2015, recounts FAS Secrecy News. The latest available data show 3.8 million DoD employees and contractors with security clearances, down from 3.9 million earlier in 2015, and a steep 17.4 percent drop from 4.6 million two years ago. Furthermore, only 2.2 million of the 3.8 million cleared DoD personnel are actually “in access,” meaning that they have current access to classified information. Thus, further significant reductions in clearances would seem to be readily achievable by shedding those who are not currently “in access.” The total number of security-cleared persons government-wide is roughly 0.5 million higher than the number of DoD clearances, putting it at around 4.3 million, down from 5.1 million in 2013. The new DoD security clearance numbers were presented in the latest quarterly report on Insider Threat and Security Clearance Reform, FY2015 Quarter 3, September 2015. The reduction in security clearances is not simply a reflection of programmatic or budgetary changes – rather, it has been defined as a policy goal in its own right. A bloated security bureaucracy is harder to manage, more expensive, and more susceptible to catastrophic security failures than a properly streamlined system would be. The full post is available to view here: /blogs/secrecy/2015/10/clearances-down/.
Satellite images show that the Navy has begun construction of a new nuclear weapons storage and handling facility at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.
Russia is in the midst of a decades-long nuclear force modernization program intended to replace Soviet-era missiles, aircraft, and submarines with new systems.
The Sentinel program has been plagued with cost increases, flawed assumptions, and misleading arguments from the beginning; this most recent overrun demands hawk-eyed scrutiny of the program’s next steps.
Analyzing and estimating China’s nuclear forces is challenging, particularly given the relative lack of state-originating data and the tight control of messaging surrounding the country’s nuclear arsenal and doctrine.