from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
January 12, 2001


"I don't know whether we can reduce [the number of weapons in the U.S. nuclear arsenal] or not," said Defense Secretary-designate Donald Rumsfeld at his confirmation hearing yesterday. "There is a minimum below which you cannot go and maintain the kind of target list that rational people think is appropriate."

But who are those rational people who determine the appropriate target list for fighting a nuclear war?

They do not include even the most senior elected officials in Congress, as Sen. Robert Kerrey noted recently. The nuclear targeting list, known as the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP), is so highly classified that not even the chair and ranking members of the Intelligence or Armed Services Committees are permitted to review it.

Yet as Rumsfeld indicated, it is this list that determines the size of the nuclear arsenal and much of the U.S. military force structure. By withholding the information from Congress, the Pentagon effectively blocks congressional participation in defining the foundation of nuclear weapons policy.

Would Rumsfeld change this Pentagon practice of unaccountable secrecy, Senator Mary Landrieu asked?

"Those are decisions that I think are the President's, and it's not for me to opine as to what extent, if at all, the current procedures ought to be changed," Mr. Rumsfeld responded.

"I do know that the U.S. [targeting] plans are reviewed, admittedly, by a very small number of people in the executive branch, the national command authorities. They are reviewed regularly. They are changed as circumstances change in the world. As you suggested, they are highly classified. And that's about all I can say."

The exchange between Senator Landrieu and Mr. Rumsfeld is posted here:


The Department of Energy has assembled an unprecedented list of 317 facilities that have been involved in U.S. nuclear weapons production-related activities over the past sixty years.

The sites are spread over 37 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Marshall Islands. They include facilities directly involved in weapons production, as well as certain other government facilities that utilized radioactive materials and facilities that handled or processed beryllium for government use.

The list was prepared in support of a Clinton Administration program to provide compensation to individuals who developed illnesses as a result of their employment in nuclear weapons production. Previously, the government's unwillingness to acknowledge the existence of nuclear weapons work at some facilities has presented an obstacle to workers seeking compensation for their injuries.

The site list is included in a Notice that was prepared for publication in the Federal Register. The Notice is posted here:


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