from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2005, Issue No. 57
June 20, 2005


The U.S. military needs to improve its ability to operate in the aftermath of a nuclear explosive strike against U.S. forces or territory, the Defense Science Board (DSB) argued in a new study.

"Despite the reduction of the threat of strategic nuclear exchange, it is becoming more, not less, likely that U.S. forces will have to operate in a nuclear environment in regional operations," the Pentagon advisory body wrote.

"This is driven by the proliferation of nuclear weapon capabilities and the attractiveness of nuclear weapons as an offset to U.S. conventional superiority and as a counter to U.S. preemptive doctrine," according to the DSB report, released late last week.

In addition to a grim, if vague, threat assessment, the DSB report provides unusually straightforward discussion of nuclear weapon effects. ("In realistic situations, some warhead components will shield the prompt radiations from other components, creating a large shadow cone in a preferential direction.")

The report also provides an extensive account of nuclear weapon effects simulation facilities in the Departments of Defense and Energy, as well as a discussion of current survivability practices in each of the military services. ("The directives and instructions regarding nuclear survivability in the Navy are out of date.")

See "Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Nuclear Weapon Effects, Test, Evaluation, and Simulation," April 2005 (132 pages, 2.2 MB PDF file):


The Massachusetts Institute of Technology should assert itself more vigorously on behalf of MIT professor Ted Postol in his continuing dispute with the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency (MDA) involving allegations of scientific fraud at an MIT laboratory, three senior scientists urged the university.

The dispute has become a case study in the incompatibility between classified research and ordinary academic standards and practices.

Resolution of the controversy has been stymied by MDA's insistence that all of the relevant documentation is classified and will not be made available to university investigators even if they hold a clearance.

"We are concerned that ... MIT appears to have accepted MDA's edict as legitimate," wrote physicists Frank von Hippel, Richard L. Garwin and John Ahearne.

"In our view, MDA's position that MIT has no need to know whether fraud is occurring in the research that it manages for the federal government is unacceptable and flies in the face of one of the fundamental rationales for having universities manage such research," they wrote.

"We believe that MIT's position should simply be that it will not manage research whose integrity it is not allowed to verify."

A copy of the May 31 letter from von Hippel, Garwin and Ahearne is here:

"I can assure you that MIT has consistently pursued, and continues to seek, an investigation of these allegations, including review of both the relevant classified and unclassified record," wrote MIT President Susan Hockfield in a brief reply on June 14:

The exchange of letters was first reported in "MIT urged to press Pentagon on data" by Marcella Bombardieri, Boston Globe, June 18:


Recent reports of the Congressional Research Service obtained by Secrecy News include the following.

"The Middle East Peace Talks," updated June 10, 2005:

"Iraq: U.S. Military Operations," updated May 18, 2005:

"Port and Maritime Security: Background and Issues for Congress," updated May 10, 2005:

"Navy Ship Procurement: Alternative Funding Approaches -- Background and Options for Congress," updated May 11, 2005:

"Navy Ship Deployments: New Approaches -- Background and Issues for Congress," updated May 12, 2005:

"International Government-Procurement Obligations of the United States: An Overview," updated May 17, 2005:

"Iraq: Recent Developments in Reconstruction Assistance," updated May 12, 2005:

"U.S. Direct Investment Abroad: Trends and Current Issues," updated April 29, 2005:

"China's Trade with the United States and the World," updated April 29, 2005:

"Ballistic Missile Defense: Historical Overview," April 22, 2005:


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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