The National Nuclear Security Administration’s new Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan is as grandiose as it is unconscionable.

By Russ Wellen

ObamaBerlinIn its most recent press release, the Los Alamos Study Group(LASG) explains how President Obama’s recent speech in Berlin reaffirming his ostensible commitment to nuclear disarmament is contradicted by plans to lock their existence in for at least the next 25 years. Many readers may not be exposed to the LASG’s work. Hence, from another one of the most eloquent series of press release you’re likely read (emphasis added). Read the rest of this entry »

Is Pakistan a country that might, as opposed to the United States, actually find tactical nuclear weapons useful?

By Russ Wellen

B61You’ve heard of planned obsolescence — tactical nuclear weapons are a case of deferred obsolescence: a weapon that has long ago worn out its welcome in the U.S. arsenal. On June 6, in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, Steve Andreasen, a consultant for the Nuclear Threat Initiative, wrote:

Throughout the Cold War, thousands of tactical nuclear weapons — short-range nuclear artillery shells, missiles and bombs — were deployed by the United States to deter the Soviets from exploiting their advantages in Europe to mount a lightning attack. … After the Soviet Union collapsed, President George H. W. Bush ordered the return of almost all U.S. tactical nuclear weapons, leaving only a few hundred air-delivered gravity bombs — the B61 — in European bunkers. Read the rest of this entry »

Republicans oppose U.S. cooperation with Russia on NATO missile defense.

By Russ Wellen

In a Reuters blog post titled Why Russia won’t deal on NATO missile defense, Yousaf Butt of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies writes that, to “allay Moscow’s concerns, Washington has invited Russia to participate in [a missile defense] system, helping NATO guard against Iran.”

But, reported the Associated Press in May:

Republicans … trying to block Obama administration overtures to Russia on missile defense [are] proposing a measure that would bar the administration from sharing classified missile defense data with Russia.

That would undercut a path that arms control advocates have urged to restart nuclear talks, which have been set back by a missile defense dispute. Read the rest of this entry »

Its personnel may be depressed, but at least they’re not launching nuclear weapons.

By Russ Wellen

Following up on his story of the 17 launch crew members of the 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., who were removed from active duty, Robert Burns of the Associated Press reports:

Officers with a finger on the trigger of the Air Force’s most powerful nuclear missiles are complaining of a wide array of morale-sapping pressures, according to internal emails obtained by The Associated Press.

… Key themes among the complaints include working under “poor leadership” and being stuck in “dead-end careers” in nuclear weapons, one email said. … The complaints also said there was a need for more experienced missile officers, a less arduous work schedule and “leaders who will listen.”

Taken together, the complaints suggest sagging morale in arguably the most sensitive segment of the American military. Read the rest of this entry »

Nuclear missile officers’ jobs weigh heavy on them but not for the reasons you’d think. 

By Russ Wellen

On May 8 we posted about an article by Robert Burns of the Associated Press, in which he reported that the Air Force removed authority to control – and launch – nuclear missiles from 17 officers of the 91st Missile Wing in Minot, North Dakota after they were given a poor review for a series of mistakes. Read the rest of this entry »

The construction of an expensive new plutonium pit facility has been abandoned. Will it be replaced a collection of smaller buildings?

By Russ Wellen

Thanks in large part to lawsuits filed by the Los Alamos Study Group, last year the Obama administration halted the construction of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF) at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The research for which it was earmarked was  on plutonium pits, which is where the chain reaction of a nuclear weapons occurs. Even if you believe in nuclear weapons, the need for new pits is nonexistent because they’re noted for their longevity. Read the rest of this entry »

Theoretically Pakistan is poised to respond to Indian military retaliation for a terrorist strike with tactical nukes.

By Russ Wellen

It’s debatable how much nuclear weapons add to national security. But what’s undeniable is that they add layer upon layer of complexity, sprinkled with convoluted and even counterintuitive thinking (such as how missile defense systems are seen as an offensive act), to national defense. By way of example, on April 30, in the Times of India, Indrani Bagchi, wrote:

India will retaliate massively even if Pakistan uses tactical nuclear weapons against it. [It] will protect its security interests by retaliating to a “smaller” tactical attack in exactly the same manner as it would respond to a “big” strategic attack.

Two questions immediately arise.
1. Why did Pakistan develop tactical nuclear weapons?
2. Why would India respond disproportionately to the use of what’s often referred to as “battlefield” nuclear weapons? (Not to diminish their power or, by any means, condone a state’s possession of them.) Read the rest of this entry »

To concerns about human error in nuclear launch control add moodiness.

By Russ Wellen

Robert Burns of the Associated Press reports that the Air Force removed authority to control – and launch – nuclear missiles from 17 officers of the 91st Missile Wing in Minot, North Dakota after they were given a poor review for a series of mistakes.

The tip-off to trouble was a March inspection, which earned the equivalent of a “D” grade when tested on its mastery of Minuteman III missile launch operations. … In addition to the 17, possible disciplinary action is pending against one other officer at Minot who investigators found had purposefully broken a missile safety rule in an unspecified act that could have compromised the secret codes that enable the launching of missiles. [Emphasis added.]

Human error when on nuclear launch duty is serious enough. But willfulness only further increases the degree of difficulty of managing nuclear risk. Read the rest of this entry »

Corporate contractors not only receive money from the federal government, but help dictate policy.

By Russ Wellen

Dienekes was a Spartan soldier noted for his bravery. Herodotus wrote of him in The Histories (via Wikipedia)

It is said that on the eve of battle, he was told by a native of Trachis that the Persian archers were so numerous that, their arrows would block out the sun. Dienekes, however, undaunted by this prospect, remarked with a laugh, ‘Good. Then we will fight in the shade.’”

A reporter using the name Dienekes produced a paper in February titled Broken Promises: The White House, Special Interests, and New START that the Los Alamos Study Group featured on its website. Perhaps, he identifies with Dienekes because he feels vastly dwarfed by the forces of the Iron Triangle (his description: “the relationship between congressional committees, federal agencies, and special interest groups seeking to benefit from public policy”) against which he pits himself. Meanwhile, this reader can’t help but observe that in the event of a nuclear war, the survivors will be living in the shade of nuclear winter. Read the rest of this entry »

In part, the Vietnam War was perceived as a message that the U.S. would not be intimidated by a Chinese nuclear-weapons program.

By Russ Wellen

You’ve probably heard that, as Jeremi Suri reported in Wired five years ago, after the Paris Vietnam peace talks broke down in 1969…

Frustrated, Nixon decided to try something new: threaten the Soviet Union with a massive nuclear strike and make its leaders think he was crazy enough to go through with it. His hope was that the Soviets would be so frightened of events spinning out of control that they would strong-arm Hanoi, telling the North Vietnamese to start making concessions at the negotiating table or risk losing Soviet military support. Read the rest of this entry »

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