Rightsize the Nuclear Budget, Strengthen National Security

On the radar: CAP on nuke budget savings; Barak: Iran hit “pause”; Sandy versus nuke costs; Debating the military option; Unofficial Iran talks; Strikes against Sudan in question; Questioning strategic stability; Still waiting on fusion; and Scary nuclear stories.

October 31st, 2012 | Edited by Mary Kaszynski and Marianne Nari Fisher

$20B in nuclear savings - Reducing the defense budget by $1 trillion “is readily achievable with no sacrifice to our security - if the cuts are done in a thoughtful manner over the next decade,” writes the Center for American Progress Task Force on a Unified Security Budget in a new report.

-- Strategy is inherently linked to budgets, the authors note: “Our intensive international diplomatic efforts to keep Iran from becoming a nuclear state, for example, are undermined by a budget that is investing billions of dollars in new nuclear weapons designs of our own...”

--The report recommends trimming the nuclear arsenal to 311 warheads, saving $20 billion, and increasing investments in nuclear nonproliferation. http://bit.ly/Tt3ZSZ

Israel on Iran’s uranium - Iran has temporarily postponed its nuclear ambitions. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak noted Iran’s decision to convert some of its 20% enriched uranium to fuel rods.

--The move may delay “the moment of truth by 8 to 10 months,” Barak said. Note that this timeline lines up with the Iranian presidential elections (June 2013) and the beginning of the new presidential term (August 2013). http://nyti.ms/V8FU5Y

Israel’s strategy - The open debate among Israeli officials may be part of Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s strategy to getting a U.S. to commitment for military action, writes Trita Parsi in The Daily Beast. http://bit.ly/RjE1xE

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Sandy vs the nuclear budget - Besides knocking the Early Warning radar offline for a day, Hurricane Sandy caused serious economic damage - a projected $30 to $50 billion. That puts it in the top ten list of costliest storms, according to a report by the National Hurricane Center. http://n.pr/PlsVLD

--According to the report, damage from the top ten costliest storms from 1900 to 2010 totals $283 billion (in constant 2010 dollars). That’s less than half of the projected $640 billion U.S. plans to spend on nuclear weapons and related programs over the next ten years.

”Publicly unreasonable” - In a recent interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, presidential candidate Mitt Romney made some puzzling remarks on U.S. policy towards Iran, indicating that public discussion of the consequences of the military option is unhelpful.

--Goldberg’s endorsement of Governor Romney’s stance, which he described as “privately reasonable and publicly unreasonable,” was equally puzzling. Full interview in Bloomberg. http://bloom.bg/WVrE0Y

Democracy in action - “Having a thorough, thoughtful, honest and open discussion about the consequences of going to war with Iran only helps us and our allies,” writes Think Progress’ Ben Armbruster on the Romney/Goldberg interview. http://bit.ly/RjMmRA

Russia’s nuclear costs - Russia is slated to spend at least $3.6 billion on its atomic arsenal before the end of 2015. Recently introduced programs to upgrade its weapons systems, ranging from development of new ICBMs to developing new ballistic missile submarines, will raise Russia’s nuclear bill. NTI’s Global Security Newswire has the details. http://bit.ly/TU0Nfi

Shadow talks - Ties between Iran and the US are developing in absence of official diplomatic relations, writes Laura Rozen at Al-Monitor. Iran’s foreign ministry appointed think-tank Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS) as liaison for contacts with non-governmental US policy experts. These newly instituted relationships are reportedly pushing for “a possible nuclear compromise.” http://bit.ly/TmN0xj

Tweet - @armscontrolnow: "I will continue to do everything I possibly can to move #Iran negotiations forward" says EU High Rep Ashton http://1.usa.gov/PlQa8q

Legal dispute - Amidst talk on a growing divide between UK-US relations regarding the Iran issue and legality of a pre-emptive strike, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said last Friday that “whenever the DOD considers military action ‘we do it within the legal confines…of this country.’” Full details at Lobelog. http://bit.ly/TX0lCV

Three strikes - Israel supposedly carried out a secondary military strike on weapons warehouses in Sudan on Oct. 24, an explosion that left extensive damage. It is widely believed the strike is a result of alleged ties between Sudan and Iran, despite continued Sudanese denial of aiding Iranian’s pursuit for nuclear materials and capabilities. The Christian Science Monitor has the details. http://bit.ly/RsyLe5

The myth of strategic stability - “Key elements of the concept [of strategic stability] are so poorly defined that it has no useful meaning and virtually no practical value,” writes Pavel Podvig in The Bulletin.

-- “The only reliable way to deal with the many alleged threats to strategic stability is to build a system of relationships in which countries make conscious decisions to exclude these ‘threats’ from their national security calculations,” Podvig concludes. http://bit.ly/Rr55KX

Quote - “The transition from WSI-Oak Ridge to B&W Y-12 has gone very smoothly...We believe we'll see additional successes with the protective force fully integrated," says Rod Johnson, Deputy General Manager for Security at the Y-12 facilities. Global Security Newswire has the full quote. http://bit.ly/SklNNN

Jumping the gun - In light of the UK’s recently announced $562 million contract for design work on Trident equipped submarines, skeptics speculate the decision may be a mistake. The final decision on the upgrade will be determined in 2016.

-- “British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg on Monday said the defense secretary is "jumping the gun" by pouring more money into development of a next-generation ballistic missile submarine before a final decision is made on how to modernize the United Kingdom's nuclear deterrent” NTI has the story. http://bit.ly/RsCPLf

Tweet - @russianforces: Russia again confirms that all tactical nukes are in centralized storage http://t.co/7LqUjyHX U.S. should do the same

NIF not igniting - The five-billion dollar Nuclear Ignition Facility has yet to achieve its nominal goal: nuclear fusion. The project’s unclear purpose, and lack of a timeline have proponents struggling to justify continued funding. http://bit.ly/TILcVU

Halloween treat - In the spirit of Halloween, Jeffrey Lewis takes a look twelve “close-call” nuclear events, marking one scary story for each month. Foreign Policy has the collection. http://bit.ly/W6hOKM