Nuke Budget Still Made of Funny Money

Not a rounding error - “America’s nuclear arsenal is getting billions of dollars more expensive with each passing year, the Obama administration said in a recent report to Congress obtained by CQ,” writes John Donnelly for CQ Roll Call. “Nuclear weapons costs are beginning to crest as the Pentagon and the Energy Department move into a $1 trillion modernization effort over the next three decades. It is the biggest looming issue in the defense budget.”

--“From fiscal 2017 to 2026, it will cost $341.78 billion... to buy and sustain new nuclear submarines, aircraft, missiles, bombs, warheads and associated computers, according to the report. Last year, the administration told Congress that the cost from fiscal 2016 to 2025 of the nuclear arms program was $319.8 billion — or $22 billion less... A dozen new nuclear-armed subs... will cost $8.4 billion more from fiscal 2017 through 2026 than was projected last year... A planned intercontinental missile... would cost $4.8 billion more. The Long Range Standoff Cruise Missile would cost $900 million more. Nuclear command and control systems will cost $3 billion more. The Energy Department’s weapons stockpile and supporting infrastructure will cost $4.3 billion more... [and] the report may understate the full cost of nuclear modernization.” Full article here.

Tweet - @plough_shares: We need to end wasteful nuclear programs and to align our spending priorities—for today’s threats.

Urging Obama to de-alert U.S. nuclear missiles - “As soon as Trump is sworn into office on January 20, a military officer will start to follow him everywhere he goes,” writes Joe Cirincione, President of Ploughshares Fund for Politico. “This officer carries a briefcase with the command codes to America’s nuclear arsenal.” Once the president gives the order to launch nuclear missiles, “no one can stop him, short of a full-scale mutiny. Once launched, the missiles cannot be recalled. This nuclear posture is called high alert.”

--“Russia keeps an equally large force on high alert – and their early warning systems have deteriorated so badly that in 1995 they mistook a Norwegian weather rocket for a US submarine-launched nuclear missile and almost launched their weapons in response. We came within five minutes of the end of the world… With the stroke of a pen, Obama can take our nuclear missiles off hair-trigger alert before he leaves office. He can close the door to an impetuous, ill-considered nuclear war. Scores of leading nuclear scientists wrote to him last June asking him to do so… Yes, Obama’s far-right critics will denounce him. Yes, Cold War hawks in both parties will criticize him. But the majority of the American public will cheer the news and many in the military will breath a sigh of relief.” Full story here.

Preventing Trump from causing a nuclear disaster - “The Ploughshares Fund, which was established at the height of the Cold War, has started a petition asking Mr Obama to move the weapons from their hair-trigger status,” writes Andrew Buncombe for The Independent. “The demand has received the support of politicians, retired military officers and government officials. Former US Defence Secretary William Perry told The Independent he was ‘worried about’ both Mr Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin… Tom Collina, the group’s director of policy, said the petition had been started amid concerns about Mr Trump’s temperament… ‘Our proposals would build in some extra time, and to make take longer to launch,’ said Mr Collina. ‘The concern is mainly about false alarms. That is when you need cool heads. If you have someone who is impulsive.’” Full story here.

Petition the President - Ploughshares Fund’s petition currently has over 84,000 supporters. Take a moment to voice your support here.

Tweet - @SecDef19: @POTUS - take our #nuclear weapons off high alert, the risk of accidental nuclear war is a risk not worth taking

Command and control - “For about 10 hours in 1980, the United States faced a nuclear threat of its own making after an airman performing maintenance on a Titan II missile dropped a 9-pound socket 70 feet, ripping a hole in a fuel tank and leading to an explosion that propelled a 9-megaton warhead out of the ground,” writes Kelly Kissel for AP. “Using decades-old U.S. Air Force training footage, re-enactments and drone-shot video from a mothballed silo, director Robert Kenner recalls the tense time that began beneath the northern Arkansas landscape. His documentary, ‘Command and Control,’ airs Tuesday on PBS as part of its American Experience series (9 p.m. EST)... ‘Luck is a bad policy,’ Kenner said, paraphrasing a theme from the documentary, which is on the 15-film short list for Best Documentary at this year's Academy Awards. ‘This is a story about human beings making mistakes, but the consequences of making a mistake with this missile and warhead are tremendous.’” Full story here.

Tweet - @GlobalZero: Tmrw night @PBS airs Command & Control, the true story of how luck is bad policy when it comes to #nukes.

Assessing Rick Perry’s nuclear intelligence - “It’s been a rough transition for our friends overseeing the nation’s stockpile of nuclear weapons. First, Donald Trump selected former Texas Gov. Rick Perry — a man who famously earned a D in a college course called Meats — to replace MIT physicist Ernie Moniz as secretary of energy,” writes Jeffrey Lewis for Foreign Policy. “And now Gizmodo reports he has told the top two officials at National Nuclear Security Administration, Frank Klotz and Madelyn Creedon, to clean out their desks by January 20th with no plan to replace them anytime soon.”

--Commenting on the “worries that Perry was in over his head” and a recent New York Times article by James Glanz that raised concerns of possible future nuclear tests, Jeffrey Lewis writes, “nuclear weapons testing has never been a technical decision, but always a political one. Perry may not be the smartest missile in the silo, but he doesn’t have to be to understand that the United States shouldn’t resume nuclear testing. If the United States resumes testing, credit will go to Trump’s aggressive bar-stool belligerence, not any technical need… [Also,] a resumption of U.S. nuclear tests wouldn’t make the country’s stockpile more reliable, [instead, it] would kick up an epic political shit storm, and probably prompt China and Russia into following suit with their own nuclear explosions.” Full story here.

William Perry on North Korea - “I believe it is time to try diplomacy that would actually have a chance to succeed. We lost the opportunity to negotiate with a non-nuclear North Korea when we cut off negotiations in 2001, before it had a nuclear arsenal,” writes William Perry for The Washington Post. “The most we can reasonably expect today is an agreement that lowers the dangers of that arsenal.”

--“The goals would be an agreement with Pyongyang to not export nuclear technology, to conduct no further nuclear testing and to conduct no further ICBM testing. These goals are worth achieving and, if we succeed, could be the basis for a later discussion of a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula. These objectives are far less than we would desire but are based on my belief that we should deal with North Korea as it is, not as we wish it to be... If we don’t find a way — and soon — to freeze North Korea’s quest for a nuclear ICBM, this crisis could all too easily spin out of control, leading to a second Korean War, far more devastating than the first.” Full Op-Ed here.

Trump’s DPRK - “Over the last year, North Korea’s weapon-development efforts have made significant progress due to an unprecedented level of testing. Unless those efforts are somehow checked, there can be little doubt that, even without foreign assistance, they will result in a nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)—though there is some uncertainty about timing,” writes James Action for The Atlantic.

--“It is difficult to conceive how Trump could enforce his red line—if that is what he decides to do—without ultimately reaching a negotiated settlement or authorizing large-scale military action... Yet in spite of these and other challenges, there is really very little reason for the great dealmaker [the President-elect] not to try his hand at diplomacy with Pyongyang. In the very best case, he could prevent the emergence of a grave new threat to the United States indefinitely. More plausibly, he could delay it by a few, potentially valuable years.” Full article here.

Tweet - @ArmsControlNow: "Keeping nuclear weapons ready to launch on a moment’s notice is a dangerous relic of the Cold War" @BarackObama '08

SecDef paints way forward - “Almost uniquely among living Americans, Bill Perry has actually faced down the prospect of nuclear war before—twice,” write John Harris and Bryan Bender for Politico. “Nuclear bombs are an area of expertise Perry had assumed would be largely obsolete by now, seven decades after Hiroshima, a quarter-century after the fall of the Soviet Union, and in the flickering light of his own life. Instead, nukes are suddenly—insanely, by Perry’s estimate—once again a contemporary nightmare, and an emphatically ascendant one.”

--“The smartest move, he thinks, is to eliminate the riskiest part of the system. If we can’t eliminate all nukes, Perry argues, we could at least eliminate one leg of the so-called nuclear triad, intercontinental ballistic missiles. These are especially prone to an accidental nuclear war, if they are launched by accident or due to miscalculation by a leader operating with only minutes to spare... In Perry’s view the only way to avoid it is by directly contemplating catastrophe—and doing so face to face with the world’s largest nuclear power, Russia... ‘We could solve it.’” Full story here.

Iran deal still has strong support in U.S. - “A group of prominent Iranian-Americans has reached out to Donald Trump, urging him to keep Iran’s landmark nuclear agreement once he is sworn in as US president,” writes Saeed Kamali Dehghan for The Guardian. “The signatories, who include artists, scientists, business leaders and pro-democracy activists, said millions of Iranians disagreed with their government on many political issues, but still backed the nuclear accord... In the US, popular support for the agreement also appears high.” Full article here.

See also - “Killing Iran deal would create early crisis for Trump admin, top GOP senator says,” by Carlo Munoz for The Washington Times.

Iran abiding by deal - “Iran is to receive a huge shipment of natural uranium from Russia to compensate it for exporting tons of reactor coolant... in a move approved by the outgoing U.S. administration and other governments seeking to keep Tehran committed to a landmark nuclear pact,” writes George Jahn for The Washington Post. “Uranium can be enriched to levels ranging from reactor fuel or medical and research purposes to the core of an atomic bomb. Iran says it has no interest in such weapons and its activities are being closely monitored under the nuclear pact to make sure they remain peaceful.” Full story here.

Trump’s Iran - “Under President Trump, U.S. strategy on Iran was already likely to face a major overhaul. During the campaign, he vowed to ‘set fire’ to the nuclear pact, which he called ‘the worst deal ever negotiated,’” writes Robin Wright for The New Yorker. And, “the top trio in Trump’s foreign-policy team goes even further than the President-elect on a new Iran policy. All three have supported ousting the theocracy, even though U.S. intelligence officials concluded a long time ago (woe to them now) that the regime will be around for the foreseeable future.”

--Yet, “the nuclear deal may not be the first flashpoint between the Trump Administration and Iran, since the world’s five other major powers are also signatories. They won’t walk away. The focus may instead be bigger—spurred by another hostage crisis, a move by congressional Republicans to impose new sanctions, or a flare-up in the sporadic tensions between the U.S. Navy and the Revolutionary Guards in the Persian Gulf. Obama has repeatedly demonstrated strategic patience on Iran; Trump has a shorter fuse.” Full article here.

Tweet - @NuclearWatchNM: NNSA Denies Gizmodo Report Top Nuclear Officials Removed by Trump Team

NNSA Rumors - On Monday, Gizmodo’s Ashley Feinberg broke the story that the Trump Transition Team “declined to ask the head of the National Nuclear Security Administration and his deputy to temporarily stay in their roles after Trump takes office on January 20th,” a serious break from longstanding tradition wherein NNSA heads stay on until their replacements are approved by the Senate. Late yesterday, Gizmodo issued an update to their initial story, clarifying though the heads of the NNSA will be departing on January 20, the Trump Transition Team “has not explicitly instructed them to leave,” citing a second NNSA official.

--“In other words, the Trump transition team has not asked the top two NNSA officials to stay on until they can be replaced,” Feinberg’s update continues. As Ploughshares President Joe Cirincione said in an interview with Dave Mosher for Business Insider, “You really don't want to strip away the senior management of your nuclear weapons without naming a replacement. The nukes are basically home alone if you do that." Gizmodo’s story and update here. Ploughshares’ commentary here.

Quick Hits:

--“Former U.S. Diplomat Outlines Increasing North Korean Nuclear Threat,” an interview on NPR with Ambassador Joseph DeTrani.

--“Pakistan fires 'first submarine-launched nuclear-capable missile'” by Mehreen Zahra-Malik for Reuters.

--“As a general, Mattis urged action against Iran. As a defense secretary, he may be a voice of caution,” by Greg Jaffe and Adam Entous for The Washington Post.

--“US Navy Missile Submarine Gets Go-Ahead,” by Christopher Caves for DefenseNews.

--“ExxonMobil and Iran did business under secretary of State nominee Tillerson” by Oren Dorrell for USA Today.

--“North Korea's nuclear testing is a 'serious threat' to the US, outgoing Defense Secretary warns” by Caroline Mortimer for The Independent.

--“Taking Stock” by Michael Krepon for Arms Control Wonk.

--“Israeli Satellite Imagery Shows Russian Nuclear-Capable Missiles in Syria” by Barbara Opall-Rome for Defense News.

--“New Arms Race? No, Thanks” by Daryl Kimball for Arms Control Today.

--“Rafsanjani, Iran Leader Whose Life Mirrored Nation's, Dies” by Jon Gambrell and Adam Schreck for The Associated Press.

--“The Untimely Death of an Iranian Pragmatist” by The Editorial Board of The New York Times.


--“Command and Control: An American Experience Documentary,” Oscar-nominated film to be broadcast by PBS affiliated networks nationwide. January 10, 2017 on PBS. Check your local listings for times.

--"Can the Iran Nuclear Deal Survive a Trump Presidency?" panel discussion with five speakers hosted by National Iranian American Council. The event will take place on January 12, 2017, from 12:00pm to 1:00pm at Rayburn House Office Building, 2168, Washington. RSVP online.

Edited by