Take Nuclear Missiles Off Hair-Trigger Alert

Developing story: Donald Trump (Tweet) and Vladimir Putin (Statement) both called for strengthening and expanding their already formidable nuclear arsenals today. Watch Joe Cirincione’s take here.

Mr. President, take nuclear missiles off hair-trigger - “It is not too late to stop [President-elect Donald Trump] from impulsively blowing up the planet. With the stroke of a pen, President Barack Obama could take our nuclear missiles off high alert, making sure that President Trump could not launch them rashly. If he doesn’t do this, we will all regret it,” writes Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund for The Huffington Post. “President Obama should take our nuclear missiles off hair-trigger alert before Donald Trump gets control of them.”

--“If the president can do this for parts of the environment, he can take this one simple step to safeguard the entire planet. Scores of leading nuclear scientists wrote to the President asking him to take nuclear missiles off hair-trigger alert… President Trump could still launch nuclear weapons in an emergency, but it would take hours or days. This gives time for consultations, consideration, time to check mistakes and blunt the impulses of the moment. More time doesn’t weaken our national security; it strengthens it.” Read the full story here. http://huff.to/2hatFGC

Sign a petition to reduce risks of nuclear disaster - “On January 20, the military officer carrying the codes for America's nuclear arsenal will follow President Barack Obama to the inaugural platform. When he leaves, the officer will follow President Donald Trump… President Trump will be able to launch, within minutes, one or one thousand nuclear warheads without any vote, any check, or even any serious deliberation. Just one missile could kill millions. Once launched, the missiles could not be recalled.” Sign the Ploughshares Fund petition to urge President Barack Obama to take our nuclear missiles off hair-trigger alert and reduce the risk of nuclear catastrophe. http://bit.ly/2hUglVF

Beyond hair-trigger - “It’s not too late [for President Barack Obama] to make a little more progress [on nuclear weapons],” writes Lisbeth Gronlund for Union of Concerned Scientists. “Obama could reduce the hedge stockpile of weapons the US keeps in storage, and the amount of highly-enriched uranium and plutonium that the US keeps in case it wants to build even more weapons. It’s surprising that he hasn’t already taken these incremental steps. But their incremental nature also means that the Trump administration is unlikely to object… By cutting the hedge and declaring more fissile material excess, Obama would go a little further in fulfilling the promise he made in 2009.” Read full story here. http://bit.ly/2hYXBqv

Minutiae matters in nuclear legislation - “For decades, America’s defense against nuclear attack has rested on twin pillars: The nation’s homeland missile defense system is designed to thwart a small-scale, or ‘limited,’ attack by the likes of North Korea or Iran. As for the threat of a large-scale strike by China or Russia, the prospect of massive U.S. retaliation is supposed to deter both from ever launching missiles,” writes David Willman for The Los Angeles Times. “Central to this strategy was a one-word qualifier – ‘limited’ -- used to define the mission of the homeland defense system. The language was carefully crafted to avoid reigniting an arms race among the superpowers.”

--In new legislation that sits before President Obama, Congress has cut the word limited and “laid the groundwork for both a major shift in U.S. nuclear defense doctrine and a costly effort to field space-based weaponry.” Bipartisan majorities in both Houses “did so in giving final approval over the last month to the year-end defense bill, the National Defense Authorization Act.” Full analysis of the repercussions here. http://lat.ms/2i5bRew

Tweet - @ArmsControlNow: #ObamaLegacy includes progress on nuclear materials security, writes @MilesPomper in #ArmsControlToday http://bit.ly/2i5gGVg

Trump’s Nixon love affair - The President-elect would do well to emulate one aspect of Richard Nixon’s presidency--his realism and pragmatism when dealing with foreign powers, argues Barry Blechman in a new essay for USA Today. Blechman writes of Nixon, “while confronting the Soviet Union, he was willing to talk with Soviet leaders about ways to reduce nuclear dangers. This led not only to understandings between the two nations’ armed forces about protocols to avoid inadvertent conflict, but also to the first U.S.-Russia arms control agreements.”

--“Trump has stated that he believes he can ‘deal’ with Russian President Vladimir Putin. One good place to start would be with nuclear issues, as that evil genie seems to have been creeping out of its bottle in recent years. Trump might have drawn political inspiration from the late Richard Nixon. He should definitely draw on the 37th president's good instincts in foreign policy. His place in history, to say nothing of the United States, would be far better for it.” Full piece here. http://usat.ly/2if82lY

Flynn’s questionable ties - The Ploughshares Fund President Joe Cirincione went on MSNBC this week to discuss a meeting between Trump’s National Security Advisor, General Michael Flynn, and Austria’s far-right Freedom Party. Also featuring former U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul. Video here. http://on.msnbc.com/2hRUm1D

Tweet - @NuclearWatchNM: Time for the world to treat nuclear weapons like chem and bio- as mere slaughtering weapons undeserving of prestige http://bit.ly/2gXZ0Jb

Ballooning costs for Hanford site cleanup - “A $67.5 million payment by a major nuclear weapons contractor to settle claims that it illegally spent federal funds is the latest in a series of settlements stemming from allegations that firms making bombs and cleaning up the resulting debris are using federal money improperly to win support for continued weapons-related work,” writes Patrick Malone for The Center for Public Integrity. “Altogether, the three companies that have made such settlement payments since 2013 are involved in the operation of six of the eight active sites in the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons program.”

--“Cleanup of the Hanford site was authorized 25 years ago, and as of 2000 it was expected to cost $4.3 billion and be completed in 2011. The Department now estimates it may not be fully operational until 2037, according to pleadings filed in federal court by government lawyers defending the Energy Department in a lawsuit brought by the state of Washington to force an acceleration of the cleanup. If the job is funded at its current level of about $690 million a year until 2037, the cost would exceed $15 billion.” Find the full story here. http://bit.ly/2ijGbRH

Obama works to bolster Iran deal - “The Barack Obama administration and European allies are trying to buy time for the Iran nuclear deal, working to resolve any technical ambiguities in the accord and trying to make the case to the emerging Donald Trump team that the deal is working and renegotiating it is not a viable option,” writes Laura Rozen for Al Monitor. “While the Obama administration increasingly thinks it is unlikely… that the Trump administration comes in and rips up the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), it worries about other scenarios that could strain the year-old nuclear accord… Paradoxically, trying to renegotiate the deal to strengthen it could cause the erosion of the international consensus that undergirds it.”

--“In its final weeks, the outgoing Obama administration is trying to leave the Iran deal in healthy condition. It is working to resolve any technical ambiguities, mostly resulting from differing interpretations of the text of the landmark deal, a senior US official said. It has also sought to soothe Iranian anger over the renewal last week of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA), which Obama pointedly did not sign when it passed into law Dec. 14 after the Senate voted 99 to 0 in favor of renewing the legislation. Secretary of State John Kerry also called Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Dec. 15 to say he had signed waivers of relevant sanctions under the ISA.” Read the full story here. http://bit.ly/2hdCBuF

See also - “EU warns Trump not to destroy Iran nuclear deal,” by Geoff Dyer for Financial Times. http://on.ft.com/2hLRbdK

Trump on Iran - “President-elect Donald Trump has yet to clarify his administration’s policy toward Iran and the July 2015 multilateral nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). But he will need to move quickly as Iranian news outlets are reporting that the spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said a meeting of the nuclear deal's Joint Commission will take place in early January and include members of the Trump team,” writes Kelsey Davenport for Arms Control Now.

--“Trump’s advisors, however, have voiced conflicting views about the agreement... but not all of Trump’s nominees favor scrapping the agreement... The current agreement is working... [and if] the United States walks away from the deal, whittles away at the agreement, or provokes Iran into a violation, a new deal is extremely unlikely and the risks of a nuclear-armed Iran increase.” Full article and analysis of most recent nuclear news stories here. http://bit.ly/2hZliyR

Tweet - @Livableworld: #Nuclear weapons firms pay to settle illegal lobbying cases http://ow.ly/MsfY307lKVC via @USATODAY http://usat.ly/2hUaDFr

UK moves forward with modernization - The British Ministry of Defence has created a new agency to oversee the construction of their new nuclear missile submarines. Andrew Chuter for DefenseNews writes, “Mandated by the 2015 strategic defense and security review, the new submarine procurement and support agency is one of several initiatives by the government to try to avoid cost overruns and delays in the construction of the four Dreadnought-class Trident missile submarines scheduled to be built at BAE’s Barrow-in-Furness yard.”

--The Brits are currently in the process of upgrading their nuclear missile submarines, a controversial modernization project slated to cost “£986 million ($1.22 billion) for manufacturing and a further £277 million ($343 million) for the continuation of design work.” Full story on the historical cost overruns of the program here. http://bit.ly/2hWARVJ

Quick Hits:

--“Barack Obama used nuclear 'red phone' to warn Putin about Russian hacking of US election,” by Nick Allen for The Telegraph. http://bit.ly/2ial4VY

--“U.N. nuclear chief set for re-election as rival steps aside: diplomats,” by Francois Murphy and Shadia Nasralla for Reuters. --“N. Korea rejects NATO's call to abandon nuclear ambition,” published by Yonhap News Agency. http://bit.ly/2ijGVXg

--“Nuclear-capable Nirbhay cruise missile's test fails for the fourth time,” by Rajat Pandit for The Times of India. http://bit.ly/2ifIPMy

--“Russian Military 2016: Putin Seeks Better Nuclear Potential, Development Of Missiles To Penetrate Defense Systems,” by Vishakha Sonawane for International Business Times. http://bit.ly/2hdhZmj


--Senate Armed Services Committee, hearing on the nomination of Gen. James Mattis to be Defense Secretary (estimate) on January 9, 2017. Room TBA, Senate Office Building, Washington. Webcast on the committee website. http://bit.ly/1KQohxw

--“Command and Control: An American Experience Documentary,” broadcasted by PBS affiliated networks nationwide. January 10, 2017 on PBS. Check your local listings for times. http://bit.ly/2aXwKFZ

--"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. http://bit.ly/2iaGRgy

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