White House Budget Doubles Down on Nukes

POTUS seeks extra billion for nukes - “President Donald Trump has proposed to boost federal spending on the production of nuclear weapons by more than $1 billion in 2018 while slashing or eliminating spending on many federal programs related to diplomacy, foreign aid, and social needs, in a budget proposal that reflects the first tangible expression of his defense priorities,” write Patrick Malone and R. Jeffrey Smith for Public Integrity.

--The budget outline “contained only a few sentences about the proposal, which would give the NNSA a total of $14.3 billion in fiscal year 2018. But the blueprint said the new spending would support ‘the goals of moving toward a responsive nuclear infrastructure and advancing the existing program of record for warhead life extension programs.’” The $1.4 billion (11%) increase for the NNSA highlights the “special status Trump has assigned to nuclear weapons work... exemplified by the fact that even as the NNSA’s budget would expand under his proposal, the rest of the Energy Department’s budget would decline by around 20 percent, or $1.7 billion.” Article here. http://bit.ly/2ma39B9

See also - In the budget outline, POTUS has also proposed restarting the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste plant project in Nevada, a more than $120 million political quagmire opposed by most Nevadans. Full story here. http://cnb.cx/2mNWBpc

Take action - Ready to restore checks and balances to the nuclear codes? Inspired by the legislation proposed by Rep. Ted Liu and Sen. Ed Markey, Ploughshares Fund, along with fifteen other public interest groups, has created a new petition urging Congress to keep America safe by preventing any U.S. President from unilaterally launching a nuclear weapon. Sign and share the petition today. bit.ly/pf-petition

The nuclear truck in the next lane - “The unmarked 18-wheelers ply the nation’s interstates and two-lane highways, logging 3 million miles a year hauling the most lethal cargo there is: nuclear bombs. The covert fleet, which shuttles warheads from missile silos, bomber bases and submarine docks to nuclear weapons labs across the country, is operated by the Office of Secure Transportation, a troubled agency within the U.S. Department of Energy so cloaked in secrecy that few people outside the government know it exists,” write Ralph Vartabedian and W.J. Hennigan for The Los Angeles Times.

--“The transportation office is about to become more crucial than ever as the U.S. embarks on a $1-trillion upgrade of the nuclear arsenal... The increased workload will hit an agency already struggling with problems of forced overtime, high driver turnover, old trucks and poor worker morale — raising questions about its ability to keep nuclear shipments safe from attack in an era of more sophisticated terrorism.” Full story here. http://lat.ms/2nekm9L

Tweet - @SecDef19: Learn about nuclear weapons and the history of their development in a free online course from Stanford http://stanford.io/2dfxjy8

It’s Trump’s (nuke) program now - “The United States and Russia are heading into a dangerous nuclear arms race, one that will rob scarce funds from higher priority military and domestic needs and could push us to the brink of atomic catastrophe,” writes Tom Collina for The Hill. “To be fair, Trump did not start this arms race. That dubious distinction goes to former President Obama, who set the United States on a misguided course to spend more than $1 trillion on nuclear weapons over the next three decades.”

--“Obama green-lighted what has morphed into a wasteful spending spree by promising to refresh the U.S. nuclear arsenal in exchange for Republican support of New START in 2010... the nuclear arsenal renewal plan is now much larger than envisioned when New START passed the Senate. Once the nuclear bureaucracy got a hold of it, each atomic mission and weapon became essential... But there is a new sheriff in town, and this plan to revamp the nuclear arsenal is no longer Obama’s. Once Trump puts it in his defense budget, he owns it. And by all indications, it’s in there.” Full story here. http://bit.ly/2mLGlTG

Tweet - @globalzero: These researchers are trying to determine what would happen if a nuclear bomb went off in Manhattan http://theatln.tc/2mswDWh

Small nukes, big problem - “In a recent report, the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board recommends ‘a more flexible nuclear enterprise’ that could include a ‘tailored nuclear option for limited use’ and ‘lower yield, primary-only options,’” write Philip Coyle and James McKeon for Politico. “With President Donald Trump’s call to ‘expand’ the U.S. nuclear arsenal, there is a growing possibility that these recommendations could turn into reality.”

--“Defense hawks argue that new, small nuclear weapons deployed in Europe would further deter Russian aggression in the region — and that they are critical for ‘winning’ a nuclear war. This is a profoundly flawed argument... Deploying new, more capable low-yield weapons would serve only to heighten tensions between the United States and Russia, likely leading to a new type of nuclear arms race that no one would win, and increasing the chances that these arms will be used. The benefits are nonexistent; the heightened dangers are impossible to ignore. As Reagan made clear, once the nuclear threshold is crossed, there is no going back.” http://politi.co/2mtikUA

U.S. still implementing New START - “The Air Force is quietly shrinking its deployed force of land-based nuclear missiles as part of a holdover Obama administration plan to comply with an arms control treaty with Russia. The reductions are nearing completion despite President Donald Trump's argument that the treaty gives Moscow an unfair advantage in nuclear firepower,” writes Robert Burns for the AP. “The reduction to 400 missiles from 450 is the first for the intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, force in a decade.”

--“Russia's warheads [currently surpass] the treaty limit of 1,550, and the U.S. is below the limit. But by next February, neither is expected to be above. Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said Moscow would honor its New START commitment. ‘It's important for the United States to stay on schedule,’ he said, arguing that such efforts ‘will help ensure that Russia does the same.’" Full story here. http://bit.ly/2n9HxUl

Tweet - @nukes_of_hazard: In alarming news amid #NorthKorea threat, Tillerson says ‘circumstances could evolve’ for a Japanese nuclear arsenal http://bit.ly/2n9VqCd

The end of ‘strategic patience’ - “Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson ruled out on Friday opening any negotiation with North Korea to freeze its nuclear and missile programs and said for the first time that the Trump administration might be forced to take pre-emptive action ‘if they elevate the threat of their weapons program’ to an unacceptable level,” writes David Sanger for The New York Times. “‘The policy of strategic patience has ended,’ Mr. Tillerson said, a reference to [the Obama administration's policy] of waiting out the North Koreans, while gradually ratcheting up sanctions and covert action.”

--“Mr. Tillerson explicitly rejected a Chinese proposal to get the North Koreans to freeze their testing in return for the United States and South Korea suspending all annual joint military exercises... Among many experts, the idea of a freeze has been favored as the least terrible of a series of bad options. Jon Wolfsthal... and Toby Dalton wrote recently in Politico: ‘A temporary freeze on missile and nuclear developments sounds better than an unconstrained and growing threat. It is also, possibly, the most logical and necessary first step toward an overall agreement between the U.S. and North Korea.’” Full story here. http://nyti.ms/2n3SEwu

See also - “Can Trump Stop Kim Jong Un?” by Jon Wolfsthal and Toby Dalton for Politico. http://politi.co/2nEiFBO

New sanctions on DPRK? - “The Trump administration is considering sweeping sanctions aimed at cutting North Korea off from the global financial system as part of a broad review of measures to counter Pyongyang's nuclear and missile threat, a senior U.S. official said on Monday,” write Matt Spetalnick and David Brunnstrom for Reuters.

--“The sanctions would be part of a multi-pronged approach of increased economic and diplomatic pressure – especially on Chinese banks and firms that do the most business with North Korea – plus beefed-up defenses by the United States and its South Korean and Japanese allies... While the long-standing option of pre-emptive military strikes against North Korea is not off the table – as reflected by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's warning to Pyongyang during his Asia tour last week - the new administration is giving priority for now to less-risky options.” Full story here. http://reut.rs/2n9HZ5a

How to stop an NK trainwreck - “The United States is in the middle of a slow-motion trainwreck with North Korea over its nuclear weapons and missile program. North Korea's missile tests [on March 13] are just the latest alarm in what could spiral into a full-blown crisis. We better start listening,” writes Philip Yun, Ploughshares Fund Executive Director, for The Hill. “Unless we do something about it now, a ‘metal on metal’ collision could be in the offing, marked by more North Korean tests and calls within Washington for military strikes to stop them.”

--“North Korea is the land of lousy policy options. The least-worst option focuses on a freeze of the North's activity in exchange for what it wants: security, political legitimacy and economic sustainability. To do this, we have no choice but to swallow a bitter pill. Using what little leverage and pressure we have, we must talk with the North Koreans at sufficiently high levels, something we haven't done for some time.” Article here. http://bit.ly/2nwvEZK

Hacking nukes is our problem too - “It is tempting for the United States to exploit its superiority in cyberwarfare to hobble the nuclear forces of North Korea or other opponents,” writes Bruce Blair for The New York Times. “But as with many things involving nuclear weaponry, escalation of this strategy has a downside: United States forces are also vulnerable to such attacks... We had such an Achilles’ heel not so long ago... In 2010, 50 nuclear-armed Minuteman missiles sitting in underground silos in Wyoming mysteriously disappeared from their launching crews’ monitors for nearly an hour.”

--“It was a harrowing scene, and apprehension rippled all the way to the White House. Hackers were constantly bombarding our nuclear networks, and it was considered possible that they had breached the firewalls. The Air Force quickly determined that an improperly installed circuit card in an underground computer was responsible for the lockout, and the problem was fixed. But President Obama was not satisfied and ordered investigators to continue to look for similar vulnerabilities. Sure enough, they turned up deficiencies, according to officials involved in the investigation.” Full story here. http://nyti.ms/2mo284y

The Iran Deal - For a global look at the Iran nuclear deal--and Iran’s continued compliance--see “The Iran Deal: The International Perspective,” a panel featuring IAEA head Yukiya Amano, UAE Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba, JCPOA negotiator Baroness Catherine Ashton and Carnegie’s Eli Levite, moderated by BBC’s Kim Ghattas. The panel was part of the Carnegie Endowment’s International Nuclear Policy Conference in Washington this week. Video here. http://bit.ly/2n9H5pf

Super-fuzing explained - “On March 1, 2017, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists released a major scoop that has extremely worrisome implications for U.S.-Russian relations and the risk of nuclear war...  the W76–1 naval warhead is now three times as lethal as before, and this massive expansion of kill capability makes it look like the United States is preparing for a decapitating nuclear attack.” John Baker, a Mellon-ACLS Public Fellow at the Ploughshares Fund, explains what this means in practice and why it’s so scary. Link here. http://bit.ly/2nGkaDD

See also - For the original report on the super-fuzing of America’s nuclear warheads, see “How US nuclear force modernization is undermining strategic stability: The burst-height compensating super-fuze,” by Hans M. Kristensen, Matthew McKinzie and Ted Postol for Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, here. http://bit.ly/2mQ1EUA

Quick Hits:

--“The Ultimate Guide to North Korea's Nuclear Weapons Program,” by Kyle Mizokami for The National Interest. http://bit.ly/2nOgXid

--“North Korea's nuclear threat: Where do the US and China go from here?” by Michael Holtz for Christian Science Monitor. http://bit.ly/2n3XyJS

--“US builds missile defense system for South Korea, causing more tension,” by Philip Coyle for The Hill. http://bit.ly/2nyTdll

--“What to worry about when you worry about North Korea,” by Philip Bump for The Washington Post. http://wapo.st/2mpch56

--“An Atomic-Weapons Expert’s Worst-Case Scenario for What Trump Might Do With All That ‘Access to the Nuclear Codes,’” by Nick Tabor for NY Mag. http://nym.ag/2mBO1to

--“Amid North Korea threat, Tillerson hints that ‘circumstances could evolve’ for a Japanese nuclear arsenal,” by Jesse Johnson for AP. http://bit.ly/2o0nCVw

--“North Korea Won’t Give Up Its Nuclear Arms,” by Bennett Ramberg in The New York Times. http://nyti.ms/2nGAcxi

--“New START is a Winner,” by Stephen Young for Union of Concerned Scientists. http://bit.ly/2o0KSme


--“How U.S. and Russian Leaders Can Avoid Renewed Nuclear Tensions,” a briefing hosted by the Arms Control Association featuring Sergey Rogov, Walter Schmid and Steven Pifer. Wednesday, March 22 from 2:00-3:30pm at National Press Club, First Amendment Lounge, 529 14th St NW, Washington, D.C. Details here. http://bit.ly/2niLVkI

--“Deterring Iran after the nuclear deal,” a panel hosted by CSIS featuring Lt Gen Charles Q. Brown, Jr., USAF, Colin Kahl, Michael Singh, Jon Alterman, and moderated by Melissa Dalton. Friday, March 31, 10:00-11:30am at 1616 Rhode Island Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20036. Details here. http://bit.ly/2mI8o6F

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