Showing posts with label Defense Dept. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Defense Dept. Show all posts

April 6, 2018

Thousands of Google Employees Sign Letter Asking The Company Not To Make Instruments of War

 Small drones are being weaponize but they need accuracy, that's where Google technology comes in

The BBC:
Thousands of Google employees have signed an open letter asking the internet giant to stop working on a project for the US military.
Project Maven involves using artificial intelligence to improve the precision of military drone strikes.
Employees fear Google's involvement will "irreparably damage" its brand.
"We believe that Google should not be in the business of war," says the letter, which is addressed to Google chief executive Sundar Pichai.
"Therefore we ask that Project Maven be cancelled, and that Google draft, publicise and enforce a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology."

No military projects

The letter, which was signed by 3,100 employees - including "dozens of senior engineers", according to the New York Times - says that staff have already raised concerns with senior management internally. Google has more than 88,000 employees worldwide.
In response to concerns raised, the head of Google's cloud business, Diane Greene, assured employees that the technology would not be used to launch weapons, nor would it be used to operate or fly drones.
However, the employees who signed the letter feel that the internet giant is putting users' trust at risk, as well ignoring its "moral and ethical responsibility".
"We cannot outsource the moral responsibility of our technologies to third parties," the letter says.
"Google's stated values make this clear: every one of our users is trusting us. Never jeopardise that. Ever. 
"Building this technology to assist the US government in military surveillance - and potentially lethal outcomes - is not acceptable."

'Non-offensive purposes'

Google confirmed that it was allowing the Pentagon to use some of its image recognition technologies as part of a military project, following an investigative report by tech news site Gizmodo in March. 
A Google spokesperson told the BBC: "Maven is a well-publicised Department of Defense project and Google is working on one part of it - specifically scoped to be for non-offensive purposes and using open-source object recognition software available to any Google Cloud customer. 
"The models are based on unclassified data only. The technology is used to flag images for human review and is intended to save lives and save people from having to do highly tedious work.
"Any military use of machine learning naturally raises valid concerns. We're actively engaged across the company in a comprehensive discussion of this important topic and also with outside experts, as we continue to develop our policies around the development and use of our machine learning technologies." 
The internet giant is working on developing policies for the use of its artificial intelligence technologies. 

It is adamfoxie's 10th🦊Anniversay. 10 years witnessing the world and bringing you a pieace whcih is ussually not getting its due coverage. 4.9 Million Reads

December 2, 2016

Trump Picks a Capable Man for Defense with a Constitutional Problem

The General seems very capable to be Secretary of Defense but the problem is the Constitution warns against it. New Legislation with a waiver would have to be enacted to bypass the Constitution. This President elect has not been sworn in to swear to defend the constitution and already he twice talked of by passing it. This time a congress filled with his political party could do almost anything. It will be wrong but apparently with the right person. We can see already that when this President elect makes decisions the constitution is not on his mind since apparently he does not care to know it. Equally protocol is something he does not care to follow. (Editorial from the Publisher)


Before retired Marine Gen. James Mattis can get a confirmation hearing to become the nation's next secretary of defense, he'll have to get past a decades-old law meant to ensure a cornerstone of American democracy -- civilian control of the military. 
The reasons behind putting a civilian in charge of the Department of Defense are numerous. The secretary of defense has immense responsibilities as the only person aside from the president who can authorize military action and is an influential voice in the decision to launch a nuclear strike. 
The National Security Act of 1947 states that a secretary of defense will be appointed "from civilian life" by the president. The law calls for a grace period of ten years before an active duty officer can hold the post, though Congress knocked down the waiting period to seven years in 2008.  
"The provision is a law because of America's nervousness of giving the military too much power," said Charles Stevenson, a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. 
"There is a concern that someone who has been a general all their adult lives doesn't really understand civilian life," Stevens added. "The secretary of defense has to deal with domestic businesses, has to recruit people from the civilian job sector. If he is just used to commanding he might not be used to commanding civilian society." 
Mattis would be just the second retired general to lead the military. 
Army Gen. George C. Marshall, a five-star general, served as President Harry Truman's secretary of defense from 1950 to 1951 as he oversaw the Marshall Plan aimed at rebuilding Europe after World War II. 
But the waiver granted to Marshall came with a stern warning that the exception should not become the rule. 
"It is hereby expressed as the intent of the Congress that the authority granted by this Act is not to be construed as approval by the Congress of continuing appointments of military men to the office of Secretary of Defense in the future," a report accompanying the 1950 statute stated. "It is hereby expressed as the sense of the Congress that after General Marshall leaves the office of secretary of defense, no additional appointments of military men to that office shall be approved."  Similarly, Congressional aides say an exception allowing Mattis' appointment would also make clear the provision does not approve the future appointment of military leaders to head the Pentagon. 
Both Democrats and Republicans have largely reacted favorably to the Mattis selection, commending the four-star general for his experience and "warrior monk" reputation as a student of military strategy. But approving the necessary waiver has been met with skepticism from Democrats uncomfortable with upending a more than 60-year-old precedent. Further complicating the process is that the exception could be filibustered in the Senate and require 60 votes for passage. Though it may not derail the Mattis nomination, it could delay the process much more than if Trump chose a non-military nominee. 
"While I deeply respect General Mattis's service, I will oppose a waiver. Civilian control of our military is a fundamental principle of American democracy," Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said in a statement. 
Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., called civilian leadership of the military "part of the fabric of America." 
"We know problems around the world where the military is too close to the governments of their countries. We've seen the consequence of that play out in very adverse ways," Cardin said on MSNBC. 
The waiver will be the only chance members of the House have to weigh in on one of Donald Trump's nominees. The Senate is responsible for approving Trump's Cabinet, but both chambers will have a chance to cast ballots on the provision to dismiss the seven-year wait. 
"While this [waiver] is something Congress should seriously consider, and I believe he would make an excellent Secretary of Defense, we must also bear in mind the precedent we would be setting and the impact it would have on the principle of civilian leadership of our nation's military," Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Cali., said in a statement.


June 24, 2016

The History of Guantanamo Bay 1901-Today


June 19, 2015

Gay Chief of Staff Next in Line for Army Secretay

Eric Fanning

As you read this story I would like you to think of DADT (Don’t Ask don’t tell) of the other day, then be grateful if you can of the US President who fast track all these changes by many years.

Eric Fanning, currently chief of staff to US Defense Secretary Ash Carter, is the leading candidate to replace John McHugh as the next Army secretary, sources said.
McHugh, who has been in the post since 2009, announced today he will be leaving office no later than Nov. 1.
"No selection has been made," said Pentagon spokesman Brent Colburn. "This will be a presidential decision."
Widely viewed as one of the most capable leaders in the Pentagon, Fanning became Air Force undersecretary in April 2013. He served several months as acting secretary while the confirmation of now-Secretary Deborah Lee James was stuck in Congress.
Before that, he was deputy undersecretary of the Navy and its deputy chief management officer from 2009-2013.
Fanning has spent the past several months as Carter's right-hand man, helping to organize his boss' transition to the Pentagon's top spot and managing day-to-day activities. It is unclear who would replace Fanning in that role.
In addition to his long resume, Fanning would also mark a milestone as the first openly gay secretary of a military branch.
Fanning has served in his current capacity since April 2013, and is widely regarded as an up and comer in defense circles.
As undersecretary, Fanning primarily oversees the service's budget and takes the point position onmatters of space operations, policy and acquisition issues.
Before joining the Air Force's leadership team, Fanning also served as deputy undersecretary of the Navy and its deputy chief management officer from 2009-2013, where he led the sea service's business transformation and governance processes.
Fanning "has had a terrific tenure in the Air Force," said Rebecca Grant, a former Air Force official and president of IRIS Research. "He's really been able to operate across the full range, including being involved in the difficult budget meetings in the Pentagon" over the past several years, she added.
Grant also noted that the Air Force is facing some weighty issues, such as the long-range bomber program, finding ways to pay for the expensive fleet of F-35s that will soon be making their way down assembly lines and into the operational Air Force, and finding ways to increase — or at least maintain — the current operational posture of its fleet of ISR and strike drones.
The chief of staff commonly assists the secretary with policy deliberations and coordinating interagency matters, among other tasks.

October 14, 2014

Defense Dept. Equals Climate Change with Terrorism Threat

The submarine USS Annapolis breaks through three feet of ice in the Arctic Ocean during an exercise in 2009. A report today from the Pentagon calls for an increased US military presence in the Arctic. 
In one of its strongest statements yet on the need to prepare for climate change, the Defense Department today released a report that says global warming "poses immediate risks to US national security" and will exacerbate national security-related threats ranging "from infectious disease to terrorism."
 The report, embedded below, builds on climate readiness planning at the Pentagon that stretches back to the George W. Bush administration. But today’s report is the first to frame climate change as a serious near-term challenge for strategic military operations; previous reports have tended to focus on long-term threats to bases and other infrastructure.(Report not shown)
The report "is quite an evolution of the DoD's thinking on understanding and addressing climate threats," said Francesco Femia, co-director of the Center for Climate and Security. “The Department is not looking out into the future, it's looking at what's happening now."
The report identifies anticipated climate impacts to basic military operations, training and testing procedures, infrastructure, and supply chains. It doesn't recommend specific policy changes or detail costs. Rather, it issues a general call for DoD agencies to build climate change into their procedures and to ensure climate change is accounted for in any collaborations with foreign governments and private contractors.
The threat posed by climate change to military bases has long been acknowledged by the Pentagon; a survey of the climate vulnerability of more than 7,000 military facilities worldwide is due to be completed soon. In May, for example, a report prepared by 11 retired military commanders found that the cluster of 29 installations near Virginia's Chesapeake Bay that together house more than 20 percent of the Navy's fleet could experience up to seven feet of sea level rise by 2100.
Today's report also placed special focus on impacts that are likely to sweep US troops into action in the short term, a sign that top brass are increasingly concerned about "the probability that climate change will increase the likelihood of conflict in strategically significant parts of the world," Femia said. Water shortages in the Middle East could benefit terrorist organizations, who can exploit hunger and unrest to tighten their grip on locals. Increased shipping traffic in the melting Arctic could spark political tension between polar nations. Increasing prevalence and severity of natural disasters worldwide will become a more significant burden for military-led relief efforts.
Although the report is a product of a 2009 order by President Obama for all federal agencies to evaluate climate risks to their operations, Femia said the strong language is more the result of bottom-up agitation from troop commanders who are witnessing climate change first-hand. Last year, for example, Navy Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, the top US military commander in the Pacific, singled out climate change as a principle concern for his operations.
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March 13, 2013

$400Billion Will Buy 35 But They Don’t Work }Social Sec Works{


The Most Expensive Weapon Ever

Liberman's reticence was understandable. For while the Marines hailed his arrival as a sign that their initial F-35 squadron is now operational, there's one sticking point. "It's an operational squadron," a Marine spokesman said. "The aircraft is not operational."
Marine Major Aric "Walleye" Liberman was uncharacteristically modest for a Navy SEAL turned fighter pilot. He had just landed an F-35--one of the 2,457 jets the Pentagon plans to buy for $400 billion, making it the costliest weapons program in human history--at its initial operational base late last year. Amid celebratory hoopla, he declined photographers' requests to give a thumbs-up for the cameras that sunny day in Yuma, Ariz. "No, no, no," he demurred with a smile.
The F-35, designed as the U.S. military's lethal hunter for 21st century skies, has become the hunted, a poster child for Pentagon profligacy in a new era of tightening budgets. Instead of the stars and stripes of the U.S. Air Force emblazoned on its fuselage, it might as well have a bull's-eye. Its pilots' helmets are plagued with problems, it hasn't yet dropped or fired weapons, and the software it requires to go to war remains on the drawing board.
That's why when Liberman landed his F-35 before an appreciative crowd, including home-state Senator John McCain, he didn't demonstrate its most amazing capability: landing like a helicopter using its precision-cast titanium thrust-vectoring nozzle. That trick remains reserved for test pilots, not operational plane drivers like him.
The price tag, meanwhile, has nearly doubled since 2001, to $396 billion. Production delays have forced the Air Force and Navy to spend at least $5 billion to extend the lives of existing planes. The Marine Corps--the cheapest service, save for its love of costly jump jets (which take off and land almost vertically) for its pet aircraft carriers--have spent $180 million on 74 used British AV-8 jets for spare parts to keep their Reagan-era Harriers flying until their version of the F-35 truly comes online. Allied governments are increasingly weighing alternatives to the F-35.
But the accounting is about to get even worse as concern over spending on the F-35 threatens other defense programs. On March 1, if lawmakers cannot reach a new budget deal, the Pentagon faces more than $500 billion in spending cuts in the form of sequestration, which translates into a 10% cut in projected budgets over the coming decade. Two years ago, the White House predicted that those cuts would be so onerous to defense-hawk Republicans that they would never happen. But the GOP is now split, with a growing number of members who are more concerned about the deficit than defense.
"We are spending maybe 45% of the world's budget on defense. If we drop to 42% or 43%, would we be suddenly in danger of some kind of invasion?" asked Representative Justin Amash, a Michigan Republican and part of a new breed of deficit hawks who talk of spending as a bigger threat than war. "We're bankrupting our country, and it's going to put us in danger.”

February 14, 2013

Bloggers Discover Iran’s New Pic of Stealth Fighter Belongs to "Photoshop"


  The image of Iran’s new stealth fighter patrolling the skies was designed to induce awe among the country’s enemies. But Iran’s claim to military superiority crumbled after bloggers discovered that the jet had actually been superimposed upon snowy mountain peaks using Photoshop.
Experts had already expressed doubts over the Qaher-313, Iran’s second domestically-produced plane, unveiled this month at a special ceremony attended by President Ahmadinejad.
The jet, said to combine the features of the US F-35 and the F-22 fighters, could not fly because it was too small and made of plastic, critics claimed. Lacking rivets and bolts, the plane was a miniature model or a working prototype at best, aviation experts said.
So the Khouz News website published an image of the Qaher-313 in majestic flight, soaring over a mountain peak.
Iranian bloggers however spotted that the image of the plane was identical to that issued at the February 2 unveiling in Tehran. The angle of the plane, the reflection of the light and shadows were the same.
All that had changed was that the image had apparently been superimposed on to a background of Iran's Mount Damavand, taken from the stock image site, and slightly lightened.
Ahmad Vahidi, Iran’s Defence Minister, had claimed that the plane could fly low to avoid radar, carry a weapons payload and was constructed of “high-tech materials”.
However the “faked” flight shot confirmed the view of sceptics such as David Cenciotti, who writes for the Aviationist blog.
Analysing the initial image released by Iran he said the cockpit appeared to be too small to accommodate a human pilot, and was filled with controls “of a type you expect to find on small private planes”.
The plane appeared to be “nothing more than a large mock-up model made out of plastic”, lacking “the characteristic rivets (and) bolts all aircraft, including stealthy ones, feature.”
Mr Cenciotti said: “The air intakes are extremely small whereas the engine section lacks any kind of nozzle: engine afterburners could melt the entire jet.”
Aviation magazine Flight International said that the poor-quality footage released by Iran of the aircraft in flight was most likely of a remote-controlled plane fashioned to resemble the Qaher-313.
John Reed, military and defence expert at Foreign Policy magazine, said: “It's seriously unlikely that such an aircraft has room to carry the avionics, radars, electronic countermeasures, heat masking gear, and, most importantly for a fighter, the weapons that make modern stealth jets effective.”
Iran dismissed the doubts as “enemy propaganda.” But the publication of the photo on Khouz News, a website focusing on news from the southwest province of Khuzestan, suggests the regime is primarily seeking to impress an internal audience with “evidence” of scientific advancement.
Although the Islamic Republic may be no closer to building the perfect stealth fighter, it is getting better at using Photoshop. Previously Iran was caught out when the authorities digitally added a fourth missile to a 2008 picture of a missile test.
Claims that Iran successfully sent a monkey into space this month were questioned when two different animals were featured in the pictures released by state media.
Last year Iran claimed to have built the Koker 1, the world’s first vertically launching drone. After closer examination of the photos, pilot and blogger Gary Mortimer concluded that the design bore a striking similarity to a vehicle which had been built and launched by a team from Chiba University, Japan, in 2008.
A fine art: History retouched
The curious case of the extra missile
It seems Tehran has form for this sort of thing. This picture, released in 2008 by the infamous Revolutionary Guard and syndicated by Agence France Presse, purported to show four missiles soaring skywards as Iran demonstrated its military prowess to the world. On closer inspection, the weapon third from the left looks suspiciously like the first, and so it proved when Associated Press released their version of the picture, received from a different source. The revelation came too late for the LA Times, the Financial Times and the Chicago Tribune, which had all used it on their front pages. It also appeared on the BBC and New York Times websites.
Follow the leader
With his jet-black hair and youthful complexion, the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is clearly sensitive about his image. In September 2010 he was still one of America’s biggest friends in the Arab world and was invited to the White House for peace talks with the Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and King Abdullah of Jordan. Striding towards the East Room they were snapped by AP’s photographer Pablo Martinez Monsivais – Obama in the lead, Mubarak behind and to his right. By the time the picture appeared in Egypt’s state-run Al-Ahram newspaper, Mubarak was at the head of the group. Less than six months later he was ousted from office and now languishes in custody.
Mourning has broken
North Korea
Never ones to welcome disorder at the best of times, the government in Pyongyang was certainly not about to start for Kim Jong-il’s funeral. Stragglers who were making the six-deep crowd for the Dear Leader’s snow-bound procession in 2011 look untidy were simply airbrushed out of the official pictures, leaving behind an almost perfectly ordered array of mourners. Whether the handful of men met with a similar fate in real life has not been confirmed.
Goebbels? Gone
In 1937 Hitler went to Berlin to meet the film-maker Leni Riefenstahl, who had been in thrall of the  Führer since hearing him speak at a rally in 1932,  and who would go on to direct propaganda films  for the Third Reich.
He also took Josef Goebbels, although he was mysteriously erased from a picture of the gathering afterwards. Some have speculated his removal was due to Hitler’s anger at his propaganda chief’s affair with a Czech actress.
Other leading figures of the Second World War were similarly partial to creating their own versions  of history: Stalin had a commissar who had  displeased him excised from a group photograph, while Mussolini erased a horse-handler to make himself appear more heroic.
And the images at the bottom right, showing King George VI and Queen Elizabeth on a trip to Banff shortly before the outbreak of the war in Europe, reveal that even moderate leaders were at it. The Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon McKenzie King wanted to look powerful next to the Queen Mother – so simply made her husband disappear.

Do We Have Enough Nukes for Valentines’?

We would like to introduce you to the idea that in this “tight" economical times, we are building more nukes than “ever’ before. adamfoxie* is not at judgement. We are going to give you some facts and you decide. One can be neutral, one side or the other. We are simply doing our job by bringing the light to some facts presented here: 

 On April 5, 2009, President Barack Obama took the stage before 20,000 people in Prague's Hradcany Square to offer an ambitious global vision. "Today, I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons," he told the open-air audience in the former Eastern Bloc capital. "To put an end to Cold War thinking, we will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, and urge others to do the same.” 
The timing of his bold promise seemed perfect. Russia was ready to whittle down its destructive power; a year later, Obama and President Dmitri Medvedev would sign a treaty limiting both countries to 1,500 active warheads—though still enough toannihilate millions of people, a 50 percent reduction to each nation's atomic arsenal. Back home, lawmakers on Capitol Hill were scrutinizing the federal budget for unnecessary spending, and nuclear weapons no longer appeared to be off limits.
Even the military brass was moving away from relying upon nuclear deterrence. The Pentagon's 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (PDF) concluded that "[t]he massive nuclear arsenal we inherited from the Cold War era of bipolar military confrontation is poorly suited to address the challenges posed by suicidal terrorists and unfriendly regimes seeking nuclear weapons."
But shrinking America's nuclear arsenal has turned out to be far easier said than done. Despite the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) cuts, federal spending on the atomic stockpile is actually beyond Cold War levels, driven by congressional hawks and powerful nuclear labs eager to "modernize" the arsenal and fund projects that could spark a new arms race
During the Cold War, the United States spent, on average, $35 billion a year on its nuclear weapons complex. Today, it spends an estimated $55 billion. The nuclear weapons budget is spread across the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Homeland Security, and the government doesn't publicly disclose how much it spends on its various aspects, from maintaining our nuclear arsenal to defending against other countries' nukes. Altogether, it spent at least $52.4 billion on nuclear weapons in 2008, the last year anyone attempted to piece together the total cost, according to the Carnegie Endowment for Peace. (And that doesn't include classified programs.) That was five times the size of the State Department's budget, seven times the EPA's, and 14 times what the DOE spent on everything else it does.
So why is America's nuclear capacity expanding even as it tells the world it plans to forsake its arsenal? A few little-known facts about the nuclear weapons complex provide some answers:

Nuclear secret #1: Old bombs don't die, they zombify.

The United States currently has 5,113 atomic warheads deployed in silos, bombers, and submarines across the country and the world, ready for use at a moment's notice. Under the New START treaty, 3,000 of these warheads will be taken out of deployment by 2018. The treaty also mandates deep cuts to both the United States' and Russia's nuclear-equipped bombers, submarine launchers, and ICBM silos.
In theory, warheads slated for destruction are trucked off to the Pantex plant on the sandy Staked Plains outside Amarillo, Texas. There, Department of Energy contractors inspect and gingerly denude them of their non-nuclear components and disassemble their "physics package," a witch's brew of high explosives surrounding cores of highly radioactive uranium, plutonium, tritium, and deuterium. Each of these hot, unstable materials is separated and put in storage—some will be carted off for commercial refining, some kept in reserve in case more bombs ever need to be built. The entire process is like performing a ballet blindfolded, in 300-degree heat, on a stage where one slip could kill all the performers.
During the much of the '90s, the United States took apart its old nukes at a brisk pace—about 1,300 a year. But the process has slowed to a trickle during the past decade. Now a backlog of more than 3,000 warheads sits at the Pantex plant, which may soon run out of storage space altogether. Hans Kristensen, director of the Federation of American Scientists' Nuclear Information Project, says that this means most newly retired weapons will simply stay on the bases where they were deployed.

Some of these inactive "zombie" weapons sit in a state of suspended animation, ready to deploy immediately in a submarine, bomber, or silo. Others have specific components removed, though this hardware can be replaced on short notice. According to Peter Fedewa of the pro-disarmament Ploughshares Fund, that amounts to several thousand more nukes"that could be 'raised from the dead' and brought back into deployment with relative ease." (Full disclosure: Ploughshares provides funding to Mother Jones for coverage of national security.)
The New START treaty limits the US and Russia to 1,550 deployed warheads each. It doesn't, however, limit how many "nondeployed" ICBMs and sub-launched nuclear missiles a nation can keep on ice, just in case. None of these weapons are counted under New START, which means the United States has a shadow force of nuclear weapons waiting in the wings. All told, the United States has several thousand retired, almost-retired, and inactive warheads, according to the Pentagon.
Nuclear hawks in Congress have blunted New START's planned reductions by stalling dismantlement while beefing up the country's arsenal of "hedge" weapons—nuclear warheads that aren't actively deployed for war and thus aren't touched by the treaty. As Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, told an audience at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in July, the stockpile of inactive atomic weapons should be seen as a deterrent, implying that if the first 5,000 or so currently deployed warheads can't deter or defeat America's enemies, the other few thousand might.

Nuclear secret #2: Disarmament is happening at a snail's pace.

Making our nukes obsolete is one of the lowest priorities of the nation's nuclear weapons program. Last summer, Congress and the White House agreed to reduce the amount spent on dismantlement, while agreeing to sink extra cash into plans to increase the usefulness of our semiretired atomic arsenal. In 2012, spending on new nuclear weapons experiments and the construction of "refurbishment" facilities for warheads will increase to $4.1 billion; the government will spend just $57 million on taking apart old nukes, close to half what was spent in 2010—and less than 1 percent of the nuclear complex's total budget.
The contractors who take old bombs apart are the same ones who pimp out the updated ones. "The public perception is that Pantex is primarily about dismantlement. That's false," says Jay Coghlan, the director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, a source of open-source information on US nuclear weapons facilities. "Dismantlements are basically being done as filler between 'life extension' programs." The dismantlement program, he adds, "is a little bit of a sideshow."
"The Soviets are long gone, yet the stockpiles remain. The bombs collect dust, yet the bills are with us to this day," wrote Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) in a recent letter (PDF) to Congress' budget supercommittee, urging it to slash an "outdated radioactive relic" whose billions could be better spent shoring up Medicare or Social Security. "Fewer nuclear weapons should equal less funding."
"Dismantlements are basically being done as filler between 'life extension' programs," says the director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico.
Sixty-five Democratic members of Congress cosigned Markey's letter. But cutting the nuclear complex down to size remains a tough sell on Capitol Hill. "Nuclear abolition is a long way off," declared Rep. Turner at a hearing about the nation's nuclear stockpile in late July. He wasn't complaining: Turner is one of many Republicans on Capitol Hill who want to keep spending billions on upgrading and "modernizing" our atomic weaponry. "Full funding for nuclear modernization is costly, and difficult in these challenging economic times," he insisted. "But it is necessary."
Generally, congressional conservatives' advocacy for a robust nuclear program has not been tempered by their small-government rhetoric. When New START came before the Senate for ratification in 2010, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.)—an atomic-weapons stalwart who's now a member of the Senate budget supercommittee—blocked a vote until the Obama administration conceded to spending $87 billion "modernizing" the stockpile over the next 10 years.

Nuclear secret #3: Funding for the nuclear weapons complex is growing.

Though the Pentagon controls the bulk of the nuclear weapons budget, the politically powerful National Nuclear Security Administration also has a tight grip on its purse strings. Part of the Department of Energy, the NNSA is responsible for securing the nation's stockpile as well as overseeing sites where atomic weaponry is built and the nation's three nuclear labs (Livermore, Los Alamos, and Sandia).
As federal programs are being scrutinized for fat, the NNSA's budget is increasing by 19 percent to
$7.6 billion.
Much of the NNSA's leadership is drawn from the labs and their allies from top government contracting firms. Its current No. 2 official previously worked in the private sector as a consultant for Sandia Lab and the DOE; its top administrator for defense programs spent three decades running Sandia's biggest experiments. The NNSA is known for rarely saying no to its labs' big-ticket demands. "The three labs are accustomed to the style in which they were born," Coghlan says. "Large and lavish." Half of NNSA's budget goes to the labs' research. Dr. Robert Civiak, a former physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory who now researches the nuclear weapons complex for a network of anti-atomic activist groups, says much of that research is unnecessary. "Its purpose is to improve the fourth-decimal point of our understanding of behavior of nuclear weapons," he says. "That's a mature science we've had for 70 years."
In just the past year, the Government Accountability Office has issued four reports criticizing NNSA's ability to keep control of its operations and costs. "NNSA cannot accurately identify the total costs to operate and maintain weapons facilities and infrastructure," one states. Another knocks the agency for not properly inspecting its contractors' work. Yet another found that the agency does not have estimated total costs or completion dates for 15 "vital" projects to keep the stockpile up to date. The reports made 20 recommendations for remedial action.
 Nuclear secret #4: We're developing the next generation of nuclear weapons.
Yet the White House and Congress continue to increase the labs' budget. Thanks to the administration's concessions to congressional Republicans during the New START ratification process, the NNSA will get an additional $85 billion more over the next decade. At a time when federal programs are being scrutinized for fat, the NNSA's 2012 budget is increasing by 19 percent to $7.6 billion.
An hour's drive from San Francisco, scientists are trying to create a miniature star here on Earth. That's how the Livermore lab describes its National Ignition Facility, a superlaser that's supposed to produce nuclear fusion and temperatures of 100 million degrees—conditions found only in distant suns and nuclear explosions. So far, the 14-year old project has been a bust; the New York Times dubbed it a "taxpayer-funded science fiction." Yet its expense has swelled: It was expected to cost $400 million but has cost $3.9 billion and counting.
Bringing star power to Earth: Lawrence Livermore National LaboratoryBig bucks, little bang: promotional material for the $3.9 billion National Ignition FacilityLawrence Livermore National Laboratory
How does the lab justify keeping this far-out science experiment alive in a time of austerity? Simple: national security. Canceling the project, lab director George Miller told the Los Angeles Times when some members of Congress challenged NIF's funding, is to  "seriously question the commitment to maintain nuclear weapons." Livermore's research budget has expanded 50 percent since 1994 to nearly $1.5 billion.
The laser project is one of dozens of gold-plated experiments run at the Department of Energy's three nuclear weapons facilities. TheY-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, is building a new plant to process uranium for the secondary explosives used in warheads, even though the country already has thousands of extra secondaries in storage. In 2004, the plant was expected to cost $600 million; the tab has since increased to $3.5 billion. The federal government is also sinking $4.5 billion into a 1.5 million square-foot plant in Kansas City, Missouri, which will build new components for nuclear weapons.
Y-12, Kansas City, and a nebulous new Los Alamos center for "Chemical and Metallurgy Research Replacement" constitute "grossly oversized facilities for building new bombs we don't need," Civiak says. Together, they could facilitate the construction of new warhead cores and missile skins. The labs could test those weapons without live explosions by using technology such as the NIF. "The production side of the US nuclear weapons complex is being rebuilt," Coghlan says.
Proponents of spending more on the stockpile say that one way to get rid of more warheads is to make sure the ones you hang onto remain in tip-top condition. Rep. Turner has also defended a robust stockpile and modernization as "providing meaningful work to our talented scientists and engineers"—even as he warned that "strategy must drive force structure, not the other way around."

"The production side of the US nuclear weapons complex is being rebuilt."
But critics maintain that modernization is a boondoggle and an expensive make-work program for the nation's nuclear labs. "There's no rush to do this," says Tom Collina, research director of the Arms Control Association, a nonpartisan weapons-policy think tank. Though United States hasn't built a new warhead since 1989, "it's not like they're falling apart; it's not like they're Swiss cheese." TheJASON group, a prestigious panel of scientists that advises the government on technology issues, studied the arsenal in 2007 and 2009 and concluded that existing measures could extend the warheads' lifetimes "for decades, with no anticipated loss of confidence."
"There's a lot of things that need regular upkeep on nuclear weapons—batteries and tritium that decay over time," Civiak explains. But life extension and modernization efforts, he says, are "going way beyond that, and they're adding new capabilities."
Upgrades include a "dial-a-yield" option that lets missile officers adjust a warhead's explosive power; for example, dialing down a 340-kiloton city killer to be a 0.3-kiloton mini-Hiroshima. "Dumb" gravity bombs are being refitted so that the altitude at which they burst can be modified—essentially enabling them to act as "robust nuclear earth penetrators," or bunker busters.

David Dearborn, a longtime nuclear weapons engineer at the Livermore lab, insists that most of these post-Cold War modifications have safety at their heart. "Earlier, it was about reducing size and weight or getting more bang," but now "it's about higher safety, designing things that you could machine-gun and hammer and they would not go off." As long as the United States has a nuclear stockpile, he says, "You ought to know that it works."
Civiak says new "safety measures" to adjust the accuracy of atomic missiles will in fact make them potential first-strike weapons. For example, improving missiles' guidance can turn "countervalue weapons" —big bombs once aimed at population centers as a deterrent—into "counterforce weapons"—tactical nukes that could be used in "limited" nuclear attacks on military or terrorist targets. "Counterforce strays away from deterrence," Coghlan says.
Advocates of nuclear reduction say that's a canard. "That sounds nice in theory. Who in principle can be against greater safety?" Coghlan says. But combine all these "safety enhancements," he says, and "in effect, they're new warheads

October 20, 2011

US DOD welcomes same-sex couple to attend family event

The U.S. Department of Defense has clarified Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan of the New Hampshire National Guard will bring her lesbian partner to a yellow ribbon family reintegration event in North Conway this weekend,” according to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. Shaheen had written a letter urging Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to review the military’s regulations prohibiting same-sex couples from attending such events. “This is terrific news for Charlie Morgan and her family,” said Shaheen. “But this is just one small part of a much larger problem. We have a fundamental inequity in our policy, which has created two classes of soldiers. It isn’t fair and it has to end.” Indeed, while gays and lesbians can now serve openly, the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act still denies same-sex couples and their families access to federal benefits.

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