FAS Roundup: March 4, 2013

U.S. nuclear stockpile reductions, radiation and health, accessories for small arms and light weapons, and much more.

From the Blogs

Senators Ask Surveillance Court to Summarize Opinions: Several members of the Senate Intelligence Committee wrote to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court this month to ask the Court to prepare summaries of classified opinions that represent significant interpretations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in order to facilitate their declassification and public release. The Senate letter, the text of which was not released, stems from an amendment to the FISA Amendments Act that was introduced by Sen. Jeff Merkley in December to promote declassification of significant Surveillance Court opinions.

(Still) Secret U.S. Nuclear Weapons Stockpile Reduced: The United States has quietly reduced its nuclear weapons stockpile by nearly 500 warheads since 2009. The current stockpile size represents an approximate 85-percent reduction compared with the peak size in 1967, according to information provided to FAS by the NNSA. The reduction is unilateral and not required by any arms control treaty.

OSTP Seeks Comment on Oversight of “Dual Use” Biological Research: Steven Aftergood writes that members of the public are invited to comment on the feasibility and desirability of various forms of institutional oversight at federally-funded institutions that perform research involving certain pathogens or toxins. In the February 22 Federal Register Notice, OSTP posed a series of questions concerning potential oversight arrangements for dual use research of concern and solicited feedback from interested members of the public.

Sequester May Slow Pentagon Response to WikiLeaks: The across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration that are expected to take effect on March 1 could impede the government’s ability to respond to WikiLeaks and to rectify the flaws in information security that it exposed. Zachary J. Lemnios, the assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering, said that “cuts under sequestration could hurt efforts to fight cyber threats, including [...] improving the security of our classified Federal networks and addressing WikiLeaks.”

How Radiation Affects Our Health: The average person in the U.S. is exposed to about 300 mrem each year from natural background radiation – about 1 mrem a day – and this level of radiation exposure seems to have no ill effects. At higher levels, however, radiation can cause damage; continual exposure to low levels of radiation may cause a mutation that can initiate cancer.  Brief exposure to high levels of radiation can cause skin burns, radiation sickness, or a number of radiation-induced syndromes.

Open Access to Scientific Research Advantages: Government-sponsored scientific research published in expensive journals should become more readily accessible to the public under an initiative announced by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on February 22. Federal agencies that fund at least $100 million per year in scientific research were directed by White House science advisor John Holdren to develop plans to make the results of such research publicly available free of charge within a year of original publication.

Profile of the 113th Congress and More from CRS: Secrecy News has obtained recently released CRS reports on topics such as nuclear weapons R&D organizations in nine nations, U.S. and Japan economic relations, and a profile of members of the 113th Congress.

Accessories for Small Arms and Light Weapons

In a new Research Note published by the Small Arms Survey, FAS Senior Analyst Matt Schroeder provides an overview of accessories for small arms and light weapons, including weapons sights, night vision devices, aiming lasers, laser rangefinders, and fire-control systems. As explained in the note, these items significantly enhance the effectiveness and versatility of the weapons to which they are attached. The note also assesses the international trade in accessories, which is estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually, although a precise estimate is precluded by gaps and ambiguities in available data.

Read the research note Accessories for Small Arms and Light Weapons, here.

Event

Hans Kristensen, Director of the Nuclear Information Project, participated in a debate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on February 27 regarding nuclear weapons reductions. Kristensen debated former Assistant Secretary of State Stephen Rademaker, who argued against unilateral reductions in favor of reciprocal or negotiated ones.

Kristensen’s remarks are available here.

Video of the debate is available on the CSIS website here.

FAS in the News

 

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