Posts from March, 2006

For the Record

At a Senate hearing on the foreign aid budget on Tuesday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice underscored the importance of “…deny[ing] terrorists access to the world’s most dangerous weapons, including conventional weapons like MANPADS,” and pointed to funding increases in the President’s FY07 budget for State Department programs that “help countries counter the proliferation of dangerous weapons and materials.” While it is true that the FY07 budget request does increase funding for combating the spread of WMD, programs aimed at reducing the threat from surplus and poorly secured conventional weapons – the weapons of choice for many terrorists – actually take a (slight) hit in the President’s budget. The $8.6 million request for the State Department’s small arms/light weapons destruction fund in FY07 is $60,000 less than the program’s budget for FY06.
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Will The Right Nuclear Policy Please Stand Up!

Will the New Triad of nuclear and non-nuclear capabilities reduce or increase the role of U.S. nuclear weapons? To get an answer to that question I went to a hearing the Senate Armed Services Committee held earlier today on the Pentagon’s new Global Strike mission. But instead of giving a clear answer, the Pentagon muddled the issue by saying that it is reducing its dependence on nuclear weapons while at the same time increasing the nuclear strike options.
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Senate To Hold Long-Overdue Hearing on New Global Strike Mission

The Senate Armed Services Committee plans to hold a hearing on Wednesday, March 29th, on the Pentagon’s new offensive Global Strike mission. The Committee has asked the following officials to testify:

* Peter C. W. Flory, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy
* General James E. Cartwright, USMC, Commander, U.S. Strategic Command
* Rear Admiral Charles B. Young, USN, Director Strategic Systems Programs, Department of the Navy
* Major General Stanley Gorenc, USAF, Director, Operational Capabilities and Requirements, Deputy Chief of Staff for Air and Space Operations, Headquarters, U.S. Air Force

This is Congress’ first hearing on this critical new mission, which includes strike options that span from information warfare to preemptive nuclear attacks against weapons of mass destruction targets around the world.

The long-overdue hearing comes three and a half years after the White House published the so-called preemption doctrine (National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction), three years after STRATCOM was tasked to prepare strike plans against WMD targets around the world, nineteen months after Rumsfeld signed the Alert Order that directed STRATCOM to put Global Strike into effect, and six months after the new Joint Functional Component Command for Space and Global Strike became operational at Offutt Air Force Base.

More: Hearing Page | Global Strike Chronology

Petition Against New National Security Strategy.

A few months ago, physicist Jorge Hirsch [] of the University of California, San Diego, and others, organized a petition signed by an impressive array of notable scientists. The petition condemns the administration’s new national security strategy for its over-emphasis on nuclear weapons. The petition also emphasized that just using the term “WMD” blurs the distinction between non-nuclear and nuclear weapons, which are in a class of their own. You can see the petition and a partial list of signatories here.

Beguiled in Belarus

Belarussian president Alexander Lukashenko on Sunday claimed a third term after receiving a whopping 82.6 percent of the vote, in what critics are calling a blatantly rigged election. International observers have stated that the election did not meet accepted standards, and that voting intimidation ran rampant. European Union leaders are now threatening to impose limited sanctions on Belarus.

This scenario is nothing new. Critics have long called Lukashenko a dictator, well known for his excessive behavior and public rants: he once closed a highway so that he could rollerblade; he banned the wearing of face masks in public. And recently, Lukashenko had vowed to prevent mass movements like those that occurred in Ukraine in 2004 and swept Western-leaning Viktor Yushenko into power.

Nevertheless, some 10,000 people turned out in Minsk on Sunday evening during a blizzard to show their disagreement with the polling results. Most protestors were young, including many twenty-somethings who have no memories of Soviet days when the communist party unfailingly always won nearly 100 percent of votes. Belarus’s main opposition candidate Alexander Milinkevich received only 6 percent of Sunday’s vote. He called the official vote tally for Lukashenko “monstrously inflated.” He and other opposition leaders have called for additional peaceful protests – in defiance of a government ban on election-day rallies.

In Belarus, the Soviet Union still lives in many senses. Most of the economy is under state control and the government makes 5-year economic plans. Mr. Lukashenko has resurrected statues of Lenin in Minsk, and the city’s main square is still called Oktyabrskaya Square. The KGB still spies on and harasses political opposition.

It is true that President Lukashenko does maintain a large number of supporters because of his access to cheap Russian energy and the stability he has provided pensioners in the wake of the USSR’s collapse. Many older Belarussians claim that Lukashenko has improved their standard of living since his ascension to office in 1994. And Belarus has never been a rich or powerful country.

But the generation gap is growing. Older people remember how the population was decimated and Minsk razed during World War II, and how the nation’s health suffered from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power station accident. Younger people want a modern and convenient democratic country, and have less fear than their grandparents did of the Soviet government and its secret police, Stalin’s purges, artificially created famines, and hard labor camps.

Belarus has witnessed tough times in its long and torrid history; it will see tougher times ahead if genuine popular opposition to Lukashenko continues to grow and potentially violent clashes between democracy-seekers and riot police ensue.

Report Shows Prominence of Nuclear Weapons in Global Strike Mission

Nuclear weapons are surprisingly prominent in the Pentagon’s new offensive Global Strike mission, according to the new FAS report Global Strike: A Chronology of the Pentagon’s New Offensive Strike Plan. The 250-page report traces the development of Global Strike through a comprehensive compilation of guidance documents, public statements, budget program descriptions, contracts, and declassified military documents obtained under the FOIA.

One of the FOIA documents is the Concept of Operations for the Joint Functional Component Command for Space and Global Strike, the new organization established in 2005 at U.S. Strategic Command to prepare and execute the Global Strike mission. The mission is normally portrayed as a conventional mission, but the Concept of Operations reveals the prominent nuclear role the command has.

Publication of the FAS report coincides with a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Global Strike on March 16. [Update: Hearing postponed. Check link for details.]

Download: The full report | Background information and FOIA documents.

Small Arms/Light Weapons Destruction Budget

The FY07 Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign Operations is now available on the State Department’s website. The CBJ contains a detailed breakdown of the President’s budget request for foreign aid programs, including programs related to conventional arms threat reduction.

Of particular importance is the $8.6 million request for the State Department’s SA/LW destruction program. This amount is a slight decrease from last year’s budget of $8.663 million, and it falls far short of Congressional expectations. At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) hearing on February 9th, Senator Joseph Biden remarked that “$8 million doesn’t even get a blip on the screen,” a sentiment echoed by Senator Barak Obama, who called it “decimal dust.” State Department Undersecretary Robert Joseph acknowledged that his team could do more on conventional weapons reduction if it had more money, but warned against diverting funds from other valuable nonproliferation programs.
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