Posts from May, 2006

Auf Wiedersehen, Los Alamos

Today, May 31, 2006 marks the end of the University of California as the sole manager of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), after a 63-year run. Tomorrow LANL will come under the management of Bechtel, the University of California, BWX Technologies, and Washington Group International, collectively known as Los Alamos National Security (LANS), LLC, a private, for profit enterprise.
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FBI declassifies US bacterial warfare document

An FBI account of “Bacteriological Warfare in the United States” was obtained by TheMemoryHole.org through the Freedom of Information Act. In all, 709 pages were released relating to bacterial warfare efforts in the US from 1941-1950, some of which are heavily redacted. 1,074 pages have been witheld for further review by other agencies. The account contains a description of a “previously unknown simulated BW attack on the Pentagon” [circa 1950], notes Michael Ravnitzky, who obtained the document for Memory Hole. All 709 pages can be downloaded from their website in 4 parts.

NNSA Walking a Fine Line on Divine Strake

Update (February 22, 2007): DTRA announces that Divine Strake has been canceled.

In a surprising move, the National Nuclear Security Administration last week withdrew (!) its Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for Divine Strake, a document issued in April that declared that a planned detonation of 700 tons of chemical explosives at the Nevada Test Site “would not result in the suspension or dispersion of radioactive materials or human exposure to radioactive materials.”

The question therefore is: Does this mean that Divine Strake could result in the suspension or dispersion of radioactive materials or human exposure to radioactive materials? And do other assurances about the test need to be reassessed?
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Threat Reduction Legislation Sails through House and Senate Committees

Last week, lawmakers demonstrated their commitment to reining in the black market trade in deadly conventional weapons by forwarding two important bills to the full House and Senate. On Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the Lugar-Obama Act (S. 2566) by voice vote and without amendment. The bill calls on the State Department to “carry out an accelerated global program” to secure or dispose of surplus and poorly secured man-portable air defense systems and other conventional weapons, and authorizes an additional $25 million in funding for the State Department to accomplish this mission. Two days later, the House International Relations Committee followed suit by passing, also by voice vote and without amendment, the “Shoulder-fired Missile Reduction Act of 2006″ (HR 5333), which authorizes an additional $35 million for securing and destroying poorly secured weapons and imposes sanctions on governments that knowingly transfer MANPADS to terrorists and their state sponsors. Both bills enjoy broad bipartisan support.

A summary of HR 5333 was posted on the SSP blog on May 11th. The full text of the bill and the Lugar-Obama Act is available on the ASMP’s “Bills and Laws” page.

Make Trident Conventional

The week before last, Harold Brown and James Schlesinger argued in an op-ed in the Washington Post that the United States should arm some of the ballistic missiles on the Trident submarine with conventional warheads. Michael Gordon had a story in yesterday’s New York Times explaining that Rumsfeld fully supports the idea and hopes to get the system operational within two years. This is the implementation of the Global Strike plan that FAS’s Hans Kistensen has recently documented in detail.
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Visting the Titan Missile Museum

On a recent trip to Tucson, Arizona I visited the Titan Missile Museum, something I recommend for all FAS blog readers who might be in the area. The tour was great. You get to visit the silo and the launch control area. They even have a decommissioned Titan missile in the silo. All very impressive.

I confess, I was a bit apprehensive about the lecture I was going to get as part of our orientation. I fully expected it to be a Cold War propaganda fest. But the comments were, in fact, quite good. There was one description of deterrence that I could have quibbled with a bit but overall I was pleased. Still, it is sometimes best to look to a child for clarity. One young visitor sent in a drawing that I think sums up the Titan missile perfectly, everything else is just details. I posted it here.

Biosecurity, Flu and Chemical Weapons updates

FAS has posted a new a Congressional Research Service report on Avian Influenza and two Biosecurity reports from the military. We also launched a revised chemical weapons resource website.

Congressional Research Service Report entitled “US and International Responses to Global Threat of Avian Flu” from May 1, 2006. It provides an up-to-date account of global H5N1-related human infections and deaths, outlines U.S. government global avian flu programs, and presents some foreign policy issues for Congress. (36 pages)

April 26, 2006 Air Force Policy Directive on Safeguarding Select Agents and Toxins. This directive lays out the Air Force policy on handling biological agents. (7 pages)

April 18, 2006 DoD Instruction on the Minimum Security Standards for Safeguarding Biological Select Agents and Toxins. (28 pages)

Finally, FAS has updated its Chemical Weapons Information Resource Page and will continue to add new content to it in the coming months.

Rep. Royce introduces legislation on shoulder fired missiles

Yesterday Rep. Edward Royce (R-CA) introduced a far-reaching bill that, if passed, would boost US efforts to curb the threat posed by Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS).

The “Shoulder-fired Missile Reduction Act of 2006” (HR 5333), which already has 13 co-sponsors from both sides of the political aisle, contains provisions that would

**Expand US stockpile security and destruction assistance programs by authorizing $15 million for these programs in fiscal year 2007 and $20 million in FY2008 (effectively doubling current funding levels);

**Punish states that knowingly transfer missiles to terrorists by cutting off U.S. arms sales and foreign aid (except humanitarian assistance); and

**Improve Congressional understanding of the MANPADS threat and the US government’s response by requiring a report that describes US and international counter-MANPADS activities, the impact of these activities on the illicit trade in MANPADS, and the availability of these weapons to terrorists and their states sponsors.
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Biosecurity Resource Update: new Legislation and Reports pages

FAS has added two new sections to its biosecurity resource page. The first section contains information and text on all US laws, pending legislation, and international treaties relating to biosecurity and bioterrorism. We have also launched a page that contains reports on various biosecurity issues from a wide variety of sources including the National Academies, Government Accountability Office and Congressional Research Service. Each page has a customized search engine that allows you to search within the documents listed.

You can find both sections on our Biosecurity Resource Page
Please let us know if you notice anything missing or would like us to link to your efforts.