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Right after I graduated, I interned with the Arms Control Association. It was terrific.

– George Stephanopolous
Host of ABC's This Week
January 1, 2005
Press Releases

Concern Heats Up Over Iran's Nuclear Program

Paul Kerr

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors unanimously adopted a resolution Sept. 12 that sets an Oct. 31 deadline for Iran to cooperate fully with the agency’s efforts to resolve concerns that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program. Tehran has sent mixed signals as to whether it will comply, possibly setting the stage for a showdown in the UN Security Council.

The resolution is the IAEA board’s strongest action to date regarding Iran’s nuclear program. In June the board issued a statement calling on Iran to resolve concerns created by its failure to report certain nuclear activities, as mandated by its safeguards agreement with the IAEA. Such agreements are required under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to ensure that member states do not divert civilian nuclear programs to military purposes. Iran ratified the NPT in 1970 and has repeatedly denied that it is pursuing nuclear weapons. (See ACT, July/August 2003.)

The IAEA action follows months of pressure from Washington. The Bush administration expressed satisfaction with the resolution, with White House press secretary Scott McClellan describing it Sept. 25 as “one last chance for Iran to comply” and adding that the matter “should be reported to the Security Council” if Iran fails to do so. Although President George W. Bush said Sept. 25 that “there will be universal condemnation” if Iran does not cooperate, McClellan would not speculate on what course of action the administration would recommend if the matter is referred to the Security Council. The board is to evaluate Iran’s progress shortly after the deadline.

The United States has long had suspicions that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program, but international concern accelerated during the last year as more details about Iran’s uranium-and plutonium-based nuclear programs emerged. When operational, both programs could produce fissile material for nuclear weapons.

IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei issued a report in June summarizing the agency’s investigation into Iran’s nuclear programs and concluding that Iran had violated its safeguards agreements. A second report in August provided more details on Iran’s programs and revealed inconsistencies in previous Iranian statements to the agency, raising more questions about Tehran’s nuclear intentions.

Tehran has suggested that it is willing to cooperate with the IAEA but has voiced concerns that such cooperation will not be sufficient to meet U.S. demands. The IAEA is sending a team to Iran Oct. 2 to begin inspections and get a more complete picture of Iran’s nuclear activities, an IAEA official said in a Sept. 29 interview.

The Resolution

The most important component of the resolution calls on Iran to take “all necessary actions…to resolve all outstanding issues involving nuclear materials and nuclear activities” by the deadline, expressing particular concern about Iran’s gas centrifuge uranium-enrichment program. A pilot gas centrifuge plant near the town of Natanz contained more than 100 centrifuges as of February, when ElBaradei first visited the facility. Centrifuges spin uranium hexafluoride gas in cylinders to increase the concentration of the relevant isotopes. Tehran is also building a commercial facility that could hold enough centrifuges to produce fissile material for 25 nuclear devices per year. (See ACT, June 2003.)

The February discovery of the Natanz facility’s advanced state produced suspicions that Iran had secretly tested its centrifuges with nuclear material—an action that would violate its safeguards agreement. Under the agreement, Tehran can only conduct such tests if IAEA inspectors are notified. Iran has said it tested the centrifuges without nuclear material, but IAEA experts dismiss its claim.

In June, Iran adhered to the letter if not the spirit of its agreement by introducing nuclear material into the Natanz facility’s centrifuges under IAEA safeguards. That action came despite a board of governors’ request earlier that month that Tehran refrain from doing so. Iran accelerated its tests in August. The resolution “calls on Iran to suspend all further uranium-enrichment-related activities, including the further introduction of nuclear material into Natanz,” but there is no indication that Iran has stopped.

The resolution further calls on Iran to comply with the agency’s investigation into the matter by “providing a full declaration of all imported material and components relevant to the enrichment programme.” ElBaradei reported in August that environmental samples taken by IAEA inspectors revealed the presence of highly enriched uranium (HEU) at the pilot facility. Iran has explained the findings by claiming that it imported contaminated components, but the material’s presence may also indicate that Iran tested its centrifuges with nuclear material.

Iran’s acknowledgment that it had obtained some of the components through “foreign intermediaries” contradicted the country’s past contention that its enrichment program was entirely indigenous.
The centrifuge technology’s origin is unknown. Although a French report in May asserted that the technology is likely of Pakistani origin, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamidreza Asefi told reporters Sept. 1 that Iran has not cooperated with Pakistan. The August IAEA report says that the machines are of “an early European design,” but that does not exclude the possibility that they originated in Pakistan. (See ACT, September 2003.)

The IAEA resolution also requires Iran to allow inspectors to conduct environmental sampling in “whatever locations the IAEA deems necessary” to complete its verification tasks. Conducting samples has been a particularly contentious issue. Iran delayed allowing inspectors to conduct samples at a location called the Kalaye Electric Company for months after inspectors first requested access. When inspectors conducted sampling in August, they found “considerable modification” of the facility which could adversely impact the samples’ accuracy.

The IAEA has been particularly interested in the Kalaye site because Tehran acknowledged it produced centrifuge components there and the agency believes that sampling could help verify the government’s claim that it has not tested centrifuges with nuclear material. The IAEA has not revealed the results of the sampling, but the Associated Press reported Sept. 29 that Ali Akbar Salehi, Tehran’s chief delegate to the IAEA, acknowledged that inspectors found HEU at the site. He again blamed contaminated components.

Will Iran Comply?

Whether Iran will comply with the IAEA’s demands is an open question. Asefi said Tehran’s response to the resolution “is still being examined and…Iran’s final stance will be declared in due time,” the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported Sept. 21. Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, however, said in a television interview that Iran is “determined to cooperate” with the agency, according to a Sept. 28 Associated Press report.

Earlier in the month, Tehran seemed to issue a veiled threat to pull out of the NPT. Iran’s representatives walked out of the IAEA meeting when the resolution was adopted, and Asefi told reporters Sept.14 that Iran would “review its cooperation” with the IAEA. However, Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh told the IAEA General Conference Sept. 16 that, although Iran “objects” to the resolution, it is still “fully committed to its NPT responsibility.”

Salehi discussed his government’s thoughts in more detail with Der Spiegel on Sept. 15, saying Iran would take “appropriate measures” if the United States tries to force it to forgo all uranium-enrichment activities. These measures could include limiting its cooperation with the IAEA to the minimum level required by its original safeguards agreement, “completely” ending cooperation with the agency, or pulling out of the NPT, he said. During the course of the agency’s investigation, Iran has allowed the IAEA to conduct inspections beyond those required by Iran’s safeguards agreement.

Additional Protocol

The resolution reiterates the IAEA’s June request that Iran “promptly and unconditionally” implement an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement. An additional protocol allows the IAEA to conduct more rigorous inspections, including visits to facilities that countries have not declared to the agency in order to check for clandestine nuclear programs.

The IAEA and Iran have had ongoing discussions about the agreement, and Salehi said Sept. 15 that Iran is ready to begin negotiations “leading to our signing it.” IAEA spokesperson Melissa Flemming said that concluding the protocol was unnecessary for the agency to conduct its current investigation, Agence France Presse reported Sept. 25.

Secretary of State Colin Powell said in August that Iran signing the additional protocol would not be sufficient to satisfy Washington’s concerns about that country’s nuclear programs.

Moscow-Tehran Cooperation Continues

Russia continues to move forward on the construction of a light-water nuclear reactor near the Iranian city of Bushehr. Russia has agreed to provide fuel for the reactor, with the condition that Iran sign an agreement to return the spent fuel, but Russian Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev could not say when this agreement will be concluded, Agence France Presse reported Sept. 19.

Iran has also introduced a new variable. Russian Deputy Minister for Nuclear Energy Valery Govorukhin said that Iran now wants Russia to pay for the removal of the spent fuel, the Itar-Tass news agency reported Sept. 10. Rumyantsev added Sept. 19 that the two sides are negotiating this new demand—a process that could further delay conclusion of the agreement.

Although a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman called on Iran Sept. 13 to conclude an additional protocol and cooperate with the IAEA, Govorukhin added that Russia’s provision of reactor fuel is not conditioned on Iran signing the protocol. Moscow has hinted at such linkage in the past.

Washington has long opposed the Bushehr project because of concerns that Iran will gain access to expertise and dual-use technology that can aid it in developing a nuclear weapons program. Russia contends that the reactors will not contribute to a nuclear weapons program and will operate under IAEA safeguards.

Russian officials have said they may build more reactors in Iran and IRNA reported Aug. 26 that Russia has delivered feasibility studies to Iran for a second reactor being planned for Bushehr. The two governments agreed to conduct the studies in December 2002. (See ACT, January/February 2003.) Govorukhin said Sept. 10 that the Bushehr reactor will be completed in 2005, but the Aug. 26 IRNA report placed the date at 2004.

How Long Until a Weapon?


Major General Aharon Ze’evi-Farkash, the head of Israeli military intelligence, told Jane’s Intelligence Review that Iran can develop a nuclear device “within two years” after gaining the ability to produce sufficient uranium, according to a Sept. 13 Agence France Presse report. Iran has said that it plans to start installing centrifuges into the commercial Natanz facility in 2005.

Ze’evi-Farkash, however, added that Israel believes 2004 is “the point of no return” because Iranian scientists will have by then acquired all the “necessary knowledge” for building a nuclear device.

Public U.S. estimates give a slightly longer time frame. A January 2003 Congressional Research Service report states that “the consensus among U.S. experts appears to be that Iran is still about eight to ten years away from a nuclear weapons capability, although foreign help or Iranian procurement abroad of fissionable materials could shorten that timetable.” A February Defense Intelligence Agency estimate says Iran will have a nuclear bomb by 2010 if it acquires the necessary technology and fissile material. Whether these estimates take into account the most recent Iranian nuclear developments is unknown.

Additionally, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton argued during a June congressional hearing that Iran could build “over 80 nuclear weapons” if it had access to sufficient fuel, operated the Bushehr reactor for 5-6 years, and chose to withdraw from the NPT.

The IAEA Resolution: An Excerpt

1. Calls on Iran to provide accelerated cooperation and full transparency to allow the Agency to provide at an early date the assurances required by Member States;
2. Calls on Iran to ensure there are no further failures to report material, facilities and activities that Iran is obliged to report pursuant to its safeguards agreement;
3. Reiterates the Board’s statement in June 2003 encouraging Iran not to introduce nuclear material into its pilot enrichment cascade in Natanz, and in this context calls on Iran to suspend all further uranium enrichment-related activities, including the further introduction of nuclear material into Natanz, and, as a confidence-building measure, any reprocessing activities, pending provision by the Director General of the assurances required by Member States, and pending satisfactory application of the provisions of the additional protocol;
4. Decides it is essential and urgent in order to ensure IAEA verification of non-diversion of nuclear material that Iran remedy all failures identified by the Agency and cooperate fully with the Agency to ensure verification of compliance with Iran’s safeguards agreement by taking all necessary actions by the end of October 2003, including:
(i) providing a full declaration of all imported material and components relevant to the enrichment programme, especially imported equipment and components stated to have been contaminated with high enriched uranium particles, and collaborating with the Agency in identifying the source and date of receipt of such imports and the locations where they have been stored and used in Iran;
(ii) granting unrestricted access, including environmental sampling, for the Agency to whatever locations the Agency deems necessary for the purposes of verification of the correctness and completeness of Iran’s declarations;
(iii) resolving questions regarding the conclusion of Agency experts that process testing on gas centrifuges must have been conducted in order for Iran to develop its enrichment technology to its current extent;
(iv) providing complete information regarding the conduct of uranium conversion experiments;
(v) providing such other information and explanations, and taking such other steps as are deemed necessary by the Agency to resolve all outstanding issues involving nuclear materials and nuclear activities, including environmental sampling results;
5. Requests all third countries to cooperate closely and fully with the Agency in the clarification of open questions on the Iranian nuclear programme;
6. Requests Iran to work with the Secretariat to promptly and unconditionally sign, ratify and fully implement the additional protocol, and, as a confidence-building measure, henceforth to act in accordance with the additional protocol;
7. Requests the Director General to continue his efforts to implement the Agency’s safeguards agreement with Iran, and to submit a report in November 2003, or earlier if appropriate, on the implementation of this resolution, enabling the Board to draw definitive conclusions....

 

 

 

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors unanimously adopted a resolution Sept. 12 that sets an Oct. 31 deadline for Iran to cooperate fully...

Senate Okays Funds for Nuclear Weapons Research

Christine Kucia

The Republican-led House and Senate are at odds over whether to fund new nuclear weapons initiatives proposed by the Bush administration. The Senate’s fiscal year 2004 energy and water appropriations bill, approved Sept. 16, funds continued research on the controversial nuclear earth penetrator, accelerated nuclear test readiness, and exploration of new weapons technologies. Meanwhile, the House version, approved July 18, makes considerable cuts to these items. (See ACT, September 2003.) The differences will be hammered out in a House-Senate conference, likely to take place in October.

The administration has been encouraging Congress to modernize the nuclear arsenal for some time. More recently, a Sept. 11 “Statement of Administration Policy” sent to the Senate prior to the appropriations vote noted that full funding for nuclear research programs “will help lay the foundation for transforming the [n]ation’s Cold War era nuclear stockpile into a modern deterrent suited for the 21st century.” A post-vote letter from Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham to GOP Sens. Pete Domenici (N.M.) and John Warner (Va.) praised the Senate for keeping the president’s nuclear weapons initiatives in the bill and urged the senators to ensure the measures are sustained in conference with the House.

Attempts by Democratic senators to block the measures largely fell short. An amendment on the floor by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) to eliminate the funding for the earth penetrator and for new weapons technologies, as well as to bar funds from being used to shorten the test readiness period, failed 53-41. Democrats achieved a small victory, however, when the Senate passed by voice vote an amendment by Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), which would restrict weapons funding to research only and ensure that the administration consults with Congress before developing new nuclear weapons. The amendment mirrors one approved by the Senate during debate over the defense authorization bill in May. (See ACT, June 2003.)

During her floor speech, Feinstein warned that developing new weapons will harm U.S. nonproliferation objectives: “Indeed, by seeking to develop new nuclear weapons ourselves, we send a message that nuclear weapons have a future battlefield role and utility.” Kennedy stressed that appropriating the funds would be the first in a series of destabilizing measures that could make nuclear war more likely, and he told The New York Times Sept. 17, “We are fully committed to staying after the issue.” But Republican Sen. Jon Kyl (Ariz.) had a different take. “[W]e now have the capability of delivering weapons very precisely. Wouldn’t it be better to do that, even in a nuclear context, than the one we are in now?” he asked during the Sept. 15 floor debate.

 

 

 

The Republican-led House and Senate are at odds over whether to fund new nuclear weapons initiatives proposed by the Bush administration. 

Iraq Inquiry Winds Down; Blair Suffers Political Blow

Daniel Koik

As Lord Hutton prepares to wrap up his investigation into the suicide of arms expert David Kelly, it seems that British Prime Minister Tony Blair will escape legal charges that his government had falsified and exaggerated pre-war intelligence information on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Yet, Blair is hardly in the clear: the investigation’s revelations about the Blair government’s handling of intelligence and its treatment of Kelly have significantly damaged the Labor leader’s political standing.

The Parliament Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) concluded in a Sept. 11 report that, during the preparation of a September 2002 dossier documenting British intelligence analysis of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction programs and capabilities, the Blair government had not applied political pressure on the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), which was in charge of drafting the dossier. Referring to a May 29 report by BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan that alleged such pressure and first sparked the controversy, the ISC said, “The dossier was not ‘sexed up’ by Alastair Cambell or anyone else.”

Testifying before the committee, Blair said he took the nation to war because he was concerned that an Iraqi WMD capability would develop “into a nexus between terrorism and WMD.” He noted that “time will tell whether it’s true or not true.”

The committee also criticized some of the claims within the dossier for their lack of clarity and context. In particular, the committee said the dossier should have emphasized that, although it could determine if Iraq had developed biological and chemical capabilities, it did not have firm intelligence of exactly what had been produced and in what quantities. The committee also said that the Blair government had not placed in its proper context a claim that Iraq was prepared to use biological or chemical weapons on 45 minutes’ notice. The panel said that this charge had originally referred merely to battlefield munitions and not any larger strategic capabilities.

The 45-minute claim has been at the center of the intelligence controversy. In his May BBC report, Gilligan had cited an unnamed senior intelligence official “in charge of drawing up that dossier,” later acknowledged to be Kelly. Gilligan said the official asserted that the claim had been added over the criticisms of the intelligence community at the insistence of Downing Street. In June, Gilligan wrote in the Sunday Mail that, according to his source, Blair communications director Alastair Cambell had given the order.

Government officials have continued to deny that there was any government pressure over that or any other claim made in the dossier. (See ACT, September 2003.)

In his second appearance before the Hutton Inquiry, Campbell again said that he had only been involved with the creation of the dossiers in a “presentational” role and that he had not had any say in the substance of the report.

Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of MI6 Secret Intelligence Service, made a rare public appearance to testify before the inquiry that he had personally followed the creation of the dossier throughout its creation and that he was satisfied with the process. Dearlove said that he had considered the 45-minute claim to be “well-sourced.” He was “bemused” by the accusation that good intelligence could not come from a single source, saying that many reports produced by MI6 are single-source yet are still considered to be reliable. Dearlove did say, however, that “in hindsight” it should have been made clearer that the claim referred to short-range battlefield weapons.

To be sure, John Scarlett, the head of the JIC, admitted that he had revised the dossier after receiving an e-mail from Blair’s chief of staff Jonathan Powell, removing a reference stating that Saddam would only use biological or chemical weapons when “under threat.” Powell’s e-mail asked Scarlett to redraft the statement, because it would have supported arguments that Hussein would only be a threat if attacked.

But in his testimony, Scarlett argued that the e-mail only made him re-examine the statement and that removing the explicit phrase was justified given recent intelligence that placed Iraqi WMD and its importance in the context of Hussein’s “perception of his regional position, his plans to acquire and maintain regional influence and, as one report, and maybe more, put it: dominate his neighbors.” Given this interpretation, he said that removing the phrase permitted him to act within his instruction from the JIC to keep the dossier in line with the most recent intelligence.

Kelly was found dead July 18 after becoming caught up in a conflict between the Blair government and the BBC over Gilligan’s accusations. The government has faced strong criticism over the way Kelly’s name was revealed to the public. Representatives of the Kelly family have accused the government of using Kelly as “a pawn in their political battle with the BBC.”

Blair has seen his popularity plummet as a result of the crisis and late September polls in the Guardian show that 61 percent of British voters are unhappy with the job he is doing as prime minister and that only 38 percent now believe the war in Iraq was justified.

Facing even greater political trouble is Secretary of Defense Geoff Hoon. Hoon already faced substantial public criticism for his role in revealing Kelly’s identity as Gilligan’s source. But the ISC report also disclosed that Hoon had failed to disclose that two aides had submitted written concerns about the dossier to him prior to its publication. The ISC characterized this failure as “unhelpful and potentially misleading,” leading Conservative leader Ian Duncan Smith to call for Hoon’s resignation. Hoon said that he regretted any “misunderstanding,” but a September 5 poll in the Sunday mail showed that 62 percent of the British public backed Smith’s call for Hoon’s resignation.

The Hutton Inquiry and the ISC are two of the three committees that have investigated the British governments handling of Iraqi intelligence. The Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee also concluded in July that Blair and his advisers did not interfere in the creation of dossiers.

 

 

 

As Lord Hutton prepares to wrap up his investigation into the suicide of arms expert David Kelly, it seems that British Prime Minister Tony Blair will escape...

Study Casts Doubt on Boost-Phase Missile Defense

Wade Boese

A key criticism of the Pentagon’s ground-based midcourse missile defense system scheduled for deployment next fall is that an attacker could employ countermeasures, such as decoys that look like a warhead, to fool the interceptor into missing its target.

The Pentagon contends that near-term foes are not likely to be able to build effective decoys. It also claims that the decoy and countermeasure problem will be addressed by fielding additional defenses designed to destroy ballistic missiles shortly after launch and before any decoy warheads could be deployed—a period known as the boost phase.

But a July report by the American Physical Society (APS)—the largest U.S. society of professional physicists—raised questions about the Pentagon’s strategy. It estimated that boost-phase defenses are a decade away and might only work in the most limited circumstances.

The APS study, conducted by 12 experts, assessed whether land-, air-, sea-, or space-based systems could intercept a long-range ballistic missile three to four minutes after its launch. Though the experts said they made optimistic assumptions about the future performance of possible defenses, the study members told reporters July 17 that carrying out such intercepts would test the bounds of what is physically, technologically, and operationally feasible.

During a missile’s boost phase, it presents a larger, more visible, and slower-moving target than during later flight stages. The missile remains in one piece, its rocket engines are still burning hotly and brightly, and it is still accelerating. After the boost phase ends, the missile’s payload separates from the burned-out engines, leaving smaller, faster, colder, and possibly multiple targets hurtling through space. Temperature matters because proposed U.S. defenses rely on infrared sensors to home in on the target.

The primary constraint on intercepting ballistic missiles during the boost phase is time. Detecting a launch and then formulating an intercept plan would require at least 45 to 65 seconds, leaving less than 200 seconds at most for an interceptor to be fired and to reach its target before the boost phase ended. Field commanders would have little or no time to consult with superiors before firing their interceptors.

The time available for an intercept is constrained further by the fact that currently envisioned boost-phase defenses would destroy an enemy missile’s body but potentially leave its payload untouched. A surviving payload would almost never drop onto where it was launched from but fall somewhere between its launch point and intended target. Therefore, an enemy missile would have to be destroyed early enough in order to stop it from attaining a speed and trajectory that momentum would carry its payload to U.S. territory. The APS experts calculated this requirement could cut as much as 40 seconds from the potential intercept time.

Calculating an intercept so a destroyed missile’s payload would not fall on a U.S. ally, neutral country, or any populated area would be very difficult. Intercept windows to avoid such a possibility range between five to 20 seconds, the study reported. For example, preventing a destroyed, Iranian-launched missile’s payload from landing in western Europe would require the missile to be intercepted within a 10-to 20-second window. A North Korean missile fired at the U.S. interior would have to be shot down within a 10-second time frame to avoid having its payload inadvertently fall on Russia.

Due to the brief time frames for a boost-phase intercept, air-, sea-, and land-based interceptors would generally need to be deployed within 400 to 1,000 kilometers of the projected intercept point, according to the APS study. Consequently, boost-phase defenses would be most viable against relatively small countries, such as North Korea, and offer no protection against missiles launched from deep within the borders of large countries such as China and Russia.

Iran, which Washington charges is seeking nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles, presents a more ambiguous case. The APS study concluded that a terrestrial-based boost-phase defense could potentially shoot down a liquid-fueled Iranian missile, but not one powered by faster-burning solid-fuel engines because its boost phase is shorter.

Intercepting long-range missiles fired from a small country or a liquid-fueled missile from Iran would still require the development of interceptors more powerful and larger than any models the United States has built, according to the report. Ideally, interceptors would need to reach speeds up to six to 10 kilometers per second. Long-range ballistic missiles travel seven to eight kilometers per second.

The new interceptors would need to be based on land or ships bordering the potential missile launch point. In the cases of North Korea and Iran, this would require convincing countries that are not close U.S. military allies, such as China or Turkmenistan, to host U.S. interceptors on their territories. Ships could be stationed in nearby seas, though they would likely need protective escorts.

Another proposed alternative is to use a plane armed with a laser to knock out missiles rising toward space. The APS study judged that the Pentagon’s current Airborne Laser (ABL), which has seen its first intercept test slip by at least two years to 2005 because of problems coupling the laser and the plane, could counter liquid-fuel missiles—but not more heat-resistant solid-fuel missiles—launched by small countries. Because the ABL, which is initially designed to counter short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, has to be relatively close to its target to be effective, the APS experts deemed that it would be too vulnerable to enemy attack to be of any use against larger countries.

A possible solution to overcoming problems posed by geography is to place interceptors in space. Yet, the APS study estimated that approximately 1,000 space-based interceptors would need to be deployed to guard against a single missile launch because each individual interceptor would only cover a certain spot on Earth for a short period.

Boost-phase defenses themselves are not immune from countermeasures, the report found. A missile can be programmed to execute evasive maneuvers early in its flight. Moreover, a missile’s acceleration rate can vary unpredictably, making it difficult for a missile defense system to predict a missile’s course and pinpoint when it will reach a certain location.

The Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency has stood by the boost-phase concept. “There’s no reason to believe we can’t develop an interceptor fast enough to perform boost-phase intercept,” agency spokesman Rick Lehner said Aug. 7.

 

 

 

 

A key criticism of the Pentagon’s ground-based midcourse missile defense system scheduled for deployment next fall is that an attacker could employ countermeasures, such as decoys that look like a warhead...

Congress Grants Administration $9.1 Billion for Missile Defense

Wade Boese

Congress gave the Pentagon nearly everything it sought for total missile defense funding in fiscal year 2004—trimming a mere $5 million from an original $9.1 billion request. But not everyone won. Lawmakers increased funding for certain missile defense programs while cutting others.

The missile defense funds are included in the final conference report of the $368.2 billion defense appropriations bill, which was approved 407-15 by the House of Representatives Sept. 24 and unanimously by the Senate the following day.

Congress approved an extra $181 million for the Pentagon’s ground-based midcourse missile defense system scheduled for initial deployment next fall. It also added $60 million to buy more Patriot Advanced Capability-3 systems to defend against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles. These increases were facilitated, in part, by cuts in funding for the development of a new interceptor to target enemy missiles soon after their launch.

Missile defense spending has climbed since President George W. Bush took office, with the United States allocating nearly $25 billion dollars over three years for missile defenses. In early 2000, the Pentagon projected that total missile defense spending over the period of 1999 to 2005 would be $12.7 billion.

The defense bill also contains $617 million for the continued development of the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS)-high program, a group of satellites intended to play a key role in missile defense by detecting missile launches worldwide. Significant cost overruns and schedule delays put SBIRS-high in jeopardy of being cancelled last year, but then-Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Logisitics, and Technology Edward Aldridge defended the program as “essential” and rescued it from the chopping block. (See ACT, June 2002.)

 

Slipped Milestones from 2001 Schedule

U.S. Chemical Weapons Site
Next Project Milestone
Scheduled Date to Begin
New Start Date
# of Months Delayed
Anniston, Ala.
Operations
July 2002

July 2003
(began Aug. 9)

+13
Umatilla, Ore.
Operations
July 2003
December 2003
+5
Pine Bluff, Ark.
Operations
October 2003
April 2004
+6
Johnston Atoll
End of closure process
September 2003
January 2004
+4

 

 


 

 

 

Congress gave the Pentagon nearly everything it sought for total missile defense funding in fiscal year 2004—trimming a mere $5 million from an original $9.1 billion...

Missile Defense Technologies Still a Work in Progress

Wade Boese

A year before the Pentagon is scheduled to field the initial elements of the ground-based midcourse missile defense (GMD) system in Alaska, a majority of its critical technologies remain unproven, a recent U.S. government report found. In addition, the Sept. 23 report from the congressional watchdog General Accounting Office (GAO) chided the Bush administration for failing to plan a test of the radar tasked with tracking incoming ballistic missiles before the system is to become operational.

The GAO report said that only two of 10 critical technologies for the proposed GMD system were ready for integration into a working system, though the other technologies were appraised as “nearing completion.” However, GAO warned that, in general, hurrying to put systems together before all the technologies are demonstrated “increases the program’s cost, schedule, and performance risks.”

There are essentially three main elements of the proposed GMD system: the missile interceptors; radars; and the battle management command, control, and communications center. Satellites will also aid the system.

The Pentagon’s current plan calls for six missile interceptors to be deployed at Fort Greely, Alaska, and four at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, by Oct. 1, 2004. Initial radars will be located in Alaska, California, and on a mobile sea-based platform, and the battle management center is in Colorado. The satellites envisioned to detect and track an enemy missile launch are behind schedule, so the Pentagon will initially rely on existing, older-model satellites to fulfill that role.

Cued by satellites to a hostile missile launch, the radars are supposed to track and relay data on the missile’s trajectory to the battle management center, which then formulates an intercept plan and feeds that to the interceptor. A booster powers the interceptor into space, where the interceptor’s exoatmospheric kill vehicle (EKV) will separate from the booster and home in on the enemy target through radar updates passed through the battle management center, as well as its own onboard infrared sensors, for a high-speed collision.

GAO rated the EKV’s infrared sensors and the battle management center’s fire control software as the most mature technologies. It assessed the radars as being the furthest behind in development.

Located on the western tip of the Aleutian Islands, the Cobra Dane radar is intended to gather and provide the key tracking data on an incoming missile, but it is currently unable to perform real-time data processing and communication. The Cobra Dane radar will receive upgraded software in 2004 so it can do these missions, but no plans exist to test the radar against in-flight targets for the next three years.

The Pentagon contends that it does not have the funding available to carry out a test using sea- or air-launched targets of the radar before next fall. If the opportunity arises, the Pentagon says it could test the radar, which is fixed to face northwest, by trying to track foreign, namely Russian, missile test launches or U.S. space and missile launches.

Even with its intended upgrades, the Cobra Dane radar would not effectively be able to separate out a warhead from decoys and from debris potentially traveling alongside it. For this mission, the Pentagon is seeking to put a more advanced X-band radar on a mobile sea-based platform, which will permit it to be moved around to meet changing threats.

The sea-based X-band radar is not yet built and is expected to become operational sometime in 2005. Though the Pentagon professes confidence that this radar will work properly, GAO suggested severe wind and sea conditions could impair its performance.

Putting all these technologies together to form a working GMD system will cost about $21.8 billion, according to the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA). That estimate covers the period 1997 to 2009 but does not include personnel, maintenance, and systems engineering costs.

The ground-based system is just one of the missile defense options being explored. MDA estimates that missile defense spending, including GMD funds, will total about $50 billion between fiscal years 2004 and 2009.

 

 

 

A year before the Pentagon is scheduled to field the initial elements of the ground-based midcourse missile defense (GMD) system in Alaska, a...

NNSA Folds Advisory Council

Christine Kucia

In a surprise decision, the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) shut down an advisory committee established to review the agency’s research and development portfolio and make recommendations for strengthening its science and technology work. The action drew harsh criticism from several members of Congress.

The committee, which was created June 25, 2001, had a two-year term for its work, and the NNSA decided not to renew it. Committee members included physicists and other scientists with technical knowledge about nuclear weapons, as well as former government officials and experts with experience on a complex range of nuclear policy issues. The committee was created soon after the NNSA was established as a semi-autonomous agency of the Energy Department, when General John Gordon—the first head of NNSA—tasked the committee to “provide advice and recommendations on matters of technology, policy, and operation.” The charter also indicated that the advisory group “is expected to be needed on a continuing basis.” The committee met five times during its two-year term.

The committee’s termination occurred soon after Ambassador Linton Brooks was sworn in as NNSA’s administrator in May. (See ACT, June 2003). According to NNSA spokesman Bryan Wilkes, the group’s members should not have been surprised by its termination because federal advisory committees stand only for two years unless a specific renewal request is made. He added that, in the absence of the committee, the Nuclear Weapons Council—comprised of Brooks and two officials from the military and the Defense Department—will continue to develop guidance on nuclear weapons policy. “Ambassador Brooks has no shortage of advice,” Wilkes said.

Some former committee members disagree. “A committee like this was a very useful thing for NNSA to have,” Raymond Jeanloz, a University of California professor of planetary science, told ACT August 20. He explained that the committee provided analysis, recommendations, and constructive criticism for the agency. “We made recommendations that ended up being implemented. And we served a ‘checks and balances’ role,” he said.

Sidney Drell, a Stanford University physicist on the committee, had harsher words about the group’s lapse. “I presume they did not value us or found us a nuisance,” he said, according to a July 31 article in The Guardian.

Congressional objections drew attention to the committee’s demise. Representative Edward Markey (D-MA) blasted the decision in a July 29 press release. “[I]nstead of seeking balanced expert advice and analysis about this important topic, the Department of Energy has disbanded the one forum for honest, unbiased external review of its nuclear weapons policies,” he said.

Markey also sent a letter to Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham, asking for an accounting of the committee under the rules governing groups established under the Federal Advisory Committee Act. The letter called for copies of the group’s final report to be provided to the Library of Congress; asked whether the committee fulfilled its mandate after holding only five meetings over the two-year term; and inquired how NNSA’s administrator will be advised in the future on complex technical and policy issues in the absence of “the only independent contemplative body studying nuclear weapons.”

Despite Markey’s efforts, NNSA continues to guard the committee’s final report. After his office requested copies, NNSA officials sent the final document to its Office of General Counsel, where it awaits further review by the agency. NNSA refuses to estimate when the report will be publicly available.

Jeanloz said he was “surprised” by the department’s decision to withhold the report, which he said was entirely unclassified. “I can’t think of anything in the report that would be detrimental or negative for the current NNSA leadership or NNSA in general,” he said, adding that refusing to issue the report “may make the document seem far more provocative than what it concludes.”




 

In a surprise decision, the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) shut down an advisory committee established to review the agency’s research...

U.S. Biodefense Plans Worry Nonproliferation Advocates

Jonathan Yang

The U.S. government’s efforts to combat bioterrorism are sparking concerns over the dangers enhanced biodefense programs might pose to the nonproliferation regime. New biodefense plans drawn up in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks call for more than a sixfold boost in biodefense funding, with a sizeable portion of the funds going toward the construction of new biosafety level (BSL) 3 and 4 facilities, those capable of handling the most dangerous pathogens.

According to the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there are plans to fund the construction of one or two new National Biocontainment Laboratories with BSL-4 containment capabilities and four to eight Regional Biocontainment Laboratories with BSL-3 containment capabilities, utilizing a portion of the roughly $1.5 billion budgeted to the NIH for biodefense research in fiscal year 2003. NIAID is evaluating proposals for these new laboratories and plans to announce the grant recipients in September 2003.

Proponents for the new laboratories contend that the increased research capabilities and capacity will help accelerate biodefense research. Opponents argue that the new biodefense laboratories might unintentionally worsen the threat to the United States. One concern is that, although the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) permits such research even as it outlaws offensive biological weapons, it is hard for outsiders to judge whether a country is in fact adhering to the BWC’s restrictions. Opponents fret that, by coming close to this line, the United States risks undermining its attempts to limit or control other countries’ research with materials that could be useful for biological weapons.

The Good and the Bad


Pathogens are categorized into one of four BSL classifications based on the dangers they pose and the availability of treatments or vaccines. Most pathogens that are considered bioterror threats, such as Ebola and smallpox, are categorized as BSL-3 or BSL-4 organisms, meaning they can only safely be worked on in a laboratory with at least the same BSL rating. BSL-3 and BSL-4 facilities are specialized to allow scientists to conduct research on organisms within proper containment fields.

The U.S. government contends that new laboratories are needed to conduct additional research on dangerous pathogens. An NIH official claims that, of the existing five U.S. BSL-4 laboratories that are operational or near operational, only the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick, Maryland, are capable of dealing with extensive experiments on highly dangerous agents.

Proponents say the new facilities would improve the development of treatments or vaccines before an attack occurs as well as the response to a biological attack. The process of developing and gaining approval for treatments and vaccines requires extensive laboratory research and testing that usually takes years. In the event of a biological attack, however, this process would be further burdened by the urgency for a therapy, given that the agent used might have a high morbidity and mortality rate and spread rapidly, affecting many people. Therefore, the NIAID, the agency in charge of defending the United States from emerging diseases, including bioterror agents, sees expanding not only its number of research grants but also the number of high-containment biological laboratories as a way of both accelerating the current research on potential pathogens and better preparing the country for responding to an emerging disease or biological attack.

Another benefit of expanding the number of BSL-4 laboratories is to help equalize the responses to a threat regardless of where in the United States one occurs. The CDC and USAMRIID are both located on the East Coast, creating a situation where response times to outbreaks on the eastern United States are faster than to outbreaks in the western United States. In choosing the recipients of funds for new laboratories, the NIAID might also consider the locations of the proposals, trying to locate new facilities in regions that currently lack the capabilities in order to create a more equal distribution of major biological laboratories nationwide.

Yet, there are several issues that opponents to this plan cite as reasons to maintain the current number of BSL-3 and BSL-4 laboratories—already the most capable national network of high-containment biological research facilities in the world—rather than build more. In general, they view an increase in the number of laboratories and the number of trained scientists as an increase in potential leaks of material and expertise. Additionally, a terrorist attack at a BSL-3 or BSL-4 research center aimed at breaching the airtight safety precautions could cause the release of dangerous biological agents into the surrounding communities. Opponents claim that increasing the number of laboratories also increases the number of targets for such attacks.

Lack of Transparency

Arms control experts are particularly concerned with the issues of transparency and precedence. NIAID has been tight-lipped regarding details on what research the new facilities will pursue, requiring that the grant proposals remain confidential. The institute has also indicated that it will limit information on what biological agents are researched at the various facilities. The argument is that secrecy is essential; otherwise, terrorists could search for chinks in the U.S. biodefense armor and exploit them.

Other countries, however, might view this secrecy with distrust, wondering whether the expansion in biodefense research is masking covert biological weapons programs. For example, the U.S. government has acknowledged that its BSL-3 and BSL-4 laboratories might develop more virulent and robust strains of pathogens for the purpose of developing defenses against weapons officials fear terrorists might employ.

They also worry that the secrecy of the program might establish a dangerous precedent. In the future, if an adversary dramatically increases its biodefense research program without transparency, the United States might question its intentions. Yet, that country would be able to point to the U.S. expansion of its biodefense program as a precedent, leaving the United States with little basis or diplomatic leverage for criticizing the country’s efforts.

 








 

The U.S. government’s efforts to combat bioterrorism are sparking concerns over the dangers enhanced biodefense programs might pose...

For Second Year Running, U.S. a No-Show at CTBT Conference

Christine Kucia

For the second consecutive time, the United States will not send a delegation to a meeting of states belonging to the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which seeks to ban all forms of explosive nuclear testing. Many member states will meet in Vienna September 3-5 to examine ways to accelerate the treaty’s entry into force.

A U.S. official confirmed July 30 that the United States will not attend the September meeting. The United States, which has signed but so far refused to ratify the CTBT, also declined to attend a November 2001 meeting on speeding the treaty’s entry into force. The United States did attend a meeting in Vienna October 6-8, 1999, but several days later, on October 13, the U.S. Senate rejected the pact.

However, the decade-long unilateral U.S. moratorium on nuclear testing remains in place, Secretary of State Colin Powell reaffirmed August 7. He said, “The President has no intention of testing nuclear weapons. We have no need to.” Yet, Powell noted that the United States—obligated to maintain a safe, reliable stockpile—“can’t rule it out forever.”

Despite the U.S. absence, organizers intend the meeting’s final declaration to promote practical measures that over the next several years will help move the treaty toward enactment. “Now we’re underlining a perspective for the future,” Ambassador Tom Grönberg of Finland, chair of the meeting’s preparatory process, told Arms Control Today July 30. “We have to have a concrete program” to promote the CTBT’s entry into force.

A Bush administration official noted that, despite the U.S. decision not to ratify the treaty in the near future, the U.S. commitment to the International Monitoring System—a global network of stations that use scientific methods to measure whether seismic events resulted from nuclear testing—remains strong. Washington continues to help fund the system, contributing about $18 million in fiscal year 2003.

Although 104 countries have ratified the CTBT since it opened for signature in September 1996, it has never entered into force. The treaty provisions require a set of 44 countries listed as “nuclear capable” in the CTBT’s Annex II to ratify the treaty before it can enter into force; only 32 of the required ratifiers have done so. Algeria submitted its instruments of ratification on July 11, becoming the most recent Annex II country to ratify the treaty, according to the Preparatory Commission for the CTBT Organization. China and the United States are among the Annex II countries that have yet to ratify the pact, and India, Pakistan, and North Korea—also Annex II countries—have not signed the treaty.

Despite the strong support many CTBT member states expressed for the treaty at the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty preparatory meeting in May, the CTBT regime faces substantial new challenges. Recent tensions over North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs have raised concerns that Pyongyang might conduct a nuclear test. Experts have warned that Bush administration hints that the United States might resume testing could spur the resumption of nuclear testing among the other states recognized as nuclear powers by the international nonproliferation regime—China, Russia, the United Kingdom, and France.






 

For the second consecutive time, the United States will not send a delegation to a meeting of states belonging to the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)...

U.S. Lawmakers, Officials Seek End to NK Nuclear Aid

Charles Crain, Medill News Service

As diplomats seek to negotiate an end to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, some U.S. lawmakers and Bush administration officials are pushing to end a program designed to provide North Korea with civilian nuclear energy.

Since last year, the United States and several allies have been building two light-water reactors in North Korea whose construction was a key component of the 1994 Agreed Framework, under which North Korea agreed to freeze its plutonium-based nuclear weapons program in exchange for the reactors and other aid. In 1995 the United States, South Korea, and Japan established the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) to build the two reactors. KEDO remains in the early stages of its work—having established basic infrastructure and poured concrete for the first reactor—but none of the nuclear components for the reactor have yet been delivered.

Reuters reported on August 26, the day before negotiations commenced between North Korea and the United States and four other countries, that the program to build nuclear reactors in North Korea would probably be suspended in September. Citing U.S. officials, the report said the suspension was a compromise between the United States, which wants to end the program entirely, and South Korea and Japan, which prefer a suspension.
In addition, a June South Korean embassy release had said the United States has proposed stopping the construction of two reactors in North Korea, but the release said South Korea opposes such a move.

A State Department source, however, said August 26 the United States was not lobbying for a suspension. He said decisions about KEDO’s future would be made by its board when it meets in September.

A diplomatic source familiar with KEDO and with the negotiations said a suspension of KEDO’s work would probably result in the program’s demise. “KEDO is like a train—it’s hard to stop and hard to get back on track,” the source said. He said there was less than a 50 percent chance the program would be restarted after a suspension.

Meanwhile, some members of the U.S. Congress are seeking to ensure that KEDO will not continue, regardless of decisions taken by the Bush administration or other KEDO member states.

An amendment to the House energy appropriations bill that passed July 18 would prohibit the government from allowing U.S. hardware or technical information from being transferred, directly or indirectly, to states the United States identifies as sponsors of terrorism.

Representative Christopher Cox (R-CA) said he is confident the Senate will approve similar language to end U.S. support for the reactors project and that President George W. Bush would sign it into law. A spokesman for Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-IN) said he expected one or more senators would add similar language to the Senate bill.

Cox said he has spoken with a number of senators’ offices and has received especially strong support from Senator John Kyl (R-AZ). In an August 20 op-ed in the Asian Wall Street Journal, Kyl wrote, “After eight years of the Agreed Framework…the result was not one, but two North Korean nuclear weapons programs.” He advocated a hard-line stance, adding, “History shows it is futile to negotiate with Pyongyang as if it were a normal government.”

Cox and Kyl, along with Representative Edward Markey (D-MA), have opposed the project since its inception. In January, Kyl sponsored a bill to prohibit “certain” aid to North Korea or KEDO. The bill had seven co-sponsors, including Senator John McCain (R-AZ), a senior member on the Armed Services Committee; Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN), a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence; and Senator Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), an Armed Services Committee member.

Congressional critics of the legislation have suggested that it is irrelevant because the Bush administration has decided not to request funding for KEDO. Cox disagreed: “I think that’s exactly wrong, because they’re still pouring concrete.” He added, “We haven’t put our foot down and said no yet.”
In addition, Cox said simply declining to fund KEDO would be an unclear and ineffective signal because it would leave open the possibility of other countries continuing to build the reactors with U.S. technical support. Cox said the language in the amendment would prevent even foreign countries and companies from continuing construction, since U.S. technology is vital to the designs. “If this language remains in the legislation, this will be the end of it,” Cox said. “There remains this haze of ambiguity, and I want to make sure this is all transparent.”

But the State Department source said congressional action would not necessarily limit the administration’s options or spell the end of KEDO. “One of the nice things about the Congress is that Congress can pass one bill today and tomorrow, if conditions change, pass another bill,” he said.

Some supporters of negotiations with North Korea express concern that terminating support for KEDO could make matters worse. Erasing ambiguity might be counterproductive, according to the foreign diplomat familiar with KEDO. He said suspending the reactors project and making its resumption contingent on North Korean cooperation would be a valuable bargaining tool, which would be lost if the program is canceled. “You need the carrot and the stick—everybody sees the stick, after Iraq, but you also need to show the carrot,” he said.

The diplomat also said unilateral action by the United States might strain relations with South Korea and other U.S. allies at a time when the international community is seeking to present a united front. South Korea, in particular, has advocated for negotiations with North Korea. “If you want to really get rid of this difficulty with North Korea, and if at the same time you want to avoid a war, that means you have to engage them,” he said.

 

As diplomats seek to negotiate an end to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, some U.S. lawmakers and Bush administration officials are pushing to end a program designed to provide...

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