Front and Center
As I noted recently, combing responses to questions for the record from Members of Congress after Congressional hearings can reveal all sorts of interesting information (assuming of course you can navigate the Government Printing Offices not so user friendly website).
Below is a question from Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), ranking member on the House Strategic Forces Subcommittee, at a hearing last year on the FY 2012 missile defense budget. The response is from Dr. Michael Gilmore, Director, Operational Test and Evaluation, Office of the Secretary of Defense. There’s nothing here that we didn’t already know about the shortcomings of the Ground Based Mid Course Defense (GMD) system, but the detail is striking:
Ms. SANCHEZ. How many successful operationally realistic GMD tests have we had? (How many included countermeasures and have we designed a test scenario that envisioned more than one incoming ICBM?)
Dr. GILMORE. The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and my office jointly published operational realism flight test criteria in 2005 as required by the Fiscal Year 2005 National Defense Authorization Act. There are nine criteria: Operationally-Representative Interceptor; Threat-Representative Target; Complex Countermeasures; Operational Sensor(s); Operational Fire Control Software; Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs); Warfighter Participation; Unannounced Target Launch; and End-to-End Test.
Every Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) flight test since then has demonstrated at least some of the nine operational realism criteria. No test has yet demonstrated all nine criteria. FTG–05, conducted in December 2008, was the most operationally realistic test of GMD conducted to date, demonstrating at least partial operational realism for eight of the nine criteria. Although simple countermeasures were planned for FTG–05, a malfunction prevented deployment. The targets for both FTG–06 and FTG–06a successfully deployed simple countermeasures but the GMD kill vehicles malfunctioned before they could complete their intercepts in the countermeasures environments.
No GMD tests against a true intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) have yet been conducted. A multiple simultaneous engagement of two ICBM targets by two GMD interceptors launched from Vandenberg AFB, California, is currently under consideration for inclusion in the third operational flight test, FTO–03, included in the Integrated Master Test Plan that General O’Reilly and I recently approved.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, General.The 2010 Nuclear Posture Review called out for studying additional reductions in nuclear weapons. Do you think it is possible to further reduce our nuclear weapons beyond the New START levels?GEN. KEHLER: Mr. Chairman, I …
Here’s an op-ed in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists assessing the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit by yours truly. Below are some highlights of the piece: – The 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul could have been a watershed moment for nuclear sec…
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 30, 2012
CONTACT: Bridget Nolan, Director of Communications, 707-287-5739; John Isaacs, Executive Director, 202-546-0795 ext 2222
Washington D.C.- The Center for Arms Control and Non Proliferation today called the National Academy of Sciences report on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) “another important piece of evidence confirming that the case for Senate approval of the treaty is stronger than ever.”
The announcement of the report, which evaluated the United States’ ability to maintain a safe and reliable nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing and verify compliance with the treaty, stated “The United States is now in a better position than at any time in the past to maintain a safe and effective nuclear weapons stockpile without testing and to monitor clandestine nuclear testing abroad.”
The reported added: “Provided that sufficient resources and a national commitment to stockpile stewardship are in place, the committee judges that the United States has the technical capabilities to maintain a safe, secure, and reliable stockpile of nuclear weapons into the foreseeable future without nuclear-explosion testing.”
The report also stated: “The United States has technical capabilities to monitor nuclear explosions in four environments—underground, underwater, in the atmosphere and in space.”
The United States has not tested a nuclear weapon since 1992 after President George H.W. Bush signed a nuclear testing moratorium.
The United Nations General Assembly adopted the treaty in 1996. The treaty prohibits all nuclear test explosions and creates a robust international verification regime to buttress the existing national capabilities of state parties in ensuring compliance with the treaty. It was rejected by the U.S. Senate in 1999.
The treaty is critical to limit the ability of other countries to develop nuclear weapons or to improve the ones they already have. It also helps monitor illegal tests throughout the world.
As of February, 157 countries have ratified the agreement – not including the United States, China, North Korea, Iran, Pakistan and India.
John Isaacs, Center executive director, called on the Senate to take up the treaty in 2013. “The United States is keeping bad company with some of the worst nuclear proliferators in the world by not approving the treaty.”
Added Isaacs: “A growing number of military leaders and former nuclear laboratory directors agree that nuclear testing is a dangerous relic of the Cold War and isn’t in the best interests of the United States.”
Kingston Reif, the Center’s Director of Non-Proliferation, pointed out that the United States has been able to retain a safe, secure and reliable nuclear stockpile despite the absences of nuclear tests since 1992.
“The report confirms that the United States can maintain the safety, security, and reliability of its nuclear warheads without explosive testing,” said Reif. “Because the U.S. does not conduct nuclear tests and has no plans or the need to do so, it should take advantage of the security and political benefits that would come with ratification of the CTBT,” he added.
Click here for a copy of the report.