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Kronologi over fredssagen og international politik 17. februar 2005 / Time Line February 17, 2005

Version 3.5

16. Februar 2005, 18. Februar 2005

Pentagon's mini-nukes are just too cute
By David Isenberg
Asia Times
February 17, 2005
Copyright 2005 Asia Times Online (
WASHINGTON - The United States says that the prospect of other countries developing nuclear weapons, like Iran for example, is a bad thing. But at the same time, the US is seeking to upgrade its own nuclear arsenal.
While the US has long contended that treaties such as the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) do not prevent it from modernizing its nuclear-weapons inventory, the end of the Cold War with the Soviet Union and advances in conventional military power have made reliance on nuclear weapons less essential. As a result, the US in the 1990s reduced its arsenal, abided by a moratorium on nuclear-weapons testing, and crafted new arms-control treaties limiting the size of its nuclear-weapons stockpile.
But in 1991, a team of Los Alamos nuclear-weapons scientists delivered a briefing to the Pentagon's Defense Science Board titled "Potential Uses for Low-Yield Nuclear Weapons in the New World Order". The weapon envisaged in the briefing eventually came to be called the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP).
During the Bill Clinton years (1993-2001), Congress passed legislation prohibiting US weapons labs from conducting any research and development on low-yield nuclear weapons. The measure defined low-yield nuclear weapons, also known as mini-nukes, as having a yield of five kilotons or less.
But over the years, various conservatives and weapons scientists had insisted that existing US nuclear weapons could not reach a growing category of potential targets deeply buried in underground facilities, possibly containing chemical, biological, nuclear or command and control facilities. As a result, the George H W Bush administration had released a Nuclear Posture Review in 1992 calling for options that could be considered for future production and deployment against "hard and deeply buried targets". Another review in 2001 similarly called for the creation of "new nuclear-weapons capabilities".
As it turns out, the US already has such a weapon, or at least a crude version of one. This early earth-penetrating warhead is the B61-11, a variant of the standard B61 tactical nuclear bomb, with heavily modified casing and fusing. This was put together in the mid-1990s and can be deployed on the B-2A Stealth bomber.
But like the proverbial Phoenix, the RNEP has reappeared. In the new military budget request that was released last week, the Pentagon asked the Energy Department to spend US$18 million over the next two years to finish a study on the RNEP, which congressional opponents of nuclear weapons killed last year by cutting all funding. Representative David Hobson (Republican-Ohio), chairman of the House of Representatives Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, led the House conference on the annual Energy and Water Bill, which funds the Energy Department, to cut all funding for RNEP.
The request stands in sharp contrast to what it experienced last year when Congress denied the administration's fiscal-year 2005 request for $27.5 million to enhance the bunker-busting capability of an existing high-yield warhead and redirected the administration's $9 million request to investigate "advanced concepts", such as new low-yield warheads, to the Reliable Replacement Warhead program.
The Department of Energy's fiscal-year 2006 budget request includes $4 million for research on the RNEP. It also envisages spending $14 million on the project in fiscal year 2007. Meanwhile, the Department of Defense's fiscal-year 2006 budget request also includes $4.5 million for work on the project, and it foresees spending $3.5 million in fiscal year 2007.
Anson Franklin, a spokesman for the Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration, said the program, unlike in the past, will be narrowed down to adapting a B-83 nuclear warhead into a rock-burrowing, penetrator warhead. Earlier work called for using either a B-83 or B-61 warhead inside the digging package.
According to Matt Martin, deputy director of the British American Security Information Council in Washington, DC, "When they got funding two years ago, they got a line item in the Future Years Defense Plan [FYDP], which over five years totaled half a billion dollars [including actual production of the weapon]. After losing funding last year, they have apparently gotten smart. They are not including money in the FYDP. They are requesting $4 million this year and possibly spending a little more next year, possibly $11.5 million the year after. They also made a separate account to see what you can do to harden the case for the bomb. That is $4.5 million for non-nuclear shell-casing testing, included in the air force budget. They may want to see how conventional munitions work, in order to justify the case for a nuclear weapon."
The RNEP is being designed to burrow through as much as 300 feet (91.5 meters) of rock or earth before detonating a high-yield nuclear explosion.
Martin said the move to fund research on RNEP is the wrong move at the wrong time. "Clearly it sends a wrongheaded and dangerous message. When you look at Iran and North Korea, it is clear they are moving forward with their efforts because of what they see the US doing and they use it as an excuse for their own activities. And to the extent that they are able to do that, it gives them leverage and works to the detriment of our own non-proliferation efforts."
The US Defense Department says countries such as North Korea and Iran are protecting military assets by hiding them underground in fortified bunkers. There are currently at least 10,000 bunkers in more than 70 countries, according to the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Left largely undiscussed in public debate on the issue is that the RNEP, even if developed and produced, might not do the job. The Arms Control Association in Washington, DC, a leading arms-control group, noted in a release that earth-penetrating bunker busters would produce a high-yield blast too large to avoid dispersal of radioactive debris and fallout around the target, threatening civilians and military personnel. If new, smaller-yield nuclear weapons were used to destroy chemical or biological targets, the fallout would still be significant, and small errors in intelligence and targeting could disperse rather than destroy deadly material.
Funding for RNEP will also undermine efforts to strengthen the NPT at the upcoming May Review Conference, according to critics. The US, as a nuclear-weapon state, is obligated under Article VI of the treaty to end the nuclear arms race and pursue nuclear disarmament.
The law of physics works against bunker busters. In 2002, Dr Robert Nelson, a physicist at Princeton University, wrote that earth-penetrating weapons "cannot penetrate deeply enough to contain the nuclear explosion and will necessarily produce an especially intense and deadly radioactive fallout. A missile made of the hardest steels cannot survive the severe ground impact stresses at velocities greater than about [one kilometer per second] without destroying itself. This limits the maximum possible penetration depth into reinforced concrete to about four times the missile length - approximately 12 meters for a missile three meters long."
Even low-yield earth-penetrating nuclear weapons would excavate substantial craters, "throwing out a large amount of radioactive dirt and debris". His dose calculations indicate that "a one-kiloton earth-penetrating mini-nuke used in a typical Third World urban environment [such as Baghdad] would spread a lethal dose of radioactive fallout over several square kilometers, resulting in tens of thousands of civilian fatalities".
According to Martin, "The one thing that is absolutely clear is that there is no way you can build a BB [bunker buster] of any kind that can contain the radioactive blast that is going to contain the blast from the explosion. Every test that has been simulated shows that you get not just a narrow plume but a huge crater and cloud. In order to fully capture the explosion of any nuclear weapon you would have to burrow down a thousand feet. The best they have done so far is 60 feet."
It is far from clear that the administration will succeed in getting funding for RNEP research. Hobson, who successfully led the charge in killing funding for it last year, gave a speech this month in which he said no one at the Defense or Energy Department has "ever articulated to me a specific military requirement for a nuclear earth penetrator".
Martin said, "I am cautiously optimistic that it will be defeated. For one thing, though this was a surprise to the admin, it wasn't the doing of one man, ie, Hobson. He had to get the votes of his colleagues in the subcommittee, committee, floor and conference. When you count all the places people had a chance to stop him, there were eight different times he could have been stopped. That tells me there are other people besides Hobson; including other Republicans. Nothing has changed about the nature of the world or the weapon that would make them change their minds so quickly."
David Isenberg, a senior analyst with the Washington-based British American Security Information Council (BASIC), has a wide background in arms control and national security issues. The views expressed are his own.

U.S. to privatize security for bases in Europe
Pamela Hess, WPH 17/2/05
WASHINGTON -- Germany's decision to recall some 2,500 troops that had been protecting American bases in Europe will cost about $100 million to replace, according to Pentagon budget documents.
With the U.S. Army stretched by the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon plans to spend $100 million to hire private security guards to protect its bases in Germany.
The request is outlined in the $82 billion supplemental appropriation request for 2005 the White House submitted to Congress Monday.
In January 2003, Germany offered its own troops to protect about 50 American installations around Europe as U.S. soldiers were pulled off to train and deploy in advance of the war in Iraq. Security had been provided by a mix of soldiers and private security forces.
But last fall, the German government announced it would withdraw some 2,500 German forces from guard duty at American bases after nearly two years, a cost-cutting measure that also came in the wake of the Pentagon announcement that some 70,000 U.S. troops would be withdrawn from Germany.
Installing civilian guards at the gates of military bases is not unprecedented. In January 2002, the Army Corps of Engineers hired DynCorp and ITT for base management in Qatar, including base security. By 2003, there were at least 4,500 civilian guards protecting bases in the United States. The bases were previously protected by military police, most of who were deployed for the war in Iraq. Private guards have also been installed at base gates in Bosnia.
"The driving force behind all this is (that) U.S. forces are stretched thin as a result of bad planning," said Peter Singer, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of "Corporate Warriors."
According to the Army, more than half of its active duty, Guard and Reserve forces are deployed overseas, the lion's share in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan.
Moreover, the U.S. military has been almost halved in size since 1991. At the same time, reliance on private contractors has increased exponentially...



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