U.S. military

U.S. military& Military budget& Secrecy and democracy& Strategic weapons and space& Divine Strake29 Jul 2012 09:40 pm

by Andrew Lichterman

Back in 2006, I wrote a series of posts about the “Divine Strake” test, a very large conventional high explosive test slated to be conducted at the Nevada Test Site (now dubbed/sanitized to the “Nevada Nuclear Security Site”), intended to simulate the effects of low-yield nuclear weapons. That test was later canceled as a result of opposition both from disarmament groups and from regional opponents concerned about potential environmental effects. Along the way, I found budget documents showing that the U.S. military also was developing a very large, earth penetrating conventional bomb called the Massive Ordnance Penetrator. (see the latter part of my post titled The ‘Divine Strake’ low-yield nuclear weapons simulation: government denials and responses).

At that time, Defense Threat Reduction Agency Director James Tegnelia was quoted in an American Forces Press Service piece, denying that the Defense Department’s Hard Target Defeat program manifested anything more than a theoretical interest in developing a large conventional earth penetrator:

“One weapon Tegnelia commented on is the HTD program’s Massive Ordnance Penetrator, a multi-ton bomb. He stressed that it’s a defensive, not offensive, weapon. He told AFPS that the MOP is a test article meant to understand the design principles on which a country might build a weapon to counter hard targets. ‘We are not in the process to convince anybody to field a large earth penetrator,’ he said.” Steven Donald Smith, “U.S. Agency Works to Reduce WMD Threat,” American Forces Press Service, April 3, 2006 (emphasis added).

Tegnalia made this statement despite budget request documents filed earlier, in February 2006, listing among the FY2005 accomplishments of the “CP operational warfighter support” program the following:

Analyzed effectiveness of massive ordnance penetration against hard and deeply buried targets and completed preliminary design.
Refined Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) concept and began detailed weapon development and testing. Planned statically- emplaced Proof-of Principle test of effectiveness of Massive Ordnance payloads. Planned demonstration of massive ordnance airblast lethality against a full-scale tunnel target. Exhibit R-2a, RDT&E Defense-Wide/Applied Research - BA2 , 0602716BR Project BF - CP Operational Warfighter Support February 2006

On July 25, 2012, the Air Force Times quoted Air Force Secretary Michael Donley stating that the Massive Ordnance Penetrator is ready for use. (h/t to Common Dreams for its coverage of the issue). The Defense Threat Reduction Agency, more likely admitting the truth rather than retroactively revising it, states on its web site that

Flight tests have been successfully conducted at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. MOP integration activities for initial weapon delivery are also complete. Final system refinement, design and test will be complete in 2012 with additional weapon deliveries in 2013. The Air Force is managing and funding the program at this time, with Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) providing support.
Early tests of MOP were conducted by DTRA under the MOP Technology Demonstration effort. These tests began in 2004 with DTRA partnering with the Air Force Research Laboratory. DTRA conducted flight tests from 2008 to 2010. Defense Threat Reduction Agency, “Massive Ordnance Penetrator.”

All of this illustrates once again that on most matters, there is little reason to believe that any official of the United States Government is telling the truth when speaking for public consumption.

Nuclear weapons--global& Nuclear weapons--U.S.& U.S. military& Iraq war& War and law06 Oct 2008 09:34 am

John Burroughs

In the October 2 vice-presidential debate, moderator Gwen Ifill ventured into a crucial area rarely touched by regular media. She asked:

Governor, on another issue, interventionism, nuclear weapons. What should be the trigger, or should there be a trigger, when nuclear weapons use is ever put into play?

Sarah Palin responded:

Nuclear weaponry, of course, would be the be all, end all of just too many people in too many parts of our planet, so those dangerous regimes, again, cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons, period.

Our nuclear weaponry here in the U.S. is used as a deterrent. And that’s a safe, stable way to use nuclear weaponry.

But for those countries — North Korea, also, under Kim Jong Il — we have got to make sure that we’re putting the economic sanctions on these countries and that we have friends and allies supporting us in this to make sure that leaders like Kim Jong Il and Ahmadinejad are not allowed to acquire, to proliferate, or to use those nuclear weapons. It is that important.

When it was his turn, Joseph Biden did not answer the question, instead referring to John McCain’s vote against ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty in 1999, and to Barack Obama’s work on “keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists.”

But Palin really did not answer the question either. She claimed that U.S. reliance on nuclear forces is “safe” and “stable” deterrence. One major question that comes to mind is whether Palin believes the eight other countries in the world with nuclear weapons also practice safe and stable deterrence. Her answer is no with respect to North Korea, and Biden also talked about the danger posed by Pakistan’s arsenal. That leaves six other countries (China, Russia, India, France, United Kingdom, Israel). Palin also said that “dangerous regimes,” Iran being one, cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. But if deterrence works for the United States, why not for current nuclear have-nots?

More fundamental, though, and at the heart of the question posed by Ifill and not addressed by either Palin or Biden, is this: Deterrence is based on the will and capability to use nuclear weapons when deemed necessary. If you embrace deterrence, you embrace the possibility of use. Similarly, you can’t support the death penalty as a deterrent to horrendous crimes without supporting actual executions. Biden knows this. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed in June 2007 entitled “CSI: Nukes,” he stated that the “U.S. has long deterred a nuclear attack by states, by clearly and credibly threatening devastating retaliation.” He went on to argue that the United States should accelerate work on capabilities to trace the origin of fissile materials used in a terrorist nuclear attack, in order to be able to deter the country where the materials originate. He did not rule out U.S. use of nuclear weapons against such a country.

My organization, the Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy, this year released a statement, summarized here, that does answer Ifill’s question. In brief, the answer is it is never lawful, moral, or wise to use nuclear weapons, and therefore the United States should abandon the policy of deterrence premised on possible use and work hard for the global elimination of nuclear forces. We emphasize that nuclear use is incompatible with the present-day U.S. conduct of military operations in accordance (in the U.S. understanding) with legal requirements of necessity, proportionality, and discrimination. That is true in all the myriad circumstances (certainly not only in response to a nuclear attack) in which the United States holds out the option of use of nuclear weapons: preemptive or responsive use against biological and chemical as well as nuclear capabilities or attacks; in response to overwhelming conventional attacks; and even in response to “surprising” military developments.


U.S. military& Iraq war& Social movements and protest15 Feb 2006 02:34 pm

Andrew Lichterman

Yesterday, Grandmothers Against the War gathered at the Oakland, California armed forces recruiting center to offer to enlist to replace those serving in Iraq. The recruiters closed and locked their doors. The police closed off the northbound lanes of Broadway, Oakland’s main downtown thoroughfare, and over 300 people demonstrated peacefully against the war on the street and sidewalk in front of the recruiting center.

Nuclear weapons--U.S.& U.S. military& Military budget& Strategic weapons and space10 Feb 2006 03:07 pm

Andrew Lichterman

“Global is defined as the capability to strike any target set in the world.” Prompt Global Strike (PGS) Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) Study Plan Draft 28 Oct 2005, p.10

The Air Force has put out a “Prompt Global Strike Request for Information,” beginning the process of examining alternatives for new weapons capable of hitting targets anywhere on earth. Supporting materials state that the Prompt Global Strike Analysis of Alternatives will examine “a range of system concepts to deliver precision weapons with global reach, in minutes to hours.” Prompt Global Strike (PGS) Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) Study Plan Draft 28 Oct 2005, p.9 The PGS AoA Study Plan Draft provides a laundry list of the kinds of concepts under consideration:

  • “High Speed Strike Systems. This approach requires development/adaptation of a piloted, remotely controlled, or autonomous subsonic/supersonic/hypersonic vehicle (aircraft, sea craft, or missile) to deliver precision standoff or direct attack subsonic/ supersonic/ hypersonic munitions.
  • Operationally Responsive Space. An expendable and/or reusable launch vehicle that can deliver precision guided munitions.
  • Military Space Plane. A reusable launch vehicle that could directly deliver precision guided munitions.
  • Ground or Sea-based Expendable Launch Vehicle. This approach consists of either modification of current space launch vehicles, conversion of deactivated intercontinental ballistic missiles or sea-launched ballistic missiles, or building a new launch vehicle to deliver weapon payloads; such as small launch vehicle or submarine launched intermediate range ballistic missiles. An advanced reentry vehicle/body; such as, a common aero vehicle could be developed to accompany these missile systems.
  • Air-Launched Global Strike System. This concept consists of an aircraft that air-launches Pegasus-like space launch vehicles configured with weapons and/or an aircraft delivering supersonic or hypersonic long-range cruise missiles.” Prompt Global Strike (PGS) Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) Study Plan Draft 28 Oct 2005, p.9

Several of these concepts already are being examined in other studies or already are under development. (see, for example, the Land Based Strategic Deterrent Analysis of Alternatives and the Force Application and Launch for the Continental United States (FALCON) program. While these plans for new kinds of strategic weapons are ramping up, the Pentagon also wants to upgrade existing long-range forces, making its bombers more capable and putting conventional warheads on Trident submarine launched ballistic missiles. (see William Arkin’s Early Warning blog for an overview of these programs.) New long-range weapons are a high priority to the Bush administration, which announced in the recently released Quadrennial Defense Review that it plans to “begin development of the next generation long-range strike systems, accelerating projected initial operational capability by almost two decades.” U.S. Department of Defense, Quadrennial Defense Review Report, February 6, 2006 p.6 (more…)

Disarmament& Iran& Nuclear weapons--global& U.S. military& Nuclear power02 Feb 2006 12:09 pm

Jackie Cabasso

After agreeing to comment on the State of the Union Address for the Institute for Public Accuracy (as one of many commentators), I forced myself to watch the Commander in Chief make his annual grand performance, fortified by a martini and surrounded by close friends. Afterwards, I went home and struggled to find words that would convey my outrage, while also attempting to offer some cogent information and analysis. I was nearly overwhelmed, because the speech was long, there was so much provocative rhetoric to react to, it was so Orwellian, and I was on a tight deadline. There was also so much missing, like — in a speech rife with glowing references to growing international “democracy,” “political freedom,” and “peaceful change” — no reference was made to the recent elections in Latin America. On the domestic front, though the Pres declared “… our greatness is not measured in power or luxuries, but by who we are and how we treat one another,” he didn’t even mention Hurricane Katrina. And the speech raised some questions for me, which there was no time to look into. Why were Zimbabwe and Burma added to the “hit list,” along with Syria, North Korea and Iran?

The Institute for Public Accuracy quoted from some of my musings, along with a number of esteemed colleagues, in their February 1 news release, Responses to State of the Union Address, and a related critique for public distribution, A Critical Look: The State of the Union 2006, here’s the rest. I want to stress that these comments by no means represent a comprehensive analysis of the speech — just a few uneven thoughts triggered by specific references in the speech.

Though this year’s State of the Union Address was no where near as over-the-top as last year’s 2005 version of “Manifest Destiny,” two words continue to characterize the Bush Administration’s approach to the world: “arrogance” and “hypocrisy.” Bush began his speech by acknowledging the loss of Coretta Scott King. But, Mrs. King early on recognized the insidious link between U.S. militarism and civil rights, taking a stand against the Vietnam War even before her husband, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, came out against the war. Surely she would not want to be remembered in association the Bush Administration’s “long war” of empire or its unchecked domestic surveillance activities. (more…)

U.S. military& Military budget& Secrecy and democracy01 Feb 2006 11:29 am

Andrew Lichterman

“Our own generation is in a long war against a determined enemy - a war that will be fought by Presidents of both parties, who will need steady bipartisan support from the Congress.” George W. Bush, State of the Union Address, January 31, 2006.

Every four years, the U.S. Department of Defense issues its Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), a broad outline of U.S. military policy and the types of programs that the Department wants to implement it. The next (2005) version is due out in February, but InsideDefense.com has published 42 pages of the draft QDR (subscription required). Resources and commentary on current and past QDR’s can be found at the Project for Defense Alternatives.

“Orwellian” is a term that is overused, but both the language and the content of the 2005 QDR, echoed by George Bush in his State of the Union speech, evoke resonances of “1984,” Orwell’s tale of dictatorship sustained by eternal war. Several locutions that recur throughout the QDR manifest a vision of war without end, fought increasingly by forces that are both less visible and less accountable. Over and over the QDR authors tell us that we are fighting what they now call “the long war” — an even more open-ended term than the “war on terror,” since it can be fought against anyone, anywhere, anytime. Bush used the same phrase in his State of the Union Address to underscore his favorite theme: he is a War President, and must be allowed to do whatever he alone deems necessary. The draft QDR puts a bit more meat on the State of the Union’s rhetorical bones, giving us some idea of how those in power plan to use this “long war” as a justification for more war and less democracy. (more…)