Friday, November 13, 2015

Trident: The Harsh Reality Beyond the Bright Lights in the Skies

If you live on the west coast of North America, stretching from Northern California to Mexico, you might have seen a wild light show on November 7th and November 9th. If you did, have no fear and definitely do not listen to any conspiracy theorists; there were no aliens involved. It was just two separate test launches of the Trident II D5 submarine launched ballistic missile.

But really; these are significant events! The US Navy launched the two test flights from the OHIO-Class "Trident" ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) USS Kentucky, which was submerged off of Point Mugu, Southern California. The missile traveled from its launch site to the US Ballistic Missile Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands where it very likely plashed down in the precise location intended; it has been said that the multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles carried on the D5 missile can hit a target the size of a baseball diamond with extraordinary accuracy.

One of the two Trident missile test launches earlier this month (photo: US Navy)
The Kentucky finished its mid-life overhaul and nuclear refueling in April 2015, and as part of its subsequent shakedown before being pressed back into service its crew conducted the test launches to ensure the proper functioning of its missile launch systems as well as the reliability of the Trident missile itself. The Kentucky is based at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, the Navy's West Coast home port for eight of the nation's fourteen Trident submarines.

Just one of these Trident submarines, each carrying up to 24 missiles, each missile currently carrying an estimated four warheads on independently targetable reentry vehicles, is capable of incinerating an entire large continent.

A mammoth Trident ballistic missile submarine on patrol
These two test launches marked the 156th and 157th successful test launches since the missile's initial deployment in 1990. The missiles are manufactured by Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Sunnyvale, California.

It is clear that, as Popular Mechanics stated it, the US is definitely "flexing its nuclear muscles" in a clear message to Russia that we've still got the nukes, and we're ready to use them. And Trident is king when it comes to US nukes; currently accounting for roughly 70% of deployed nuclear weapons in the US arsenal.

The Navy most likely timed the two Trident test launches with the intention of creating a public spectacle in order to ensure maximum visibility to other nations, particularly Russia. Ironically, the Russians have been keeping tabs on Trident (and other US nuclear weapon systems for some time since the fall of the Berlin Wall).

Had the US decreased reliance on Trident, a relic of the Cold War standoff between the US and then Soviet Union, following the end of the Cold War, things might now look much different on the global nuclear front. China has been building up a ballistic missile submarine fleet and the associated weapons. And of course, Russia has started building new SSBNs and is upgrading older SSBNs, and is developing a new submarine-launched ballistic missile (the Bulava).

A new Cold War is rapidly growing and heating up. Both the US and Russia have been throwing salvos of nuclear rhetoric at each other, and at this rate it might not be long before it starts looking much like it did back in the day when the two superpowers were locked in the deadly game of Mutually Assured Destruction. Dark days indeed!

The irony of all this is that we were handed an extraordinary "peace dividend" with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Had the US ramped back its nuclear weapons deployments back then, taking both land-based missiles and the Trident submarines off alert status, it would have sent a clear message that there was no need to threaten each other with extinction anymore.

Yet, in the case of Trident, the US had invested in a new missile, the Trident II D5, which was first deployed in 1990, just prior to the end of the Cold War. Neither the Navy nor Lockheed Martin were keen to mothball the new missiles or the crown jewel of the nation's nuclear triad (the Trident submarine). So Trident quietly continued to deploy, running silent and deep, essentially unnoticed here at home (although not by the Russians nor other nations).

And now the US Navy is hard at work, along with its partners in the shipbuilding sector, to develop a successor to the OHIO-Class (New Trident), scheduled to begin construction in 2021 and begin entering service in 2031.

The principal rationale given for the new submarines is the need to maintain the nation's "strategic nuclear deterrent." The principal irony of all this is that nuclear deterrence has failed a number of times (e.g. Cuban Missile Crisis), and it has only been by the miracle of human intervention that the world was saved from what would have certainly been the end of civilization (as we know it).

While "experts" have argued for the strategic deterrence doctrine during the strange days of the Cold War, we now live in an even stranger new world in which we have very unstable non-state actors (that might acquire a nuclear weapon) as well as states that quite possibly do not stand the test of "stability" required for deterrence to work.

Add to that the fact the probability that  leaders of stable nation states might act irrationally under times of great duress, and the argument for deterrence crumbles. Deterrence must be 100% infallible in order to be relied upon, and that is absolutely impossible in the real world. One failure could literally bring about the deaths of billions of people.

Trident was designed at the height of the Cold War, with at least one specific purpose - to present a guaranteed second strike capability (the ability to respond to a nuclear attack) to hold the Soviet Union at bay. The design of the Trident missile also presented an unstated purpose - to present a first strike (preemptive surprise attack) capability as well. Trident was only designed to hold the Soviet Union hostage to the inevitability of Mutually Assured Destruction, in which both nations would have waged full-scale nuclear war, obliterating each other's nations, murdering each other's populations, and resulting in "nuclear darkness," which would have resulted in the subsequent deaths by starvation of much of the rest of the world's population.

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter has recently been fanning the flames by accusing "Russia of endangering world order, citing its incursions in Ukraine and loose talk about nuclear weapons." In the article in The Economic Times Carter was also quoted as saying that, "Most disturbing, Moscow's nuclear saber-rattling raises questions about Russian leaders' commitment to strategic stability, their respect for norms against the use of nuclear weapons, and whether they respect the profound caution nuclear-age leaders showed with regard to the brandishing of nuclear weapons." Carter also referred to China in his remarks, but saved the strong stuff for Russia.

Ash Carter; Lecturing the world, while missing the "plank in our own eye."
The Economic Times nailed it with this statement: "The backdrop to Carter's remarks is the reality that after more than two decades of dominating great-power relations, the United States is seeing Russia reassert itself and China expand its military influence beyond its own shores." Therein lies the rub; The Cold War never really ended for the US. We have, ever since the fall of the Wall, had only one purpose - to maintain global hegemony through our military power.

I guess the lessons of parenthood have been lost on our nation's "leaders" (and the Military-Industrial Complex that controls them) - we can have influence on others, yet we cannot control them (in the long run at least). And yet we continue to try to exert control through our military, and nuclear weapons are the ultimate form of control by the threat of their use. It is coming back to haunt us.

The quest for nuclear weapons, and particularly Trident, has been (as one of my colleagues has called it) a Faustian bargain. Indeed, it is a deal with the Devil, and one where we cannot come out ahead. Scrapping Trident must be at the forefront of any efforts to abolish nuclear weapons, and reducing deployments and taking its weapons off alert status would be a major first step in showing good faith (while not unilaterally giving up anything of substance).

Will we, before it is too late, see the folly of our ways, realizing that it is futile to continue trying to maintain an empire the likes of which even the British never could have imagined? Will we come to see the futility of holding on to the fantasy of nuclear deterrence? Will we come to grips with the fact that nuclear weapons offer no security, and will most certainly (as any expert in probability and statistics will gladly explain) lead to either accidental or intentional nuclear war, with horrific consequences to humankind?

If only President Obama would find the convictions he left behind in Prague and sit down with President Putin to begin the necessary dialogue to begin the process of ramping back tensions between our two nations and begin the most important process of leading the world toward disarmament. Would that not be the legacy for which future generations would honor him?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Twelve arrests at Trident nuclear submarine base marking the 70th Anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings

Fourteen peace activists risked arrest at a West Coast nuclear weapons base early Monday morning in a nonviolent protest against the continued deployment and modernization of the Trident nuclear weapons system.

The Trident submarine base at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, just 20 miles from Seattle, Washington, contains the largest concentration of operational nuclear weapons in the US arsenal. Each of the 8 Trident submarines at Bangor carries as many as 24 Trident II(D-5) missiles, each loaded with up to 8 independently targetable thermonuclear warheads. Each warhead has an explosive yield up to 32 times the yield of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.

The activists were among a larger group with Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent action holding a peaceful protest at the Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor Trigger Avenue entrance gate as employees entered the base for the Monday morning shift. The vigil commemorated the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
(photo by Glen Milner)
Seven protestors entered the roadway and blocked traffic entering the base. The banners read “We can all live without Trident” and “Abolish Nuclear Weapons.” The two incoming traffic lanes were blocked for approximately 48 minutes until Kitsap Sheriff's Deputies and Washington State Patrol officers arrived and removed the protestors from the roadway. Meanwhile, Navy personnel diverted incoming traffic around the banners via the outbound lanes.
(photo by Glen Milner)
Cited for being in the roadway illegally were Mack Johnson, Silverdale, WA: Doug Milholland, Port Townsend, WA; Brenda McMillan, Port Townsend, WA; and Michael Siptroth, Belfair, WA.
(photo by Glen Milner)
Eight others walked onto the base, blocking the roadway, and staged a die-in. While three activists dropped down on the roadway, the others poured ashes around them representing the ashes of those incinerated in the atomic bombings. Naval security personnel arrested them, cited them for trespassing, and released them a short time later.
(photo by Glen Milner)
Two of those who entered the base attempted to deliver a letter to the commanding officer urging him to use every power availbable to him to call for an immediate halt to the updating and expansion of the Trident fleet under his command. The two were among those arrested.
(ashes are all that remain... photo by Glen Milner)
In the letter addressed to Captain Thomas Zwolfer, Commanding Officer, Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, the activists said, "With the implementation of each and every step toward the refurbishing and upgrading of our nuclear arsenal, we continue to disregard prudence and morality; and with every deployment of a Trident submarine in international waters, we continue to violate international and humanitarian law that specifically prohibits the use and threat of use of any nuclear weapon (International Court of Justice decision, 1996). If we want to regain international respect we need to conform to what we expect of other nations: stop building and deploying these illegal and immoral weapons." Click here to read the full text of the letter.

Arrested and charged by the Navy were Mary Gleysteen, Kingston, WA; Anne Hall, Lopez Island, WA; Ann Kittredge, Quilcene, WA; Betsy Lamb, Bend, OR; Peggy Love, East Wenatchee, WA; Emilie Marlinghaus, Bend, OR; Elizabeth Murray, Poulsbo, WA; and Michael Siptroth, Belfair, WA.
(sunset at the overnight vigil at the Bangor Main Gate, Photo by Mack Johnson)
 The W-76 thermonuclear warhead deployed on the Trident II D-5 submarine launched ballistic missile has been undergoing a “Life Extension Program” in which the warheads are thoroughly refurbished and upgraded. The entire Trident fleet is slated for replacement, and the cost to build 12 OHIO Class Replacement submarines is estimated at approximately $100 billion (by the Congressional Budget Office).

Leonard Eiger, coordinator for Ground Zero Center's NO To NEW TRIDENT campaign: “Trident has been deployed at near-Cold War levels since the fall of the Berlin Wall as a major symbol of global power projection. This, together with the continuing Trident modernization efforts, has led to the resurgence of Russia's ballistic missile submarine force. A new Cold War is developing that, in a completely different and less stable global context than the previous Cold War, poses a new and even greater threat of nuclear war. Trident is at the heart of this new Cold War and must be addressed now, before production begins on New Trident. It is critical that the U.S. and Russian leaders change postures and come together to begin the necessary dialogue to lead the way to a nuclear weapons free world. 70 years is long enough; future generations are counting on it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Navy's budget gimmick is a very bad idea!

Editor's Note: This commentary focuses on the real issues surrounding the funding of the Navy's new ballistic missile submarine. In particular, it lays bare the power of the defense industry lobby over Congress and how it drives building these weapons systems at any and all costs. The Navy's push for a special funding method (outside of normal budgetary constraints) is simply unacceptable, and as the authors state, the Senate should reject the idea as did House appropriators.

Commentary: Reject Navy's Budget Gimmick

By William D. Hartung and Erica Fein, June 30, 2015, in Defense News (

Congressional defense appropriators and authorizers are engaged in an oversight food fight over the Ohio-class replacement program to acquire the next-generation ballistic missile submarine.

But this is not just fun-to-follow inside baseball. Who wins has implications for Congress' ability to insist on fiscal discipline at the Pentagon and for the future of nuclear modernization budgeting.

Appropriators want to ensure the Navy is required to fund the Ohio-class' $90 billion-plus procurement costs within its obligated budget. Members of the Armed Services Committee — the authorizers — want the subs funded in a separate account outside the Navy's regular budget. The account, known as the Sea-Based Deterrence Fund, is an unprecedented scheme that the Navy, the shipbuilding lobby and their congressional allies have been promoting for several years as a way to avoid making tough decisions about what ships are most needed to address 21st century challenges.

Under current law, the Department of Defense may transfer funds from other programs into this off-the-books account.

The Navy has acknowledged that its 30-year shipbuilding plan is "unsustainable," in part due to the procurement costs of the ballistic missile sub. Yet, according to the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Navy is not taking steps to address this problem. Accordingly, the committee has stated it will not allow the transfer of funds into this new account.

House appropriators have attempted to impose this prohibition as well. Arguing against a pro-submarine fund amendment, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, chairman of the Appropriations Committee's defense subcommittee, said, "If the president determines the Ohio-class replacement is a must-fund platform, then the Navy should buy it, just as it has every other submarine in its inventory."

But the Armed Services Committee members have powerful allies. The ballistic missile submarine has been a longstanding lobbying priority for groups like the Submarine Industrial Base Council (SIBC) and the Navy League. The SIBC is underwritten by General Dynamics, the company most likely to build the next-generation ballistic missile sub. The Navy League is a membership organization with over 60,000 members in 250 chapters throughout the United States and receives regular contributions from corporate "gold members" that include BAE, Boeing, General Dynamics, Honeywell, Huntington Ingalls and Lockheed Martin.

More concerning is the Navy's own alleged lobbying for this fund. A Project on Government Oversight (POGO) investigation suggests that Adm. John Richardson may have broken the law against lobbying by federal employees when he told a group at a Naval Submarine League meeting to urge members of Congress to support the separate submarine account.

His colleague, Rear Adm. Joe Tofalo, underscored the point when he said, "If anybody needs help in strategic messaging ... let us know ... if you need trifolds, priorities briefs, [or] talking points for your congressman, we are more than happy to support you."

The Navy is currently investigating whether the admirals violated lobbying restrictions, but POGO has also called for an independent investigation by the Government Accountability Office.

Proponents of the separate submarine account have argued that submarines carrying nuclear warheads should be considered "national assets." Yet, as Taxpayers for Common Sense has noted, the account sets a "terrible precedent" that might be adopted by the other services, fueling budgetary chaos in the process.

Indeed, Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee Ranking Member Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., put it this way: "Long-range bombers also provide protection for this country as well as the weapons they carry. I think they qualify as national asset distinctions. Should we then set up funds for these programs?"

In fact, the Air Force has already signaled that it likes this idea.

"Some of it we hope will be a Department of Defense solution," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh, referring to his service's nuclear modernization plans, which include a new stealthy long-range bomber, next-generation intercontinental ballistic missiles and a replacement air-launched cruise missile.

If the new submarine account is funded, it will simply drain resources from other, more urgent priorities like military readiness. Fortunately, there are clear fixes. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that moving from the planned buy of 12 subs to eight would free up $15.7 billion for other purposes over the next decade while still ensuring current deterrence requirements.

When the Senate considers the defense appropriations bill, senators should follow the appropriators' lead and reject the idea of using the Sea-Based Deterrence Fund budget gimmick for the Ohio-class replacement. Fiscal discipline and sound defense planning demand it.

Hartung is director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, and Fein is nuclear weapons policy director at Women's Action for New Directions.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

No slush fund for New Trident - Urgent ACTION ALERT!!!

Nuclear ballistic missile submarines are pretty easy to hide beneath the briny deep as they patrol the seven seas ready to launch their nuclear-armed missiles, each loaded with multiple (and large yield) thermonuclear warheads. Then again, it takes some slippery members of congress to hide 12 of these behemoth subs from the accepted Congressional budgetary funding method.

Our colleagues at Physicians for Social Responsibility think its time to call the newly created National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund what it is - a sham!!!

PSR opposes the nuclear modernization programs now underway in all nine nuclear weapon states. They believe it's time to stop wasting taxpayer money on modernizing these arsenals, and instead, start focusing on disarmament efforts.

The Navy plans to build a whole new fleet of 12 ballistic submarines to replace the current Trident subs. Recognizing that this is a budget buster, some members in Congress have created a new slush fund to pay for it. Instead of incorporating the funds needed for these subs in the Navy's budget, they have proposed a separate fund called the "Sea-Based Deterrence Fund". This will allow it to avoid the cap currently on all federal spending since it will cost roughly $100 billion for all 12 submarines.

Exempting ballistic missile submarines from budget caps sets a very bad precedent. The Navy needs to prioritize its budget, just like any other government agency. The money for new submarines shouldn’t be coming out of a special fund.

In fact, the Navy shouldn't be building new ballistic missile submarines at all; the President should be in active negotiations with President Putin to ramp back both nations current nuclear modernization and lead the way to disarmament!

The current House Defense Appropriations bill includes language that forbids putting any money into this Sea Based Deterrence Fund. This is a very good thing. But we are expecting an amendment on the floor to strike that language. Please ask your U.S. Representative to oppose any such amendments.

Please take action RIGHT NOW since this amendment could be voted on as early any day now. Email and tell your Representative to enforce budget discipline and encourage the Navy to live within its own means, just as it has historically been required to do.

But don't take our word for it; you can read about this in Taxpayers for Common Sense recently published "TCS analysis of National Defense Authorization bill for Fiscal Year 2016." In it TCS takes aim at the "budgetary shell game" being played here to get New Trident built at all (taxpayer) costs! Click here to download the TCS infographic shown above.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Royal Navy submariner says Trident is a nuclear “disaster waiting to happen”


June 1, 2015

For Immediate Release

The risk of accidental detonation of Trident nuclear missiles surfaced in recent allegations by a British submariner.

William McNeilly, an Engineering Technician Weapons Engineer Submariner for the UK's Trident II D5 Strategic Weapons System disclosed this and other allegations in a document released early last month (see McNeilly's statement at Wikileaks:

The most serious of McNeilly's allegations is the risk of a catastrophic failure of the system's nuclear-armed missiles, the Trident II D-5 submarine-launched ballistic missile, deployed on both UK and US ballistic missile (Trident) submarines.

A Royal Navy instruction manual, referenced by McNeilly, states that the “chief potential hazard” from a live D-5 missile is “accidental ignition” of the first, second or third stage rocket motor propellant.

The thermonuclear warheads on the D-5 missile “clustered around the third stage rocket motor are at risk from a rocket motor propellant fire.” The intense heat of a rocket propellant fire would likely cause the warheads' conventional high explosives to “cook to (non-nuclear) detonation, releasing radioactive materials and aerosols over a wide area,” according to the manual.

Such an event occurring at sea would likely cause the pressure hull to rupture resulting in the catastrophic loss of the submarine and crew. The same event occurring while the submarine is in port would likely release plutonium and other radioactive substances over surrounding areas, putting base personnel and the public at substantial risk.

Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, Silverdale, Washington, where 8 of the US Navy's 14 Trident submarines are home-ported, is just 20 miles West of Seattle, and many other cities are even closer to the base. The other 6 Tridents are based at Kings Bay, Georgia.

A radiation release from Bangor would cause an increased cancer risk to people living in surrounding areas, while any attempt at cleanup would be highly problematic and run into the billions of dollars.

The risk of a Trident missile third stage rocket fire was raised in a report to Congress on nuclear weapons safety by physicist Sidney Drell in 1990. More recently, it has been highlighted by journalist Eric Schlosser, the author of a book, “Command and Control”, exposing nuclear weapons safety issues.

Schlosser spoke specifically to this same concern with the sensitive rocket propellant, saying that it is “relatively easy” to ignite. “A fire or explosion involving the third stage could cause the dispersal of plutonium - and perhaps a nuclear detonation with a small yield."

Schlosser added: "These extracts from the Royal Navy safety manual on Trident, if they are authentic, seem to confirm the danger. To my knowledge, there has never been a serious accident with a Trident missile. But improper handling, a fire, or a terrorist act could be catastrophic."

In a 2003 missile handling accident at Bangor, a ladder, accidentally left in a submarine's missile tube while the missile was being winched out, came within inches of a warhead before operators discovered the error and stopped the winching process.

Glen Milner, who won a decision in the US Supreme Court in 2011 regarding the public's right to know the dangers posed by the Navy’s Indian Island munitions facility near Port Townsend, Washington, said, “If there was a accident involving missile propellant at Bangor, it would be a disaster affecting much of the Puget Sound region, and the repercussions would be felt far beyond.”

Milner has voiced concern about the risks inherent to the D-5 missile, particularly in light of the Navy's construction of a Second Explosives Handling Wharf at Bangor. Because of the proximity of the two wharves, if two Trident submarines were being serviced simultaneously and an accidental ignition occurred on one, there is a substantial risk of the second submarine's missiles being put at risk of propellant detonation.

Captain Tom Rogers, USN Ret., a former submarine commander, explained that the Navy chose the more volatile rocket propellant in order to fit the large payload (up to eight warheads) in the available space and to ensure the missile's range requirement. Rogers calls this "Trident's dirty little secret."

Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action believes the information shared by McNeilly is in the interest of public safety, and calls on the British government to immediately release him from prison and appoint an independent board of inquiry into his allegations.

Whereas independent scientific experts in the US have previously rendered their opinion regarding the risks inherent in the Trident II D-5 missile, Ground Zero calls urges the US Congress to immediately review the earlier recommendations and conduct an inquiry into why the Navy purchased and deployed an inherently unsafe missile system.

Leonard Eiger, spokesperson for Ground Zero's NO To NEW TRIDENT Campaign, asks why, besides the serious safety concerns, the US government has continued to conduct Trident patrols at near Cold War levels in the decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall. “Trident is a Cold War relic, and the government continues to justify its existence based on an obsolete doctrine of strategic deterrence. What security is provided by a weapon system designed to hold the (then) Soviet Union under the threat of Mutually Assured Destruction? Continued deployment of Trident and progress towards a replacement fleet of ballistic missile submarines only serves to drive a new Cold War nuclear submarine arms race. It is time to scrap Trident.”

Additional References:

NUCLEAR WEAPONS SAFETY: THE CASE OF TRIDENT, in Science and Global Security, 1994



Report to Congress: Assessment of the Safety of U.S. Nuclear Weapons and Related Nuclear Test Requirements, R.E. Kidder, 1991

Contact: Leonard Eiger, Media and Outreach
Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Trident missile propellant a disaster in waiting

Editor's Note: Glen Milner of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action has previously written about the danger inherent in the sensitive rocket fuel used in the Navy's Trident II D-5 submarine launched ballistic missile (a "design flaw"). Now British whistleblower William McNeilly has leaked a top-secret manual in which the British Navy addresses the potential "accidental ignition" of the Trident rocket fuel and the disastrous consequences.

If submerged... goodbye submarine and crew. If an accident occurred in port, plutonium and other radioactive substances would likely contaminate surrounding areas putting the public at great risk.

On November 7, 2003 a missile handling crew preparing to unload a Trident missile from the USS Georgia accidentally left an access ladder in the missile tube when a crewmember switched on the crane, which began hoisting the missile out of the tube. The missile contacted the ladder, which punctured the nose fairing, coming within inches of the warheads and third stage rocket motor before someone noticed the error and stopped the hoist. I'll let you imagine the potential consequences had someone not stopped the hoist!!!

An insider's view of the Bangor Second Explosives Handling Wharf
where Trident missiles are loaded and off-loaded.
Finally, I have uploaded the full statement by whistleblower William McNeilly; click here to read it.


Trident missile flaw could cause explosions and radioactive contamination, reveals whistleblower

By Rob Edwards, Originally published in on Sunday, May 24, 2015

An INHERENT flaw in Trident missiles could lead to fires, explosions and widespread radioactive contamination, according to a top-secret safety manual leaked by the naval whistleblower, William McNeilly.

The Royal Navy's official instructions on how to take care of nuclear weapons reveal that the "chief potential hazard" from a live missile is the "accidental ignition" of solid rocket fuel.

This could cause the warheads' conventional high explosives to detonate and scatter plutonium and other toxic materials "over a wide area", it says.

The Trident D5 missile, used by both the UK and US, is designed with nuclear warheads closely wrapped around the third stage rocket motor. This has been highlighted as a design flaw by US experts in the past, but has not previously been acknowledged by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

The results of a rocket fuel fire at sea or on land could be "catastrophic" for submariners and the public, critics warned last night. The MoD, however, said it had to train for every scenario "no matter how extreme and unlikely".

McNeilly, as well as alleging 30 Trident security and safety concerns in an 18-page dossier revealed by the Sunday Herald last weekend, says he filmed the weapons safety manual on his smartphone. Code-named CB8890, it is a book kept in a safe in the submarine missile control centre, he says.

Extracts quoted by McNeilly disclose that the warheads "clustered around the third stage rocket motor are at risk from a rocket motor propellant fire". Exposed to heat, the warheads' conventional high explosives "could cook to (non-nuclear) detonation, releasing radioactive materials and aerosols over a wide area," the manual says.

If warhead containment is breached, "several radioactive and/or toxic materials may be exposed to the atmosphere," it says. "These include plutonium, uranium, lithium compounds, tritium gas and beryllium. If mixed with water, fumes or toxic gases will be generated."

The navy manual paints a dramatic picture of what could happen. "The chief potential hazard associated with a live missile is the accidental ignition of the first, second or third stage rocket motor propellant," it says.

"If this were to happen in the missile tube with the muzzle hatch shut and locked, the pressure hull and bulkheads of the missile compartment would burst within a matter of seconds," it continues.

"The missile contains a number of subsidiary propulsive and ordnance items that could cause damage to the missile and/or release toxic gases into the missile compartment if initiated prematurely. In some cases, this could also result in ignition or detonation of one of the rocket motors."

The manual also warns that warheads could be ruptured by an accident and cause "radioactive contamination." Serious damage "could also result from a successful terrorist attack", it says.

The risk of a third stage rocket fire was raised in a report on nuclear weapons safety by the eminent physicist, Sidney Drell, for a US congressional committee in 1990. More recently, it has been highlighted by Eric Schlosser, the US author of a book, Command and Control, exposing safety problems with nuclear weapons.

He pointed out that Trident's solid rocket fuel was a high-energy propellant that was "relatively easy" to ignite. "The conventional explosives used in the American and British warheads designed for Trident are vulnerable to fire," he said.

"The third stage of the missile - where the warheads surround the rocket motor, instead of sitting on top of it - combines both risks. A fire or explosion involving the third stage could cause the dispersal of plutonium - and perhaps a nuclear detonation with a small yield."

Schlosser added: "These extracts from the Royal Navy safety manual on Trident, if they are authentic, seem to confirm the danger. To my knowledge, there has never been a serious accident with a Trident missile. But improper handling, a fire, or a terrorist act could be catastrophic."

Peter Burt from the Nuclear Information Service, which is critical of nuclear weapons, pointed out that Trident was designed 40 years ago to deliver a huge destructive force to the maximum range possible. Mounting the warheads next to a rocket motor was "a short cut which has created an inherent design flaw and drastically increased the risks from an accident involving the missile," he said.

The MoD stressed that the Royal Navy had safely operated the nuclear deterrent for over 40 years without a nuclear weapons accident. "This is a safety record it is vital to maintain, which is precisely why we prepare and train for every scenario no matter how extreme and unlikely," said a spokesman.

But the SNP's new defence spokesman in Westminster and MP for Argyll and Bute, Brendan O'Hara, thought that the new revelations would shock the public. "It makes for very chilling reading and reinforces just how dangerous these weapons are," he said.

"It starkly lays out what could potentially happen in various scenarios all of which would be catastrophic for the crew and potentially the public, with the release of radiation."

Original article URL:

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Activists Make Statement at Nuke Base: Our Children Deserve Better!

Activists briefly blockaded the entrance to a West Coast nuclear weapons base in a statement against U.S. Nuclear modernization efforts on the eve of Mothers Day.

On Saturday, April 9, 2015 anti-nuclear weapons activists gathered at the main entrance gate to Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, Silverdale, Washington, home to eight of the nation's fourteen OHIO Class (Trident) ballistic missile submarines. Carrying signs saying “Our children deserve better”, five protesters walked into the roadway and blocked traffic entering the base. Washington State Patrol officers moved in and escorted the protesters off the roadway.

Anthony DeLorenzo, Seattle, WA; Tom Karlin, Tacoma, WA; Mona Lee, Seattle, WA; Brenda McMillan, Port Townsend, WA; and Alice Zillah, Olympia, WA were cited for being in the roadway illegally, released and escorted back to the designated protest zone where others were protesting. Other activists on the overpass over the entrance road held a large banner that read: "Abolish Nuclear Weapons."

The Mothers Day eve protest and nonviolent direct action was an annual event held by Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action at the Bangor Trident base. This year's event was held at a time when the U.S. Government continues to modernize its nuclear weapons, their delivery systems and the infrastructure that builds and maintains them at a cost estimated at roughly a trillion dollars over the next three decades. At the same time nations are meeting at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in New York.

Brenda McMillan being escorted off the roadway
As Leonard Eiger, spokesperson for the NO To NEW TRIDENT Campaign put it, “We can't have it both ways. The rhetoric coming out of The White House is simply not in accord with good faith negotiations towards total nuclear disarmament as required by the NPT. Our nation's actions, rather than slowing nuclear proliferation, are driving it and creating a new nuclear arms race.”

Alice Zillah (left) and Anthony Delorenzo awaiting their citations
Eiger points out that the U.S. Navy's plans for a new fleet of ballistic missile submarines, costing nearly $100 billion in construction, is at the center of the rapidly developing submarine nuclear arms race. “The U.S. has deployed Trident at near Cold War levels since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Do we seriously think that other nations have not taken notice of this?”

In a statement announcing the Mothers Day eve action event organizer Mona Lee said that, “The world's children deserve better than to struggle to live under the threat of a renewed nuclear arms race. Increasing militarization steals resources desparately needed to mitigate global warming and improve living conditions worldwide.”

Event co-organizer Mona Lee
Ground Zero Center calls on the U.S. government to change course on Trident and its overall nuclear posture, and begin to live up to its obligations as a member of the United Nations and as a signatory to the NPT. Anything less is a theft of our children's future.

The Trident submarine base at Bangor, just 20 miles from Seattle, contains the largest concentration of operational nuclear weapons in the US arsenal. Each of the 8 Trident submarines at Bangor carries up to 24 Trident II (D-5) missiles, each capable of being armed with as many as 8 independently targetable thermonuclear warheads. Each nuclear warhead has an explosive force of between 100 and 475 kilotons (up to 30 times the force of the Hiroshima bomb). It has been estimated that by the time the new generation of ballistic missile submarines are put into service, they will represent 70 percent of the nation's deployed nuclear warheads.

Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action is currently engaged in legal actions in Federal court to halt the Navy’s construction of an unnecessary Second Explosives Handling Wharf at Bangor. Ground Zero's NO To NEW TRIDENT Campaign ( is working with other organizations to de-fund the Navy’s plans for the next generation ballistic missile submarine, also known as the OHIO Class Replacement or SSBN(X).

For over thirty-seven years Ground Zero has engaged in education, training in nonviolence, community building, resistance against Trident, and action toward a world without nuclear weapons.

Contact: Leonard Eiger, Media and Outreach
Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Another vision of "Apocalypse" by Kate Hudson

Editor's Note: In the United Kingdom there is open and significant debate about whether to build a replacement fleet of Trident ballistic missile submarines to replace their current fleet of four Tridents. Interestingly enough, the British Tridents carry U.S. designed and built Trident II D-5 missiles just as the 14 Trident subs in the U.S. fleet. What is noteworthy is that there is absolutely NO public debate about whether we should build the 12 Trident replacements currently in research and development by the U.S. Navy. The only "debate", and it is not much of a debate, is how to fund the massive, budget-busting $100 construction price tag!!!

Trident is a bad idea, no matter on which side of The Pond one resides (or for the rest of the world for that matter). It is a Cold War relic, a first-strike tool of mass destruction beyond anyone's worst imagination. Should just one of those subs unleash just one missile (with it's multiple thermonuclear-armed warheads) it would mean instant death for upwards of a hundreds of thousands to a million (or possibly more) people in a large city. Of course, that is not how it will likely work should Trident actually be used. Even a limited nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia, still a possible scenario) would mean the end of civilization as we know it; a humanitarian disaster incomparable in human history.

As debate intensifies about the future of Britain's nuclear weapons, it's worth remembering that Trident isn't just an increasingly unpopular, expensive status symbol - it is also a weapon of mass destruction. Britain's own stockpile could kill hundreds of millions of people and current global nuclear weapons stocks have the capacity to destroy human civilization and the environment many times over.

We who resist Trident here in the U.S., and work to prevent a new generation of Trident, support our colleagues in the UK as they push for "Bairnes [children] Not Bombs!" This struggle is a global one, and we can only hope that (as the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference continues at the UN) the voice of the people will drown out the voices of the nuclear weapons status quo. The world can ill afford it.

Dr. Kate Hudson, who wrote the following article, is General Secretary of the UK-based Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).


Visions of Apocalypse

By Dr. Kate Hudson, published in The Huffington Post UK, May 6, 2015

Yet this truth does not really figure in the current debates over Trident in the way that it has in the past. It seems as if we know it in the abstract, but the knowledge of that no longer holds the same terror, the same imminent sense of destruction beyond our control, that it held in decades gone by.

Perhaps the reality of modern day warfare and our extensive exposure to it via our screen-dominated culture has inured us to the potential horrors of nuclear use, whether by accident or design. Scenes from Fallujah or Gaza are far more immediate than the risk of nuclear Armageddon. As deaths through small arms reach exponential proportions, discussion of nuclear bomb deaths from seventy years ago seem like ancient history to the younger generation. And when it comes to end-of-history scenarios, climate change with its tsunamis and extreme weather events, or risk of mass starvation, global pandemics or mass population movements, seem much more powerful, indeed already present.

A message you don't see on buses in the U.S.
Our vision of the apocalypse, simultaneously terrifying and compelling, has shifted to these seemingly more contemporary threats which have certainly taken over the fear factor in popular culture - as I'll be discussing in a session on 'Visions of Apocalypse' at HowTheLightGetsIn festival in May. And these threats have displaced earlier preoccupations with the impact of atomic science, whether through weapons use or experimentation, through blast, radiation or mutation. During the Cold War, fear of the bomb and fear of the unknown impact of scientific experimentation took hold on people's imaginations. Then as now, film was a mirror of society's anxieties, and Hollywood paved the way with the developing science fiction genre. Them!, directed by Gordon Douglas in 1954 featured giant radioactive ants on the rampage, the result of an atomic test in New Mexico. Stanley Kramer's On the Beach, a 1959 film adaptation of the novel by Neville Shute, was set after a nuclear apocalypse as a group of people await death from radiation.

This film affected audiences strongly and a subsequent generation was equally affected by Threads and When the Wind Blows. No doubt, if viewed today, they would not have the same impact. Yet the same reality would ensue, if nuclear weapons were used. Radioactive fallout would render parts, if not all, of the planet uninhabitable. There would be no place to run to, no place to hide; in the event of a nuclear war, you may escape the blast but you cannot shut the door on radiation. It will poison and destroy, bringing sickness, cancers, birth deformities and death. No one is exempt.
That is what makes nuclear weapons uniquely terrible, and a foretaste of that is already with us, not only through the experience of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the catastrophic health and environmental impacts of nuclear weapons testing, but also through the fallout from nuclear power disasters at Chernobyl, Fukushima and elsewhere.

When we debate Trident's future, we would do well to recognise that although we no longer live in direct fear of nuclear weapons, as the older ones of us may remember from the Cold War, the risk and threat still remain as powerful as ever. The nuclear danger has not dissipated, the weapons are still there, and unless they are dispensed with, we may all yet disappear into a mushroom cloud of our worst imagining.

Kate will be speaking at HowTheLightGetsIn, the world's largest philosophy and music festival, running from 21st May - 31st May in association with The Huffington Post UK.

Follow Dr Kate Hudson on Twitter:

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Shadows and Ashes: Remembering Dorothy Day

"They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation. Neither shall they learn war any more." Isaiah 2:4

I'm at the Isaiah Wall that is directly across the street from the United Nations building. It is 8:30 AM, and across the street delegates to the NPT Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference are entering the building as it begins its second day.

Police vans are pulling and making their preparations for the expected onslaught of nuclear abolitionists who will soon arrive for the 9:30 vigil here and the subsequent nonviolent direct action at the US Mission to the United Nations just down the block.

The sun is shining and the tree in front of the Isaiah Wall is bursting with the beauty of Spring. In an instant all this could disappear in a blinding flash and, quite ironically, Isaiah's words just might remain while every living thing around it would be vaporized or incinerated, the shadows created from their ash etched into the stone surface.

The letters etched into the stone of the wall are a relatively permanent reminder of the words of the prophet Isaiah who, like most prophets, have been ignored through the centuries by leaders of so many nations and those who follow them blindly into the madness of war.

Yet many people have resisted and called humanity to something better. As I walked up the steps circling up by the wall I saw, at the top of the stairs, an icon of the Cold War - the days of duck and cover, of bomb shelters and mutually Assured Destruction. It was a rusting fallout shelter sign over a nondescript door.

It was a stark reminder of my childhood, when students at my elementary school would walk from the school roughly a mile or two to the nearest official fallout shelter during the many Civil Defense drills held in those days.

It was also a reminder of Dorothy Day and other resisters who, during the Cold War, refused to enter the fallout shelters in New York during the drills, and were arrested for doing so. 

Yes, this actually is a photo (taken with an ancient iPhone) I took
 this morning above a doorway overlooking the Isaiah Wall.
 Some of the participants in today's action will engage in active resistance to the nuclear weapons policies of the US, and in the spirit of Dorothy Day and so many others, blocking the entrances to the US Mission to the United Nations, risking arrest for their actions. The name of today's action is "SHADOWS AND ASHES: Direct Action for Nuclear Disarmament."

We go forward together this morning in the spirit of nonviolence, with Isaiah's words etched on our hearts. May those words reach those gathered at the UN, and may we beat our swords into plowshares, and may we make war no more!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Damn the funding; it's full speed ahead for New Trident

Editor's Note: This just in from the Russian media (as if we didn't know already) - Congress will be sure to find the money to build the full complement of 12 new ballistic missile submarines currently in research and development by the Navy. Of course, they are doing it outside the normal budgetary process so as to not sink the Navy's shipbuilding budget. What that old expression about having their cake and eating it too???  

Of course, Congress is being soooooo fiscally responsible these days in its slashing of unnecessary spending - like cutting food stamps, deeper cuts to Medicaid, ending the Affordable Health Care Act's subsidies, and that's just for starters. Of course those tax cuts for the 1% are absolutely critical to get the economy jump-started!!! After all, many of those one percenters are running the huge weapons makers like General Dynamics, whose Electric Boat division will likely end up profiting handsomely from its contract to build the Navy's new ballistic missile subs.

The problem is that subsidizing huge weapons makers is NOT the kind of economic stimulus the country needs. And in the case of New Trident, it's something the world does not need. The continuing deployment of Trident and plans for a new generation sends a clear message to the Russians that they need to keep up with the US, and that is just what they are doing. So while the US and it's nuclear dance partner keep playing this dangerous game, other nations are also upgrading their memberships in the nuclear club. And that's definitely NOT good!!!


New Nuclear Sub's Funding to Start on Time Despite Media Reports - US Navy

Sputnik International (, March 25, 2015

Earlier in March, media reported that the US Navy and Congress had not managed to find the funds to pay for the procurement of the Ohio Replacement Program, in charge of replacing the aging Ohio-class submarines with 12 more advanced subs.

MOSCOW (Sputnik), Alexander Mosesov — Procurement funding for the US next-generation strategic nuclear submarine will start in 2017 as expected, despite earlier media reports claiming the funds have not been found yet, a US Navy spokeswoman told Sputnik on Wednesday.

Compared to its predecessor — the third-generation Ohio-class strategic nuclear submarine, which was built from 1976 till 1997 — the fourth-generation replacement submarine is expected to feature fewer launch tubes, state-of-the-art sonar, optical imaging and weapons control systems, a new electric drive and a nuclear fuel core able to power the ship for its entire service life.

"[Advanced] procurement for the Navy's top programmatic priority, the Ohio replacement program, begins… in fiscal year 2017 and leading to the procurement of the first boat construction in fiscal year 2021," Nicole Schwegman told Sputnik.

The first replacement submarine is expected to cost $12,4 billion, including $4,8 billion in design and engineering costs and $7,6 billion in construction costs. The first submarine is expected to enter service in 2031.

As of 2015, Russia is the world's only country with fourth-generation strategic nuclear submarines in service — the Borey-class submarines, which are to become the mainstay of the naval component of Russia's strategic nuclear deterrent.

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Friday, March 20, 2015

First come the new subs... next will be new missiles!

The Trident (OHIO Class) Replacement Program is going full steam ahead. The following article makes that quite clear. The most intriguing statement made is that "OR subs will initially carry the Trident II D5LE missile." The keyword here is "initially." The Trident II D-5 was first deployed in 1990. Lockheed Martin is still building the Trident missile in Sunnyvale, California, and the Navy recently completed the 154th and 155th successful,consecutive test launches. The Trident II D-5s are currently being upgraded to give them 25 more years of service life. With the new subs planned to be deployed into the 2080s it is highly probable that the Navy will be pursuing a replacement missile well before the end of the missiles' extended service life. And that will be a big ticket item that no one is currently discussing.

The ultimate question (and really the elephant in the room) is - Why we are building a new generation of ballistic missile submarine that is planned to be deployed almost to the end of the century when it only serves to foster a rapidly developing nuclear submarine arms race? Is there no end in sight? Or would it be more appropriate to say that the end will be in sight should the U.S. (and other nuclear nations) continue down the road of nuclear modernization??? Will this enter the conversation at the upcoming Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference? Let's hope so.


GAO Notes U.S. Navy’s Ohio-class Replacement Milestones 

Mar 19, 2015 Michael Fabey Aerospace Daily & Defense Report

With concrete accomplishments in the previous year, the U.S. Navy’s Ohio-class submarine replacement (OR) program looks to be in good shape, according to the recent annual report of Pentagon program reviews by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).

“In 2014, the contractor and the Navy completed ship specifications and set the ship’s length, both major milestones, as it commits to the space available for ship systems,” GAO says.

Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, has made it clear repeatedly that the OR is the Navy’s number-one priority acquisition program.

GAO estimates it will cost about $95.8 billion to buy 12 submarines, which breaks down into $11.8 billion for research and development and about $84 billion for procurement.

The new boats will replace the current fleet of Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) as they begin to be retired in 2027, GAO notes.

“The Navy began technology development in January 2011 in order to avoid a gap in sea-based nuclear deterrence between the Ohio-class’s retirement and the production of a replacement,” GAO says.

The Navy is working with the U.K. to develop a common missile compartment for use on OR and the U.K.’s replacement SSBN, GAO says, and the OR subs will initially carry the Trident II D5LE missile.

“The Navy is continuing to develop and evaluate new technologies to incorporate into OR, including an X-stern configuration; a new propulsor; and an extended-life drive shaft that, according to program officials, will increase the platform’s availability,” GAO reports.

“According to program officials, the Navy continues to prototype and test the X-stern and propulsor technologies on a scale model to minimize risk.”

The Navy plans to complete 83% of the design disclosures – the detailed plans used on the shop floor – prior to the start of construction, GAO says. Last October, the program awarded a contract for production of 17 missile tubes, one of the boat’s critical subsystems.

“According to program officials, these tubes will support the quad pack prototype, testing, and also the United Kingdom’s replacement SSBN,” the report said.

To help cut costs, GAO says, “Officials stated that they are continuing to investigate cost-saving options including maximizing equipment reuse from Virginia- and Ohio-class submarines and also leveraging manufacturing techniques, such as robotic welding and modular construction. According to program officials, the Navy is also investigating alternate contracting strategies such as a joint-class block buy with Virginia-class submarines or multi-year contracting, which may provide for additional savings by allowing for volume discounts in material purchases.”

Multi-year contracting, GAO emphasizes, is allowed by statute if, among other things, the design is stable, technical risk is not excessive, and the cost estimates are realistic. “It is typically not used with lead ship construction because of the unknowns inherent in Navy lead ship construction,” the report says.

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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Rally Round the Subs Boys! (or, Are these people crazy?)

Editor's Note: I was truly amazed at the high level of cheer-leading for New Trident by Congress demonstrated in the following article. I found myself commenting on nearly every statement made by these members of Congress who are quite literally rallying round the subs (and making sure the $$$$ are procured to build them). I highlighted my responses in red italics. Who are these people "representing"???


Congressmen Rally Behind Ohio-Class Submarine Replacement

By Yasmin Tadjdeh, in National Defense Magazine, March 4, 2015

Congressmen gathered on Capitol Hill to tout the importance of replacing the nation’s aging ballistic missile equipped Ohio-class submarines. Of course, they did not gather to tout the importance of replacing the nation's aging transportation, electrical, or other utility infrastructures, or ensuring that we take proper care of veterans returning from wars that they sent them to fight.

During a March 4 meeting sponsored by the Submarine Industrial Base Council, Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on readiness, said replacing the boats — also known as SSBNs — will be critical to the nation’s strategic outlook. Of course that depends on how you define "strategic." What kind of strategy relies on a concept (strategic nuclear deterrence) that has to work 100 percent of the time; one error, and it's all over (quite literally) for civilization as we know it.

“We know how critical [the Ohio-class replacement] … is to our nation’s strategic position in the world and we want to make sure that SSBNs availability match Ohio-class retirement. Or make sure there is no gap in there,” he said. Our "strategic position" in the world? That is essentially where we dominate other nations in our military capabilities. In terms of ballistic missile submarines, since we have continued to deploy Trident at full capacity since the end of the Cold War, Russia is now rebuilding and will have new submarines and missiles to compete. How long can we maintain dominance, and how long can this go on before proliferation reaches the danger zone???

The United States still “rules the undersea world,” Wittman said, but Congress needs to ensure it continues investing in submarine platforms. That quote sums it up!!! How long can we continue to "rule the undersea world" to the cost of hundreds of billions of dollars even as our infrastructure at home crumbles and we empty the Treasury? 

The Navy’s 2016 proposed budget request asked for $1.4 billion toward research and development for the Ohio-class replacement program, also known as the SSBN(X). The program will replace 14 subs. The program will build 12 new submarines at an estimated cost of nearly $100 billion! With a $100 billion construction price tag, along with the additional life cycle costs, and costs of the nuclear missiles and their thermonuclear warheads (amounting to many hundreds of billions), how might this money be re-directed to desperately needed programs here at home?

“Research-and-development efforts will focus on the propulsion plant, common missile compartment development and platform development technologies like the propulsor, strategic weapons system and maneuvering/ship control,” budget documents said. And all this work (along with the construction phase) will benefit "defense" contractors like General Dynamics Electric Boat and many others.

SSBN-17 will be the first sub to reach the end of its service life in fiscal year 2027, according to a Congressional Research Service report released in February.

“The remaining 13 will reach the ends of their service lives at a rate of roughly one ship per year thereafter, with the 14th reaching the end of its service life in 2040,” the report said.

The Navy would like to have the first replacement procured by fiscal year 2021, the report said.

The need for an Ohio-class replacement — as well as continued procurement of the Virginia-class fast attack submarines — is critical as adversaries bulk up their submarine fleets, said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on seapower. Yes, our "adversaries" are ramping up only because they feel the need to keep up with us. Of course, as the U.S. continues its massive Asia Pacific Pivot it is no wonder that China is building a ballistic missile submarine fleet.

“The world is more threatening than ever before,” Blumenthal said. “Submarines are a place where [the] competition is endeavoring to overtake us. The Chinese and the Russians both have active submarine programs. … They are investing more heavily than ever before.” The "world" is threatening??? Now there's the ultimate global statement; sounds like everyone is out to get us - eegads! We have been threatening the world with the threat of use of nuclear weapons for nearly 70 years, and Trident is the ultimate threat. Of course the Chinese and Russians have active programs, and are playing catch-up with the U.S. The Russians ramped things back after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and yet the U.S. continued to deploy at Cold War levels - WHY???

The Navy’s fiscal year 2016 budget includes $3.3 billion in funding for two Virginia-class subs, according to budget materials.

Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn., agreed that China and Russia pose a risk to the United States. Is anyone getting tired of this rhetoric???

“Russia is not slowing down on its sub-building program,” he said. “We know that they just launched a new class of attack submarines. We know that they are pushing out the envelope of sub patrols ... we know that we’ve seen one within 200 miles of American shores and this is a reality that the United States is going to have to deal with.” Oh, and we ARE slowing down??? I don't think so. We're going full bore on building both attack and ballistic missile submarines!

Further, China now has a submarine fleet that is larger than the Navy's. However, the United States still maintains the fastest, stealthiest and most advanced subs in the world, he noted.

Replacing the Ohio-class submarines is important because they represent the sea-based leg of the nation’s nuclear triad, Murphy noted. The United State’s nuclear triad is represented by three legs — ballistic missile submarines, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles and heavy bombers.

"There is no future without the sea-based leg of the triad," he said. Or should we say that the future looks perilous if the U.S. continues to rely on thinking rooted in Cold War thinking and pushes us into a new Cold War by building a new generation of Trident that would sail into the end of this century - assuming we go that long without either accidental or intentional nuclear war? 

With the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference coming up in April, President Obama should be making "good faith efforts" to work with Russia and the other nuclear nations to finally make real efforts toward nuclear disarmament (rather than building a foundation for out of control nuclear proliferation and a new and dangerous Cold War).

Does the President have the courage to stand up for humanity and its future? What better legacy could he leave from his Presidency?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

To Buy or Not to Buy (NewTrident): That is the question...

The people at the Ploughshares Fund are attempting to kick start the greatly needed debate about funding the next generation of ballistic missile submarines.

In the following article the authors rightly question the "terrible precedent" that would be set should the Navy be allowed (with the help of Congress) to fund a new fleet of boomers (as they are fondly known in the Navy) outside of the Navy's shipbuilding budget.

They call for fiscal responsibility, and are also right to question the "strategic sense" of funding 12 ballistic missile subs, and as a consequence have to forgo (according to the Congressional Budget Office) 69 ships of the Navy's conventional fleet.

The authors ask, "...could the Navy maintain U.S. security with fewer than 12?" Their answer is yes, and they state that the Navy could do the job with 8 rather than 12 subs.

What is intriguing about this rationale is how they came to it. Based on traditional thinking (strategic nuclear deterrence doctrine), weapon system capabilities, and treaty obligations it is not any stretch to realize that 8 Tridents are enough (to destroy life on earth as we know it).

What is missing (for me) in this article is any discussion of why we need to build any New Tridents! While much of this article is on the right track, the authors seem to be playing it safe by not venturing into the dangerous waters of questioning the validity of our nations current nuclear pursuits.

What of the doctrine of strategic nuclear deterrence in a post-Cold War world? Should it not undergo a thorough evaluation by experts with no vested interest in building and deploying nuclear weapons? And should such questioning be done well before we start preparing to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in new nuclear weapons systems ($100 billion in the case of New Trident)?

At any rate, I'm grateful to Ploughshares Fund for contributing to what I hope will be a more public dialogue on an issue that affects the future of every citizen of this nation as well as the future of humanity. Perhaps the question is not how to find "a better way to buy nuclear submarines," but whether to buy them at all.

Ironically, the authors close by saying that "The worst thing we could do right now is waste scarce resources on yesterday’s weapons, starving the programs we really need."

A Better Way To Buy Nuclear Submarines

on January 23, 2015 in Breaking Defense

The Ploughshares Fund shares the Obama’s Administration’s goal of eventually eliminating all nuclear weapons. Whether you agree with that goal or not, Tom Collina of the fund offers here a choice that those on the outer reaches of both political parties may agree on: forcing the Navy to live within its regular budget. The service, and most strategists, believe the Navy must get funding to buy a full complement of replacements for the Ohio class of nuclear missile submarines for the United States to remain the world’s dominant power. That, they say, will require special funding for the Ohio Replacement Program. They believe the service must receive money for both a robust surface fleet, attack submarines and a fleet of nuclear missile submarines. Do we maintain the most advanced nuclear triad in the world, with a fleet of survivable and advanced boomers or not? And how will we pay for it? It’s a choice that will be hotly debated. The Editor.

The Obama administration is expected to submit a military budget on February 2 that is more than $30 billion over the amount Congress can approve. That money will have to be cut from somewhere. Fortunately, the Pentagon can save billions of dollars and advance U.S. security by scaling back the excessive program to replace the Ohio nuclear-armed submarine.

The Navy is particularly strapped for cash as it tries to sustain a 300-ship fleet while also building a dozen of the new nuclear missile submarines for about $100 billion. As the Navy admits, it cannot afford to do both. But instead of scaling back its plans, the service is seeking an additional $60 billion from outside its budget.

This is no way to run a Navy. Congress needs to enforce budget discipline and encourage the Navy to live within its means. Unfortunately, some on Capitol Hill are heading in the opposite direction by creating a special bank account for extra Navy money, the Sea Based Strategic Deterrence Fund.

But wait, there’s one catch: the bank account is empty, and there is no realistic prospect of filling it. It was created by the congressional authorizing committees, which set policy but do not sign checks. The appropriators handle the money, and they are not buying. There is just not enough cash to go around.

The Sea Based Strategic Deterrence Fund is a pipe dream, and the Navy is kidding itself if it thinks it can buy the new submarines on the cheap from someone else’s budget.

As Undersecretary of Defense Frank Kendall said in September, budget gimmicks, like the sub fund, don’t actually solve anything. “At the end of the day we have to find money to pay for these things one way or another, right? So changing the accounting system doesn’t really change that fundamental requirement. We still need the money and it has to come from somewhere.”

The sub fund also sets a terrible precedent for congressional budgeting. The Air Force, for example, also wants to modernize its nuclear weapons and is also strapped for cash. Can the Air Force have a special account too? Where does this end?

There is a better solution that few seem to be considering: buy fewer submarines.

Yes, current Ohio-class submarines are aging and will need to be replaced. Yes, the subs are the most survivable leg of the nuclear “triad”—which also includes land-based missiles and bombers—which together will cost up to $1 trillion to over the next 30 years. But 25 years after the Cold War and with the new subs estimated to cost $7.7 billion each, could the Navy maintain U.S. security with fewer than 12?

The answer is yes.

There is nothing magic about 12 submarines. In fact, the Navy is planning to have only 10 during the 2030s, and eight would do just as well.

The requirement for 12 subs is driven by the Navy’s mission to “forward deploy” about five of the subs close to targets in Russia and China for “prompt launch.” The remaining subs would be in transit or dockside. In other words, the Navy wants 12 subs so some can be within range of potential targets 24-7-365.

This may have made sense during the Cold War, but strategic submarines no longer need to be forward deployed in this way. Modern missile subs are invulnerable once at sea. If they ever need to launch a nuclear-armed missile (which has never happened) there is no reason the Navy could not wait even a few days for the subs to reach launch position. In the highly unlikely event that immediate launch were ever needed, the Air Force has ground-based missiles that can do that.

Once the requirement for forward deployed subs is reduced, the main factor driving the number of subs is how many warheads they can carry. The Pentagon plans to deploy about 1,000 nuclear warheads at sea for the indefinite future. How many subs do we need for that? Just eight. (Each sub can hold 128 warheads.)

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), buying eight subs rather than 12 would save $21 billion over the next decade–and that is real money.

The alternative? The Navy could fund the subs from its own budget, but only at great cost to the conventional fleet. At current funding levels, the Navy says 12 new missile subs would crowd out 32 combat ships. This is the rosy scenario. CBO estimates look much worse, with the Navy foregoing a total of 69 ships, including two aircraft carriers, 17 attack submarines, 20 destroyers, 19 littoral combat ships, six amphibious ships and five combat logistics and support vessels.

This does not make strategic sense. Carriers and destroyers are the backbone of the fleet. These are the ships that make America a global power–that let it hunt terrorists, clean up after tsunamis, and do exercises with allies, all at the same time. Not having these ships would limit America’s ability to project power around the world and effectively respond to unforeseen threats. These ships would be missed.

Compare that to having a few less nuclear-missile subs. Would anyone even notice?

Pentagon procurement decisions worth tens of billions of dollars should not be based on obsolete strategy. The Pentagon and the White House need to adjust the nuclear strategy and budget to the declining threat. The worst thing we could do right now is waste scarce resources on yesterday’s weapons, starving the programs we really need.

Tom Z. Collina is Policy Director and Jacob Marx is a Research Assistant at Ploughshares Fund in Washington.

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