Air Force to increase benefits, make upgrades for nuclear launch crews
Brian Everstine, Defense News – March 28, 2014
In the wake of a cheating scandal at Malmstrom Air Force Base, whose crews control an ICBM wing, nine commanding officers have been relieved of command, and the highest-ranking officer at the base has already offered his resignation. In addition to personnel changes, however, the Air Force is looking at ways to boost the morale of its nuclear launch crews, many of which involve new spending on benefits for the servicemen or upgrades to their facilities. This will include additional funding for readiness training, upgrades to launch control facilities, and incentive pay. Full details have yet to be released on the new benefits, but all these upgrades are slated to cost $455 million in fiscal year 2015.
NNSA hasn’t been keeping track of nuclear bomb designs
Diana Barnes, Defense One – March 31, 2014
The National Nuclear Security Administration, recently investigated by Department of Energy auditors, has apparently not kept proper records of nuclear weapons designs and maintenance information. This has resulted in a variety of unnecessary costs and risks, including expensive maintenance errors and potential openings for saboteurs, that could make continued reliance upon the nuclear arsenal even more dangerous. Investigations are apparently ongoing, and final recommendations to improve record-keeping will be made in fiscal year 2015.
US continues to cut non-proliferation budgets despite Obama’s apparent fear of loose nukes
Josh Harkinson, Mother Jones – April 1, 2014
President Obama received a lot of attention recently when he stated that he is more concerned with “the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan” than he is with the threat presented by Russia. Unfortunately, that concern is not evinced in the most recent budget, which continues to cut funding for non-proliferation programs in favor of more spending on nuclear weapons programs. James Lewis, communications director for the Center For Arms Control And Non-Proliferation, is quoted in the story, blaming the distorted funding levels on “misplaced priorities across the board”.
South Carolina continues to fight for MOX facility
Derrek Asberry, Aiken Standard – April 1, 2014
South Carolina Governor has already threatened to sue the federal government over its decision to indefinitely put the MOX facility–a mixed oxide fuel fabrication facility to be used for weapons-grade plutonium disposal–on stand-by. Cost overruns have forced the Department of Energy to freeze the program, and South Carolina has fought the decision because of the economic benefits the program brings to the state. In the latest twist to this saga, South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson–he of “You lie!” fame–has publicly stated that plutonium disposal at the MOX facility should not be put on hold. In bizarre comments for a conservative Republican who has criticized the interim deal with Iran, Representative Wilson argued that, “Placing this program into cold-standby will prevent the United States from honoring its part of the [U.S.-Russia Plutonium Disposition] agreement. At a time when the administration is attempting to negotiate a nuclear nonproliferation agreement with Iran, defaulting on our own agreement sends a conflicting message to the international community.” When Wilson became concerned about perceptions of the international community has yet to be determined.
China concerned about Japan’s plutonium stockpiles despite Japan-US agreement to remove plutonium, highly enriched uranium
Sebastian Sprenger, Global Security Newswire – March 31, 2014
Though Japan has agreed to send some 500 kilograms of plutonium and highly enriched uranium to the United States for disposal, China has expressed its concern with Japan’s plans for plutonium stockpiling. As Miao Wei, Beijing’s minister of industry and information technology, stated in a recent press conference, “We hope that Japan can address the concerns of the international community as quickly as possible, and take real steps to address the imbalance between its real needs for developing nuclear energy and its stockpiling.”
After Crimea, Putin seeks to reclaim Alaska
John Isaacs, The Chain Reaction – April 1, 2014
As seen here on The Chain Reaction, it appears Putin may now have designs on Alaska. Putin apparently intends to reclaim Alaska, a former Russian colony whose population is now about 1.4% ethnically Russian, and add it to his growing list of reconquered former Russian/Soviet territories. April Fools! We’re just kidding. Or are we? Mr. Putin, if you’re reading this, don’t get any ideas.