Monday, May 23, 2011

National Nuclear Security Administration Releases New Strategic Plan

Breaking News: So I had to interrupt the series about the Department of Energy’s, “Nine Most Budget Busting Projects,” because this was just too hot not to print. Just recently I walked into Rick’s office and found him reading the 2011 Strategic Plan published by the National Nuclear Security Administration. When I saw the front cover on his computer screen I was almost positive that he had just ordered “Armageddon” on Netflix, but with Bruce Willis nowhere to be found I soon realized that this was the title page of the updated Strategic Plan that outlines our country’s new national security priorities.

Have you ever played that picture game, “What doesn’t belong?” You know, the one where you look at a photo and have to identify the object that doesn’t fit with the rest of the picture? I’m pretty sure that game was the inspiration for the cover of the 2011 Strategic Plan. On first glance your eyes are drawn to the massive earth sitting in front of a waving American flag. Ok so far, right? But then you notice the strategically placed atomic blast right smack dab in the center of the photo. In an additional irony, the vision on the opening page emphatically states “to make the world a safer place.”

As the first NNSA Strategic Plan released since 2004, the report offers several key goals for the coming decade. The objectives set out to reduce nuclear dangers, manage the nuclear weapons stockpile and advance nuclear propulsion, modernize the NNSA infrastructure, and strengthen the science, technology and engineering base. Throughout the report the five goals are often accompanied by the phrase, “safe, secure, and effective nuclear stockpile.” The only problem here is that weapons of mass destruction are not safe or secure, and what does effective mean? Effective at causing severe devastation to civilization? Effective at emitting thermal radiation that causes flash blindness and skin burns? Effective at igniting entire cities and towns?

One segment of the plan that is particularly unsettling is in regards to the Life Extension Programs. While these plans claim to ensure that the nuclear stockpile is safe and reliable, what they actually do is increase the power and destructiveness of existing warheads. For example, the 2008 Life Extension proposal for the W76 warhead was so extensive that it resulted in an entirely new type of bomb. When Congress realized that “Life Extension Program,” was essentially another name for upgrade, it denied funding for two of the Department of Energy’s new nuclear weapons.

The 2011 Strategic Plan does have some redeeming initiatives. In addition to improved nuclear safeguards, the plan seeks to secure the most vulnerable nuclear materials worldwide by 2013. However, such a monumental task would require international cooperation and a greater commitment from the United States to reduce (not improve) our nuclear stockpile. The release of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Strategic Plan illustrates the need for an increased dedication to a nuclear free world. Please take a moment to check out our Action Alert Network and help us cut the 2012 Nuclear Weapons Budget!

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