12 June 2013
On the radar: Missile defense chief says no to East Coast site; Veto threat over nuclear policies; Iran election update; Cruising into Y-12; Diplomacy on the Korean Peninsula; and Stephen Colbert’s missileer video game.
Brass says it’s unnecessary - “There is no validated military requirement to deploy and East Coast missile defense site,” write Vice Admiral James Syring, Missile Defense Agency Director, and Lt. Gen. Richard Formica, Commander of Joint Functional Command for Integrated Missile Defense, in a letter responding to questions from Sen. Carl Levin.
--”Investment in Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) discrimination and sensor capabilities would result in more cost-effective near-term improvements to homeland missile defense,” write the Adm. Syring and Lt. Gen. Formica. PDF of the letter here. http://1.usa.gov/16dwIQS
House Republicans push for it - “Last week, the Republican-controlled House Armed Services Committee voted to fund a missile defense system on the East Coast, making a second attempt to get the site built despite having a similar proposal shot down by the Senate Armed Services Committee last year,” reports Paul McLeary.
--”The House Armed Services Committee voted to fund the East Coast missile defense site in their 2014 defense bill markup on June 5, and the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee put more than $70 million in its 2014 Pentagon spending bill to begin constructing the shield.” Full post at Defense News. http://bit.ly/11z3uro
Veto threat - The White House issued a veto threat over several provisions in the House version of the defense authorization bill - including sections that would block New START implementation and meddle in missile defense issues.
--The administration called out sections of the House bill that would “impinge on the President’s ability to implement the New START treaty and to set U.S. nuclear weapons policy...restrict the President's constitutional authority to negotiate international agreements...[and] limit the President’s authority to determine appropriate force structure to meet nuclear deterrence requirements and to set nuclear employment policy - authority exercised by every president in the nuclear age.”
--On missile defense: The administration objects to sections that would require the construction of an additional missile defense site, a proposal that “ignores possible alternatives, ignores fiscal constraints, presumes a validated military requirement for a third U.S.-based missile defense site when none exists.” Full Statement of Administration Policy available here. (pdf) http://1.usa.gov/12mh0nw
Nuclear amendments - Several potential floor amendments to the House defense authorization bill were submitted to the Rules Committee yesterday. Nuclear highlights include:
--Larsen (D-WA), Markey (D-MA), Blumenauer (D-OR) and Sanchez (D-CA)
amendment limiting funds for the
B61 nuclear bomb upgrade.
Letters from Tehran - Earlier this year Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, wrote a secret letter to Iran’s supreme leader saying “it was time” to enter into “broad discussions with the United States.” The supreme leader, who responded by saying he would not oppose Salehi and the Cabinet if they pursued direct talks with the US - lucky for the foreign minister who, by penning the letter, “endangered his career - and even his security.”
--This is not the first time forces within Iran have pushed for engagement with the US. Ten years ago, the Bush administration received a “proposal for wide-ranging bilateral talks,” but flouted the offer. When entering office, President Obama penned two letters directly to Khamenei, offering direct negotiations. Only time will tell whether Salehi’s letter will produce fruitful talks. Friday’s presidential election could offer an opportunity for renewed engagement, write Louis Charbonneau and Parisa Hafezi at Reuters. http://owl.li/lXJqU
Misconduct at Ft. Greely - The commander of the missile defense battalion at Fort Greely, Alaska, “has been suspended after an investigation into allegations that he overlooked sexual affairs and promoted a pinup calendar featuring scantily clad female soldiers.” Gopal Ratnam of Bloomberg has the report. http://bloom.bg/14wEfdM
Through the front gate - Last week, a 62-year old woman mistakenly drove to the Y-12 nuclear weapons complex, was waved through the front gate and drove 2 miles before security personnel stopped her.
--”An unauthorized person driving through the front gate of the plant is more disturbing than peace activists breaking into the grounds at night. [The driver] did not need bolt cutters or any other equipment — she merely drove her car into the plant,” writes The Knoxville News Sentinel editorial board. http://bit.ly/13CuBUg
Window of opportunity - President Obama’s strategy towards Iran’s nuclear program - severe economic sanctions combined with diplomatic negotiations- “has yet to bear fruit.” A transition of power in Tehran, with the election of a new president this Friday, provides the administration with an opportunity to overhaul its strategy towards Iran.
-- The president should take several bold moves that may be politically risky, but could pay off in resetting relations with Iran. He could make a “major push for bilateral talks,” or offer “significant new concessions on the negotiating table,” such as sanctions relief. Usha Sahay and Laicie Heeley write in The National Interest. http://owl.li/lXDjz
Positive prospects - While this week’s talks between the Koreas were scrapped, the potential for future talks remains. South Korea’s new President Park Geun-hye is “under pressure to make good on her campaign promises to” re engage her country’s northern neighbor. Likewise, North Korea which is likely feeling the economic sting from soured relations with China, has a vested interest in restarting joint economic projects with Seoul. Full story at The Washington Post. http://owl.li/lXznj
Speed reads -
--”Iran’s Presidential Election: Don’t Ignore It” by The Economist. http://econ.st/11vFcxA
--”Israel warily watches Iranian election” by William Booth for The Washington Post. http://wapo.st/11fnoYS
--”Report: DOE made $450K in questionable payments to ex-GOP Rep. Heather Wilson” from AP. http://wapo.st/11fqXy7
-- "Assessing the Dangers of a Nuclear-Armed Iran,” Colin Kahl, June 12 3:55-4:15 pm, CNAS annual conference. Willard InterContinental Hotel, DC. Webcast here. http://owl.li/lSDNw
--”The Implications of the NPT Regime for Nonproliferation.” Speech by Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Countryman. June 18, 9:00 am @ Elliott School of International Affairs. RSVP and details here. http://owl.li/lH9Ks
Cold War Update - Stephen Colbert reports that Air Force ICBM launch officers are experiencing morale issues associated with a “dead-end career.” This means, “Sadly, we may no longer be able to save the world by destroying it.”
--To help “pump up the next generation for a rewarding career in
nuclear service,” Colbert offers a new video game where the user simply
has to “sit perfectly still, not pushing this big... beautiful...
shiny... jolly... candy-like button... just begging to be launched.”
Video from Monday’s episode here.