The U.S. government announced Thursday that it has increased the rate at which it is dismantling nuclear warheads. The actual number of weapons taken apart is classified, however, as are most numbers associated with the stockpile. Some officials and lawmakers are trying to change that. Thomas D'Agostino, an official at the National Nuclear Security Administration in Washington, oversees the dismantlement work. He says taking apart a nuclear weapon requires time and care. "I don't want to make it seem this is just grab your Phillips screwdriver and start unscrewing things and taking them apart," D'Agostino said. "These are warheads that have conventional high explosives. We worry about lightning. We worry about static electricity. And we are not about to tolerate any errors in this area." D'Agostino said crews have taken apart 50 percent more nuclear warheads in the past eight months than they dismantled all year in 2006. He said he couldn't be more specific. "I am a bit frustrated I can't tell you the details," D'Agostino said. "I think it would be a good thing for you to hear them." He said the numbers reflect that the Cold War is over and that the stockpile is shrinking. Some lawmakers have expressed frustration about the policy that keeps the numbers secret: It dates back to the 1990s. U.S. Rep. David Hobson (R-OH) said at a Congressional hearing that he wants the figures made public in order to facilitate open debate about what the total number of warheads should be. "I've been pushing this for years, and the administration has resisted. I don't know why," Hobson said. "I suspect our potential adversaries know the number of U.S. nuclear warheads much better than do the members of Congress. I think I know the number, but I can't talk about it." The Department of Defense issued a statement to NPR, saying, "The basis for the security requirement ... is to deny militarily useful information to potential or actual enemies, to enhance the effectiveness of nuclear deterrence and to contribute to the security of nuclear weapons, especially against threats of sabotage and terrorism."
Secrecy key to security
National Research Council, 5 (Committee on International Security and Arms Control, Monitoring Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear-Explosive Materials:
An Assessment of Methods and Capabilities, page 183 http://books.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11265)
We concluded in Chapters 2 and 3 that procedures and technology are available to verify with high confidence declarations of stockpiles of nuclear weapons and nuclear-explosive materials (NEM) at declared sites. But undeclared nuclear weapons and NEM could exist as a consequence of retention of undeclared existing nuclear weapons and NEM or could come into existence by the clandestine production of nuclear weapons from existing NEM. In addition, undeclared NEM for weapons might be produced clandestinely or diverted covertly from peaceful nuclear power programs. Current non-nuclear weapon states and possibly terrorist groups might also acquire nuclear weapons or NEM. The potential for clandestine activities in these categories poses the largest challenges to efforts to strengthen transparency and monitoring for nuclear weapons, components, and materials on a comprehensive basis.
Nuclear secrecy key to deterrence
Noonan 3/4/10 (John, staff writer, The Weekly Standard, DoD releases nuclear stockpile figures, http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/dod-releases-nuclear-stockpile-figures)
Yesterday, the Obama administration released the DoD's official nuclear stockpile figures. For decades, the size and shape of America's atomic arsenal have been deliberately kept secret, and for good reason. There's always been a calculated sense of ambiguity around our nuclear forces and our deterrence strategies, with the logic being that an enemy --if left to speculate about how, when, where, and if we'd use our nukes-- would err on the side of caution and keep his fangs tucked.
Nuclear Secrecy Good
Classification is needed to secure the U.S.
National Research Council 95 (National Academy of Sciences think tank for pub policy, A review of the Department of Energy classification policy and practice http://books.google.com/books?id=qWettBF2ZYwC&source=gbs_navlinks_s page 1-2)
DOE’s initiatives take place within a larger, government-wide effort to reexamine classification policy in the wake of the end of the Cold War. U.S. national security policy is no longer directed against the overarching threat of the Soviet Union and its allies. The primary concern of protecting information related to nuclear weapons has shifted to stemming the threat of nuclear proliferation. This complicates some aspects of maintaining the classification system. Protecting information about old nuclear weapons designs or outdated production techniques was formerly considered important but had a lower priority simply because a sophisticated nuclear weapons power like the Soviet Union already had such information. Now, however, protecting such information is essential because the would-be nuclear powers of the greatest proliferation concern are less technically sophisticated nations or even terrorist groups, and older (or generally simpler) design and production techniques might better match the capabilities of a potential proliferator. No forseeable new nuclear state would pose a threat to the United States and its allies comparable to the threat from the former Soviet bloc. Thus, information that could have helped the Soviet bloc war planners such as the size and composition of fissionable materials inventories or data on most past nuclear weapons activities (but not designs) that might reveal present total capability, is not longer as sensitive as it was once believed to be. Classification policy must reflect a balance of opposing values. Powerful and compelling reasons continue to exist for protecting genuinely sensitive nuclear weapons information even though considerable information is already in the public domain. Access to classified information is no longer necessary for a potential proliferator to construct a simple nuclear weapon, but such access could make it significantly easier to build such a device or to make it more effective. The Department would fail in its responsibilities if it did not protect certain design and production information, but the appropriate scope of the information that warrants such careful protection is difficult to define.
Disclosing information on stockpiles allows terrorists to seize weapons
AFP 2009 (Slip-up lays bare US secret nuclear sites: NYT, http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5h8C28WJK0nKl6ADPSI4cMr1OXQmg)
WASHINGTON (AFP) — The US government accidentally made public a secret report detailing its nuclear sites, programs and even exact locations of nuclear stockpiles, The New York Times reported Wednesday. "The federal government mistakenly made public (the) 266-page report," the Times reported, noting that the blunder was revealed Monday in an online newsletter about federal secrecy. "That set off a debate among nuclear experts about what dangers, if any, the disclosures posed. It also prompted a flurry of investigations in Washington into why the document had been made public," the Times said, adding that by late Tuesday "after inquiries from The New York Times, the document was withdrawn from a Government Printing Office Web site." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday she had called for an investigation into the incident. "The disclosure of information related to nuclear facilities suggests that the current system does not provide adequate review and safeguards," she said in a statement. "Accordingly, I have asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate immediately what led to the disclosure of this information and to make recommendations to prevent a similar disclosure in the future." Several analysts said the security breach was not devastating "given that the general outlines of the most sensitive information were already known publicly," the report said. "These screw-ups happen," the Times quoted John Deutch, a former director of central intelligence now a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as saying. "It's going further than I would have gone but doesn't look like a serious breach." The information was described as "confidential but not classified," the Times added. David Albright, of the Institute for Science and International Security here, told the paper however that making the locations of nuclear material available "can provide thieves or terrorists inside information that can help them seize the material, which is why that kind of data is not given out."