Communities Against a Radioactive Environment
February 20, 2017
Author: Marylia Kelley
The Pentagon’s Defense Science Board (DSB) on Thursday held a classified briefing for senior officials on its recommendations for the new Administration. Earlier this month, the news outlet Roll Call reported that the board’s unpublished report, titled “Seven Defense Priorities for the New Administration” urges Trump to create new nuclear weapons including extremely low-yield weapons, called mini-nukes, to provide a “tailored option for limited use.”
While the current nuclear stockpile already incorporates a number of variable-yield designs, also called “dial-a-yield,” the DSB proposal envisions “more discriminate” options for launching a “limited nuclear war” with novel, small scale nukes and new ways to deliver them, including on drones.
California Senator Dianne Feinstein responded to the DSB report immediately saying, “There’s no such thing as ‘limited nuclear war’ and for the Pentagon’s advisory board to even suggest such a thing is deeply troubling.”
Feinstein also told Roll Call, “I have no doubt the proposal to research low-yield nuclear weapons is just the first step to actually building them. I’ve fought against such reckless ideas in the past and will do so again, with every tool at my disposal.”
The DSB has made similar recommendations in the past but the political climate for embracing them may now exist with President Trump, who has publicly extolled the virtues of nuclear unpredictability and declared “let it be an arms race” in reference to Russia.
Further, Trump ordered a new Nuclear Posture Review this month, rejecting the 2010 review completed during the Obama Administration. Reportedly, the language of Trump’s memo mimics the DSB recommendations.
The Pentagon will be in charge of the developing the Trump Nuclear Posture Review with input from the National Nuclear Security Administration (and its weapons labs) and State Department. There is no formal role for the public or Congress, although Congress ultimately holds the purse strings. The new review could simultaneously push the pace of nuclear “modernization” already underway and generate the policy basis to develop mini-nukes and novel delivery systems for “limited nuclear use” that would inevitably make nuclear war more likely.
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