The Bush administration is planning to take nuclear weapon development to a whole new level, according to the minutes of a January 10 Pentagon meeting that were leaked to the Los Alamos Study Group, www.lasg.org.The meeting, chaired by Dale Klein, assistant secretary for nuclear, chemical and biological defense, was attended by military personnel, managers of U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories and officials from the National Nuclear Stewardship Administration (NNSA). The top item on the agenda was to plan a secret conference for the week of August 4, 2003, at U.S. Strategic Command headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska, where the subject under discussion will be the development of “small strike” nuclear weapons.The conference, to be held in the command’s underground bunker, will feature various panels.The “Future Arsenal Panel” will address future weapons needs based on Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), a Pentagon policy paper released last year that identified Russia, China, North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Libya as potential nuclear targets. One of the main questions that panel will grapple with: “What are the warhead characteristics and advanced concepts we will need in the post-NPR environment?” To that end, the panel will explore the military opportunities offered by “low-yield weapons, EPWs [earth-penetrating weapons], enhanced radiation weapons, agent defeat weapons.”The “Strategy and Policy Panel” will brainstorm ways to get this new generation of nuclear weapons into production. It will address complex issues like how the United States should “adjust its policy on nuclear weapons testing” and how to sell Congress and the public on “the deterrent value of reduced-collateral damage, precision, agent defeat, and penetrating nuclear capabilities in meeting our national security objectives.”
Joel Bleifuss, a former director of the Peace Studies Program at the University of Missouri-Columbia, is the editor & publisher of In These Times, where he has worked since October 1986.