U.N. Nuclear Control

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U.N. nuclear control

The Obama administration is placing a key element of its nuclear deterrence strategy in the hands of the United Nations, an organization with one of the poorest records for controlling the spread of nuclear weapons.

Keith B. Payne, a former Pentagon official in charge of nuclear weapons policy, said an alarming feature of the Nuclear Posture Review, made public Tuesday, is that the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the foreign powers that are represented in it will be able to indirectly set U.S. nuclear weapons policy.

The new NPR appears to place the UN's IAEA and its Board of Governors at the heart of determining U.S. nuclear deterrence strategy options, e-mailed Mr. Payne, who has published several books on nuclear deterrence.

According to the new strategy, the U.S. will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against nonnuclear members that sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, known as the NPT, and comply with its terms. For strategic deterrence purposes, in the case of extreme provocation, the U.S. keeps the right to use or threaten to use nuclear arms against nuclear states and NPT signatories for failing to abide by its terms.

The paramount question is: Who will determine whether a state is complying with the treaty?

This question becomes central to U.S. nuclear deterrence policy, Mr. Payne said in an e-mail to Inside the Ring.

A quick check will reveal that NPT compliance is determined by the IAEA's Board of Governors a board made up of 35 states, including Russia, China, Venezuela, Mongolia and Cuba.

In addition, the standards used to determine compliance or noncompliance are designed intentionally to be flexible in order to give the board latitude in its findings. Thus, there is no standard definition of noncompliance.

The result is that the Obama administration's new strategic nuclear deterrence policy gives a U.N.-based international organization broad authority in the United States' use of nuclear arms.

Under this policy, it appears that Russia, China, and many others would be in a position to shape the decision as to whether a state is or is not compliant with the NPT, and thus its position vis-a-vis U.S. deterrence strategies, Mr. Payne said. The opportunities for mischief and politicization here are obvious.

Iran, North Korea and Syria all signed the NPT but later were found to have used their access to nuclear technology to develop weapons or technology for weapons.

Budget slight

The military's ceramic body armor is one of the most-watched budget items on Capitol Hill, as critics question its testing and performance.

The Interceptor system is also one of the most valuable pieces of equipment issued to combatants as they fight in Iraq and Afghanistan and risk danger inside a base camp as well as in the field. The Army, the lead buyer, says the system, with its tactical vest and Small Arm Protective Inserts (SAPI) has saved countless lives and has never failed.

Its importance is why Congress last year used legislation to order the Army to make a separate procurement, and research and development lines in the budget, for body armor, just as it does for vehicles, guns and aircraft.

Body armor is funded in a catchall operations-and-maintenance account that includes ammunition, fuel and food. Committee staffers say that by separating body armor from the rest, lawmakers can better track how much the military is spending and make adjustments if needed. It also would help the industry know what the Pentagon is willing to pay in a quest for even lighter inserts, as today's soldier is carrying more weight than ever before.

Congress was chagrined, however, when President Obama's 2011 defense budget came out in February. Contrary to Congress' order, body armor stayed stuck in O&M, as it is called, reports special correspondent Rowan Scarborough. …