Routine inspections at nuclear weapons bases, such as a “pass-fail” grade, that had previously been publicly available are now off-limits. The change goes beyond the standard practice of withholding detailed information on the inspections but also the aim is to reduce on nuclear proliferation as well.
The United States was the first country to manufacture nuclear weapons, with help from the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, and is the only country to have used them in combat, with the separate bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II. Before and during the Cold War, it conducted over a thousand nuclear tests and tested many long-range nuclear weapons delivery systems.
But soon after that, the United States changed its stance on nuclear warfare, and in order to cub nuclear proliferation, a lot was done to reduce it.
For example the inspections on such nuclear facilities, minus security-sensitive details, that used to be publicly available are no more. The decision to conceal results from such inspections of how nuclear weapons are operated, maintained and guarded follows a secret recommendation generated by in-depth Pentagon reviews of problems with the weapons, workers and facilities making up the nation’s nuclear force and of course to fight nuclear proliferation.
The U.S has decided to stop Routine inspections at nuclear weapons bases, in order to fight #nuclearproliferation.
— The Telegraff News (@omilosimon) July 16, 2017
The AP documented security lapses, leadership and training failures, morale problems and other issues, prompting the Pentagon under Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to order an in-depth study by an independent group. The review, published in November 2014, found deeply rooted problems and recommended remedies still in the works. In parallel, Hagel ordered what he called an internal review of the nuclear problems. Its findings and recommendation are secret.
The stated reason for the change is to prevent adversaries from learning too much about U.S. nuclear weapons vulnerabilities and cub nuclear proliferation too. Navy Capt. Greg Hicks, spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the added layer of secrecy was deemed necessary.
“We are comfortable with the secrecy,” Hicks said Monday, adding that it helps ensure that “as long as nuclear weapons exist, the U.S. will maintain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear stockpile.”
Critics question the lockdown of information.
“The whole thing smells bad,” said Steven Aftergood, a government secrecy expert with the Federation of American Scientists. “They’re acting like they have something to hide, and it’s not national security secrets.”
“I think the new policy fails to distinguish between protecting valid secrets and shielding incompetence,” he added. “Clearly, nuclear weapons technology secrets should be protected. But negligence or misconduct in handling nuclear weapons should not be insulated from public accountability.”
But the problems that prompted the reviews three years ago weren’t created by releasing inspection results. The problems were actual shortcomings in the nuclear force, including occasional poor performance, security lapses and flawed training, driven in part by under spending and weak leadership.
Of the two reviews conducted in 2014, the secret report is the one that contains the recommendation to further restrict release of inspection results, according to several officials, including Joseph W. Kirschbaum, director of defense capabilities and management at the Government Accountability Office, the congressional watchdog.