Pentagon Advisers Press for Nuclear-Monitoring Revamp

An International Atomic Energy Agency inspector installs a surveillance camera at Iran's Isfahan uranium conversion facility in 2005. The U.N. nuclear watchdog could assume an expanded role in a potential global nuclear-monitoring regime sought by authors of a new U.S. Defense Department advisory report.
An International Atomic Energy Agency inspector installs a surveillance camera at Iran's Isfahan uranium conversion facility in 2005. The U.N. nuclear watchdog could assume an expanded role in a potential global nuclear-monitoring regime sought by authors of a new U.S. Defense Department advisory report. (Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images)

A Pentagon task force is pressing Washington to close critical "gaps" in how it tracks nuclear-arms efforts by countries around the world.

The United States is "is not yet organized or fully equipped" to adequately monitor threats of nuclear-weapon capabilities spreading to additional countries, or growing in nations where they already exist, states a new report by a special panel convened by the Defense Science Board.

"Too many factors have changed, and are changing from our historic basis and experience developed throughout the Cold War," according to the task force comprising nearly 50 members and chaired by independent consultants Miriam John and Donald Kerr. Former Defense acquisition czar Paul Kaminski heads the Defense Science Board, which advises the Pentagon on an array of technical matters.

The 104-page document urges the White House and Cabinet-level agencies to address perceived shortcomings through a multitude of steps. Those would include adapting emerging surveillance technologies to track potential nuclear-arms assets and collaborating with other governments on a set of increasingly ambitious, atomic-transparency initiatives.

In one broad area of focus area termed "International Cooperation and Transparency," the report calls first for an interagency plan to pursue new monitoring initiatives with the four other recognized global nuclear powers: China, France, Russia and the United Kingdom. The U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency could assume new duties in supporting implementation, the document suggests.

The report advises expanding those transparency activities subsequently -- first to nuclear-armed nations outside the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and then to other "major states" with atomic-energy programs.

The emerging verification system would culminate, in the panel's vision, with the completion of "a future Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT 'X') to bring in all nuclear-weapon and material programs into a cooperative, multilateral regime."

The panel acknowledged that it pushed beyond its mandate to assess technological needs for enforcing "future treaties and agreements." It argued that such a strict focus would "miss" a broader concern that governments around the world have a growing array of rationales for potentially pursuing new nuclear-arms capacities, and face fewer obstacles to doing so.

The authors wrote that emerging threats demand a "paradigm shift" that would lower barriers between national and multilateral monitoring mechanisms, and between disparate institutions for preventing proliferation and for enforcing limits under existing nuclear pacts.

January 16, 2014
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A Pentagon task force is pressing Washington to close critical "gaps" in how it tracks nuclear-arms efforts by countries around the world.

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