Eryn MacDonald

About the author: Ms. MacDonald received her MA in International Relations and Comparative Politics from Cornell University in 2009, specializing in China. Before coming to UCS in 2011 she worked at the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI) program, and was an instructor at Endicott College teaching courses on international relations. Areas of expertise: Nuclear weapons complex, China

You Don’t Make Deals Like this with Your Friends: Arms Control and the New U.S.-Russian Tension

In recent days, Congressional opponents of the Iran agreement were unable to stop it from going into effect. This is a big win for the Obama administration, which—after two years of negotiations with European allies, China, Russia and Iran—worked hard for months to convince Senators to support the historic agreement. Read More

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A Dose of Reality: Rising Costs for Nuclear Weapons

In a previous post Stephen Young and I looked at the overall changes in cost estimates for the NNSA’s 3+2 program to replace the entire nuclear weapons stockpile. As we noted, the FY16 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan (SSMP) shows a significant increase in cost estimates for most life extension programs (LEPs) when compared with the FY15 SSMP, which showed a largely unexplained drop in cost estimates from those in the FY14 report. The newer cost estimates for individual programs have now increased to what may be a more realistic level, although don’t be surprised if there are further increases to come. Below is a look at some of the changes to individual LEPs from FY15 to FY16. Read More

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NNSA’s Roller Coaster Ride on Costs of the 3+2 Plan

Written with Stephen Young

The FY16 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan (SSMP), released in March, is the latest in a series of these reports published annually by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the semi-independent agency that oversees production and maintenance of U.S. nuclear warheads, as well as the infrastructure required for these activities. Read More

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Workshop on the Future of the U.S. Nuclear Arsenal

Last September UCS, in collaboration with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), organized a one-day workshop on the future of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. We are pleased to release the summary report of the conference, which recaps the day and provides key findings. Read More

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Hair-Trigger Alert and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty: Fact-Checking the U.S. Fact Sheet

In the lead up to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference (NPT RevCon, for those who enjoy acronyms), opening today, the U.S. Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation released a fact sheet titled “Myths and Facts Regarding the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and Regime.”

Judging by the selection of “myths” they chose to include, the United States seems to be feeling a bit defensive about its track record in making progress towards the main objective of the NPT—nuclear disarmament. That is the central bargain of the NPT: the five countries designated as nuclear weapon states—the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, and France—agree to give up their nuclear weapons in exchange for all the other non-nuclear weapon states agreeing not to develop or acquire nuclear weapons of their own. Read More

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The 45th Anniversary of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty: A Look Back and a Look Ahead

This year is the 45th anniversary of the entry into force of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), on March 5, 1970. It also marks the approach of the treaty’s latest Review Conference (RevCon)—a once-every-five-years meeting that will take place at the United Nations in New York from April 27 to May 22. Read More

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The Man Who Saved the World

There are few stories from the cold war more dramatic than that of Soviet Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov. After all, earning the nickname “the man who saved the world” doesn’t happen everyday. Read More

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Independent Review of DOD’s Nuclear Enterprise: Money, Maintenance, and Morale

A newly released independent review of the Department of Defense (DOD) nuclear enterprise by two retired military leaders, Air Force General Larry D. Welch and Navy Admiral John C. Harvey, Jr., concludes—to no one’s surprise—that there are many problems. The review, which was completed in June but released just last week, was prompted by a series of embarrassing incidents over the past year or so including ICBM launch officers caught cheating on exams, a general relieved of command after drunkenness and inappropriate behavior on a trip to Russia, and the deputy chief of the U.S. Strategic Command removed from his post after passing counterfeit gambling chips at a local casino. Read More

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The End of MIRVs for U.S. ICBMs

The United States last week finished removing the last MIRV (multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle) from its Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs); these missiles will now each carry a single warhead. The move was the fulfillment of a promise the Obama administration made in its 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, which stated that it would “enhance the stability of the nuclear balance by reducing the incentives for either side to strike first.”  Read More

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Missiles and Morale

In response to the recent string of bad news for the ICBM force, the Air Force has announced that it will make a number of changes to try to alleviate some of the morale problems that have been plaguing the force. The commander in charge of ICBM forces will be upgraded from a three star general to a four star, in keeping with equivalent commanders of other branches in the service; missileers will be eligible for new bonuses and incentive pay; a service medal for launch officers will be instituted; new ROTC scholarships for missile duty have been added, with ten already awarded; and more mid-level command personnel will be added, along with improved training for missile launch officers. Read More

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