Pentagon declines to disclose U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile

A Mark 7 nuclear bomb on display at the U.S. Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. Photo by Chairboy/Wikimedia Commons

April 19 (UPI) — The Department of Defense denied a request to release information on the nation’s nuclear stockpile, ending a practice that started a decade ago with little explanation.

The Pentagon refused to comply with an Oct. 1 request by the Federation of American Scientists to provide the number of active warheads and those dismantled through the end of Fiscal Year 2019.

“After careful consideration. . . it was determined that the requested information cannot be declassified at this time,” wrote Andrew P. Weston-Dawkes, director of the Office of Classification at the Department of Energy, in a letter conveying the DoD decision on April 5.

The U.S. nuclear stockpile constitutes so-called “Formerly Restricted Data,” which is a classification category under the Atomic Energy Act. The DOE did not object to declassification but the Pentagon refused.

The Federation of American Scientists, which is a private group that “studies nuclear weapons issues and advocates for government openness on national security issues,” routinely asks for the information.

No reason was given for the denial in the letter.

The Trump administration had disclosed to the group that the stockpile consisted of 3,822 nuclear warheads as of Sept. 2017, which is a decrease of 196 warheads from 2016. Also, 354 nuclear weapons were dismantled in 2017, up from 258 the previous year.

The information was first declassified in 2010. The stockpile was 5,113 warheads.

“Increasing the transparency of our nuclear weapons stockpile, and our dismantlement, as well, is important to both our nonproliferation efforts and to the efforts we have under way to pursue arms control that will follow the new START treaty,” a Pentagon official said at a May 2010 press briefing on the decision to release the information.

Previously, only the size of the historic stockpile through 1961 had been officially disclosed in 1993.

Hans Kristensen and Robert Norris of FAS had estimated the United States had 5,200 warheads in 2009, which was 87 more than the total that was released.

In the past, stockpile declassification has not led to greater openness by Russia.

“I think we should have more communication with Russia,” said U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the retiring Supreme Allied Commander Europe. “It would ensure that we understand each other and why we are doing what we’re doing.”


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