The continuing success of the global efforts to achieve nuclear disarmament is impressive. Awareness of the true dimensions of the continuing nuclear threat has been raised, yet success in these efforts has revealed an inherent danger in the disarmament process. Security programs developed for the armament process are not, in many cases, adequate for the disarmament process.
Nuclear weapons security is designed to provide a continuity of protection from manufacture to installation in a potential delivery system or in a ready-for-use storage site. Security comprises a series of special function jurisdictions, each with a unique set of handling or processing requirements.
It is a compartmentalized security system, meaning that each facility maintains its own security. The least dangerous element (in terms of loss to an adversary or accidental detonation) is the initial step of mining, refining, and converting raw materials for use in the weapons making efforts. Security in this activity is routine industrial plant security as these facilities are not likely to be targets. The most danger begins when the materials are combined to become the components for nuclear weapons. Security requirements at these manufacturing facilities increases and is adjusted to meet the specific needs of the facility depending on its function within the system.
Therefore, as each function is accomplished and material is passed to the next facility, security responsibilities change commensurately. The ultimate recipients, the military, in turn, provide their own security.
Superimposed on this system of security arrangements is a number of specialized support groups which provide unique functions that supplement facility security. They provide unique functions not provided by facility security. The most utilized of these services is provided by the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Transportation Safeguards Division (TSD). TSD trains, equips, and controls a group of security specialists known as “Couriers” who provide safe, secure transport of fabricated nuclear materials. Other security support services are provided by Explosive Ordinance Disposal teams (EOD), the Nuclear Emergency Search Teams (NEST) and a multiplicity of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. These groups work together through a series of interagency agreements and protocols that establish lines of authority and jurisdictional responsibilities. The security system now in place has evolved as the nuclear industry grew to meet the demands of the military for weapons. The system was designed and implemented for serialized, unidirectional (manufacture to use) purposes. Whether or not the same system will be adequate for the disarmament process is an open question. The mounting body of evidence suggests it will not.
The bureaucracy that created the nuclear security system is multifaceted, and, in some cases, duplicative and unnecessary. Responsibility for its programmatic development is vested in many bureaus within DOE and DOD. These bureaus and subordinated groups are now competing for dominance and the limited funds that are available to maintain their status quo as they struggle to realign their missions to counter the known and perceived terrorist threats. New divisions and ad hoc specialized groups are being created within the existing agencies and, consequently, more competition is engendered for the limited human and monetary resources. The net effect of these developments is that nuclear security, already questionable in many areas , will continue to deteriorate due to the perception that the need for this specific security system diminishes as disarmament efforts become more successful. Already, under the guise of Civil Defense, the Pentagon is flexing its muscle in the competition as it assumes a role in the training of civilian agencies for chemical, biological, and nuclear emergencies. Fifty-two million dollars have been authorized by Congress for this program, yet the diffuse nature of the efforts across so many agencies offers little promise for improving protection against threats of misappropriation where the residual materials of nuclear disarmament are concerned. The focus on specific security regimens is being lost in favor of more generic types of security presumably more capable of countering a broader range of threats to our national safety.
This type of political and bureaucratic reaction is not responsive to the operational requirements for well-founded security and is not conducive to developing means that will neutralize the dangers from the growing terrorist threat.
For the conditions existing in the political environment today, there is a primary and essential need to increase awareness of the operational realities related to security in the nuclear disarmament effort so that deficiencies can be identified and corrected. This has to be done as a prerequisite to the dismantling process. The vital issues must be raised in ways that will motivate the government and people throughout our society to take appropriate and effective action.
More concerted efforts must be made to identify and isolate each perceived or real threat in context with the unique security problems it creates. This level of attention will, in turn, assure that effective deterrents for specific threats can be developed and put into place.
A prerequisite for the disarmament process to achieve its purpose with minimum risk is an understanding of the complexities arising from the shift in attitudes that avoids considering the significance of independently treating, in depth, the threats specific to nuclear security . The security of nuclear materials cannot be relegated to a dependency upon the generalizations of a generic security program.
Everyone Gets into the Terrorist Game, – David E. Kaplan, U.S. News and World Report – Nov. 17, 1997, Based on DOE’s Nuclear Emergency Search Team (NEST), begun in the 1970’s, copy-cat units are being established by the FBI (DEST -Domestic Emergency Support Teams), The State Department (FEST – Foreign Emergency Support Team), Public Health (MMST – Metropolitan Medical Support Teams), DOE (two spin-offs to NEST (Best – Biological Emergency Search Team and CEST – Chemical Emergency Search Team) and also the Marines with CBIRF -Chemical Biological Incident Response Force.
Eye on America, CBS Evening News, Nov.25, 1997, Report by Rita Braver on security problems at Rocky Flats Nuclear Facility
Taking Civil Liberties – Washington Whispers, U.S. News and World Report – Jan. 12., 1998 pg 15