Pentagon Reverses Transparency on Size of U.S. Nuclear Stockpile

Wednesday, July 03, 2013
The last B53 nuclear bomb (photo: National Nuclear Security Administration)

So much for being open and honest about the American nuclear arsenal.


Three years ago, the Obama administration took the unprecedented step of officially revealing for the first time ever just how many nuclear warheads the U.S. possessed (5,113 as of September 30, 2009).


But anyone wishing to get an update on this figure can’t get an answer—because the Department of Defense (DoD) has, once again, classified the size of the nuclear warhead stockpile.


The Federation of American Scientists discovered this turnabout in transparency when it submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Pentagon to obtain a copy of records revealing the current size of the arsenal.


Instead of turning over the information, the Pentagon denied the request, saying the records were exempt from disclosure because they are classified under the Atomic Energy Act (pdf).


The government watchdog group is now suing the Defense Department to force it to release the information, as it did voluntarily three years ago.


“The objective is to show through our transparency a model that we hope that others will follow,” said a senior Defense official in 2010, explaining the DoD’s disclosure of stockpile data. “Increasing the transparency of global nuclear stockpiles is important to non-proliferation efforts, and to pursuing follow-on reductions.”


Only last month, President Barack Obama proposed a reduction in the American nuclear arsenal, saying in a speech that it should be cut by one third of its current size.


Just how many warheads that would be is unclear, since the government won’t say what the stockpile total is right now.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Pentagon Reverts to Nuclear Stockpile Secrecy (by Steven Aftergood, Secrecy News)

Obama Proposes Reductions to Cold War-Era Nuclear Arsenal (by Matthew DeLuca, NBC News)

Upgrading U.S.’s 5,000 Nuclear Warheads Could Cost Hundreds of Billions of Dollars (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)             

Size of U.S. Nuclear Arsenal Revealed for First Time: Are 5,000 Bombs Enough? (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)             


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