Pentagon: U.S. Not Capable of Detecting Foreign Nuke Threats

Report warns ‘nation is not yet organized or fully equipped’ to detect nukes

January 24, 2014

American intelligence and security agencies are not currently capable of detecting when foreign nations are building nuclear weapons or ramping up their existing programs, according to a newly released Pentagon report that faults a range of U.S. agencies.

"The nation is not yet organized or fully equipped" to detect clandestine nuclear activities across the globe, and in most cases "current solutions are either inadequate, or more often, do not exist," according to the report, which was compiled over three years by the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board.

More nations than ever are pursuing nuclear arms. However, the United States does not have the mechanisms to detect and track these programs, according to the report.

Moreover, U.S. intelligence agencies are not doing enough to rectify the issue, according to the report, which called for a full-scale revamp in how agencies approach the issue of nuclear detection.

The United States "lacks a cohesive, long term, international engagement plan aimed at building cooperation and transparency," the report warns.

America’s inability to detect rogue nuclear programs could be particularly problematic in the case of Iran, which has built many clandestine and underground nuclear facilities. The U.S. has a history of being caught flat-footed when it comes to detecting foreign nuclear programs.

"The technologies and processes designed for current treaty verification and inspections are inadequate to future monitoring realities," the Pentagon report states.

"The task force observed early in its deliberations that there are many communities involved in tackling a piece of the monitoring ‘elephant,’ but found no group that could clearly articulate the entire program, nor a strategy for addressing it in any complete or comprehensive fashion."

"Closing the nation’s global nuclear monitoring gaps should be a national priority," the report states. "It will require, however, a level of commitment and sustainment we don’t normally do well without a crisis."

The Pentagon also cited failures at the DoD and Department of Energy (DOE).

"The actual or threatened acquisition of nuclear weapons by more actors—with a range of motivations, capabilities, and approaches—is emerging in numbers not seen since the early days of the Cold War," according to the report.

"Many of these actors are hostile to the U.S. and its allies, and of greater worry, they do not appear to be bound by established norms nor are they deterred by traditional means," the report warns.

The United States is failing on several key nuclear fronts.

Intelligence agencies lack the ability to identify "small or nascent [nuclear] programs" and cannot account for "warheads instead of delivery platforms."

It also has trouble differentiating between nuclear and non-nuclear military operations and is not keeping up with the "application of new technologies," according to the report.

These failures are being identified as more nations than ever pursue nuclear weapons capabilities.

Nuclear arms are now "seen as the most affordable and effective alternation to deter superior conventional forces," according to the report. They also are "viewed as a legitimate war fighting capability."

Additionally, nuclear know-how is proliferating across the globe and becoming "increasingly accessible," the report found.

This is drawing rogue nations closer together.

"The pathways to proliferation are expanding to include networks of cooperation among nations and actors who would otherwise have little reason to do so," according to the report. "The growth in nuclear power worldwide offers more opportunity for ‘leakage’ and/or hiding small programs."