from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2005, Issue No. 88
September 15, 2005


A new report from the Congressional Research Service examines the possibility of replacing the nuclear warheads on U.S. long range ballistic missiles with conventional warheads, and sorts through the implications of such a move.

From the warfighter's perspective, the availability of conventionally-armed long-range ballistic missiles would mean increased flexibility and would permit prompt global offensive reach.

Critics worry that any use of such a missile would lend itself to misinterpretation as a nuclear strike and thereby lower the threshold for nuclear war.

Others suggest that conversion of long-range missiles to conventional warheads would facilitate sharp reductions in nuclear weapons stockpiles, if there were a will to pursue such reductions.

The U.S. currently has an estimated 4,868 nuclear warheads on 982 land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

The U.S. nuclear weapons targeting plan that was formerly known as the SIOP (Single Integrated Operational Plan) is now designated OPLAN 8044, the CRS report notes, and "it reflects changes in U.S. targeting plans and priorities that resulted from the Bush Administration's nuclear posture review."

A copy of the new CRS report was obtained by Secrecy News.

See "Conventional Warheads For Long-Range Ballistic Missiles: Background and Issues for Congress," September 6, 2005:


Information about the POPPY intelligence satellite program, which operated from 1962 to 1971, was declassified this week.

"POPPY was the successor to the nation's first ELINT [electronic intelligence] satellite, known as 'GRAB' (Galactic Radiation and Background)," according to a September 12 press release from the National Reconnaissance Office.

"The POPPY system was designed to detect land based radar emitters and support ocean surveillance."

The newly declassified information is summarized in a POPPY Program Fact Sheet, dated September 12, 2005, and available here:


Some recent reports of the Congressional Research Service obtained by Secrecy News include the following:

"Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Hurricane Katrina Relief," September 7, 2005:

"An Emergency Communications Safety Net: Integrating 911 and Other Services," September 1, 2005:

"Agricultural Disaster Assistance," updated August 29, 2005:

"V-22 Osprey Tilt-Rotor Aircraft," updated August 4, 2005:

"Defense Outsourcing: The OMB Circular A-76 Policy," updated June 30, 2005:

"Federal Flood Insurance: The Repetitive Loss Problem," June 30, 2005:


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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