from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2012, Issue No. 120
December 3, 2012

Secrecy News Blog:


President Obama's declared commitment to provide "an unprecedented level of openness in government" has often been criticized and mocked. Depending on how one measures it, overall secrecy has actually increased rather than declined. Criminalization of unauthorized disclosures of information to the press has risen sharply, becoming a preferred tactic. Efforts to promote public accountability in controversial aspects of counterterrorism policy such as targeted killing have been blocked by threadbare, hardly credible national security secrecy claims.

But there are also some crucial sectors of the national security domain in which the Obama Administration can properly claim to be the most transparent Administration in history. The size of the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal is one such topic.

Today more detailed, official information is available about U.S. nuclear forces than ever before. For an overview, see "US Nuclear Forces, 2012" by Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:

Last Friday, the State Department released the latest installment of data on U.S. strategic nuclear forces as counted under the New START Treaty. The release is informative, and not particularly flattering to the Administration.

"The latest data set shows that the U.S. reduction of deployed strategic nuclear forces over the past six months has been very modest: 6 delivery vehicles and 15 warheads," wrote Hans Kristensen of FAS in an analysis of the new release.

"The reduction is so modest that it probably reflects fluctuations in the number of deployed weapon systems in overhaul at any given time. Indeed, while there have been some reductions of non-deployed and retired weapon systems, there is no indication from the new data that the United States has yet begun to reduce its deployed strategic nuclear forces under the New START treaty," he wrote.

This is useful information that permits arms control advocates (and opponents) to focus their efforts on debating policy, rather than on a wearisome effort to ascertain the basic facts.

For related background, see The New START Treaty: Central Limits and Key Provisions, Congressional Research Service, November 30, 2012:


The extraordinary rise in income inequality among Americans is painstakingly documented in a newly updated report from the Congressional Research Service.

In the past few decades, the rich have gotten a lot richer as "those at the very top have reaped disproportionately larger gains from economic growth."

"Based on the limited data that are comparable among nations, the U.S. income distribution appears to be among the most unequal of all major industrialized countries and the United States appears to be among the nations experiencing the greatest increases in measures of income dispersion," the CRS report said.

Popular beliefs concerning the possibility of upward mobility in income are not well-founded, CRS said.

"Empirical analyses estimate that the United States is a comparatively immobile society, that is, where one starts in the income distribution influences where one ends up to a greater degree than in several advanced economies. Children raised in families at the bottom of the U.S. income distribution are estimated to be especially less likely to ascend the income ladder as adults," the report said.

See The U.S. Income Distribution and Mobility: Trends and International Comparisons, November 29, 2012:

Congressional secrecy policy prohibits CRS from releasing its reports to the public. Some other new and updated CRS reports that Congress has not made publicly available include the following.

Addressing the Long-Run Budget Deficit: A Comparison of Approaches, November 30, 2012:

Economic Recovery: Sustaining U.S. Economic Growth in a Post-Crisis Economy, November 29, 2012:

Tax Provisions to Assist with Disaster Recovery, November 29, 2012:

Filibusters and Cloture in the Senate, November 29, 2012:

Congressional Nominations to U.S. Service Academies: An Overview and Resources for Outreach and Management, November 30, 2012:

Health Benefits for Members of Congress, November 30, 2012:

Retirement Benefits for Members of Congress, November 30, 2012:

Social Security Reform: Current Issues and Legislation, November 28, 2012:

Casework in a Congressional Office: Background, Rules, Laws, and Resources, November 30, 2012:

Army Corps Supplemental Appropriations: Recent History, Trends, and Policy Issues, November 29, 2012:

DOD Purchase of Renewable Energy Credits Under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, November 27, 2012:

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Meetings in Vladivostok, Russia: Postscript, November 19, 2012:

Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance, November 30, 2012:

Colombia: Background, U.S. Relations, and Congressional Interest, November 28, 2012:

Taiwan: Major U.S. Arms Sales Since 1990, November 29, 2012:


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

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