Mr. Chairman, members of the committee,
I am honored to appear
before you today to discuss the issue of technology transfer and the
release of so-called dual use technologies to potential military
adversaries and countries engaged in nuclear, chemical, biological,
and missile proliferation. I am obliged to point out that I am
appearing today as a private citizen and not as a representative of
the Department of Defense or the U.S. government.
As we meet today, the administration appears poised to announce yet
another round of unilateral supercomputer decontrols. This time it
is feared by many that administration excesses will extend well
above the current unjustifiable 7,000 MTOP level.
"President Clinton [unilaterally] decontrolled computers up to 2,000 MTOPS [from the previous CoCom ceiling of 260 MTOPS] for all users
and up to 7,000 MTOPS for civilian use in countries such as Russia" 1
Providing access to even greater processing power will
impart to potential adversaries and proliferators the ability to
pursue design, modeling, prototyping, and development work across
the entire spectrum of weapons of mass destruction.
design establishments of Russia and the People's Republic of China
stand to reap the greatest benefit from further decontrol.
There is growing speculation that the Clinton administration's
furious push to decontrol supercomputers, widely seen as a payoff
for generous campaign support and contributions,2 was also intended
to underwrite Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) signatures by
providing an avenue for weapons testing, stockpile stewardship, and
ongoing weapons development without the need for the physical
initiation of a nuclear chain reaction.
On February 24, 1997, Russia's Ministry of Atomic Energy announced:
The 1996 signature of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) has
become an undoubted success in the struggle for nuclear disarmament.
At the expert meetings in London in December 1995 and Vienna in May
1996, which preceded the CTBT signature, special attention was paid
to the issue of maintaining security of the nuclear powers'
respective arsenals under conditions of discontinued on-site
Nuclear arsenal security maintenance is impossible without
simulation of physical processes and mathematical algorithms on
high-performance parallel computers, which are currently produced in
the United States and Japan. In the interests of signing the CTBT in
the shortest possible time, the U.S. and Russian experts mutually
agreed on the necessity of selling modern high-performance computers
Going Virtual - What Does It Mean?
Virtual testing, modeling, and simulation are essential to
clandestinely maintain or advance nuclear weapons technology.
planet shows no sign of nearing the point where nuclear weapons are
banned, it is reasonable to assume that current or aspiring nuclear
weapons states will vigorously attempt to acquire high-performance
computers to advance their nuclear programs with a degree of
covertness hitherto impossible to achieve.
The weapons-related research envisioned for the
Ignition Facility would rely on high-performance computers and test
equipment to explore a range of activities potential adversaries may
Radiation flow: In most thermonuclear devices X-radiation emitted by
the primary supplies the energy to implode the secondary.
Understanding the flow of this radiation is important for predicting
the effects on weapon performance of changes that might arise over
Properties of matter: Two properties of matter that are important at
the high-energy densities of a nuclear explosion are equation of
state and opacity. The equation of state is the relationship among a
material's pressure, density, and temperature expressed over wide
ranges of these variables.
Opacity is a fundamental property of how
radiation is absorbed and emitted by a material. The correct
equation of state is required to solve any compressible
hydrodynamics problem accurately, including weapons design.
Radiation opacities of very hot matter are critical to understanding
the radiation flow in a nuclear weapon.
Mix and hydrodynamics: These experiments involve the actual testing
of extremely low-yield fission devices (as low as the equivalent of
several pounds of TNT) within a confined environment... to study
the physics of the primary component of thermonuclear warheads by
simulating, often with high explosives, the intense pressures and
heat on weapons materials. (The behavior of weapons materials under
these extreme conditions is termed 'hydrodynamic' because they seem
to flow like incompressible liquids.)
Hydrodynamic experiments are
intended to closely simulate, using non-nuclear substitutes, the
operation of the primary component of a nuclear weapon, which
normally consists of high explosive and fissionable material (the
plutonium pit). In hydrodynamic experiments, the properties of
surrogate pits can be studied up to the point where an actual weapon
releases fission energy.
High explosives are used to implode a
surrogate non-fissile material while special X-ray devices (dynamic
radiography) monitor the behavior of the surrogate material under
these hydrodynamic conditions.5
X-ray laser research: Supercomputer-based experiments could provide
data for comparison with codes and could be used to further
interpret the results of past underground experiments on
nuclear-pumped X-ray lasers.
Computer codes: The development of nuclear weapons has depended
heavily on complex computer codes and supercomputers. The codes
encompass a broad range of physics including motion of material,
transport of electromagnetic radiation, neutrons and charged
particles, interaction of radiation and particles with matter,
properties of materials, nuclear reactions, atomic and plasma
physics, and more.
In general, these processes are coupled together
in complex ways applicable to the extreme conditions of temperature,
pressure, and density in a nuclear weapon and to the very short time
scales that characterize a nuclear explosion.
Weapons effects: Nuclear weapons effects used to be investigated by
exposing various kinds of military and commercial hardware to the
radiation from actual nuclear explosions. These tests were generally
conducted in tunnels and were designed so that the hardware was
exposed only to the radiation from the explosion and not the blast.
The data were used to harden the equipment to reduce its
vulnerability during nuclear conflict. Without nuclear testing,
radiation must be simulated in above-ground facilities and by
Verification Technologies Made Irrelevant
On a prima facie level most would instinctively argue that
eliminating nuclear chain-reaction explosions from the planet is
highly desirable and would help make the world a safer place.
However, the reverse may actually be the case; that is, the
elimination of physical tests and their migration to cyberspace may
make the world a more dangerous place. Can such a counterintuitive
proposition be true? Consider the trillions of dollars' worth of
detection, monitoring, and early-warning infrastructure designed to
identify and measure foreign nuclear weapons programs that would be
rendered useless by virtual testing.
The term national technical means of verification (NTM) is often
used to describe satellite-borne sensors, but it is more generally
accepted as covering all (long-range) sensors with which the
inspected country does not interfere or interact.
aircraft, and satellites can all carry monitoring equipment employed
without cooperation of the monitored country. Ground-based systems
include over-the-horizon (OTH) radar and seismic monitors. Acoustic
sensors will continue to provide the main underwater NTM for
monitoring treaty compliance.
The first of the high-technology methods of treaty monitoring were
VELA satellites, designed in the 1960s to monitor the
Limited Test Ban Treaty.
Their task was to detect nuclear explosions
in space and the atmosphere.6
At precisely 0100 GMT on Sept. 22, 1979, an American satellite
recorded an image that made intelligence analysts' blood run cold.
Looking down over the Indian Ocean, sensors aboard a VELA satellite
were momentarily overwhelmed by two closely spaced flashes of light.
There was only one known explanation for this bizarre phenomenon.
Someone had detonated a nuclear explosion. The list of suspects
quickly narrowed to the only two countries at the time that had the
materials, expertise, and motivation to build a nuclear weapon:
South Africa and Israel. Both denied responsibility.7
This event was not confirmed until 1997, when
Aziz Pahad, South
African deputy foreign minister, stated,
"that his nation detonated a
nuclear weapon in the atmosphere vindicating data from a then-aging
Vela satellite." 8
Pahad's statements were confirmed by the U.S.
Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa.
Without strong evidence of a nuclear test no Administration official
is going to charge another nation with violating a test ban treaty,
Los Alamos and the U.S. Energy Dept. have expended
approximately $50 million to develop a new generation of space-based
nuclear detection sensors, but they may never get into orbit.
Pentagon budget woes could preclude inclusion of EMP sensors on
next-generation [ ] satellites, according to Los Alamos officials.
Researchers who developed the new sensors said it is ironic that
funding constraints could force a decision to keep the detectors
grounded. After all, had the old Vela satellite been equipped with a
functioning EMP detector, it would have confirmed that the optical
flash in September 1979 was a nuclear blast.
The White House panel
subsequently stated that, because nuclear detonations had such
critical ramifications and possible consequences, it was imperative
that systems capable of providing timely, reliable corroboration of
an explosion be developed and deployed.9
The following types of verification technologies, among others,
would be rendered ineffective or irrelevant by the migration of
nuclear weapons testing to supercomputer-based simulation and
SPACED-BASED OPTICS AND SENSORS
Several satellites, such as [ ],
have telescopes and an array of detectors that are sensitive to
various regions of the electromagnetic spectrum.
Lightweight space-based radar aboard satellites such as [ ],
which are capable of penetrating heavy cloud layers and monitoring
surface disturbances at suspected nuclear test sites.
Hydroacoustic stations located on Ascension, Wake,
and Moresby Islands and off the western coasts of the United States
and Canada and Infrasound arrays in the United States and Australia
detect underwater and suboceanic events and distinguish between
explosions in the water and earthquakes under the oceans.
seismic stations located on islands or continental coastlines may be
particularly useful since they will be able to detect the T
phase - an underwater acoustic wave converted to a seismic wave at
the edge of the landmass.
RADIONUCLIDE MONITORING NETWORK
A new effort is underway to detect
Xenon-133 and Argon-37 seepage into the atmosphere days or weeks
after a nuclear weapons test.10 The inadvertent release of noble
gases during clandestine nuclear tests, both above and below ground,
represents an important verification technique.
explosions produce xenon isotopes, and xenon can be detected in the
atmosphere, its concentration determined by noble-gas monitoring is
The United States has set up a worldwide network
of seismic detectors, like those used to measure earthquakes, that
can gauge the explosive force of large underground nuclear tests.
Research programs funded by the Department of Defense improved
monitoring methods for detecting and locating seismic events, for
discriminating the seismic signals of explosions from those of
earthquakes, and for estimating explosive yield based on seismic
A 1-kiloton nuclear explosion creates a seismic signal of 4.0. There
are about 7,500 seismic events worldwide each year with magnitudes >
4.0. At this magnitude, all such events in continental regions could
be detected and identified with current or planned networks.
however, a country were able to decouple successfully a 1-kiloton
explosion in a large underground cavity, the muffled seismic signal
generated by the explosion might be equivalent to 0.015 kilotons and
have a seismic magnitude of 2.5. Although a detection threshold of
2.5 could be achieved, there are over 100,000 events worldwide each
year with magnitudes > 2.5.
Even if event discrimination were 99%
successful, many events would still not be identified by seismic
Furthermore, at this level, one must distinguish
possible nuclear tests not only from earthquakes but also from
chemical explosions used for legitimate industrial purposes.12
Aiding and Abetting Proliferation
One of the lessons learned from the
destruction of Saddam Hussein's
nuclear weapons program was that a proliferant may be quite willing
to settle for hydrodynamic testing of its prototype nuclear weapons
as an uneasy certification for including them into its arsenal.
The Iraqis were designing exclusively implosion-type nuclear
Their apparent exclusive focus on U-235 as a fuel is,
therefore, puzzling because plutonium is the preferred fuel for an
implosion weapon [as]... the mass of high explosives required to
initiate the nuclear detonation can be far smaller.
On the other
hand, given enough U-235 it is virtually impossible to design a
nuclear device which will not detonate with a significant nuclear
The Iraqi nuclear weapon design, which appeared to consist of a
solid sphere of uranium, incorporated sufficient HEU to be very
nearly one full critical mass in its normal state. The more nearly
critical the mass in the pit, or core, the more likely the weapon
will explode with a significant nuclear yield, even if the design of
the explosive set is relatively unsophisticated.
majority of the weight involved in an early-design implosion-type
nuclear weapon is consumed by the large quantity of high explosives
needed to compress the metal of the pit; the more closely the pit
approaches criticality, the less explosive is needed to compress the
pit to supercritical densities and trigger the nuclear detonation,
and thus the lighter, smaller, and more deliverable the weapon will
Given the limited access to fissile materials facing most potential
proliferants and the threat of a preemptive strike by a wary
neighbor, as we saw in 1981 when Israel destroyed the
reactor, proliferants cannot readily engage in physical testing
along the lines of the superpower model.
U.S. actions to promote the
availability of high-performance supercomputers will likely
contribute to the proliferation problem by facilitating access to
modeling and simulation, which will give clandestine bomb makers
greater confidence in the functionality of their designs. This
increased level of confidence may be all that a belligerent may
require to make the decision to deploy a weapon.
modeling and simulation will enable clandestine programs to advance
closer to the design and development of true thermonuclear weapons.
From a historic perspective it is interesting to note that the
concept of a comprehensive test ban was repeatedly forwarded by the
Russians throughout the 1980s and consistently rejected by the
United States. In the 1990s a strange reversal occurred with the
United States advocating a CTBT and the Russians becoming reluctant
to go along.
This shift parallels the explosion in high-speed
computing potential emanating from the United States and the
relatively stagnant progress of Russian indigenous capabilities.
There may be much truth in the statement of a
MINATOM official that:
"The United States has made much better provisions than Russia for
giving up nuclear testing. Supercomputers used for virtual-reality
modeling of the processes of nuclear explosions have played a
decisive role in that."
If the Russian claim that the United States reneged on a promise of
supercomputer technology in exchange for accession to the CTBT is
accurate, then the very value of this treaty must be questioned.
as a price for Russia's signature, the Clinton administration was
willing to provide the means of circumventing both its spirit and
explicit goals, then the treaty should be regarded as little more
than a sham to be rejected by the U.S. Senate.
If high-performance computers were made available to the Russian
nuclear weapons design bureaus the historical database accumulated
from their previous nuclear tests will be the most significant
factor in maintaining their stockpiles. In the absence of physical
testing they would be able to simulate a wide range of nuclear
weapons design alternatives including a variety of unboosted and
boosted primaries, secondaries, and nuclear directed-energy
In addition, the modeling and simulation efforts will help them to
maintain a knowledgeable scientific cadre and to continue to verify
the validity of calculational methods and databases.
Under a test
ban, only computer calculations will be able to approximate the
operation of an entire nuclear weapon. Other states would also
recognize the value of advanced simulation research in helping to
develop or maintain nuclear weapon programs. In addition,
high-performance computers may make it possible for micro-physics
regimes of directed-energy nuclear weapon concepts to be
investigated as well.16
Few were happy when the United States helped the United Kingdom
become a nuclear power.
Even fewer were pleased when the United
States helped the French develop an independent nuclear capability.
Assisting the Russians in maintaining and further developing their
nuclear arsenal is outrageous.
Unfortunately, U.S. nuclear
proliferation activities do not end there. If the persistent rumors
are true that the United States is even considering providing aid to
China to sustain its nuclear weapons modernization program in a
environment, then alarm bells should be sounding on Capitol Hill on
the unintended consequences of reckless disarmament.
Will the synergistic effect of the CTBT and the decontrol of
supercomputers make the world a safer place or a more dangerous
Our uncertainty anticipating the nuclear intentions of
potential adversaries will increase as the result of an increasingly
opaque window into their programs.
As to whether this will translate
into a quantifiable increase in the risk of nuclear war or terrorism
intuitively the answer appears to be yes, but how much is uncertain.
U.S. willingness to trade supercomputer technology for treaty
signatories and its own rush toward virtual testing make a farce of
pretensions to high moral ground in criticizing others for rejecting
"Pakistan or India... could be forgiven for suspecting
that the five major nuclear powers, which asserted for years that
testing was critical to maintaining deterrence, have now advanced
beyond the need for nuclear tests. All the more reason, perhaps, for
them to oppose the treaty."17
National Security vs. Market Share
The level of irresponsibility displayed by this administration
toward our current national security and the legacy of physical
security being left for our children are the most distressing
developments of all.
The blind pursuit of market share and the
disregard of our national security were again demonstrated by the
February 1998 U.S. proposal to the
Wassenaar export control forum
for the accelerated de-listing of virtually all telecommunications
technology and equipment.
If this proposal goes through it will
result in free and open access by even the rogue states to
state-of-the-art optical fibers, transmission equipment, switches,
repeaters, high-speed computer network systems, advanced encryption,
etc., which forms the backbone of military battle management, air
defense, command and control, missile launch, and joint R&D
As one of the architects of this so-called
Wassenaar regime, the
United States agreed to incorporate a series of "validity notes" in
the text. Essentially, these notes are trap doors that are timed to
spring open this fall and drop several key technologies from any
form of international export control.
The two principal technologies
poised to fall out are telecommunications and machine tools.
To maintain these items on the export control lists requires
unanimity from the member states. Unfortunately, as the
organization's membership has expanded to include countries that
were historically the target of export controls - some of which
still should be - the likelihood of these controls surviving beyond
this fall is very remote.
Certainly, British proposals to maintain
telecommunications as an item of control face great difficulty in
overcoming U.S. calls for immediate pre-emptive decontrol. The weak
U.S. position in seeking to extend machine tool controls beyond the
fall deadline must be taken with a grain of salt as Wassenaar
members that are also machine tool builders will demand decontrol at
least equivalent to U.S. telecommunication proposals.
After all, the
United States continues to take the lead in scrapping national
security controls in favor of market share.
As most Wassenaar member nations rely upon this list as the basis
for their domestic export control systems, when a technology falls
from that list it also disappears from their domestic systems as
well. The result is the unrestrained export and re-export of
commodities and technologies, which in the hands of potential
adversaries will prove deadly.
To compound these problems in a most spectacular fashion is the
pending administration decision to perpetrate another technological
fiction known as the MD-17. Basically the MD-17 is the brand-new
C-17 painted blue and white and incorporating some other minor
cosmetic changes so that it may soon be termed a "civil" aircraft by
This action appears to be motivated purely
around attempts to lower the unit cost of this $170 million
strategic airlifter so the U.S. military can afford to buy more of
them. The game is to free this aircraft from the control of the
ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) administered by the
State Department and place it under the jurisdiction of the
CCL (Commodity Control List) run by the
If the MD-17 is termed a civil airliner it will
no longer be subject to sanctions such as those imposed upon
after the Tiananman Square massacres.
It will be free to be sold to
China so long as a Department of Commerce export license is
obtained. Unfortunately as the Commerce Department controls are
extraordinarily non-specific when it comes to "non-military"
transport craft, you can expect to see the PLAAF flying MD-17's in
future military adventures.
The MD-17 will provide the PRC with the long-range military
logistics support it currently lacks. This capability to deliver
military supplies in any weather, over great distances, to even the
most remote and austere ground locations will provide the missing
link to PRC power projection needs.
The lack of strategic and
tactical airlift has been one of the principal factors limiting PRC
expansionist ambitions. Once such aircraft are made available and
incorporated into their military doctrine the critical mass may be
reached for PRC decision-makers for the military supported pursuit of
historic territorial claims and the securing of vulnerable oil
resources to their East, South, and West.
If experience is any guide we should also anticipate with a
considerable degree of confidence that this "civil" aircraft will
quickly become the target of PRC manufacturing ambitions as well.
Considering the fact that the infamous Columbus, Ohio "Plant 85"
where critical parts for the C-17 were manufactured was sold to the
PRC the Chinese should be well positioned to begin manufacturing
this aircraft locally.
That transfer, and the subsequent diversion
of some key equipment to a Chinese missile factory, is reportedly
the subject of a federal grand jury investigation.
The critical mass issue is one of the greatest unknowns in
predicting future events.
One thing is certain however the
continuing hemorrhage of U.S. and western "dual-use" technology will
manifest itself in Chinese military capabilities. Where the
"red-line" exists in the PRC's strategic calculus between
capabilities, confidence, and mission requirements can only be
inferred at this point.
But what is certain is that the unique
Chinese world outlook, practicality, military doctrine, national
requirements, and geopolitical/military position will result in
strategic surprise for the U.S. both in terms of where they will
apply military force and the unique manner in which it will be
Recent head-to-head competition between Russia and China to supply
Iran with a nuclear reactor complex demonstrates the increasing
willingness to collaborate with potential customers rather than
cooperate with the West on proliferation issues. The current
portrayal of the Chinese as being forthcoming on proliferation
matters is a political fiction.
Their backing away from Iranian
nuclear cooperation was the result of losing out to the Russians on
the reactor complex deal. Any appearance of a more judicious
approach by the PRC is just that "appearance."
It the Russians fail
to deliver under their new contract then the PRC will certainly be
first in line to offer the Iranians whatever they want.
1 Journal of Commerce (November 25,
2 Michael Waller, Vice President of the American Foreign Policy
Council, Testimony before the House National Security Committee,
Subcommittee on Military Research and Development (March 13,
3 ITAR-TASS (February 26, 1997) Press Release, Information
Department, Ministry of Atomic Energy of Russia, Presented by
G.A. Kaurov, Department Head, February 24, 1997.
4 U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Arms Control and
Nonproliferation, The National Ignition Facility and the Issue
of Nonproliferation, 1996, www.doe.gov/html/doe/whatsnew/nif.
5 Michael Veiluva, John Burroughs, Jacqueline Caabasso, Andrew
Liichterman. Laboratory Testing in a Test Ban/ Non-Proliferation
Regime (Western States Legal Foundation, April 1995). http://www.chemistry.ucsc.edu/anderso/UC_CORP/testban.html.
6 "Means to an End," International Defense Review Vol. 24; No. 5
(May 1, 1981):413.
7 Jim Wilson. "Finding Hidden Nukes," Popular Mechanics (May
8 William B. Scott. "Admission of 1979 Nuclear Test Finally
Validates Vela Data," Aviation Week & Space Technology Vol. 147,
No. 3 (July 21, 1997):33.
10 Wilson, op. cit., 50.
11 Prototype International Data Center, Report of the
Radionuclide Export Group, www.cdidc.org:65120/librarybox/ExpertGroup/8dec95radio.html.
12 Prototype International Data Center, Contributing to Societal
13 Peter D. Zimmerman, Iraq's Nuclear Achievements: Components,
Sources, and Stature, U.S. Congressional Research Service Report
#93-323F (February 18, 1993).
15 U.S. Department of Energy, The National Ignition Facility and
the Issue of Nonproliferation www.doe.gov/html/doe/whatsnew/nif/nonpro2.html.
17 W. Wayt Gibbs. "Computer Bombs: Scientists Debate U.S. Plans
For 'Virtual Testing' of Nuclear Weapons" Scientific American
(March 1997): 16.