The Intelligence Community's Damage Assessment on the Implications of China's Acquisition of US Nuclear Weapons Information on the Development of Future Chinese Weapons
This damage assessment was reviewed by a panel of independent, national security and weapons experts--Admiral David Jeremiah, General Brent Scowcroft, Dr. John Foster, Mr. Richard Kerr, Dr. Roland Herbst, and Mr. Howard Schue--prior to its publication. The panel members reviewed the report, held a question-and-answer session with the team, discussed the report amongst themselves, and concluded that they concurred with the report. The panel then worked with the team to develop a set of unclassified findings, which are completely consistent with the classified Key Findings in the damage assessment.
The panel would add the following observations:
- It is important to understand Chinese strategic objectives in assessing their efforts to acquire technical information on US nuclear weapons. The need to preserve their second strike capability, their regional concerns, and their perceptions of future national and regional ballistic defenses have driven collection efforts.
- The Chinese continue to have major gaps in their weapons program. We should seek to identify Chinese efforts to fill these gaps as indicators of future program direction and to provide insight into counterintelligence issues.
- The panel feels strongly that there is too little depth across the Intelligence Community's analytic elements and they are too frequently occupied with whatever current crisis takes front stage. The necessity to pull Intelligence Community analysts and linguists off other activities to assess the compromises to US nuclear weapons programs and their value to the Chinese further reinforces the panel's view that the depth of Intelligence Community technical and language expertise has eroded.
- A separate net assessment should be made of formal and informal US contacts with the Chinese (and Russian) nuclear weapons specialists. The value of these contacts to the US, including to address issues of concern-safety, command and control, and proliferation-should not be lost in our concern about protecting secrets.
- The panel recognizes that countries have gained access to classified US information on a variety of subjects for decades, through espionage, leaks, or other venues. While such losses were and continue to be unacceptable, our research and development efforts generally kept us technologically ahead of those who sought to emulate weapons systems using our information. However, decreases in research efforts have diminished the protective edge we could have over those using our information, making such losses much more significant in today's world.