Friends Committee on National Legislation

The Nuclear Calendar

 This web page has been created as a supplement to an adult education program that was presented at London Grove Friends Meeting on October 16, 2016. The handout for the program can be accessed here. As the author and webmaster I am responsible for the content of this website. I have though borrowed heavily from many without whom this page would be impossible. __ For Peace, David Watkins

The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) is a lobbying organization in the public interest, founded in 1943 by members of the Religious Society of Friends. It was preceded by the Friends War Problems Committee, a three-year temporary lobbying organization against universal conscription.FCNL works for social and economic justice, peace, stewardship of the environment, and good government in the United States."

"FCNL gets to the root of problems by changing the systems and policies that drive them. We believe that Congress has immense power to effect positive change. It's our job to make sure they use it."

The World We Seek, FCNL's policy statement, sets forth FCNL's broad objectives for public policy. The General Committee, or board of governors, revises and updates the statement on an ongoing basis. Legislative priorities for each Congress are drawn from the policy statement.

The policy statement is composed of four parts:

We Seek a World Free of War and the Threat of War.
We Seek a Society with Equity and Justice for All.
We Seek a Community Where Every Person's Potential May Be Fulfilled.
We Seek an Earth Restored.

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Selecting "Action" on the main FCNL menu is an easy first step to becoming a lobbyist. The ONLINE ACTION CENTER provides all the information needed to engage in the most urgent issues. Put in your zip code and the Congressional Directory will provide all the information you need to write a letter, send an email, or talk on the phone with your member of Congress about the issues that concern you. Or you can start by clicking on "Issues" to find what FCNL recommends for action.

The FCNL website provides all the resources you need to research the issues and to contact your members of Congress, by email, phone or by letter.
(It's Easy)

Nuclear Weapons

A World Free of Nuclear Weapons
With the end of the Cold War, many dared hope that the scourge of nuclear weapons would be ended once and for all. Yet, today, more than two decades later, the drive to build nuclear weapons by some governments continues, energized in no small part by the policies of the U.S. government.

The Nuclear Calendar

"Subscribe to this weekly update of national and international events related to nuclear weapons and proliferation issues, which is emailed to more than 14,000 people each week."

A recent update contained about 50 events over a period of less than a month. Here is a sample:
Sept. 30-Oct. 6 -- The screening of the Movie Command and Control.

"From the director of the groundbreaking film Food, Inc., and the executive producer of the Oscar-nominated film Last Days in Vietnam, comes Command and Control, the long-hidden story of a deadly accident at a Titan II missile complex in Damascus, Arkansas in 1980. "
Oct. 3 -- International Atomic Energy Agency, board of governors meeting. Vienna.

The International Atomic Energy Agency is the world's central intergovernmental forum for scientific and technical co-operation in the nuclear field. It works for the safe, secure and peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology, contributing to international peace and security and the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals.
Oct. 4-Dec. 13 William Perry, former Defense Secretary. "Living at the Nuclear Brink: Yesterday and Today."
A free online course from Stanford University

Living at the Nuclear Brink: An Introduction by Dr. William J. Perry

"I have been living at the nuclear brink for all of my adult life, and throughout my career in academia, private industry, and the U.S. government, I have dealt first-hand with the evolving nuclear threat. Nuclear weapons may seem like 20th century history, but the choices we make about these weapons in the 21st century will decide your future in truly fundamental ways. Because most people do not understand just how serious these dangers are today, their governments are not taking adequate preventive actions: actions that are readily achievable. And so, we are drifting towards a nuclear catastrophe. This is why I have dedicated the balance of my life to educate the public about these dangers, and this is the reason I have created this course. I have been joined in this effort by an outstanding and uniquely qualified group of educators and public servants who share my concerns about nuclear weapons."

This is what the Nuclear Calendar email looks like. This is just the top, it's quite long and with links.


Nuclear Winter

"Nuclear winter (also known as atomic winter) is a hypothesized global climatic effect most often considered a potential threat following a countervalue (or city-targeted), nuclear war, as a result of city and natural wildfire firestorms. It is most frequently suggested to manifest as a result of the combined combustion pollution from the burning of at least 100 city sized areas at firestorm-intensity. The term was specifically coined to refer to computer model results where this smoke remained for years, or even decades, and caused massive planet-wide temperature drops ("winters") for as long as it remained.

"The climate models in the public domain suggest that the ignition of 100 firestorms, comparable in intensity to that observed in Hiroshima in 1945, would produce a "small" nuclear winter. The burning of these firestorms would result in the injection of soot (specifically black carbon) into the Earth's stratosphere, producing an anti-greenhouse effect that lowers the Earth's surface temperature. The models conclude that the cumulative products of 100 of these firestorms would unmistakably cool the global climate by approximately 1 °C (1.8 °F), largely eliminating the magnitude of anthropogenic global warming for two to three years. The authors speculate, but do not model, that this would have global agricultural losses as a consequence."



The Doomsday Clock

The Bulletin was founded in 1945 by Manhattan Project scientists who “could not remain aloof to the consequences of their work.” The organization's early years chronicled the dawn of the nuclear age and the birth of the scientists’ movement, as told by the men and women who built the atomic bomb and then lobbied with both technical and humanist arguments for its abolition.

The Doomsday Clock is a design that warns people of the danger of some of our technologies and how close we are to the brink of destruction. The clock first appeared on the cover of The Bulletin in 1947 when it became a magazine. The initial clock was set to seven minutes to midnight, since then it has changed 21 times. The most recent change was in 2015 when it was changed from five minutes to midnight to three.

The Bulletin has been a reliable source of information concerning the dangers of nuclear weapons for nearly as long as such weapons have existed. Their website contains a wealth of information that is at times depressing. the research article, Putin: The one-man show the West doesn’t understand, demonstrates the breadth of the material on the website. The nuclear Google provides a list of Google searches to "for citizens and journalists to school themselves before the 2016 US presidential elections."

Military /Warnings of Uncontrollable Escalation /Accidental Nuclear War

"What would you do if you suddenly were facing a gigantic Pearl Harbor? This thing isn't academic... I am talking about things you would have to do in 2 minutes, that is all."
--Dwight Eisenhower [President of the United States]_Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower 1954_(1954) at 324, 57.
"I do not see how one could deny this - that it would be unreasonable to constantly brandish the threat of nuclear retaliation and at the same time to assume it would never be necessary to carry it out. The war for which one prepares so as not to have to fight it, though sometimes called 'impossible', is possible just the same. If it were indeed physically or morally impossible, deterrence would cease to operate."
--Raymond Aron_The Great Debate_1965, at 52-53.

These are the first two quotations in a 45-page compilation from similar statements of world leaders and nuclear experts, from the earliest days of the Atomic Age through 2002.

Attack Geometry

In the spring of 1960 I talked to an Air Force recruiter. He promised me a job in "Intelligence." I hadn't a clue what intelligence was in the Air Force, but found what the word usually means to be appealing. I spent the 4th of July at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. There is a lot of processing during basic training. All of my records had to be just right, all of my shots in order, all the proper indoctrination and career path assignments. I was told that there were no jobs available in Intelligence and that I was being assigned to electronics training at Lowry AFB, Aurora, CO. I will be a Weapons Control Mechanic .

For five months we studied the basics of electronics, then we turned to the weapons system that we would be working on. The MG-13 FIRE CONTROL SYSTEM (F-101B ACFT) manufactured by Hughes Aircraft and made airborne by the F-101B 'Voodoo' fighter interceptor, a McDonnell aircraft that carried two infrared missiles and two atomic rockets. The mission of the Voodoo fighter was to intercept and shoot down attacking bombers, most likely of Soviet origin. We were taught how the MG-13 integrates aircraft, radar and computers to detect, track and shoot down incoming aircraft. This is where we were introduced to Attack Geometry. We drew pictures in two-dimension of what was happening in three; the fourth, and critical, dimension was time. We wrote formulas with Greek letters. Delta Δ was used to mean difference, Δ t (difference in time) was subtracted as a countdown to launch function. Like an hourglass time runs out one Δ t at a time.

("special weapon" = an atomic weapon.)

In 1961 I was stationed at Hamilton AFB in Marin County California, just north of San Francisco. In 1955 I had lived on a Kansas farm, without electricity or running water; now I was working on the radar and computers of a plane that carried nuclear weapons. I found being in military service to be psychologically oppressive, though I was treated well by my superiors and enjoyed my work. Marin County and San Francisco were a new and exciting world for exploration.

The Cuban Missile Crisis

In October of 1962 all of our aircraft were armed, including the atomic rockets. A portion of our planes were sent to another base. I was told to have my bags packed and to be ready to move out in 15 minutes. President Kennedy addressed the nation about the missiles in Cuba. In the radar shop the teletype printed out a DEFCON (defense condition) alert, something I'd not seen before. Then a bit later another, DEFCON 3. The old timers told me that DEFCON 2 means war and that DEFCON 1 means nuclear war. They thought it would likely be a war and that nukes might be used. We went on 12 hour shifts and those of us who lived on base were restricted to base. Since the planes were not flying the radar and computers were not breaking and we had little to do.

One day they took me to the alert barn to make an adjustment on the radar scope. One that the radar operator would normally make. There were guards with rifles all around. As I climbed the ladder to the back seat I took a peak into the pilot's cockpit. I saw the two red "Arm" switches for the nuclear weapons on board. On the right, near the pilot's knee, safety-wired. That was the peak intensity for me and something I won't forget.

With the aircraft on alert and not flying the radar and computers were not in use and did not break. We had no work and plenty of time to think. I've now had over 50 years to think about it. One conclusion is that our default nuclear strategy of mutual assured destruction (MAD) is just what the acronym says. All weapons systems have some form of Attack Geometry. Over time aircraft and missiles have become faster and more diverse, distances have been reduced by the use of submarines and cruise missiles. This reduces the time in the equations for decision making. There have been close calls, but so far we have been lucky. Select here for an expanded and more autobiographical version of Attack Geometry.

Cold War Nuclear Theory

Herman Kahn (February 15, 1922 – July 7, 1983) was a founder of the Hudson Institute and one of the preeminent futurists of the latter part of the twentieth century. He originally came to prominence as a military strategist and systems theorist while employed at the RAND Corporation. He became known for analyzing the likely consequences of nuclear war and recommending ways to improve survivability, making him one of three historical inspirations for the title character of Stanley Kubrick's classic black comedy film satire Dr. Strangelove. His theories contributed heavily to the development of the nuclear strategy of the United States. Wikipedia

In some ways looking at Cold War nuclear theory is irrelevant. The Cold War is over and the Soviet Union no longer exists. But what happened to all those weapons. Have any fallen in to the wrong hands? How many are aimed at us now? .. and how short is the fuse? Technology has changed things more than we are allowed to know. Are tactical nukes the next step? What can we do? Maybe we can take a lesson from Kahn's Nuclear escalation calendar. This kind of thinking is baked into our nuclear weapons strategy.

The first lesson we learn from Kahn is that we don't want a nuclear war, escalation could cascade out of control. The second is that we need to create a ladder of de-escalation. The FCNL nuclear weapons page is a good place to engage their advocasy for disarmament and nonproliferation. Subscribe to the Nuclear Calendar to keep informed.

FCNL Annual Meeting 2016


Where will you be two days after the November elections?

In an election season where insults, vitriol, and polarization feed the media, the FCNL community engages with a listening ear and an inquisitive heart. Although this practice may be challenging in 2016, our Quaker faith gives us the courage to #LoveThyNeighbor. The results of our nonpartisan advocacy in the public interest help move us toward the world we seek.

Join hundreds of Quakers and friends from around the country in Washington, DC for four days of advocacy, conversation, and worship. In a critical moment of transition for our federal government, our time together in community and discernment opens us to the “fresh incursion of the Spirit.”

We’ll lobby together; we’ll learn what Friends across the country ask of us; we’ll lean in to the possibilities for our persistent, prophetic, and powerful advocacy. All are welcome.


Our Annual Meeting will kick off a month long lobbying effort to make sure bi-partisan sentencing reform legislation is passed by Congress and sent to the president. On November 10, we will go into Congressional offices in Washington to urge lawmakers to #UnlockJustice.

We will ask congressional offices to support legislation to reduce several lengthy mandatory minimum sentences, give judges more discretion, and lower the population in federal prisons. You can see exactly what we will be asking of Senate members here.

We'll also request meetings with members of Congress in their home state or district on December 10 to make sure Congress finishes the job in 2016.
FCNL Annual Meeting 2016

November 10-13, 2016 in Washington, DC

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About this Web Page

This web page is being created as a supplement to an adult education program that was presented at London Grove Friends Meeting on October 16, 2016. It is designed as an entry point into the FCNL action center and to the work required to achieve nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation. It also serves as witness to my experience as a Weapons Control Mechanic during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

The program originates with the London Grove Peace & Social Justice Committee, which has long been involvement with FCNL and its activities.

This page is connected to the Helen Corson Website and is hoped to be some addition to the achievements of Helen, some 50 years ago.

As the author/editor of this webpage I take responsibility for the errors that I'm sure are it contains. Please use the following link to point out errors, to suggest additions or to make other comments.

With Hope for Peace,
David Watkins