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However, the three-star general said he was encouraged by later statements. “I think if [new administration officials] get the latest information, I’m confident they will come to right conclusions with respect to program,” he said.

Obama security team

Washington political operatives with ties to both Democratic and Republican circles are closely monitoring the Obama transition and have handicapped the future Cabinet. The leading candidate for Pentagon chief is current Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, according to a transition assessment provided to Inside the Ring by the operatives.

Other candidates for the Pentagon post include former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig, an Obama campaign adviser; former Deputy Defense Secretary John J. Hamre, president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies; and Sen. Jack Reed, Rhode Island Democrat and member of the Armed Services Committee.

A spokesman for the Obama transition team declined to comment on any pending personnel appointments. Transition director John Podesta said Tuesday that announcements on key appointments could be made in the coming days by Mr. Obama in Chicago.

A Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday that Mr. Gates has not been contacted by the president-elect or the transition team about whether he will stay. Mr. Gates has said he plans to leave the administration in January but has not ruled out continuing.

Two candidates for the key post of White House national security adviser are said to be James B. Steinberg, a former deputy National Security Council adviser during the Clinton administration; and Susan E. Rice, a former assistant secretary of state and Obama campaign adviser.

Department of Homeland Security secretary choices include former Rep. Timothy J. Roemer, Indiana Democrat and member of the 9/11 Commission; New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly; James Lee Witt, former Federal Emergency Management Agency director; and Richard A. Clarke, the former Clinton White House counterterrorism coordinator. Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton also is a candidate for the DHS post.

Nuclear threat

Former Pentagon policymaker Mark Schneider is warning that the United States is threatened by a current or future nuclear attack as the result of the gradual decline of the U.S. strategic arsenal during the past several years and the resulting weakening of deterrence.

Mr. Schneider, an analyst with the National Institute for Public Policy, a think tank based in Fairfax that focuses on post-Cold War threats, outlined his concerns in a recent article in the institute’s journal. The article also challenges the notion that arms control agreements and precision-guided conventional weapons can deter nuclear threats.

“Today, the United States, the world´s only superpower with global responsibilities, is the only nuclear weapons state that is seriously debating about whether the United States should retain a nuclear deterrent,” stated Mr. Schneider, who has held numerous posts in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and State Department.

Every other nuclear power — Britain, Russia, China, France, India, Pakistan and Israel — are modernizing and expanding their nuclear arsenals, with Russia and China engaged in major buildups, he wrote.

Conventional weapons alone are unable to deter nuclear attacks because of the massive destructive power of nuclear bombs, he said. Precision-guided bombs and missiles have “minuscule” power compared to a nuclear detonation that is thousands to millions of times more lethal, he said.

Nuclear weapons can “kill millions to hundreds of millions of people in an hour, and there are national leaders who would use them against us if all they had to fear was a conventional response,” he stated. “The threat of nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack … is so severe that one or at most a handful of EMP attacks could demolish industrial civilization in the United States.”

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