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The year in national security coverage

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The Center for Public Integrity's coverage of national security in 2012 included a detailed look at funding for the Abrams tank and the lobbying practices of its manufacturer, General Dynamics. A House and Senate defense bill approved in December reflects the triumph of General Dynamics’ lobbying and campaign spending over the Army’s bid to halt production of the M-1 tank, a decision that will keep GD’s factory churning out tanks but ultimately block federal budget savings of several billion dollars.

It conducted a nationwide survey on public attitudes toward defense spending, finding strong public support for greater spending cuts. The survey and story immediately got wide attention, including mentions in more than 70 publications and more than 4,500 “Likes” on Facebook. It was presented to the Council on Foreign Relations, congressional staff, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. It also provoked an article in the principal defense industry trade journal that began with this sentence: “The Pentagon and defense industry should be thankful that politicians don’t make military-spending decisions based on public opinion.”

In November, an  82-year-old nun/peace activist broke into a nuclear facility, demonstrating the holes in its security. In response to the break-in, the Energy Department and its semi-independent subsidiary, the National Nuclear Security Administration, fired the guard force contractor, removed the site’s manager, and reassigned three senior officials responsible for overseeing security. Security checks conducted at several key nuclear sites led to a disclosure by the DOE Inspector General that a culture of cheating had long pervaded such tests. A trial of those arrested for the break-in was set for May, where they will face up to 20 years in prison. 

A U.S. Army M1 Abrams tank rolls through the center of Tikrit, Iraq, north of Baghdad, in 2003. An Army proposal to stop work on the tank, a $3 billion savings, has been blocked by the members of four key congressional committees. Those lawmakers have received $5.3 million since 2001 from employees of the tank’s manufacturer, General Dynamics, and its political action committee.

Efrem Lukatsky/AP

U.S. primacy will have ended and its power will be shared with others by 2030, according a report by the National Intelligence Council that predicted defense spending would absorb a much smaller share of the federal budget by then. The Up in Arms blog offered frequent postings about events, findings and reports related to national security, defense spending and international affairs that deserved more attention.

AP

Three peace activists, (from left) Michael R. Walli, Sister Megan Rice and Greg Boertje-Obed, were charged with trespassing for breaching the exterior security at America's premier vault for nuclear weapons-grade uranium in around thirty minutes.

Courtesy of Megan Rice

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta outlines a plan to keep defense spending mostly level during a news conference in January at the Pentagon. A nationwide survey conducted in part by the Center for Public Integrity found strong popular support for deep cuts to the defense budget.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP file