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At this point I want to turn to my good friend and ranking member of the Procurement Subcommittee, Mr. Taylor, for any remarks he would like to make.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Weldon can be found in the Appendix on page 57.]
STATEMENT OF HON. GENE TAYLOR, A REPRESENTATIVE FROM MISSISSIPPI, RANKING MEMBER, MILITARY PROCUREMENT SUBCOMMITTEE
Mr. TAYLOR. Thank you, Chairman Weldon. I want to thank our distinguished panelists for being here today. I want to thank the chairman for scheduling this hearing on a subject that gets very little attention but it is a critical part of our national security strategy: maintaining our strategic nuclear weapons capability. I am sensitive to the fact that there are a lot of policy implications associated with the discussion of the Stockpile Stewardship Program that are beyond the purview of our committee.
Generally, I am especially interested in hearing your comments on the implications of the proposed reassignment of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, or some portion of it, to become a part of the homeland defense organization as it will help us to better the risks, if any, to our ability to maintain our strategic nuclear stockpile. I hope this hearing is a start of a dialogue that is long overdue. Thank you very much for being here. Thank you, Admiral.
Mr. WELDON. I thank my good friend and colleague. I would just say, before I turn the hearing over to both of you, that if there are questions from the members that require a higher level of security than this public briefing, we do not have the quorum present to vote to close. So we will have to postpone those discussions at your suggestion to a further date or time where such a forum can be created where those questions can be answered. So, with that, we understand that we are at this point in time not going to be able to close the hearing if that, in fact, is warranted.
Gentlemen, thank you both for being here today. Your prepared statements will be entered into the record; and, even more importantly, thank you for your service to the country and for the great job that you will be doing in your individual capacities.
General Gordon, please proceed with your opening remarks. [The prepared statement of Mr. Taylor can be found in the Appendix on page 58.]
STATEMENT OF GEN. JOHN A. GORDON, USAF (RET.), ADMINISTRATOR, NATIONAL NUCLEAR SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
General GORDON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for the opportunity to be here today with the NNSA team, our partner and customer, and with John Byrd from the U.S. Strategic Command to review the progress on the Stockpile Stewardship Program over the last decade and where it is going over the next 10 years.
Before getting into the program I would like to thank the committee for its strong support for the budget and for the resources. The strong support of the committee and of the Congress as a whole has really been instrumental in turning around a process that was a bit moribund and a bit in trouble. And the commitment that the Congress has put into this has really been as instrumental
as anything else in changing the morale and the focus, the mission focus of so many people that make up this team.
I would like to spend a minute, with your indulgence, Mr. Chairman, to talk about NNSA for a second and give you a very quick progress report on that. We are about 2 years now old. We were formed in the wake of real concerns about security, about focus on mission from the Department, several noted program failures, and really a hemorrhaging of morale and, more important than that, a hemorrhaging of real talent that we depend upon in our labs and plants.
Organizationally what I have decided to do first was attack that problem of hemorrhaging in the field. Today I think lab directors and plant managers can report significant improvements across the board in the mission accomplishment, first and foremost, but in morale and recruitment and retention, in long-term programming. long-term budgeting. And again thanks to Congress for the commitment to resources.
Next, as we attacked that problem in the field, we turned to our own headquarters, looking to establish a more modern organization to focus on products to bring a long-term vision into budget and planning and infrastructure and really to begin to build an identity of NNSA. The organization is in place and functioning. I think the identity continues to grow and strengthen.
What we are turning to now, Mr. Chairman, is really the organization and the structure of the Federal and field relationship-I mean the Federal side. We are reengineering pretty much from top to bottom how we do business, to flatten the organization to push responsibility out to the field and get out of the way of those who really accomplish the mission. We expect to have in place this new structure by the end of the year. It is accompanied with a set of major initiatives to reduce the nonvalue-added workload, excessive oversight, and to streamline the rules and regulations we put out. That is about organization.
At the same time we were doing that, we attacked some mission and programmatic issues and we now have National Ignition Facility (NIF) on a really solid track. The pit program in Los Alamos is in much better shape. I have had a couple of buildings come in under cost and ahead of schedule. And, frankly, we have uncovered a problem or two. We have evaluated a multiyear plan with our customers for required Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) and directed stockpile work, and we have the infrastructure in place or coming online to support it. We have recast our nonproliferation programs, see strong potential for those, and we have been at the forefront of the response of the 9/11 tragedy.
Mr. Chairman, I am not entirely satisfied with the speed of where we are going, but the direction is right, the progress is steady, we are moving ahead. Most importantly, the mission is being accomplished solidly and aggressively.
If I may go to the real subject you asked us about today, the Stockpile Stewardship Program (SSP) which is about 10 years old. In the beginning, frankly, there were a lot of skeptics about the program, inside and out. They asked, rightly so, where were the tools, the science tools, the engineering tools, the computing tools needed to meet this challenge? After all, we were being asked to
change the way we certified and thought about nuclear weapons for some 50 years, to be able to certify a weapon that it would function as required in defense of the Nation, and to be able to do so without a nuclear test. It has been a challenge for this team. It will remain a challenge. But we are on track and, again, in no small measure because of the support and resources that have been placed against it.
What have we accomplished? What has the SSP, Stockpile Stewardship Program accomplished? We have done six certifications to the President on the state of the stockpile. We have certified the B-61 strategic bomb to prove its earth-penetrating capability and provided it to the Air Force. This system was certified without a nuclear test. The surveillance program has found and fixed problems in weapons in stockpile in the past that would have required underground testing to verify the fixes.
We are extending the life of the W-87. We have delivered more than half of the requirement to the Air Force, and remain on track to complete the others. We have an agreed path forward with the Department, our customer, the Department of Defense, (DOD), on extending the service lives of the B-61 bomb, the W-76 and the W80 warheads, a process that we are really exercising and engaging the entire weapons complex, all its eight facilities and a good number of its 25,000 employees. We have done this because we have a dedicated workforce both in the Federal and the plants and the laboratories. We are using existing tools, the accelerators at Sandia, Omega lasers at University of Rochester, Flash-X-Ray (FX-R) at Livermore, Lance at Los Alamos.
We are deploying new tools, Dual Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test (DARHT) at Los Alamos, contained firing facility in Livermore, Advanced Simulated Computer Initiative (ASCI) computers at all three of the laboratories.
We are inventing and investing in the next generation of scientific tools to certify the stockpile of the future: NIF at Livermore; more capable ASCI computers at all our locations; Microsystems and Engineering Sciences Applications (MESA) at Sandia. We are making long-overdue investments in our production complex infrastructure that is needed to support our life extension programs and the certification work. We are restoring lost production capacities. Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) will begin irradiation of tritium-producing absorber rods in 2003, which will then be processed at the Savannah River site to produce tritium in 2006, 2007.
Los Alamos is on schedule to manufacture a certifiable W-88 pit in 2003 and a certified pit in 2007, 2 years earlier than previously planned. And we are now beginning the conceptual design for a modern pit facility.
Your question I think, Mr. Chairman, is can we sustain this kind of progress, this kind of work into the future? It is going to be harder and harder. First we have to continue to restore the infrastructure. As the committee knows, the weapon complex infrastructure was ignored for too long. It is in pretty dire need of repair and upgrades. We have established a separate line in the NNSA budget dedicated to infrastructure improvements, and these improvements which we are beginning to make today will help restore not only the capabilities but also the morale of the existing workforce and
nuch confidence will decrease and whether it will be significant nough to take more drastic steps.
My job, as I see it, is to do everything reasonably possible to ensure the health of our deterrent without testing, while also maintaining the ability to test if it is ever required. Integral to this, really central to this is that we maintain intellectual integrity of the system to report, to understand what we know and what we don't know about the aging and the reliability of our deterrents. We must ensure that we have the objective scientific processes in place to evaluate the data along with the absolute integrity to make what will in the end inevitably be a judgment by true experts on whether or not a test is required and whether a weapon is certifiable. I am optimistic, perhaps more optimistic than some, but we have our eyes wide open. We continue to look to improve our surveillance, improve our understanding, and improve our predictive capabilities.
Mr. Chairman, we have the right people to make those calls in place today, with the right skills and with that integrity. You will hear from them later this afternoon. I would add, Mr. Chairman, that NNSA is moving ahead and growing stronger and will be able to provide the requisite management and leadership to make this happen.
Mr. Chairman, that concludes my opening statement. I am prepared to take questions.
[The prepared statement of Gen. Gordon can be found in the Appendix on page 58.]
Mr. WELDON. Thank you, General, for your statement.
Mr. WELDON. Admiral, the floor is yours. We will also put your statement in the record.
STATEMENT OF REAR ADM. JOHN T. BYRD, USN,
Admiral BYRD. Thank you, sir. Chairman Weldon, Congressman Taylor, and distinguished members of the committee, on behalf of Admiral James Ellis, the Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), and all the men and women of our strategic forces, I thank you for the opportunity to appear before the committee to address the safety, security, and reliability of our Nation's nuclear stockpile. I am honored to be part of today's panel with General Gordon. Under his guidance and with this committee's continued support and leadership, the National Nuclear Security Administration has established a solid course for strengthening and rebuilding the Nation's nuclear complex which will strengthen this Nation's deterrent posture for a dramatically changing set of national security challenges.
And Strategic Command appreciates and welcomes Congress's increased focus on and investment in our strategic capabilities. The Nuclear Posture Review, the Foster panel, and this committee each recognizes the important role nuclear weapons complex plays in creating and sustaining a safe and reliable stockpile which is and will remain at the very heart of our national deterrent posture.
Importantly, as we prepare for the welcome reductions in nuclear weapons specified in the Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions, we will place even greater emphasis on the reliability of the small