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JUNE 12, 2002


Mr. WELDON. Science-based stewardship puts your Administration in the problematic position of certifying the safety, reliability, and performance of critical strategic assets, also the world's most destructive weapon, without ever testing them. What is your assessment of the state of the program? How confident are you, that in the long term this approach can succeed?

General GORDON. The Stockpile Stewardship continues to ensure the continued safety, security, reliability and effectiveness of this Nation's nuclear deterrent. Overall, I am pleased with the significant progress made by the Stewardship program since its inception. The program has identified and solved issues in the stockpile that in the past would have required full scale nuclear testing. The ASCI supercomputers, experiments on DARÍT, NOVA, and the Z facilities have done much to improve our understanding of the dynamic nature of the aging nuclear weapons stockpile. We are successfully extending the life of the W87 warhead at Pantex, LANL is making significant progress in pit manufacturing and certification, the NIF project remains on track at LLNL, subcritical experiments at the Nevada Test Site are yielding important data on aging plutonium and the Kansas City plant is manufacturing all the non-nuclear components needed by the weapons stockpile.

While it is impossible to predict with any certainty, the challenges faced by the weapons complex are likely to increase as the nuclear weapons stockpile continues to age. To succeed over the long term we must be able to recruit, train, and develop highly skilled employees throughout our organizations in a highly competitive employment environment. We must implement plans to renew the physical infrastructure to ensure adequate capability and capacity, as well as compliance with environment, safety, health and security standards. We must deploy the advanced tools and technologies needed by the weapons complex. Consistent with the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) we are working with DoD to determine the optimum test readiness posture for the Nation. This is an extraordinarily difficult scientific and engineering challenge for the weapons complex, but one that I feel we can meet with the continued support of the Administration and Congress.

Mr. WELDON. The committee has heard conflicting reports regarding the security of the defense nuclear complex. The House has authorized over $650 million for NNSA security related activities in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003. What is your overall assessment of safeguards and security? How much security is enough, and don't we reach a point of diminishing returns?

General GORDON. We have increased security at our facilities since September 11, and we believe we are providing the appropriate level of security at this time. Independent reviews conducted by the Office of Independent Oversight and Performance Assurance (OA) continue to confirm this.

The level of protection is based on defined threat criteria and published protection requirements. The Department works to those protection standards to define the appropriate level of security. Threat information is coordinated at the inter-agency level to provide protection guidance based on potential targets. The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is responsible for the protection of what are currently among the most attractive targets.

Mr. WELDON. Your command has the responsibility of executing strategic nuclear missions if so ordered by the President. In a sense, you are the "customer" of the defense nuclear complex. How confident are you of the safety, reliability, and performance of the "products" provided by NNSA? What is your assessment of the future efficacy of science-based stewardship?

[The information referred to is classified.]

Mr. WELDON. Since the end of the Cold War, there has been some loss of "sense of mission" within the defense nuclear complex, and many of our facilities and capabilities have fallen into a state of disrepair. Some might also say that the priority given to, and the prestige associated with, the operational strategic deterrent has slipped. How would you assess the morale and quality of personnel under your command? Do you feel that the Administration gives sufficient priority to your mission? Admiral BYRD. United States Strategic Command has a rich and proud legacy built on the tremendous foundation of both Strategic Air Command and the Joint

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