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QUESTIONS SUBMITTED BY MR. WELDON 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 DARHT, 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 LLŇL, 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 environ. ment, 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
Strategic Target Planning Staff. For ten years, the Command has served the primary authority within the Department of Defense for nuclear planning and command and control. During this same time, in response to the changing international security environment, the regional combatant commands reduced their nuclear planning staffs, which served to consolidate even further the unique expertise at our headquarters and provide and even stronger unity of effort, sense of purpose and the high morale. The release of the Nuclear Posture Review and the recent decision to unite United States Strategic and Space Commands into a single unified command illustrate both the Administration's vision for the future of this command as both exciting and challenging, as well as its priority on maintaining a credible deterrent posture for years to come.
Mr. WELDON. The laboratories are executing ambitious experimental and computational programs to provide confidence in the stockpile in the absence of testing. In your view, where are the greatest technical risks to science-based stewardship?
Dr. ROBINSON. As I indicated in my statement, nearly everything that Sandia is responsible for in a nuclear weapon can be tested, and is tested, using non-nuclear processes. We subject our components and subsystems to extensive non-nuclear testing at every stage of development and service life.
În general, the moratorium on underground testing does not create additional technical risks for Sandia with today's nuclear designs, although it does affect our ability to test non-nuclear components for hostile environments. However, it should be noted that underground nuclear tests conducted in the past to evaluate the effects of radiation on the functionality of components were always a compromise to the anticipated levels of stress that components might be subjected to in wartime.
Sandia has a responsibility to improve the reliability, safety, and security of current and future warhead designs in the face of the evolving threats against these systems. In the future, any new nuclear warhead designs or modifications of current designs that may alter the interfaces between a warhead's non-nuclear subsystems and its nuclear explosive package, or integrate some of their functions, would be subject to technical uncertainties that science-based stockpile stewardship would not be able to address easily in the absence of nuclear testing.
We also see a potential for increased risk if the stockpile stewardship program stays on a course that does not appropriately balance the scientific capabilities for stockpile stewardship with the engineering and production competencies that are required. After a decade of preferential investment in scientific facilities and programs, it has now become urgent to strengthen the engineering design and production capabilities of the complex. The Foster Report made this point emphatically. * If these capabilities continue to be under-invested, our ability to design, produce, and maintain stockpile hardware to the highest standards of reliability and safety will be at risk.
Other factors can increase technical risks in the stewardship program as well. It is important that the stockpile stewardship program be managed competently by a leadership that is committed to the mission; that it provide tangible, fulfilling work to attract and retain a quality, motivated workforce; and that the science and technology base for stewardship be fully supported. National policy on the deterrent role of the stockpile and the nuclear weapons complex itself must be clearly articulated.
Dr. BROWNE. Science-based stockpile stewardship is designed to ensure our ability to certify the performance and safety of the stockpile. The greatest technical risks arise from the aging of the stockpile and an insufficiently complete scientific understanding of certain critical details of weapons physics. These affect our ability to reliably predict the impacts of aging materials and components and of remanufactured materials on end-to-end weapon performance. Some specific issues being actively investigated include: plutonium and uranium aging, long-term corrosion, material shrinkage/expansion of organic materials such as high explosive degradation as well as the effects caused by unavoidable changes introduced by new manufacturing processes.
Another technical risk to science-based stewardship is the so-called "unknown unknowns”—the technical surprises for which our experience, experiments, and models do not give us warning. (Historical examples include “birth defects” from initial design specifications.) While science-based stewardship remains highly successful to date, we must be sufficiently thorough scientifically to make the technical risks of today and tomorrow negligible with or without any future requirement for nuclear tests. This is one of the key goals of science-based stewardship.
* John S. Foster, Jr., Chairman, Expectations for the U.S. Nuclear Stockpile Stewardship Program, FY 2001 Report to Congress of the Panel to Assess the Reliability, Safety, and Security of the United States Nuclear Stockpile, March 15, 2002, p. 4.
In the longer term, science-based stewardship risks not investing in the facilities and people that will be required for the next generation of stockpile stewardship (i.e., beyond 2007). The NNSA and Laboratories must plan for that era while we can still draw on those who learned by performing nuclear tests. Their experience, coupled with past nuclear tests and new experiments, helps to validate sciencebased simulations and methodologies, while at the same time training and mentoring a next generation armed with these new tools and knowledge.
Mr. WELDON. The laboratories currently do not engage in the design of new weapons. In the long term, is this healthy for the stewardship program? What advantages might be gained by exercising the design process?
Dr. ROBINSON. There is no question that a full-system design of a nuclear warhead is the optimum approach for exercising the competencies that are essential for nuclear weapons design and stewardship. The great advantage of developing and producing a warhead from concept to operational system is that the challenge of delivering a demonstrable product imposes a level of rigor on the design process that simply does not exist in simulations and exercises.
In the absence of a full-system design of a nuclear warhead in the foreseeable future, the life-extension projects approved by the Nuclear Weapons Council for the W76 Trident warhead, the B61 bomb, and the W80 cruise missile warhead will be crucial for exercising the skills of nuclear weapon designers and engineers.
Exploratory work on advanced concepts is healthy for the nuclear weapon program because it enhances the design prowess of the laboratories' key weapons experts. In the long term, the inability to demonstrate new designs and advanced concepts through warhead development programs may diminish the resident design competence that would be available for meeting new military requirements for nuclear forces and maintaining stockpile systems.
Dr. BROWNE. The long-term health of the stewardship program, as well as the 2001 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) requirement for a flexible and responsive nuclear capabilities-based infrastructure, depends on the ability of the Laboratories to exercise new-design capabilities. The NPR and the NNSA Strategic Plan all reflect the need to retain the ability to design and certify new warhead types. Regardless of any decision to move to system development, it is critical to be able to apply our capabilities to some new design concepts, as well as design problems that we could confront with an aging stockpile. There are certain thought processes and numerous cross-disciplinary skills that are not otherwise fully engaged. Such creative work helps to assure a responsive and credible infrastructure to dissuade and deter our adversaries, assure our allies, and helps to reinvigorate the design Laboratories, encouraging recruitment and retention of the next generation of experts. Exercising new-design processes also greatly facilitates the transfer of knowledge and skills to the next generations of stewards. Additionally, it significantly improves our ability to understand potential adversary nuclear capabilities and avoid technical surprise.
Finally, such efforts help us provide, national decision makers with technical options or responses to new requirements and emerging threats. It is vital that the Laboratories not be constrained in their ability to pursue research on new design concepts.
Mr. WELDON. In recent years the laboratories have had significant difficulties attracting and retaining the highly skilled workforce necessary to execute a sciencebased stewardship program. What is your current assessment of the situation with respect to recruitment and retention?
Dr. ROBINSON. In fiscal year 2000, hiring into Sandia's nuclear weapons organizations fell short of our target. That fact, coupled with a slight increase in attrition, created a gap in the skills required to accomplish the stockpile stewardship program.
Several factors were responsible for the poor response to our recruitment efforts in 2000. It was difficult at that time to compete for talent against companies in the booming high-technology sector that could offer more attractive compensation packages, including higher salaries, signing bonuses, and stock options. The well-publicized security investigations underway at the nuclear design laboratories also discouraged interest.
To reverse the staffing deficit, Sandia conducted aggressive hiring programs in fiscal years 2001 and 2002. Over 500 people were hired into our nuclear weapons organizations during those two years, outpacing attrition by approximately 200 people. The result has been a deliberate increase in the workforce in critical engineering and scientific occupations. Over the next several years, these newly hired employees will make significant contributions to the nuclear weapons mission at the laboratory.
Historically, attrition rates at Sandia have been very low as compared to industry and consist mostly of normal retirements. However, a factor in mid-career attrition is the perception that the nuclear weapons program no longer offers challenging technical work. System life-extension programs, advanced concepts work, and advanced scientific and engineering research are essential for sustaining career interest and commitment. It is apparent that we must be able to offer quality work in diverse areas to attract and retain a quality workforce.
Dr. BROWNE. Recognizing that a sizable number of LANL personnel are nearing retirement and the need to affect the generational transfer of technical and programmatic knowledge, the Laboratory recently initiated a major hiring initiative. This initiative, focused on entry-level and strategic hires, set an ambitious hiring goal for FY02. Employee retirements and increased programmatic needs demanded this response to bring on a new pool of technical talent with critical skills.
The Laboratory has been highly successful in recruiting new talent to our workforce by hiring over 800 new employees through the end of July in this fiscal year. During this process, the Laboratory has also recruited and hired certain critical skill personnel from various downsizing facilities (e.g., Rocky Flats). Technical assessments of these new hires indicate that they will become the next generation of highly qualified scientists, technicians and administrative staff-many with the skills critical to the science-based stewardship program.
Mr. WELDON. The most recent Nuclear Posture Review calls for retaining most of the current stockpile as part of either the operationally deployed strategic deterrent, or a responsive contingency capability. The NNSA plans an extensive program of weapons refurbishments to meet this requirement. Are the plants able to provide the production capacity necessary to maintain this posture? If not, what improvements are required?
Mr. RUDDY. Pantex has been planning for extensive weapons refurbishment for the past five years. The production capacity requirements, based on current and projected processes, indicate the need for the modification or upgrade of three major existing facilities and the construction of two new facilities.
The projects to accomplish the facility modifications and upgrades are currently planned, approved and budgeted to support the projected capacity requirement need dates. Two of the projects (Building 12–64 bay complex and Building 12-44 cell complex) are upgrade projects to existing facilities that will refurbish these buildings and bring them to the same comparable operating state as the other bay and cell complexes that currently house our nuclear explosive work. The total project costs (TPC) are $29.1 million and $13.4 million, respectively. The third project is a modification to a portion of Building 12–86 that will establish a new process line (Special Nuclear Material Component Requalification), which does not currently exist at the plant. The TPC for this project is $17.3 million.
Two new facility projects (a Component Evaluation Facility and a High Explosive Pressing Facility) are currently planned. These projects are in the pre-conceptual design phase, which includes preparing mission needs and project requirements documentation. The NNSA's initial approval to proceed with the projects (known as a Critical Decision Zero (CDO) submission and approval) is planned for late fiscal year 2003. The current TPC estimates for these projects are $172 million and $34 million, respectively.
Mr. MITCHELL. The nuclear weapons complex can and will provide the capability to meet needs to support sustaining the current stockpile. In the near-term, the capabilities currently available or planned in the production plants are adequate for this task. However, it is vital that the current Facilities and Infrastructure Recapitalization Program and an increased level of major capital reinvestment be sustained over the next ten years to retain, for the long-term, the infrastructure, technology, and skills needed to assure this capability. Achieving safe, secure, and economically effective sustained support for the stockpile is directly dependent on modern technology deployed in “right-sized” infrastructure supported by a dedicated, skilled, and constantly renewing workforce. The removal of unneeded cost burden for capabilities no longer needed or technologies not supported by modern industry and the reinvestment in capital infrastructure are a necessary condition for longterm stockpile support.
Mr. DOUGLASS. The Kansas City Plant is adequately positioned, with plans in place, to support the production capacity needs of the NNSA, the Nuclear Posture Review and the life extension programs.
Since June 1999, the Kansas City Plant has been executing a facility-downsizing project designed to reduce the plant's excess capacity, lower on-going operating costs and re-size the manufacturing facility to align with the projected future workload. This project, the Stockpile Management Restructuring Initiative (SMRI), is currently 54 percent complete and on schedule for completion in September 2005. Design of the SMRI project was based on the technologies and the projected workload identified in the 1995–1997 timeframe. SMRI is not a modernization effort; thus,
technology and infrastructure improvements are still needed to ensure an acceptable level of risk to the overall manufacturing mission of the Kansas City Plant.
To ensure continued alignment of the Kansas City Plant with the changing needs of the NWC, a capacity analysis has been conducted on a regular basis. The most recent analysis for the period FY2002 to FY2010 was completed in June 2002 and it ensures that the Kansas City Plant can support the future life extension program workload. This analysis was based on future manufacturing capacities following the completion of the SMRI project in FY2005.
The June 2002 analysis indicates that workload requirements for 25 of 29 major product lines can be managed with current capacity, the addition of an extra shift, or expanded procurement from commercial industry.
In two of the four remaining product lines, the workload is highly dependent on technology selection associated with the upcoming LEPs. The data used in this forecast is based on long-range (FY2006-FY2010) assumptions for material and labor requirements that are relatively uncertain at this time and may be artificially high. Workload requirements for these two areas will continue to be monitored as program definitions for the LEP programs develop.
In the final two product lines, facility expansions are required. One of these products, Reservoirs, will require a line-item funded project to expand the capacity to support the projected workload. This line-item project is currently funded and included in the Integrated Construction Program Plan for NNSA. Activities are currently on schedule for completion in FY2006, in time to support the projected workload for reservoir products. The remaining product line, Firesets, will require only a minor expansion of its existing manufacturing facility to provide the needed increase in capacity. Contingency space to accommodate this need has already been made available through the SMRI project. This expansion is not required until FY 2008 and can be accomplished with minimal funding. As a result, the capacity needs for Firesets will continue to be monitored on a regular basis but efforts to begin the expansion will not occur until approximately FY2006.
Based on our recent capacity analysis, we are confident the Kansas City Plant will have the necessary manufacturing capacity to support the needs of the NWC. The capacity analysis will continue to be updated to ensure that changes in workload and technology are appropriately incorporated into our site planning process.
Mr. PEDDE. The Savannah River Site has defined two line item projects, Replacement Function Tester (RFT) and Cleaning and Loading Modifications (CALM), that are required to provide the production capability to support the current weapons refurbishment plans and directives. These two projects are approved by the Department of Energy and are included in the out-year budget plan for the Savannah River Site. Conceptual design is completed for both projects. The RFT is scheduled to startup in FY09 and CALM is scheduled for startup in late FY07 or early FY08. With these projects augmenting existing SRS production facilities, the desired nuclear weapons posture will be maintained.
Mr. WELDON. What is your best estimate of the time required to support an underground nuclear test, if such a test were to be directed by the President?
Dr. TARANTINO. Since 1996, the NTS contractor has used structured processes to assess the ability to return to underground nuclear testing. The National Weapons Laboratories have developed several weapon physics test scenarios that are used for the purpose of planning and readiness assessment. Schedule estimates for the NTS contractor to support execution of the first test in a series of underground nuclear tests for physics reasons are approximately 3 years.
At the request of the Department of Defense Office of Program Analysis & Eval. uation, a simple demonstration test was considered in 1999. At that time, the schedule estimate to conduct this type of simple demonstration test was approximately 1 year.
Mr. WELDON. What steps could be taken, specifically at the Nevada Test Site, to enhance test readiness?
Dr. TARANTINO. The NNSA, in conjunction with the National Weapons Laboratories and the NTS contractor, has recently completed a study of the cost and schedule of activities to enhance test readiness to 18 months. Significant activities identified for the NTS to maintain and enhance test readiness were organized into two groups: (1) Authorization Basis and (2) Personnel, Facilities and Equipment.
Authorization Basis consists of preparing nuclear explosive safety studies, technical and operational procedures, and other certifications and permits required for compliance with current federal and state laws and regulations. This activity is primarily a NNSA responsibility, but will require significant National Weapons Laboratories and NTS contractor support. NTS Personnel
, Facilities, and Equipment consists of many NTS Infrastructure items that have deteriorated in the 10 years since cessation of underground nuclear