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THE SAFETY, SECURITY, RELIABILITY, AND PERFORMANCE OF THE U.S. NUCLEAR STOCKPILE
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES,
Washington, DC, Wednesday, June 12, 2002. The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 2:05 p.m. in Room 2118, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Curt Weldon (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding. OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. CURT WELDON, A REPRESENT
ATIVE FROM PENNSYLVANIA, CHAIRMAN, MILITARY PROCUREMENT SUBCOMMITTEE
Mr. WELDON. The hearing will come to order. I apologize for the lateness, but Governor Ridge just finished a briefing for Members only on the House floor and many of us were in attendance at that briefing. So we apologize to our witnesses for the delay in the time.
The Military Procurement Subcommittee meets today to receive testimony on the safety, security, reliability and performance of the United States nuclear stockpile. The subcommittee welcomes our witnesses: General John Gordon, Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, (NNSA) and Rear Admiral John Byrd, Director of Plans and Policy for the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM). We are also pleased to have with us today the national laboratory directors and the plant and site managers of the defense nuclear complex.
We especially welcome Dr. Michael Anastasio who appears before the subcommittee for the first time today. Dr. Anastasio was selected last week to become the ninth director of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, effective the first of July. Congratulations on what will be an interesting and no doubt challenging assignment.
While on the topic of Livermore National Lab, I will note that two days after Dr. Anastasio's selection, the President announced his proposal to create the Homeland Security Department that includes a major role for the Livermore Laboratory. The details relating to the President's proposal are likely to take some time to develop, as many of us learned today from Governor Ridge, and it is not my intention to address this issue today as you will have ample opportunity to do so once you receive the administration's legislative proposal on the Homeland Security Department.
Turning to the topic at hand, our conventional military capability-most recently displayed in Afghanistan-has been much in the limelight since the end of the Cold War, but nuclear weapons remain a vital part of our national security strategy. Unlike conventional weapons, nuclear weapons are not currently tested nor have they been for nearly a decade, and the average age of the nuclear weapons in the stockpile is now approaching 20 years old. Still, the National Nuclear Security Administration must annually assess and certify that those aging weapons remain safe and reliable and that they are capable of meeting our military requirements. To accomplish the difficult task of annual certification of the stockpile in the absence of underground testing, the National Nuclear Security Administration pursues a science-based stewardship program with a goal of developing a detailed understanding of how nuclear weapons work as well as the capability to predict with high confidence how weapons might perform in the future. Science-based stewardship is very much a work in progress, and the subcommittee looks forward to hearing the assessment of our witnesses as to the longterm efficacy of this approach.
Although the force structure details related to the recent Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) and the Treaty of Moscow remain to be worked out, it is clear that our weapons production complex faces a monumental task to extend the life of the enduring nuclear stockpile. For far too long we have allowed our infrastructure and production capacity to deteriorate.
I am encouraged by the steps being taken by the National Nuclear Security Administration to restore and modernize our manufacturing capability. I am, however, concerned from a recent report that was issued under the leadership of Dr. John Foster—which I had Members of this body briefed in depth at a very high security level—and the unclassified response to the panel, the charter of the panel as addressed by the Congress when we posed the questions to the panel, were basically simple and three in number.
The first was: Was the annual certification process adequate in the short run? And the answer of the Foster Commission, which all of you were involved with or talked to, was yes.
No. 2: Will the current annual certification process be adequate in the long run? And their answer was no.
And No. 3: Has the Department of Energy (DOE) established adequate criteria for stewardship tool development? And again the
answer was no.
So, in spite of being encouraged by the steps being taken by the Agency and under the leadership of those assembled here in the room today, I would like to have this hearing focus on addressing some, if not all, of the questions posed by the Foster Commission.
Though not directly a part of today's discussion but because of its relevance to recent events, I also note that our defense nuclear complex is also heavily engaged in international efforts to reduce the danger of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Just within the last month I hosted the Minister of Atomic Energy from Russia, Mr. Rumyantsev, with Secretary Abraham in my office and, along with our colleagues on both sides, we had a private meeting with them. Recently we had a delegation, just two weeks ago, again visit Kurchatov Institute in Moscow with Dr. Evgeny Velikhov. We were briefed on the cooperative programs with the Sandia National Laboratory, which I am personally extremely supportive of and encouraged by, directed toward furtherance of mutual energy security and nuclear counterproliferation.
The subcommittee looks forward to exploring these important programs, but at a future date, not during this hearing.
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 NNSĂ. 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
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 NNSĂ 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