Jun 17, 2007

Congress Seeks New Direction for Nuclear Strategy

By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 18, 2007; Page A02

Congress is moving to change the direction of the Bush administration's nuclear weapons program by demanding the development of a comprehensive post-Sept. 11, 2001, nuclear strategy before it approves funding a new generation of warheads.

"Currently there exists no convincing rationale for maintaining the large number of existing Cold War nuclear weapons, much less producing additional warheads," the House Appropriations Committee said in its report, released last week, on the fiscal 2008 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill. The full House is expected to vote on the measure this week.

The Bush administration had sought $88 million for the Reliable Replacement Warhead program next year so that cost and engineering studies could be completed and a decision could be reached on congressional approval to build the first RRW model, with the first new warheads ready by 2012.

The House already passed the fiscal 2008 Defense Authorization Bill, which reduced RRW funding and called for development of a new nuclear weapons strategy before steps are taken to produce new warheads.

While the Senate has yet to act on the authorization or appropriations measure, the Senate Armed Services and Appropriations committees are expected to follow the House's example by reducing proposed RRW spending and demanding development of a new nuclear weapons policy.

Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee that handles strategic weapons, said in an interview last week that she expects that the question of future U.S. nuclear weapons policy will be passed to the next administration, since the Bush White House is preoccupied with other subjects.

The House appropriations bill eliminates RRW funding and directs the Energy and Defense departments and the intelligence agencies to develop a "comprehensive nuclear defense strategy based on current and projected global threats." And it slows down funding of the Bush administration's program to modernize the facilities where nuclear weapons are built, stored and dismantled.

"These multi-billion dollar initiatives are being proposed in a policy vacuum without any administration statement on the national security environment that the future nuclear deterrent is designed to address," the report said. "[I]t is premature to proceed with further development of the RRW or a significant nuclear complex modernization plan."

The committee pointed out that neither the Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review last year nor the administration's 2001 Nuclear Posture Review "provided a long term nuclear weapons strategy or the defined total nuclear stockpile requirements for the 21st century."

The House bill more than triples the amount the Bush administration is asking for dismantlement of old warheads and adds $30 million to modify a facility at the Nevada nuclear test site so it can be used for dismantling weapons. At present, the only facility that does that work is the Pantex plant near Amarillo, Tex., which also refurbishes currently deployed weapons.

Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.), chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee handling the nuclear program, has indicated he is thinking along the same lines, according to a senior Democratic staffer familiar with his views. "The Tauscher approach makes sense," the staff member said.

He noted that senior Bush administration officials had not publicly supported the RRW program despite a request by Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.), a former Appropriations subcommittee chairman and a proponent of the new warheads. The Senate subcommittee is expected to provide limited funds for the program "so we have a couple of years to gather information while the next administration lays out future requirements."


Anonymous said...

Once again Domenici finds himself out of sync with the rest of the planet. Time to retire dear Senator.

Anonymous said...

How long does the good Sen. expect tax payer money to support the LANL cause without a changer of direction...Pete it's over...time to figure out a new way to help northern New Mexico...

Anonymous said...

Here's a question for the NNSA lab nuclear physicists in the audience:

Suppose you had a child that just graduated from high school. Would you encourage this child to spend the next 10 years of their life getting a Phd in nuclear physics to they could come and work for a NNSA lab?

Anonymous said...


We can always hire people from
Russia and China, much cheaper and
some would even say better.

Anonymous said...

For 10 years of study post high school you could become a doctor or lawyer and make far more money with far better job security. For the life of me, I can understand why any kid would want to get a doctorate in science these days. The best science is slowly moving to other countries. Even many of the foreigners who come to US colleges for study are now going back home once they get their advanced degrees.

Anonymous said...

Ditto, 9:54.

Also, Congress and the President have the ability to increase the H-1B quota as desired to allow foreign science and engineering degree earners/holders to stay in the US.

This year these visas were gone in about a day, so not everyone is going back. Worth watching how it eventually plays out.


It appears as though the President supports an increase in the cap.


Anonymous said...

On the other hand, 11:08AM, foreign national scientists may easily find other places in the US and abroad where they can do research without having to piss in a cup. So much for attracting the best and the brightest.

Anonymous said...

Agree 11:24. I suspect they make up a large part of faculty applicant pools in science and engineering as well as post-doc positions.

Response was geared more toward the original 11:46 question. Why attain a skill set to compete with a supply that can be increased fairly easily?

On the other hand, can anyone tell me how the degree composition for TSMs has changed over the last 20 years? I ask because I've been here about 20 years and it seems as though there are many more BS degree TSMs than when I started.

If a lot more BS degree TSMs are being hired by LANL, then an inexpensive four year degree in engineering might be worth it.

Once into LANL, work it for a MS part-time. If that doesn't get the excitement level up or the future doesn't look so good, maybe apply to law school or take some pre-med courses to pick up whatever is needed to apply to med school. Don't wait too long before applying to med school if there is interest. The technical background is useful in law. Several of my engineering undergrad friends make big-time $ in patent and intellectual property. Of course, all those that became docs don't seem to be worrying too much about $ or a job either.

Anonymous said...

11:46pm's comment indicate how little he or she knows about the lab. PhD in nuclear physics? Please. There are really not THAT many of those here and few are in the weapons program directly. Nuclear engineering and mechanical engineering on the other hand...

Anonymous said...

Looks like the Germans aren't getting overly complacent about the nuclear bomb threat. Bomb shelter are back in vogue in Germany according to this news article...


Bunkers in vogue as cold war fears rise - Sun Telegraph

It may sound a lot of money for an unsightly steel cube, but Germans are queuing up to pay £60,000 for the latest addition to the garden: a prefabricated nuclear bunker.

With fears of terrorism, natural disasters and a cold war revival on the rise, a German company has tapped into the climate of insecurity and produced the continent's first ready-made fallout shelter.

Anonymous said...

Americans are stupid. We believe all of this rainbow can't we all get along bullshit...all well and good, but the reality always comes down to the fact - You Have To Take Care Of Your Own!

Anonymous said...

and to the politicians....this is the information age..you are accountable..WE VOTE