Sep 25, 2007

Talk on nuclear weapons complex

ROGER SNODGRASS Monitor Assistant Editor

For many residents of Los Alamos, who may have noticed the growing uncertainties that have popped up around the nuclear weapons complex and are beginning to wonder, "What the heck is going on?" - it may be time to get an expert opinion.

Jack Jekowski will give a talk titled "The Transformation of the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex: Past, Present and ... Future?" at a meeting of the Los Alamos Committee on Arms Control and International Security (LACACIS), to be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the United Church.

Jekowski, a founding partner of Innovative Technology Partnerships, has given a great deal of attention over the last few years to plans and proposals for structural changes in the complex.

In an interview Monday, Jekowski traced some of the current complications, at least in part, to a disconnection between policy and planning that may have left appropriators in the House of Representatives feeling less than enthusiastic. During the last two years, the National Nuclear Security Administration has drawn up plans for transforming the complex, aiming for what the administration's 2002 Nuclear Posture Review called "a responsive infrastructure," Jekowski said.

These were steps that the administration believed needed to be taken to modernize the nuclear stockpile over the next 25 years. They were measures intended to make the complex more efficient and reliable, while also preserving the human capital and expertise upon which the nation's nuclear capability relies.

But NNSA relied more on their own internal plan for what they called Complex 2030, rather than the prescription that came out of a study they requested. That was the more independent and "outside-the-box" study known as the Overskei report, after its chair David Overskei.

"When all the dust settled and the power base changed with last year's election, more strength ended up with the congressional perspective," Jekowski said. "NNSA did what Congress asked them not to do; they moved forward with a plan based on internal perspectives," rather than the more independent and creative approach of the Overskei committee.

The NNSA plan, Jekowski said was more of a compromise between the status quo and some of the ideas for transformation.

"The dramatic proposal (in the House appropriation bill) to reduce funding is a response to the fact that NNSA chose this middle ground," Jekowski said.

It's hard to know the players without a program. Similarly, it's hard to know how to interpret the current budget crisis, without some knowledge of the relationship between policy and politics.

Jekowski said another dimension of the discussion has to do with the context of the rest of the world and is of particular relevance to LACACIS. This part of the discussion is about whether enough work has been done to reassure the global community that the Reliable Replacement Warhead and the changes in the nuclear complex will promote the world's desire for non-proliferation, or whether it will drive new players into the nuclear arena.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

NNSA dropped the ball in doing a sell of Complex 2030 to Congress. But, then, given the incompetence of the people currently running NNSA, is anyone surprised?

NNSA is a poorly run agency with convoluted levels of responsibility sitting under DOE, one of least respected and most poorly run agencies in all of Washington DC.

Only DHS does a worse job, and that's only because DHS is still a new agency trying to find its way. DOE has had over 30 years to perfect their totally f*cked up organizational skills.