Global Security Newswire
“Of course we will not work on that because it’s been zeroed out,” Michael Anastasio said during a discussion at the
While Anastasio’s statement was straightforward, the agency that oversees production of the nation’s nuclear weapons has recently painted a less-clear picture for the immediate future of the Reliable Replacement Warhead.
Congressional appropriators eliminated funding for further design work on the weapon, but that does not mean all work on RRW-related projects will grind to a halt this year, the National Nuclear Security Administration has suggested.
The Reliable Replacement Warhead, as administration officials describe it, is a bid to replace Cold War-era warheads with a new design that would be easier to maintain, more reliable and cheaper to produce than the aging stockpile. The new warhead would also help maintain the viability of
In his fiscal 2008 budget, President George W. Bush had requested $88.8 million for RRW design work. Lawmakers eliminated that funding, instead calling for the Energy and Defense departments to formally reassess the nation’s nuclear weapon needs as well as its nuclear strategy.
While expressing disappointment, NNSA officials have argued that some groundwork for the new warhead can continue in the face of the eliminated funding.
“We continue to believe an RRW-type of program is the right one for ensuring the future of our nation’s nuclear deterrent,” NNSA spokesman Bryan Wilkes said in a statement released earlier this month. “Over the next year we will be working to refine our RRW certification plan and the approach to RRW security and safety, in line with congressional authorization and funding.”
The agency argues that there is still an opportunity to explore concepts relevant to the new warhead design, noting that the fiscal 2008 omnibus appropriations bill includes $15 million for an “advanced certification” campaign to ensure that any new warhead would not require explosive testing to be “certified” for the stockpile.
The JASON group, an elite scientific advisory board that advises government officials on nuclear weapon-related issues, suggested last year that more work was needed to ensure such testing would be unnecessary (see GSN, Oct. 1, 2007).
NNSA officials also point out that the omnibus funding bill includes $10 million for an “enhanced surety campaign” to develop new technologies to increase the safety and security of possible future weapons systems. Such an effort is consistent with the National Nuclear Security Administration’s effort within the RRW program to enhance security of
In his address yesterday, Anastasio called for a renewed partnership between government and the science and technology community, arguing that only such a strengthened partnership can provide the long-term solutions to security issues facing the
“The Cold War has ended but the national security challenges confronting the
The defining issue is no longer a clash between great powers but rather terrorism, proliferation and a range of regional issues, he said. “While the
“In the complex geopolitics of the emerging security environment issues of rogue regime behavior, terrorist tactics, weapons of mass destruction and proliferation and deterrence all intersect with nuclear energy, energy security and global warming,” he said, arguing that science is critical to addressing this complicated nexus.
National laboratories, however, are being driven more toward addressing near-term goals with more “discrete and narrowly defined deliverables,” he warned.