Feb 5, 2008

New Warhead Gets $10 Million in Proposed Budget

By Jon Fox
Global Security Newswire

WASHINGTON — In his fiscal 2009 budget request released yesterday, President George W. Bush is seeking $10 million to continue design work on a controversial next-generation nuclear warhead that received no funding from Congress this year (see GSN, Jan. 16).

The president’s $3.1 trillion budget plan also consolidates and increases funding for nuclear weapons incident response activities within the Energy Department. Some funding has been shifted from Defense Department nuclear nonproliferation programs to enhance Energy Department response capabilities.

Overall, weapons activities within the Energy Department would receive $6.6 billion beginning Oct. 1 under the proposed budget, an increase of just over 5 percent from fiscal 2008.

Following lawmakers’ decision to eliminate $88.8 million in requested funding for the new warhead design, dubbed the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW), the National Nuclear Security Administration had suggested that some work might continue in this financial year. The primary goal would be to ensure that the warhead, if developed, would not require nuclear testing to validate its design.

“We believe the Reliable Replacement Warhead concept provides some advantages and some significant benefits that are worth studying,” said Tom D’Agostino, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, which overseas weapons activity within the Energy Department. “We think that this reliable replacement concept will allow us to bring 21st century security and technologies into our stockpile.”

Administration officials have argued that the new warhead, intended to first replace the W-76 warhead deployed on U.S. submarine-launched ballistic missiles, would be easier to produce and maintain than a Cold War-era arsenal that is becoming increasingly expensive to sustain. The new warhead would also reduce the risk that the existing weapons need to undergo underground explosive testing to verify their efficacy, officials have said.

Energy Department officials have repeatedly assured Congress that any RRW design produced would not need to be explosively tested. However, a study completed last year by the JASON group, an advisory board that often comments on U.S. nuclear programs, suggested that the science backing such an assertion needs further development (see GSN, Oct. 1, 2007).

The funding requested for fiscal 2009 would be used to address questions raised by the group and to ensure that nuclear testing of any new warhead would not be necessary, D’Agostino said yesterday. “We’re not playing any games with money here or money there. These are resources focused on that part of the question Congress thinks it’s important to address, and, quite frankly, the department thinks it’s important to address.”

Congress last year applied its budgetary brakes to the program, demanding that the administration better define its vision for the U.S. strategic nuclear deterrent — how many weapons it needs and for what purposes — before moving further down a path to developing a new warhead. Lawmakers did set aside $15 million for “advanced certification” work to ensure that if any new warhead were produced it could be placed into the U.S. stockpile without undergoing a nuclear test.

As the budget puts it, the money sought for fiscal 2009 is needed to “proceed with the maturation of Reliable Replacement Warhead design concepts.”

Some fiscal 2009 funding, if realized, would go toward developing more advanced surety technologies to ensure a stolen nuclear weapon would be useless in the hands of a terrorist group. In projected budget figures included for fiscal 2010 through 2013 the RRW program receives the same $10 million figure each year.

“It looks alive and well,” Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, said of the new warhead design. “RRW and RRW technology remains the core of NNSA future year programs. This is the core of where they want to go. The entire budget oozes with the sense that the [nuclear warhead] life extension program is not where they want to go.”

For nuclear weapons incident response, the proposed fiscal 2009 budget is set at $222 million, which is an increase of nearly 40 percent, although some of that increase represents a reallocation of funds.

The lion’s share of that funding, nearly $160 million, would provide for collaborative efforts with the Homeland Security Department and the intelligence community to study “improvised nuclear device concepts,” according to the budget summary.

“We thought it was important to focus our resources in one area in something we thought was increasingly important, i.e. nuclear counterterrorism,” D’Agostino said. “What we want to do is make sure we understand what type of potential devices could exist out there and how we would go about creating the tools to defeat these devices.”

The administrator said he expects more nonproliferation-related activities as well as support of intelligence community nonproliferation efforts work to take place at the Nevada Test Site. “That work is going to increase over the next couple of years,” D’Agostino said.

Work would focus on both forensics, the ability to determine the origin of nuclear material before or after a nuclear explosion, and what officials call “stabilization,” the ability to render a nuclear device inert while technical experts respond (see GSN Feb. 9, 2007).

The fiscal 2009 budget also provides for a continued reduction in the size of weapons complex by about 9 million square feet, about seven Pentagon’s worth of space. The complex, now housed at eight sites around the country, would employ up to 30 percent fewer workers and hundreds of fewer buildings while increasing the pace of weapons dismantlement, according to the administration plan.

“We’re calling for the continued consolidation of capabilities and materials that will continue to reduce the overall footprint of the weapons facility in line with the president’s goal of reducing the stockpile to about a quarter of its size at the end of the Cold War,” Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

$10 million for RRW? That would pay for about 1 day's operation of LANL. I say we have an "RRW Festival Day" next year at LANL and burn up all the funding in a single day.

Anonymous said...

“We believe the Reliable Replacement Warhead concept provides some advantages and some significant benefits that are worth studying,” said Tom D’Agostino, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, which overseas weapons activity within the Energy Department. “We think that this reliable replacement concept will allow us to bring 21st century security and technologies into our stockpile.”

Tom, if you actually believed that the goal of RRW was to bring 21st century security and technologies into our stockpile, then you would have supported the recommendation from the PEET, which selected the LANL design by a vote of 4-2. Even Glen Mara acknowledged in an all-hands meeting last week that Tom overturned the technical vote. Congress would you please investigate why Tom overturned the technical vote.

Administration officials have argued that the new warhead, intended to first replace the W-76 warhead deployed on U.S. submarine-launched ballistic missiles, would be easier to produce and maintain than a Cold War-era arsenal that is becoming increasingly expensive to sustain. The new warhead would also reduce the risk that the existing weapons need to undergo underground explosive testing to verify their efficacy, officials have said.

Tom, if you wanted a weapon that could be manufactured easily then you would have selected LANL. Congress would you please investigate why an expensive and difficult to produce pit was selected.

Anonymous said...

1. Costs at LANL are going **UP**, not down.

2. LANS appears to have no interest in holding down costs.

3. Budgets at LANL are going **DOWN**, not up. A flat budget in FY09 with a 4% inflation rate means that LANL will be short by at least this amount for FY09.

4. Congress has no interest in pumping dollars into LANL for non-weapons work.

5. LANS has no interest in growing the project base outside of weapons and non-proliferation.

6. We have lost an extremely powerful and long-time friend in St. Pete.

7. America is moving to the left and there will be little future interest in spending on nuclear weapons research beyond "life support" levels.

8. We are about to see a huge ramp up in costs for non-discretionary spending (Medicare, SS, etc.). This will crowd out almost all discretionary spending in the US budget.

9. The dollar is dropping and the rest of the world is growing weary of supporting the US with cheap credit that gets paid back with a debased currency. Foreign creditors will demand that the US get it's budgetary house back in order.


Outcome of all this? A drastically reduced size for LANL over the next 5 years. I'm guessing a workforce of only around 5,000 by 2012. Your mileage may vary.

Anonymous said...

Let's review. Tom D'Agostino over ruled the RRW technical committee on their warhead choice. He also was the only person involved with making the choice of LANS for the LANL contract. He made this choice even though the numerical ratings between Lochmart and LANS were virtually identical and there was a long history of problems with UC's management at LANL.

And his scientific credentials? As posted earlier on this blog (and viewable over at the DOE), he has a BS in physical science.

Tom D'Agostino is a poster boy for the dumbing down of America and the real harm it is doing to hurt our country.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Tom D' is a non-technical bureaucrat. However, all such in top-level DOE or NNSA positions are congressionally-appointed based on political support. No one expects them to have any science smarts. So, what to do? First, elect a Congressional delegation that actually gets it - start with Heather Wilson (but don't stop there). Second, work to get rid of the partisan "technical advisor" jerks advising Tom and his deputies and subordinants who actually make the decisions Tom then claims as his own. Those are predominantly ex-Lab employees or other ex-DOE Beltway contractors with enormous axes to grind and really big grudges against the Labs. Find out who they are and shoot them (politically speaking).

The solution to this evolving cluster is to act politically with real knowledge and real political power. All you other guys can keep grumbling and whining, but without political power, you can all go back to sleep. Your power as a top scientist at LANL is exactly zero. Accept that and seek to make allies who can fill in your massive (political) knowledge gaps and help you succeed. Get off the blinders, or die.

Anonymous said...

If there is no will to test a weapon (or two or three) after 15 years of no testing, then there is really no reason to even have the weapons, assuming the weapons exist for the possibility that they might be used. So, in the absence of testing, the only reason to keep them around is to provide make-work. And as long as money the country can't afford is providing more than enough make-work for the military-industrial complex with the misadventure in Iraq, keeping them around for make-work is also unnecessary.

11:04 has it about right, but her/his solution is not achievable.
"Second, work to get rid of the partisan "technical advisor" jerks advising Tom and his deputies and subordinants who actually make the decisions Tom then claims as his own. Those are predominantly ex-Lab employees or other ex-DOE Beltway contractors with enormous axes to grind and really big grudges against the Labs. Find out who they are and shoot them (politically speaking)."

So, what to do? Try to do what one can to influence what happens in the election this fall, perhaps?

Anonymous said...

11:04 is comedy gold. He excoriates people for not have political knowledge, while going on about congressionally appointed officials.

The president appoints, and the senate confirms. The house does not have a role.

Anonymous said...

Of course the house has a role. It consists of house members. House members have influence when it comes to providing names for the president to appoint. One problem is that there are protected DOE civil servants who are unaccountable to anyone who can outlast a whole generation of congresspersons.

Anonymous said...

Well, 7:55AM, if the Senate confirms, and Heather Wilson becomes our next NM Senator (and she is a strong LANL supporter), perhaps LANL can get some of the political support it badly needs.

We certainly won't get it with Tom Udall as our Senator. All we'll get from Udall is a bunch of lame excuses once the LANL pink slips start flying in mass.

It also interesting to note that Wilson currently sits on the House Intelligence Committee. Perhaps as our next Senator she can use some of her contacts in that area to help bring in some Intel funding to LANL.

Anonymous said...

Whoops! It looks like MaRIE will only be getting a designated $5M in funding in FY09 from DOE. If anyone is putting their hopes on MaRIE saving the lab's ass in terms of project diversification, I would definitely reconsider that view. Below is an excerpt from today's Los Alamos Monitor:

******

Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., used his share of time, in part, to encourage the department’s science funding, particularly at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

“Since the new management has been in place, I’ve encouraged them to build a new science program,” he said.

He told Bodman that the laboratory needed to refurbish the linear accelerator at the Los Alamos Neutron Scattering Center (LANSCE).

“This facility is badly in need of an upgrade to sustain the lab capability into the future,” he said. “The budget seems to say we want to do this, but then provides a miniscule amount of money.”

The FY09 budget released Tuesday requests $5 million “for activities directly associated with the LANSCE-refurbishment, particularly as it relates to enabling a central facility for material science and providing a foundational basis for establishing a signature experimental facility for materials research.”

*****

Anonymous said...

7:55 am: "The president appoints, and the senate confirms. The house does not have a role."

Uh...11:04 didn't mention the House. Civics 101: "Congress" consists of two branches, the Senate and the House of Representatives. Try http://www.usa.gov/Agencies/federal.shtml "Article I of the Constitution establishes the legislative or law making branch of government. It has a two-branch Congress—the Senate and the House of Representatives—and agencies that support Congress."

Anonymous said...

The $5 million is for LANCSE-R, which is is a necessary prerequisite for MaRIE.

MaRIE will receive separate funding.

Maybe.

Anonymous said...

4:15. Nice try, but your attempt to split hairs is as poor as your scientific record.

Regardless of how you slice it, "However, all such in top-level DOE or NNSA positions are congressionally-appointed based on political support" is incorrect.

First, congress does not appoint. Second, congressional political support is usually based on a tie of the position to the state of region, such as a federal prosecutor or judge. The NNSA administrator does not have this tie, although maybe someone of unusually significant stature like Sen. Domenici might have some influence. And if the NNSA were considered to have a tie to the labs, which lab would be the one?

What made 11:04 especially funny was the way he blathered on about people not knowing how the government worked, and then made a mistake that any junior high school student would not make.

Anonymous said...

Bodman said MaRIE must compete for funding with all the other labs if it wants to see any cash. Of course, LANL's $450 K FTE rate won't help much when going up against all the cheaper labs in the DOE and academia.

It looks to me like Terry over sold his "Signature Facility". I doubt it will end up being much of a source for program growth at LANL.

Anonymous said...

Well, if it has Terry's signature on it, it must be good!

Anonymous said...

I bet Tom D’Agostino was responsible for choosing that Asian teak instead of the Indonesian mohaganey for the deck chairs on the Titanic. What a bonehead. It so clashed with the beautiful decking.

Anonymous said...

8:09 pm: "your attempt to split hairs is as poor as your scientific record"

Huh? What "scientific record" are you referring to? You have no idea about my personal scientific record (which covers 30+ years and dozens of peer-reviewed technical publications), so WTF do you mean?

BTW, Congress (the Senate) confirms appointments made by the Executive Branch. Without that, there is no "appointment". Want to split more hairs?

Anonymous said...

"Huh? What "scientific record" are you referring to? You have no idea about my personal scientific record (which covers 30+ years and dozens of peer-reviewed technical publications), so WTF do you mean?"

Oh, I'm sorry. I must have had you confused with that "anonymous said..." dude.

Of course, once one reads back to your "anonymous said...", we can immediately recognize your outstanding contributions to mankind. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

Anonymous said...

Well, if you all don't like Tom D'Agostino's technical credentials, let's talk about Terry Wallace's leadership credentials.

Gave a great all hands meeting yesterday. Among the highlights:

1) We can't go after WFO like Sandia because we're not Sandia.

2) Terry still hasn't figured out what "capability based Laboratory" actually means, but he is open to our input.

Anonymous said...

"The FY09 budget released Tuesday requests $5 million “for activities directly associated with the LANSCE-refurbishment, particularly as it relates to enabling a central facility for material science and providing a foundational basis for establishing a signature experimental facility for materials research.”

LANSCE needs at least $140 million to do any meaningful refurbishment. The people down there have been keeping that accelerator going with chewing gum and baling wire for so long most of them have false teeth due to the sugar in all the gum they've chewed. In addition to the fact most of them are so old they have grey hair or are bald. They really are an amazing group. I love and respect (almost) all of them.

Anonymous said...

"1) We can't go after WFO like Sandia because we're not Sandia." (6:29 AM)


Well, then, let's kick Terry out on his sorry butt and put in some capable PADs who *CAN* make us look like Sandia!

We don't need managers who only offer lame excuses why we can't succeed.

Terry makes big bucks. If he can't earn it then he deserves to go.

Anonymous said...

You could just try to get a job at Sandia and stop trying to turn LANL into something it doesn't appear to really want to become.

Anonymous said...

"Your power as a top scientist at LANL is exactly zero..."

And it has been that way since Teller could telephone Reagan

Anonymous said...

"Terry makes big bucks. If he can't earn it then he deserves to go."

Terry is an idiot who is afraid of his own shadow. He couldn't make a decision and stick to it even if you gave him a map. The problem is that Mike and the LANS Board of Governors are even bigger idiots and don't realize what a moron they appointed with Terry.

Anonymous said...

"You could just try to get a job at Sandia and stop trying to turn LANL into something it doesn't appear to really want to become."

I think Sandia has standards so that rules out your suggestion.

Anonymous said...

"...and then made a mistake that any junior high school student would not make..."

Not around kids much then?

Anonymous said...

Yesterday was Terry's mandatory all-first-line-managers meeting. The message?

- Remind your direct reports not to bring cell phones into security areas.

- Encourage your direct reports to eat healthy and get exercise so they can bounce back from an injury more quickly.

- Encourage them to drive safely, under the speed limit and avoid distractions like talking on cell phones.

Apparently if FLM's do all these things, there will not be any more CREM de meth type incidents or glovebox punctures.

Hey, it changed MY life.

Anonymous said...

I hear you, 7:39 AM. It's depressing to think that LANS appears to believe that Terry is the best we can do for a S&T PAD.