Jun 5, 2008

Groups take aim at nuclear program

By: Jen DiMascio, Politico.com
June 4, 2008 02:24 PM EST

Nuns, Quakers, arms-control wonks and liberal scientists may not appear to have a chance of killing the savior of the administration’s nuclear weapons stockpile, the next-generation Reliable Replacement Warhead program.

But for the second year in a row, the anti-nuclear-weapons coalition has more than a prayer in its fight against the administration, the national laboratories and the New Mexico congressional delegation.

Ultimately, the next administration will decide the fate of the program that upgrades existing nuclear weapons without the need for further nuclear testing. This year, the coalition’s outlook is not good.

“My intention would be to provide no funding,” said Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee.

But killing government programs of this kind is about as difficult as getting rid of nuclear waste. Even though leading appropriators oppose the Reliable Replacement Warhead program, it retains widespread support among lawmakers for strategic and parochial reasons.

The program is projected to cost up to $100 billion. And as much as the administration lays out arguments about updating the nation’s nuclear arsenal, the program would certainly provide future work for scientists at national laboratories in California and New Mexico that have already seen budget cuts.

Key support has come from Republican Sens. Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico, Jon Kyl of Arizona and Jeff Sessions of Alabama.

They back the National Nuclear Security Administration’s view, seeing the Reliable Replacement Warhead program as an upgrade to current programs that extend the life of nuclear weapons. The new program would be cheaper to maintain as well as smaller and safer than the current stockpile of nuclear weapons that degrade over time. Refreshing the nuclear arsenal would also bolster the nation’s effort to deter attacks, advocates say.

In New Mexico, the program would mean plenty of high-end jobs at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Republican Rep. Steve Pearce failed to restore funding on the House side for design plans cut from the defense authorization bill last month, citing work force concerns in a floor statement.

“I would note that $10 million, the amount that is designated for the RRW, is just enough to keep the doors open — that once we allow this team of experts to dissipate, once these people are hired away, then we will never build another team,” Pearce said.

Pearce’s staff is working directly with Los Alamos and other national laboratories to impress upon the rest of Congress that the Reliable Replacement Warhead program represents the future for maintaining the nation’s strategic nuclear deterrence.

The national labs do have ties to corporations. For example, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California is managed by Bechtel National Inc., the University of California, The Babcock & Wilcox Co., the Washington division of URS Corp. and Battelle Memorial Institute. But, according to one lobbyist, the companies try to stay out of policy debates as hot as the one over the Reliable Replacement Warhead program.

In the past, the program enjoyed bipartisan support. Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher (D-Calif.), whose district includes Livermore and Sandia national laboratories, initially backed the program. This year, Tauscher diverted $10 million for design work on the program to address technical questions raised by an outside review of the program.

Support among appropriators deteriorated last year, even among the program’s initial backers.

The program was first pitched in 2005 as a fairly innocuous study to Rep. David Hobson (R-Ohio), then-chairman of the House Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee. Hobson, who helped move the program forward, was chagrined to learn the administration’s plans for the program were far more extensive than he had been led to believe.

He withdrew his support and helped cut funding for the program last year with the new subcommittee chairman, Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.).

In addition to credibility concerns, the administration’s technical arguments about how rapidly a replacement is required were undercut by a third-party scientific review mandated by Congress that found the stockpile was not degrading as rapidly as initially projected.

Its technical findings fueled more congressional opposition last year. And this year, the administration scaled back its own expectations for progress on the program, whittling its main budget request.

The National Nuclear Security Administration is keen to fight any further budget cuts, said spokesman


Anonymous said...

In addition to credibility concerns, the administration’s technical arguments about how rapidly a replacement is required were undercut by a third-party scientific review mandated by Congress that found the stockpile was not degrading as rapidly as initially projected.

Again this is the typical SLOPPY verbiage
that one expects from this "coalition".

The JASON's said the PLUTONIUM was not
degrading. That's EXACTLY what LLNL
has been saying:


Plutonium aging is NOT the justification
for RRW. Read Myth #2 and Myth #3 at:


Anonymous said...

Before the Trinity test (July 16, 1945) it was betting amongst the scientists how big the blast gonna be, or not, today (June 5, 2008), you can take the following bets:

1) Will Mike et al resign shortly after June 1, 2008?

2) Will US return to underground testing?

3) Will DOE/NNSA and the National labs work on; Directed Energy Weapons, Missile Defense, and Space Defense?

4) Who will be the next president, McCain or Obama?

5) Will US or Israel execute a pre-emptive strike against Iran, and damage their nuclear weapons program?

(From the past:

5.1) Operation Opera, the Israeli air attack against the Iraqi Osirak nuclear reactor, June 7, 1981. (The reactor was severly damaged in 1981, and completly destroyed by USAF in the first Gulf War in 1991.)

5.2) Operation Orchard, the Israeli air attack against the Syrian nuclear reactor near Al Kibar, similar in size and technology of North Korea´s Yongbyon nuclear reactor, September 6, 2007. (The reactor was destroyed.))

6) Will Iran make a nuclear bomb and test it?

7) Will al Qaeda make a HEU bomb, and/or dirty bomb and use it against US?

8) Will Boeing or Northrop Grumman/EADS win the next air-refueling tanker contract, worth $35 billion? (GAO is expected to rule June 19, 2008.)

9) Will DOE/NNSA and the National labs establish a better contact with DoD´s acquisition czar John Young?

10) Will the RRW be a future success, or a continous uncertainty?

11) Will the USAF improve their Nuclear Arsenal Program after "Air Force Leadership Gets The Axe," short summary:

11.1) A B-52H bomber was mistakenly flown in August 2007 with six nuclear cruise missiles between Minot AFB, ND and Barksdale AFB, LA, and unaccounted for ≈36 hours.

11.2) Four electrical fuses for ballistic missile warheads were mistakenly sent to Taiwan for replacing helicopter! batteries. The incident was discovered earlier this year (2008).


11.3) Pentagon Announcement

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announcing the resignations of Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne, and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Mosely, June 5, 2008.

(www.dodvclips.mil; 17:17.)

12) Who will follow Edward Teller?

Anonymous said...

Did either of the nuns have any jobs at the convent?

Out of work scientist

Anonymous said...

Reading about that cast of characters reminded me of a Marx Brothers movie. It's hard to believe that the future of the most powerful weapons in the nations arsenal depends on Harpo, Groucho, Zeppo and Karl.

Anonymous said...

Here's another topic to bet on the outcome - "Will LANL SNM/tritium work transition to a different contractor along with Pantex, Y-12, and SRS tritium work when the Pantex and Y-12 contracts expire on September 30, 2010?"

NNSA has already formally identified this as an option and is seeking input from potential bidders.

Anonymous said...


Bosses Nuked, Some Air Force Missileers Cheer - Wired, June 6

Defense Secretary Robert Gates didn't just kick the Air Force's two top leaders to the curb yesterday. When he fired chief of Staff General "Buzz" Moseley and Secretary Michael Wynne, he was telling the service that the long, slow decline of its nuclear corps is officially over.

Hallelujah, says one Air Force nuclear missileer.

Until 1992, the Air Force's Strategic Air Command controlled nearly every aspect of the country's nuclear bomber and missile operations. Then SAC was disbanded. The Air Force's nuclear specialists became bureaucratic orphans. "The nuke community was fucked the day they killed SAC," the missileer tells Danger Room. "Mosley and Wynne just happened to be driving when the car hit the tree."

First, the newly established Air Combat Command took over the missile job. But it quickly became clear that this fighter-and-bomber squad wasn't the right place for intercontinental ballistic missile operators. "So then they stuck them under Air Force Space Command -- an even worse fit," the missileer says.

ICBM specialists used to spend their entire careers doing nuclear work. But under Space Command, officers had to start branching out -- operating satellites, rather than prepping for an atomic strike. They had to take classes on space warfare, instead of nuclear maintenance. "For the past 15 years or so, the Air Force has not been growing nucleaIn 2005, Space Command chief General Lance Lord "punctuated all that nonsense by getting rid of the ICBM badge." Everyone under his command was supposed to wear Star Trek-esque "Space Wings" instead.

That may seem like a minor deal to civilians. For missileers, it was a huge blow to their pride; they took it as a sign that they were now second-class citizens -- their heritage gone, their unique training, ignored. "Ever since Space Command took over nukes, they've watered down the natural progression of a nuclear officer with Space nonsense."

Gates, in his talk yesterday the Pentagon, acknowledged this slide:

"During the course of the investigation, other issues indicating a decline in the Air Force's nuclear mission focus and performance became apparent. Rather than an isolated occurrence, the shipment of the four forward-section assemblies to Taiwan was a symptom of a degradation of the authority, standards of excellence and technical competence within the nation's ICBM force. Similar to the bomber-specific August 2007 Minot-Barksdale nuclear weapons transfer incident, this incident took place within the larger environment of declining Air Force nuclear mission focus and performance..."

"Years ago the career path for Air Force personnel in the nuclear field was well established and prestigious. However, the overall mission focus of the Air Force has shifted away from this nuclear mission, making it difficult to retain sufficient expertise. "

Moseley and Wynne's firings aren't the only steps to fix the problem. Gates spoke of "a substantial number of Air Force general officers and colonels [who are] potentially subject to disciplinary measures, ranging from removal from command to letters of reprimand."

And the chatter yesterday in the Air Force's missile corps wasn't just about their bosses being fired. According to a memo from Space Command, Gen. Moseley, in one of his last acts as Air Force Chief of Staff, officially "approved the reinstatement of the missile badge."

Anonymous said...

6/6/08 10:14 AM, I predict not, as LANL seems to be hell bent on giving away its tritium business long before then. Moving these operations from AET to WT Division gives Brett Knapp an opportunity to kill off yet another pesky LANL capability.

Anonymous said...

Why does LANS seem to reward PADs and ADs who are killing off projects at LANL? It's as if LANS was primarily hired to implement policies designed to shut down large segments of LANL. On that one, NNSA should give them a score of 100%.

Anonymous said...

12:38 pm: "Why does LANS seem to reward PADs and ADs who are killing off projects at LANL?"

Simple. Too much diversity. Just thinking about, let alone actually doing, more than one thing at a time frightens the Bechtel folks.

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that tritium operations were well on their way to SRS. Nothing to do with Knapp.

Anonymous said...

This pure crap!--"according to one. lobbyist, the companies try to stay out of policy debates as hot as the one over the Reliable Replacement Warhead program."

Anonymous said...

5:14 pm: "My understanding is that tritium operations were well on their way to SRS. Nothing to do with Knapp."

Who do you suppose put them "well on their way to SRS"?? If Knapp wanted to stop it, he would have. Knapp is one of the gang of four brought in from UC/LLNL to LANS to be in charge of the weapons program, to make it look like Bechtel wasn't taking over. Surprise! He will be gone with Anastasio, Mara, and Mcmillan - golden UC parachutes all. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Anonymous said...

12) Who will follow Edward Teller?

all of us

Anonymous said...

12:28 am: "12) Who will follow Edward Teller? all of us"

Yep. "Anyone who isn't busy being born is busy dying." - Bob Dylan

Anonymous said...

6/7/08 9:48 PM, actually it was pre-LANS that the serious groundwork was laid, by sending half of our tritium work to Sandia. Craig Leasure gets the kudos for that one. (And now he's Knapp's deputy, how apropos).