Oct 28, 2008

21st Century Nuclear Weapons and Deterrence

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is scheduled to talk about the evolution of the concept of nuclear deterrence and the implications of the aging of the U.S. nuclear arsenal and infrastructure and the lack of expertise in current personnel.

The event is sponsored by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The speech will begin at 1:00 PM EDT and can be viewed on C-SPAN.

Note: The audio, video, and transcript are now available on the Carnegie Endowment website.

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

Snore. Wake me up when it's over.

Anonymous said...

Gates said in his talk that he's worried about a loss of scientific expertise at the nuclear weapon labs. Imagine that! I guess it's time to start planning for more layoffs and budget cuts at LANL and LLNL to help lower the morale and get more staff to bail out. NNSA and Congress have been very successful at killing off their nuclear weapon labs.

Anonymous said...

" I guess it's time to start planning for more layoffs and budget cuts at LANL and LLNL to help lower the morale and get more staff to bail out."

It's called income redistribution :)

Anonymous said...

Given Gate's sobering assessment of the failure NNSA has become, it seems that the best (and not actually that good) option is to move NNSA under DOD. This should be a slimmed down NNSA - LANL, NTS, and Pantex.

With RRW dead, and LLNL's designs are being retired, SNM leaving the site, and ending NNSA funding for Site 300 work, its days as a major nuclear weapons design lab are very soon to be over. SNL already gets 50% of its work from non-NNSA weapons accounts and WFO. So both these labs should remain within DOE to do national security, science, research, and engineering. Their support to a DOD LANL could be done as WFO.

A small and supported NNSA as part of DOD is better than a dying NNSA under DOE.

Anonymous said...

I agree, 7:11 AM. It's time to move LANL, NTS, and PANTEX under DOD control and try to salavage what is left of the nuclear weapon complex before it's to late.

LLNL, SRS, and SNL could be converted into DOE labs and the work they currently do for NNSA could be contracted back to a DOD National Nuclear Weapons Agency (NNWA).

NNWA, under DOD's control, would ensure that the precipitous decline in US nuclear weapons capability under a broken and dysfunctional DOE/NNSA is halted. The current path is not working. That should be clear to just about everyone.

Anonymous said...

10/28/08 11:09 PM

Good Bye! Don't let the door hit you in the ass.

Anonymous said...

When an experiment doesn't work, you find another way to achieve success.

The NNSA and their for-profit LLCs have not worked. It's time to find a better way. DOD might offer that better path to success.

I vote we run a new experiment using DOD as a catalyst.

Anonymous said...

LLNL's designs are being retired, SNM leaving the site
================================

LLNL designs are no more being retired
than are LANL designs. The W87 is being
MOVED to a different delivery platform,
but is not being retired. There are no
plans to retire the B83.

Additionally, LLNL is slated to get more
of the computational resources for the
3 labs. The next major computer
purchase - called Sequoia will be sited
at LLNL. The DOE has built a new
facility at LLNL to host computers for
the 3 national security labs.

Furthermore, LLNL's NIF is only coming
online now; and is one of the few
experimental facilities that gives us
access to the thermonuclear regime
found at any lab.

Then there's the concept of "peer-review"
which LLNL has always provided LANL,
and visa-versa.

There's no more reason to shutter LLNL
than there is to shutdown LANL.

Anonymous said...

In Richard Tedlow's book, "Andy Grove," Grove talks about 'passive introverts' in middle management and how they were nearly the death of Intel.

Passive introverts, to Grove, are nice, smart people who will not take a chance or stand up to save an institution. They will complain but will let disaster wash over them without fighting back.

I like the term 'passive introverts' because, sadly, it seems to fit essentially all of the commenters on this blog for years and gives a rationalization for the demise of the Lab.

Grove feels that a large number of 'passive introverts' in any organization are fatal to the survival of the organization.

Anonymous said...

LANL's environment tends to breed mid-level managers who are passive introverts. If you want to get ahead at LANL, you don't rock the boat and you must engage with the ever present good ol'boy network that, in the end, calls most of the important shots. Those who go against the grain of this environment are not rewarded. They are eventually forced to either leave in disgust or they become silent. Anyone who has been at LANL for awhile grows to recognize this situation, sad as it may be.

Anonymous said...

10/30/08 10:55 AM and 11:28 AM have it exactly right.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 10/30/08 3:51 PM said"

"10/30/08 10:55 AM and 11:28 AM have it exactly right."

And, anonymous at 10/30/08 3:51 PM
also has it right.

LANS is putting in managers of technical organizations who have no technical accomplishments at all. The cronyism and nepotism rule these days.

The "successful" LANS manager manages upward. He or she spends the day kissing the above asses. No time at all is spent with the people doing the work.

Anonymous said...

When Grove recognized the 'passive introverts' problem, he was the CEO of Intel. The passive introverts were two or more levels below him.

Over the course of a few years, he removed them. Intel did much better after they were gone.

Grove also changed the Intel culture so that passive introverts were no longer successful in it.

As to 'managing up' Grove thinks that managing up is crucial in pursuit of a goal, in his case making Intel successful in the presence of an upper manager who had bad business skills.

Anonymous said...

10/29 11:46 am: "I agree, 7:11 AM. It's time to move LANL, NTS, and PANTEX under DOD control and try to salavage what is left of the nuclear weapon complex before it's to late."

Before all you guys who want to move to DoD get carried away, you need to do your homework about why, just after WWII, specific decisions were taken to keep nuclear weapon design, development, and testing OUT of military hands. It is really important to not ignore learned, considered decisions of the past, and override them for current expediency, Please do your history home work about this. You are making a very grave mistake by pushing this. Or, live with the result of making decisions based on ignorance of history. Hint: the people who made these decisons in the late 1940's (and they were by no means unanimous) had just witnessed the near-disaster caused at Los Almaos by Gen. Groves, and the afternmath of the military witnessing Hirosima and Nagasaki and what that led some military leaders to propose for further "exercises." Civilian control of nuclear weapons is absolutely essential. No military installation gets a nuke from Pantex until the civilians (i.e., DOE/NNSA say so. Fix DOE, or re-create AEC, but DON'T put it in DoD hands.

Anonymous said...

Dear 10/30/08 9:37 PM,

I have heard this argument before but I have one question. Why do I care if the DoD oversees the building of the weapons as long as the launch codes are still controlled by the President? 'Civilian control' is all important when we are talking about actual end use, not design and construction.

Building a weapon does not allow you to use it without proper authorization.

What am I not seeing in your argument?

Anonymous said...

Poster 9:37 PM is still living in the 1950's. There is no good reason why stockpile stewardship can't be put directly under DOD. If nothing else, putting it under DOD will add more stability to the funding, as DOD funding tends to be well protected by the brass who operate out of the Pentagon. DOD has strong pull in Congress that DOE badly lacks.

If the weapon complex stays under DOE/NNSA's broken management, it will continue on it's current path and slowly wither away. Time is running out to fix things.

Anonymous said...

"... we will have 75 percent fewer nuclear weapons than at the end of the Cold War."

The nuclear weapons "Complex" is no longer a complex. At the end of the day (or next decade) it will be one design lab (LANL), one production assembly/disassembly facility (Pantex), and one testing facility (NTS). This "active" nuclear weapons mission should be within the DOD while the "legacy" cleanup/closeout and residual support missions (SRS, LLNL, SNL) could remain in DOE.

Congress needs to take a hard look at the 1950s logic of not having all this under DOD. With budget so tight and getting tighter, how much is spent already by DOD overseeing DOE, and by DOE overseeing NNSA, and by NNSA overseeing its contractor sites. Cutting out the DOE and NNSA layers will save DOD (and taxpayers) money, some of which that could go into the "active" nuclear weapons program infrastructure at LANL, Pantex, and NTS.

Anonymous said...

As part of this discussion, remember that many high ranking DoD officers want the money that is currently being spent on nuclear weapons to be used for something more important, like support for active military.

From the point of view of these officers, money spent on nuclear weapons is money wasted because the weapons will never be used.

Anonymous said...

The mission of those high ranking DOD officers is to deter war, and if deterrence fails to end wars on terms favorable to the US. Nuclear weapons definitely have a role in the deterrence portion of the mission and could (again) have a role should deterrence fail. Other than a bureaucratic "turf" interest, DOE has little stake in our success. DOD NEEDS us to succeed.

Anonymous said...

No, actually, DoD needs us to fail so that they can use the money for something else.

Remember Thomas Friedman's 'the undeterrables' - such people are happy to die for their cause and count the death of their tribe members as a good thing not a bad thing. Such people, if they even know about nuclear weapons, do not care and are not stopped by some RRW program. Those that can be stopped already have been stopped. The Cold War has been over for a while now. China and India will not attack us because their own economy would be immolated in the attack, remember outsourcing.

Anonymous said...

Are you saying that DOD does not want nuclear weapons thus the complex should remain under DOE, and further that any weapons the complex produces under DOE will be useless?

If you really believe this then why have a nuclear weapons complex at all?

Anonymous said...

Building a weapon does not allow you to use it without proper authorization.
===================================

Have you NOT CONSIDERED the SAFETY
standards???

There's more to designing a nuke than
making sure it will go off when commanded.

The other 90% of the job is to make sure
it DOESN'T go off when NOT commanded.

While the weapon is sitting on US soil;
with US civillians within the weapon's
lethal radius; I think it is only
appropriate that the arm of Government
that decrees the safety standards be
CIVILLIAN.

Anonymous said...

If were going to have 75% less nuclear weapons, shouldn't we have 75% less NNSA funding for the two NNSA design labs?

I really do not see how both labs remain, or why. Competition between the two labs worked during the arms race and Cold War, but is it still the best way to operate.

DOD is the customer, so shouldn't they make the decision as to who is going to manage their nuclear weapons enterprise?

Anonymous said...

If were going to have 75% less nuclear weapons, shouldn't we have 75% less NNSA funding for the two NNSA design labs?
=====================================

Funding for the labs doesn't scale with
the number of weapons. It scales with
the number of weapons DESIGNS!!!

We have 9 nuclear weapons designs in the
enduring stockpile. Suppose we got rid
of 75% of the weapons of each design.

How big do to the labs have to be?

EXACTLY the same as before - you still
have 9 designs. Just because you got
rid of 75% of the COPIES doesn't do
ANYTHING to lessen the work of the labs.

They still have to certify 9 designs.

Anonymous said...

I really do not see how both labs remain, or why. Competition between the two labs worked during the arms race and Cold War, but is it still the best way to operate.
==========================

As the Clinton Administration pointed out
when Stockpile Stewardship was born - the
need for 2 labs INCREASED with the
cessation of nuclear testing.

In the past, each lab could take its
designs to the Nevada Test Site and
test them.

We no longer have that option. So who
or what serves as the check on LANL
that was previously provided by nuclear
tests? Answer: LLNL

Who serves as the check on LLNL that
nuclear tests used to provide?
Answer: LANL

Anonymous said...

DOD is the customer, so shouldn't they make the decision as to who is going to manage their nuclear weapons enterprise?
===============================

The TRUE customer is the Government of
the United States - NOT just the DOD.

Congress and the Administration decide
who is going to manage the nuclear
weapons enterprise.

Congress and serveral Administrations
decided via the McMahon/Atomic Energy
Act of 1946, the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, the Energy Reoganization Act of 1974, and the Dept of Energy Organization Act of 1977 - ALL of these vested the nuclear weapons enterprise in the hands of a civilian agency; first the AEC, then ERDA, and now DOE.

Anonymous said...

10/31/08 8:52 PM

Its 2008 not 1946... Congress could change who is in charge of the nuclear weapons enterprise.

AEC was explicitly made a civilian agency because nuclear energy was seen to have multiple uses - civilian power and military to name a few. If in 1946, Congress had been told that there was zero use for atomic energy in the civilian sectors, I bet they would have continued to have allowed the military to run the nuclear weapons enterprise.

The end user for weapons is still DOD not DOE.

---

10/31/08 8:43 PM

I understand your argument. I recall in the 1990s an incomplete conceptual idea that LLNL would establish a significant physical presence at LANL - LLNL would move all of it's design work to NM so the two labs would both be in Los Alamos, but as separate entities with separate/different cultures. This would allow for independence of thought and ideas, as well as peer reviews. Remember that UC was the big proponent of "two" separate design labs checking each other - not AEC or DOE. Otherwise LANL and LLNL would be one lab, just as SNL is one lab with sites in NM and CA.

Congress tried creating this before with mortgage giants Fredie Mac and Fannie Mae - two government corporations doing the same thing, but in direct competition as a provide a check and balance... and we see how that worked out.

Anonymous said...

Its 2008 not 1946... Congress could change who is in charge of the nuclear weapons enterprise.

AEC was explicitly made a civilian agency because nuclear energy was seen to have multiple uses - civilian power and military to name a few. If in 1946, Congress had been told that there was zero use for atomic energy in the civilian sectors, I bet they would have continued to have allowed the military to run the nuclear weapons enterprise.
=================================

I realize that it is 2008 and not 1946;
but the reasons STILL HOLD!!!

Your argument above seems predicated on the erroneous assumption that military use is the only use for nuclear energy and that there are no civillian uses.

That is no more less true today than it was in 1946. Nuclear energy has a role to play BOTH in the civillian sector as well as the military sector.

Perhaps if you educated yourself by reading the writings of Oppenhemimer, Groves, Conant...and were familiar with their arguments then; which you obviously are not; you would see that their arguments are as timeless today as they were then.

The TRUE customer is the Government of the United States - not the DOD. The DOE builds nuclear weapons on behalf of the Government; and the DOD wields them on behalf of the Government.

Anonymous said...

Remember that UC was the big proponent of "two" separate design labs checking each other - not AEC or DOE. Otherwise LANL and LLNL would be one lab, just as SNL is one lab with sites in NM and CA.
=============================

UC wasn't the only proponent of two labs; AEC certainly was a proponent of two labs - the AEC created LLNL as the second lab. During the '90s when consolidation of the two labs was considered during the genesis of the stockpile stewardship program, DOE came out as supporting the two labs - the then Assistant Secretary for Defense Programs, Vic Reis stongly believed in the two lab concept.

The situation is very different for SNL because they can test. SNL can get validation of their designs with actual tests; because SNL doesn't need to go into the now forbidden nuclear regime.

That's not the case with LANL and LLNL where "peer review" from the other lab serves as the check that would be otherwise provided by experiment / tests.

Anonymous said...

A very good history on the background behind LLNL and E.O. Lawrence can be found at

http://www.lbl.gov/Science-Articles/Research-Review/Magazine/1981/index.html

It points out the LLNL (at the closed Livermore Auxiliary Naval Air Station) was originally not established in 1951 as design competitor to LANL but as the home for E.O. Lawrence's "Materials Testing Accelerator" or MTA, which he proposed as a way to produce polonium, tritium and plutonium for use in the weapons program. The site was first run by the California Research and Development Corporation, a subsidiary of Standard Oil of California, when the University declined to do so. A year later in 1952 the AEC had found another way to make these materials and in August 1952 basically ended the program at Livermore. However, because of the AEC funding of work on MTA at Livermore, by June of 1952 the AEC had established at Livermore the locus for what Teller called "healthy competition" for Los Alamos. The Livermore Weapons Laboratory became a branch of the University of California (Berkeley) Radiation Laboratory under the direction of Herbert York. The administrative arrangement lasted until 1971. Until then Livermore took most of the Berkeley Laboratory's work in applied science, including weapons development and projects Pluto (nuclear rockets), Plowshare (peaceful applications of nuclear explosives), and Sherwood (controlled thermonuclear reactions). The division of labor not only encouraged the Berkeley branch to reconcentrate on basic nuclear science, it also reduced and eventually eliminated classified research there.

The Livermore branch (LLNL) was a consequential legacy of MTA. Or, as E.O. Lawrence put it from the reverse perspective, "the MTA project made it possible for us to save at least a year or perhaps two years on the development of the Livermore Weapons Laboratory.

Anonymous said...

I believe Edward Teller and Ernest O. Lawrence to be the co-founders of LLNL, as more important than UC, and AEC for its foundation, as well as J. Robert Oppenheimer, Gen. Leslie R. Groves and MED were the co-founders of Site Y, i.e. LANL.

Anonymous said...

I believe Edward Teller and Ernest O. Lawrence to be the co-founders of LLNL,
====================================

I would also agree with that. Another
good book on the history is Nuell Pharr
Davis's "Lawrence and Oppenheimer".

Teller actually forced the AEC's hand in
the establishment of LLLNL. Teller didn't think progress at LANL was going as fast as he desired, and he approached the US Air Force about establishing a second lab for work on thermonuclear weaponry.

Rather than have a second nuclear design lab belonging to the Air Force; the AEC brought LLNL into the fold.

https://www.llnl.gov/str/Hacker.html

Anonymous said...

The "successful" LANS manager manages upward. He or she spends the day kissing the above asses. No time at all is spent with the people doing the work.

10/30/08 5:26 PM


World class managers spend lots of time making sure their workforce is happy and productive. LANS is far from being world class.

LANS was a sick joke played upon the LANL employees by both UCOP (USN Adm. Bob Foley) and NNSA (USN Capt. Tom D'Agostino). It was a follow on to the older Nanos joke of 2003-2005. Unfortunately, employees are not laughing. Instead, they are leaving.