Dec 16, 2008

A New Home for NNSA?

Here's a comment that appeared today in the Obama Vows New Tack post:
I heard from an ex-lab employee now in the Pentagon that there's a strong rumor going around that Defense Secretary Bob Gates is quietly pushing hard for Obama to move NNSA to DOD. Gates doesn't think the triangle - DOE/DOE(NNSA)/Congress - is still the most effective way to manage nuke weapons complex. He's more comfortable with DOD fighting its own battles for programs, and wants to cut out a layer of middle management (DOE) from the equation. The feeling is the new Secretary of Energy, Dr Chu - who is only interested in "real" energy research and basic science - won't cry that much if NNSA and its weapons programs go to DOD. Chu, coming from LBNL, knows very well the headache and distraction that the weapons complex has been to past Secretaries of Energy. He also doesn't want this legacy on his desk that's already full with Obama's daunting agenda for an energy independent future.

This divorce is not a done deal, and it will painful to some "special interest" groups. However, if Gates wants it and Chu's okay with it, with Domenici gone don't expect the new Congress to put up much of a fight if Obama gets convinced by Gates it a good idea.
12/16/08 7:06 AM
And another:
I think 7:06 AM is on the right track with this rumor. Dr. Chu is all about alternative energy research. He comes from an open LBL style culture and doesn't wish to be bogged down with classified programs and the vast problems of the declining NNSA weapons complex.

Odds are increasing that NNSA will be moved over to the DOD side of the house. Big changes are in store for both LANL and LLNL if this happens.
12/16/08 10:25 AM
And finally:
It's early to speculate, but what would be the pros and cons to work life at LANL if it was under DOD command?
12/16/08 10:29 AM
I'm interested in both, but let's start with the cons. Are there any good reasons not to "cut out the middle man"? It sounds like a change that would cut costs and increase responsiveness, not to mention freeing DOE to focus on the monumental tasks on it's plate.


Anonymous said...

Pro or Con? Not sure but if it not a weapons program it has to be cut, all of it. All the extra stuff goes. No LDRD, no WFO, no science, and no foreign nationals.

Eric said...

The simplest reason not to cut out the middle man is that DoD has apparently wanted to redirect much of the weapons funding to more pressing DoD needs. They have wanted this for decades.

The nominal reason for the redirection is that generals and admirals see the bulk of the nuclear weapons budget (for weapons that will never be used) as stealing money from real weapons and the needs of real soldiers.

So moving NNSA to DoD, would make generals happy, would make the new administration happy, and would decrease NNSA's budget by about 75% as DoD took its share. The only thing that has protected the NNSA budget from DoD raiding in the past has been that NNSA was not part of DoD.

So, if the object of moving NNSA is to find a safe haven for current weapons scientists when Dr. Chu is the Secretary of Energy, then this move may make some weapons specialists safe, but only 1/4 of the current ones. The rest would no longer be funded.

The above may be wrong in detail but is the best, politically driven, information that I have at the moment.

Anonymous said...

This will mean big financial problems for LANL. Research funds alone will not support the infrastructure, and DOD funding will be tightly controlled and just be spent on nuclear weapons. No fancy overhead spending that will trickle down throughout LANL.

Anonymous said...


Greater stability in funding for the scientists and other employees who manage to not get laid off in the transition to DOD control.

Greater sense of mission, though it will be an extremely focused mission (nukes, non-poliferation, and reactor work for the Navy and for space satellites).

Removal from the intolerable incompetence coming from NNSA and DOE HQ.


Lot of layoffs, especially for anyone not directly involved with weapons related work.

The end of foreign nationals working at LANL.

The end of LDRD. Only basic research that is weapons related and funded with direct DOD control gets any funding.

Lie detector tests for all Q cleared employees at LANL. Fail the test and you lose your job.

A move toward more production flavored work at LANL at the expense of research.

The end of LLNL. What is still needed from the LLNL weapons area will be moved to LANL. Livermore will become a DOE energy lab and be much smaller is size.

Obama is looking for ways to save money in defense. Gates is looking for ways to salvage what is left of a declining nuclear weapons complex. Given this bleak situation, it's likely they'll both agree to this change.

Anonymous said...

If they just move NNSA intact to the DOD it will not (imo) solve the many issues created by entrenched NNSA bureaucrats & their god awful DOE Orders.

When Congress created NNSA nothing changed except the org chart. I just hope that's not the case if the move to DOD occurs.

The most difficult part is how best to structure the Design Labs.

I do think that it will take a major move like this to at least have a "chance" to improve the current Clusterf...

Anonymous said...

Obama said today that all federal agencies will be called to the plate to share in the economic crisis. Welcome to the club.

Anonymous said...

Let me see if I understand this correctly...

Obama wants to stop the huge job losses in America to help halt the decline of the American economy. He especially wants to grow the job base in the science and high tech areas.

However, science jobs at the government's very own National Labs? Jobs that don't need to be created because they already exist and can be saved at current funding levels? Those jobs will now be eliminated. This will throw Northern New Mexico (which has turned Democratic) into an economic depression.

This makes no sense at all! I hope our local politicians are ready to fight this nonsense. Is this how the new Administration plans to reward NM for voting the full Democratic ticket into power?

Anonymous said...

Defense policy under Obama and Gates

Mon Dec 15, 2008

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Here are some possible implications for US defense policy of President-elect Barack Obama's decision to retain Defense Secretary Robert Gates.


Obama's pick signals continuity in the defense budget, at least for the rest of fiscal 2009 and fiscal 2010, which may prove reassuring to shareholders in big defense companies.

But budget pressures and the global economic crisis means the new administration will have to examine costly weapons programs closely soon after taking office, and some big-ticket deals may be cut back or killed entirely, especially if they are focused on distant future threats.


Do nuclear weapons come under the category of (a) costly weapon systems that are (b) focused on distant future threats?

Probably. Duck and cover!

Anonymous said...

Let's take a look at where LANL now stands:

Well, LANL still has DAHRT... except that it's broken, again... for the umpteenth time.

And we have Roadrunner... except that it's an exotic, one of kind super... about to be beaten by the more conventional and much less costly Jaguar super over at ORNL.

And we still have TA-55 for making pits... except that pit production plans are probably going on hold ...and RRW has been killed.

But, we have MARIE... except that NNSA gave it only $4 million in funds ...and additional funding for MARIE looks sparse.

Well, LANL is deeply involved with ASC (stockpile stewardship)... but ASC funding is heading on a downward slope... and this downward trend has been foretold by NNSA for several years.

Perhaps WFOs? LANL has some new WFO projects... except funding levels are not panning out well of many of the new WFOs... and people who were told they could get funded by the new WFOs are finding there is no money left in the pot to fund them.

Yeah, but DOE is going to start a Manhattan style project for alternative energy... except, LANL is only a small player in this area... and DOE energy labs are destined to get the majority of this major new funding.

Are there any bright spots at LANL? Any at all? The only thing I can come up with is a possibility of an increase of funding for non-proliferation (TR), but with Beason's exit, the whole TR Directorate seems to be in disarray.

Maybe LANL will be passed off to DOD.

Anonymous said...

A novel proposal:

Missile Defense, Directed Energy Weapons/EMP Weapons, and Space Defense.

Anonymous said...

Moving NNSA to DoD is change that we all can believe in. The DoD has an good record of managing nuclear weapon science. Have we all forgot that the original Manhattan project was oversaw by UC and the DoD. The DoD knows how to manage classified activities, and they understand the importance of nuclear weapons. Have we also forgotten that Sec. Gates is currently the only advocate for science at the NNSA labs since the departure of Saint Pete. I only see Pro’s with this idea, so my Christmas wish this year is for NNSA to be moved over to the DOD.

Anonymous said...

Every six months or so, someone gets the bright idea that nuclear weapons design, development, and testing should be moved to DoD. Funny though, no one ever does enough homework to even try to refute the arguments made (and accepted) in the late 1940's why this is a TERRIBLE idea. Most of the current proponents probably don't know enough history to even be aware that the issue was thoroughly considered then and soundly rejected. Civilian control of the nuclear weapons business is essential.

Anonymous said...

If DoD is for Los'll need to get a haircut, learn to salute with a buttoned-lip and dump the flip-flops.

Anonymous said...

"A novel proposal:
Missile Defense, Directed Energy Weapons/EMP Weapons, and Space Defense. - 12/16/08 6:51 PM"

I'm all for this, right up my alley!

Anonymous said...

12/16/08 6:52 PM

Manhattan Engineer District (MED), under control of the US Army Corps of Engineers, under the administration of Gen. Leslie R. Groves, with Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer as its scientific leader during the Manhattan Project.

(I´m for the home-coming of the NWC to DoD.)

Anonymous said...

12/16/08 7:05 PM,

The original Atomic Energy Act of 1946 established civilian control of not only the nuclear weapons business, but all matters related to atomic energy. So I guess Congress should fold the NRC and USEC back into DOE to comply with this 1940s worldview.


Section 1. (a) Findings and Declaration. Research and experimentation in the field of nuclear fission have attained the stage at which the release of atomic energy on a large scale is practical. The significance of the atomic bomb for military purposes is evident. The effect of the use of atomic energy for civilian purposes upon the social, economic, and political structures of today cannot now be determined. It is reasonable to anticipate, however, that tapping this new source of energy will cause profound changes in our present way of life. Accordingly, it is hereby declared to be the policy of the people of the United States that the development and utilization of atomic energy shall be directed toward improving the public welfare, increasing the standard of living, strengthening free competition among private enterprises so far as practicable, and cementing world peace.

(b) Purpose of Act. It is the purpose of this Act to effectuate these policies by providing, among others, for the following major programs;
(1) A program of assisting and fostering private research and development on a truly independent basis to encourage maximum scientific progress;
(2) A program for the free dissemination of basic scientific information and for maximum liberality in dissemination of related technical information;
(3) A program of federally conducted research to assure the Government of adequate scientific and technical accomplishments;
(4) A program for Government control of the production, ownership, and use of fissionable materials to protect the national security and to insure the broadest possible exploitation of the field;
(5) A program for simultaneous study of the social, political, and economic effects of the utilization of atomic energy; and
(6) A program of administration which will be consistent with international agreements made by the United States, and which will enable the Congress to be currently informed so as to take further legislative action as may hereafter be appropriate.

DOE/NNSA is no AEC. A truly semi-autonomous NNSA within DOD would look closer to the AEC of old than the current nuclear weapons complex, which DOE and NNSA have completely screwed up.

Anonymous said...

As far as moving the weapons complex over to DOD, I say JUST DO IT!

It's worth taking a chance to try and make things better. What we have right now is definitely not working.

As Sig Hecker told Congress, LANL under DOE oversight has become so risk adverse that it's impossible to do good science. In his words, LANL has become much like a "prison". The guy was once LANL's Director, for God's sake! What more do you need to know about the dismal conditions at this lab?

Anonymous said...

It was interesting to note that Sig Hecker wasn't one of the former LANL Directors present at the Domenici 'Farewell' meeting held a few months back over at the NSSB auditorium.

I suspect Sig has become 'persona non grata' as far as both LANS and NNSA are concerned. The don't like his harsh criticism.

Anonymous said...

From The Heritage Foundation
Leadership for America

November 25, 2008

Pentagon Should Battle Pirates and
Terrorists with Laser Technology

by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
WebMemo #2144

Directed Ennergy Weapons, particularly those powered by lasers, have long been the stuff of science fiction. Due to recent innovations in commercial soliid-state lasers and their adaptation to military uses, potential and immediate national security applications for these weapons are apparent.

The Pentagon, however, has been agonizingly slow in fielding operational prototypes. This must change. There are real-world missions for which laser weapons are needed right now. Additionally, fielding prototypes is essential for developing the appropriate tactics, techniques, and procedures for employing these new capabilities. Unless the military gets these new technologies in the field, it is doubtful the full potential of such weapons will ever be realized. Additionally, further delays make it unlikely that a constituency will develop within the military to strongly advocate for developing and fielding directed energy weapons.

Dangerous World

Pirates of the coast of Somalia, terrorists armed with shoulder-fired heat seeking missiles that can down commercial airliners, and road-side improvised landmines waiting to ambush military and civillian convoys all share something in common: They are threats capable of harassing both governments and the private sector. Additionally, such dangers are not easily countered by conventional military capabilities.

At Sea. Terrorists, criminals, and pirates have all uused small boats foor attacking both military and civilian shipping and to smuggle contraband. In 2000, while docked in Yemen, the U.S. warship Cole was struck by a small boat laden with explosives. The al-Qaeda-directed operation killed 17 crew members and crippled the ship. Off the coast of Florida, smugglers attempt to run their human cargo to the United States at night in small, fast boats. Often the U.S. Coast Guard, which is charged with stopping these smugglers, has little alternative but to try to shoot out the engines while running at high speed, all the while trying not to injure the human cargo huddled in the belly of the boat. Routinely, pirates venture out into the waters of the Gulf of Aden in similar small craft, capturing commercial ships and selling their cargo while holding the crew and craft for ransom.

In the Air. In 2002, terrorists fired two shoulder-fired missiles at a commercial airliner in Kenya. Thankfully, they missed; there were two-hundred passengers on board. In 2003, the U.S. goovernment successfully intercepted an attempted arms sale of a shoulder-fired Igla SA-18 missile, capable of downing commercial aircraft three miles in range and two miles in altitude. These examples demonstrates that malicious actors have an enduring interest in obtaining and using shoulder-fired missiles as terrorist weapons.

On the Ground. In Iraq, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), essentially home-made landmines, were used as the weapon of choice against collation forces. IEDs quickly became one of the major sources of death and injury to both military personnel and innocent civilians. Many of the tactics and innovations pioneered in Iraq were exported to other theaters. Similar IED attacks, for example, have been used against NATO troops in Afghanistan.

All these means were adopted by terrorists and criminals because they are cheap, effective, and difficult to counter with conventional military and law enforcement means.

Breakthrough Technology

Lasers can be effectively used to counter the above-documented threats because they:

-- Can use a high-powered beam of energy to diisable electrical components or detonate explosives, rendering the attack means (e.g., boat) or the warhead oof a missile useless;

-- Come with an almost infinite magazine--as long as the weapons have power, they can be recharged and and fired again;

-- Can be aimed effectively using existing target acquisition systems (such as radars and optics like night-vision goggles); and

-- Can be employed with a minimum of risk toward surrounding civilians, buildings, or vehicles (such as aircraft, cars, and ships).

These advantages provided by directed-energy weapons are achievable. The Pentagon, however, has been reluctant to field these weapons because the technology was not suitably mobile and robust enough for use on the battlefield. Lasers, for example, could be attenuated (their power diluted) by dust in the air. But the development of commercial solid-state lasers and improvements in laser optics has largely addressed these issues.

Yet the Pentagon is still reluctant to field these weapons because they cannot achieve the power and mobility the military thinks iit needs for many battlefield missions. Today, however, mobile lasers can be fielded for low-power weapons, (approximately 25 KW). Such weapons, while not very powerful, would be effective for addressing a range of threats. They could, for example:

-- Disable the engines of small boats and planes;

-- Detonate shoulder-fired missiles before they strike their targets; and

-- Trigger IEDs from a safe distance before they threaten passing convoys.

Fielding such weapons now would not only address a range of legitimate and problematic threats; it would also provide critical operational experience in using these new weapons.

Time to Act

Despite the important role these new weapons could play, the military services continue to develop them at a snail´s pace. Currently, there are no plans to field operational prototypes of low-powered laser weapons. The Deparment of Defense stood up the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Task Force because the services could not develop new capabilities fast enough to deal with emerging threats in Iraq. The Joint IED Task Force, or a similar task force, should be assigned with developing operational prototypes for low-powered lasers and getting them in the hands of our troops now.

James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., is Assistant Director of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies and Senior Research Fellow for National Security and Homeland Security in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.


Anonymous said...

How do you wreck a great research lab? Let DoD run it.

Look at what they've done to their own great labs over the years ... ARL, AFRL, NRL ... they're little more than contract management labs now. They don't do anything.

If this is the future for the NNSA labs then it's all over.

Anonymous said...

"How do you wreck a great research lab? Let DoD run it." (10:25 PM)

LANL has already been wrecked. DOD can do no worse than NNSA has already done to the labs.

At this point, we are down to looking at drastic life support measures to save what's left. If that means bringing in DOD, then so be it.

Anonymous said...

Tom D'Agostino's Complex Transformation downsizing plan is now official and they are watching it very closely in some parts of the world:

Plan to Downsize Nuclear Complex Signed - MIDDLE EAST TIMES, Dec 18, 2008

WASHINGTON, Dec. 17 (UPI) -- The head of the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration has signed an official plan to downsize the agency's outdated nuclear infrastructure.

Thomas D'Agostino, NNSA administrator, Tuesday signed the formal documents that will set in motion a transformation plan to downsize the Cold War-era nuclear weapons complex in the United States, the NNSA reported.

The downsizing plan is the culmination of a yearlong process called Complex Transformation that is designed to modernize the nuclear weapons complex to reflect the current security climate while pursuing an agenda to stop nuclear proliferation around the world.

"We can now start moving forward on much-needed consolidation and reductions throughout our national security enterprise, shifting to more cost-effective operations that will save the taxpayer money," D'Agostino said in a statement.

Anonymous said...

You can take it to the bank -- NNSA will be moved out of DOE and placed under DOD control. I'm not saying this is good or bad, just that it is going to happen. Bob Gates wants it and Dr. Chu will have his hands full handling traditional energy issues (see below).

My guess is that LANS upper level management is already starting to get wind of this thing.

With Chu, Browner and Jackson, the Battle Lines Over Energy Are Drawn - December 18, 2008

by Llewellyn King, North Star Writers Group

Obama has chosen to make Carol Browner the energy czarina, complete with an appointment at the office of the president and all the authority that implies. Ostensibly, her role is to coordinate the energy activities of the Department of Energy, the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency.

But ideology, rather than coordination, may be the order of the day.

The energy secretary nominee, Steven Chu, is a Nobel Prize-winning nuclear physicist who quoted William Faulkner in his acceptance speech. Browner and Lisa Jackson, who has been tapped to head the Environmental Protection Administration, are not energy experts. Instead, they are the products of the environmental movement and service in the Clinton-Gore Administration with its suspicion of big energy; its pathological hesitation about nuclear; and its belief that somewhere out there is the soft path which, if taken, leads on to reduced oil imports, cleaner skies and millions of jobs.

Chu will have his hands full just keeping the Department of Energy functioning. It is poorly constructed, designed around fuels without an integrating purpose. Also in 2000, Congress established the National Nuclear Security Administration as a separately organized agency within the DOE. Consuming $20 billion of the department's $25 billion budget, it is a managerial problem. For the money, the NNSA refreshes the nation's weapons stockpile; designs and computer-tests new weapons; manages the legacy nuclear wastes from earlier weapons work; conducts monitoring and surveillance of weapons programs, both legal and illegal, around the world. Prima facie, this is more than Browner, a former EPA administrator, may be ready for.

Finally, the new team has implicitly been charged with creating millions of new jobs. Alas, that may take more than the first Obama Administration to implement. Notoriously, energy has always been capital-intensive and labor-light. It is not a big employer. Only in the extraction of coal was it once a big employer, but mechanization has reduced the need for men with picks and shovels.

It is a good guess that Browner will tell Chu what is expected, and he will tell her what is possible. And there's the rub.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure it wasn't originally envisioned this way by DOE, but having the weapons complex nicely packaged off inside NNSA makes the move over to DOD a lot cleaner.

Anonymous said...

The Newsbulletin refers to a LANL Complex Transformation web page.

This turns out to be a real hoot, with sections titled: "What Complex Transformation means to NNSA," "What Complex Transformation means to New Mexico and the World," and... wait for it!... "What Complex Transformation means to Scientist Joe Martz."

ROTFL! I've been waiting with baited breath to find out what Complex Transformation means to "scientist" Joe Martz. And I'm so pleased to hear that he's stepped down from his job as "Nuclear Weapons Program Director" to be Joe Six-Pack Scientist Martz again.

ROTLMAO. Thanks, Public Affairs Office. I needed a good belly laugh.

Anonymous said...

"It is a good guess that Browner will tell Chu what is expected, and he will tell her what is possible. And there's the rub."

It's a lot more complex than that. You have the whole huge bureaucracies of both DOE and DOD and all the possibilities for DC knife fights they represent.

It's going to be a thrilla.

Anonymous said...

"You have the whole huge bureaucracies of both DOE and DOD and all the possibilities for DC knife fights they represent." - 11:05 AM

Yes, but while DOE will be coming to the fight with a tiny pen knife, DOD will be coming to the fight with a razor sharp Samurai sword. Swoosh! They'll slice DOE's head off clean and fast.

Anonymous said...

"What Complex Transformation means to Scientist Joe Martz." ROTFL! I've been waiting with baited breath to find out what Complex Transformation means to "scientist" Joe Martz. (9:44 AM)

It means a future upper level management position at LANS for Joe Martz with very high pay and perks.

While some people at LANL wear cheap foam knee pads, Joe goes for the high tech gel pad version. It allows him to stay bent down on the floor expertly servicing LANS upper level management for a much longer period of time.