May 30, 2009

False Choices at the Nuclear Weapons Complex: We Don't Have to Accept Lies and Shoddy Work in Order to Have a Reliable Stockpile

Today, the Los Angeles Times published a story about how the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced that the "first refurbished W76 nuclear warhead had been accepted into the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile by the Navy," when in fact no delivery was ever made to the Navy.

POGO alerted the Times about the story because the NNSA was (mis)using the example of the W76 to promote itself. In March of this year, NNSA's Deputy Administrator boasted of the refurbished W76: "This is another great example of the unsurpassed expertise throughout NNSA's national security enterprise." In fact, it was the NNSA's mismanagement of the refurbishment process that led to the serious technical problems that resulted in the warheads' status--currently in pieces inside a production cell at the Energy Department's Pantex plant. The Navy told the Times, "We have not received delivery of any refurbished W76 warheads. The answer is none."

Those who believe in the refurbishment process, also known as the Life Extension Program (LEP), are outraged at how the process has been devalued by senior Lab management. For example, Roger Logan, a former Livermore Lab weapons designer and certifier, told POGO:
"LLNS&LANS [the contractors running Livermore and Los Alamos]...did everything they could to chase away W76 (and B61) expertise at both Livermore and Los Alamos. I was alarmed when my colleagues at Los Alamos sent me the long string of names of experts on these systems that LANS...chased out of the weapons program. Why? Because these people were honest and therefore a threat to the LLNS&LANS profiteering agenda.

Protect the labs...and screw the production plants. This theme pervades nearly every study to this day...It is often unintentional -- but fueled by the "Gray Beards", protecting the money at the labs they fondly remember at the expense of the "non-scientists" and production plants. Manufacturing and assembly is just viewed as menial and trivial, often by those who have never done it. The result is that the people at the plants -- and considering such careers -- got the message -- LEAVE. So they did."
NNSA instead promotes unproven, but showy, projects like the National Ignition Facility (NIF) instead of the LEP program and high risk components for a critical weapons system. According to Logan, these more boring, menial (but essential) missions were neglected at the expense of drama, purported science, and profit. The operating costs of refurbishment is about $200 million per year as opposed to the $400 million per year operating costs on NIF alone (if it works).

This story is not to say that the LEP program can not work. In fact, the Knoxville News' Frank Munger reports that the technical problems at Y-12 that had been holding up the completion of the W76 refurbishment were finally resolved in March. So the issue is not that we can't refurbish the warheads, but that NNSA is incredibly sloppy and regularly hides behind national security to avoid accountability, and we've been letting them get away with it for too long. And pretending they are doing a good job when they are not does not provide the confidence necessary for this critical mission. NNSA needs to be held accountable for not maintaining the integrity of one of its most important responsibilities and lying about the status of its programs. Ultimately, what this story shows is that NNSA needs new leadership that will no longer make excuses for its mismanagement, but will instead demand excellence.

-- Ingrid Drake and Peter Stockton, Project On Government Oversight

48 comments:

Anonymous said...

Perhaps POGO has, for once, provided some useful information.

Anonymous said...

I've yet to see POGO supply anything other than useful information. Most of the time it is met by the hysterical braying of LANL apologists, but that's another story.

Anonymous said...

At least POGO got is half right this time. The simple fact is that genuine expertise is regarded as a threat to upper management at BOTH the plants and the head sheds. The mismanagement of the nuclear weapons complex borders on the criminal. It is my hope that somebody, somewhere will take notice. Of course, since I have a family to support, I must remain annon. or face the wrath of my managers.

Anonymous said...

It is true that LANS management really does not want any smart people around. Too often, they raise undesirable facts.

However, it is also true the POGO seldom gets it right!

Anonymous said...

You sound like you know what you're talking about, 8:06, so I'm sure you won't have any problems showing us a couple of specific instances where POGO "got it wrong".

Anonymous said...

POGO got this one correct - NNSA is a poor steward of the nuclear weapon complex. NNSA has severely destroyed our nuclear weapon science and manufacturing capabilities in the name of keeping LLNL weapons work alive. The US is the only nuclear power that cannot manufacture nuclear weapons. It says a lot when North Korea can build and test a nuclear weapon, and the US cannot perform an LEP. The only solution to save our nuclear deterrent is to convert LLNL to an energy lab and consolidate all the nuclear weapons work at LANL, Sandia, and Pantex. Clearly, the facilities at Y12 are broken and need to be replaced, so rebuild the manufacturing capabilities at Pantex with the money saved by ending all weapons work at LLNL. Consolidation will also give President Obama the “moral high-ground” at the UN on issues like North Korea and Iran, since the US is reducing both the size of the stockpile and the size of the nuclear weapon infrastructure. Likewise, President Obama can reinforce to our Asian allies (Japan, S. Korea, etc) that the US nuclear umbrella is reliable and effective. Closing LLNL weapons work is a win-win situation, because (1) we look good on the international level, (2) we can improve our nuclear weapons manufacturing and science capabilities.

Anonymous said...

"I've yet to see POGO supply anything other than useful information."

Tommy Hook.

Doug Roberts said...

8:06 am sounds very sure that POGO seldom gets it right. This makes me curious why he thinks that. I notice that he has not provided any evidence to support his claim, so I thought I'd try to help him out:

8:36: What did POGO get wrong with this news item?
http://pogoblog.typepad.com/pogo/2009/03/we-may-soon-know-what-happened-to-lanls-lost-computers.html

Or this one?
http://pogoblog.typepad.com/pogo/2008/01/news-story-poin.html

This one?
http://pogoblog.typepad.com/pogo/2009/02/an-ode-to-beat-reporters.html

This one?
http://pogoblog.typepad.com/pogo/2008/09/is-doe-playing.html

This one?
http://pogoblog.typepad.com/pogo/2008/07/leftover-napkin.html

This one?
http://pogoblog.typepad.com/pogo/2008/08/darht-misses-ta.html

And finally, this one:
http://pogoblog.typepad.com/pogo/2009/05/pogo-responds-to-nifs-award-over-budget-behind-schedule-undeserving.html

What parts did they get wrong? Is NIF not 8 years behind schedule, and 600 percent over budget?

Doug Roberts said...

11:32:

"Tommy Hook".

Very articulate!

What about Tommy Hook?

Anonymous said...

What parts did they get wrong? Is NIF not 8 years behind schedule, and 600 percent over budget?
5/30/09 11:37 AM
Such a "small investment"

Giant laser reactor aims to create nuclear fusion for first timehttp://www.newspostonline.com/science/giant-laser-reactor-aims-to-create-nuclear-fusion-for-first-time-2009053157342

“It would change how we look at global warming. It would change pollution,” said Moses. “It would change all of those things. This is a small investment for that great payback,” he added. (ANI)

Anonymous said...

The money quote from this interesting article...

==
The Navy told the Times, "We have not received delivery of any refurbished W76 warheads. The answer is none."
==

Tom D'Agostino should be fired for this huge fib. Is no one at NNSA accountable for their many self serving lies?

Enough is enough. Fire the man and get rid of of this highly dysfunctional agency called NNSA! They are endangering US national security with their gross incompetence.

It would also be a good idea to get rid of the for-profit LLCs that are destroying what's left of the nuclear weapon research labs in pursuit of the almighty dollar.

Anonymous said...

Why the dichotomy between science and weapons?

Can't we have an inability to do good science AND and inability to make weapons?

Anonymous said...

Tommy Hook was a known liar.
He claimed to be a "whistle blower" and had all kinds of information to provide about stealing at LANL.

But, one night, he got a major ass-kicking at a Santa Fe strip joint. He claimed that he was enticed there by a person who said that he
had more LANL stealing information.
That was nonsense. Hook was addicted to lap dances.

Take a look at this:
http://dontworrygonuclear.blogspot.com/2007/04/wheres-hook.html

Anonymous said...

Pogo bought the Tommy Hook story hook, line, and sinker.

Doug Roberts said...

I that so, 2:29?

Funny, it doesn't sound that way to me. Rather, it sounds like in the absence of actual facts, POGO reported Hook's lies, just as did the Albuquerque Journal, the Santa Fe New Mexican, the Los Alamos Monitor, and the Espanola Rio Grande Sun.

The actual truth of the Hook incident did not come to light until after the FBI released it's report.

Kind of like how the Nanos lie regarding the "missing CREM" DX incident unfolded.

That's ok though: you seem quite content to disregard anything that comes out in the news which reports negative findings about LANL.

You wouldn't also happen to believe that "Obama is going to take your guns away" as well, would you?

From:

http://pogoblog.typepad.com/pogo/2005/06/questions_remai.html

Jun 10, 2005
Questions Remain in Hook Case

Throughout our prior work with Hook, we have found him honest and trustworthy. That said, we are keeping an open mind and are reserving judgment until all the facts are in.

So here's our take on the Tommy Hook story: It should be no surprise that the police claim there is no evidence the assault had anything to do with Tommy's whistleblowing. The Santa Fe police were initially sent in to investigate a bar fight, and that’s all they have ever indicated they thought it was.

Yet it seems that the Santa Fe police have not adequately investigated what they have been told. For instance, they didn’t get the phone records that would show whether or not Tommy received a call after 10 pm on Saturday night.

We find it interesting that the FBI is continuing to conduct interviews and is obtaining the phone records from Saturday night, despite the police statement that there was no link to issues at Los Alamos.

Our questions remain: Did Tommy receive a call after 10 pm? Isn't it an extraordinary coincidence that the attack happened at the bar where he was told to meet an anonymous source, three days before he was scheduled to meet with Congressional investigators?

Anonymous said...

Tommy Hook was a regular at TD's Show Club in Albuquerque.

The way the I got the story is that, after consuming about 10 beers, which is a lot at his size (~155#), he left at about closing time. He backed his car out into two guys and then got out and gave them a ratio of shit.
SO, they kicked his ass.

Anonymous said...

That's just not fair, Doug. You're using fact to counter fantasy. Since when was that allowed?

BTW, did you hear that Obama is going to take our guns away?

Anonymous said...

"BTW, did you hear that Obama is going to take our guns away?"

He's not going to take mine away.

"From my cold, dead hands!" - Charlton Heston

Best thing going for the US - liberals don't believe in guns. If they did, conservatives would be in real trouble.

Anonymous said...

Tom D'Agostino didn't lie about the state of the W-76 warheads. The LA Times simply doesn't understand the full nuances of the famous NNSA term "substantially equivalent".

Anonymous said...

for the complainers.

http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2009-05-31/

Anonymous said...

Nice try, Doug. But the very next news release from POGO that involves LANL will be again met by the "brayings" of LANL apologists. You know that some people will only believe what that want, regardless of facts.

I know a few people like that. In fact, I suspect that 8:06, 11:32, 2:22, and 9:58, are not only the the same person, but I strongly suspect that he is one certain bitter deluded gun-loving Republican that I know, but wish I didn't.

Anonymous said...

11:11 am: 5/30 9:58 pm here. I didn't post the other three you mentioned. It appears we're more numerous than you think.

Anonymous said...

11:11 here.

Sadly, 12:58, I am aware that there is no shortage of gun-toting, Palin-loving, Hillary-hating, right-wing fundamentalist Christians in this country.

What a sad reflection on American society. It's no wonder a great deal of the rest of the world thinks we are a nation of idiots.

And to top it off, *I* hate Hillary (and Pelosi) damn near as much as I hate Palin.

Anonymous said...

12:58 here. Well, 1:05, just to further mess with your mind, I can't stand Palin or Pelosi, but I think Hillary is the smarter and more trustworthy of the Clintons. Also, I am not a fundamentalist Christian (not really even a Christian), but I do own guns and believe strongly that without the Second Amendment, the others are just worthless words. So there. As your most recent post implied, perhaps blanket categorizations and condemnations aren't particularly useful.

Anonymous said...

Well, ok 2:49. You can be an outlier if you want, but you might be surprised how well the stereotype fits: Right Wing, Republican, Fundamentalist Christian, card-carrying member of the NRA; "Obama is going to take our guns away", POGO lies, Nukes are good and essential. That's the demographic that makes up the bulk of LANL, and Los Alamos.

It hasn't changed in 66 years, why should it change now?

But enough of of that, back to the original theme here: NNSA's Tom D'Agostino got caught in a whopper of a lie. Why doesn't anybody in Washington care?

(Hint: It's the same reason that nobody in Washington cared that George Peter Nanos got caught in a whopper of a lie in 2005.)

Anonymous said...

6:44 pm: "That's the demographic that makes up the bulk of LANL, and Los Alamos."

You're so sure of your stereotype you might want to actually seek out some facts, such as the voter demographics in Los Alamos County over the past few elections. Plus, you have no way of knowing the demographics of LANL, where the majority of employees don't live in Los Alamos.

Anonymous said...

Well yes, 8:09. Facts, indeed.

I grew up in Los Alamos, and then after college I came back and worked at the lab for a very long time.

So, as it turns out, I am pretty much intimately familiar with the demographics of the LANL work force, and of the community as well.

I even became one of those who moved to Santa Fe and continued to work at the lab, so I'm familiar with that particular "non Los Alamos LANL worker" demographic, in addition.

To repeat what I suggested earlier: you'd have to look far and wide to find a less Fundamentalist Christian, conservative, Rush Limbaugh-loving, 'nukes above all else' society.

That fact is that Los Alamos, and those outlying communities with economic ties to the lab comprise a virtual 'one company town'. Almost without exception, nobody who works there has any desire whatsoever to bite the hand that feeds them.

A fair characterization of that community would be "morally bereft".

"Cowardly" would be another.

Anonymous said...

What is the rational for keeping LANS, LLNS, and NNSA afloat if they don´t take it 100% seriously to "Have a Reliable Stockpile," and at the same time feeding the anti-nukes within the White House, Congress, and amongst the general public, with their not fully reliable certification of the W76. (What about "fogbank," W78, W80, and other unknown issues?)

On Memorial Day, Monday, May 25, 2009, North Korea detonate their second underground nuclear test, in conjunction with missile tests, Iran working 24/7/365 to become a nuclear power, the Taliban, and/or AQ to seize the Pakistani nukes, and Russia and China modernizing their nuclear arsenals, and its delivery systems, but the Pres. and Congress were essentially sleeping on the job, when they didn´t approve funding for modernizing the US nuclear arsenal, and its delivery systems, and to adopt the US missile defense, but they (the Obama administration) seek unnecessary arms deals with Russia, and an arbitrary number of 1,000 strategic nuclear weapons for the US.

Wasn´t 9/11/01, and the second underground nuclear test (May 25, 2009) in North Korea enough for a wake-up call? Are you still sleeping?

The White House and Congress in chorus: ZZZZZ, e.g. we do not care about the US nuclear weapons, and their delivery systems, but the Obama administration likes to appease the adversaries of US, clearly shown since January 20, 2009.

Anonymous said...

9:29 pm: "Well yes, 8:09. Facts, indeed."

Yet you give no facts, just your predjudices and presuppositions. Typical of the liberal ilk. Maybe your "empathy" is more important than facts, yet you seem deficient in that area too. Your hatred for LANL and the community of Los Alamos is very evident. Too bad for you. If I felt I had to call the community I grew up in "morally bereft" and "cowardly" I would begin to question the origins of my own world view. So sad for you.

BTW, if you think Espanola and Santa Fe consider themselves "one company towns" with Los Alamos you are lying about growing up here.

Anonymous said...

"Cowardly" would be another.

5/31/09 9:29 PM

Ha, ha, ha. The guy calls the people of Los Alamos "cowards", and yet he signs the post as anonymous even though he no longer works at LANL or even lives in Los Alamos. Who's the real coward here, 9:29 PM? I suggest you go look in the mirror, you pathetic little thing.

Anonymous said...

Frank, write an editorial (new top post) of the 3-year anniversary of LANS.

Anonymous said...

Frank, write an editorial (new top post) of the 3-year anniversary of LANS.

5/31/09 11:21 PM

Why bother? This ongoing bitchy and degrading dialogue is exactly representative of the type of environment LANS management is cultivating at LANL these days. Way to go folks - Happy Anniversary!

Anonymous said...

In honor of 9:29 PM:

from the Patchwork Nation blog http://patchworknation.csmonitor.com/csmstaff/2008/1107/obamas-big-win-through-the-eyes-of-11-communities/

"Los Alamos County, N.M. (home of Los Alamos). Our wealthy, well-educated “Monied ’Burb” also flipped to Obama on Tuesday – by a slim 700 votes (5,709 for Obama and 4,986 for McCain). Obama’s win in the small county marks a significant change for the locale. Bush won here in 2004 by about 600 votes (5,810 for Bush and 5,206 for Kerry). And in 2000, this community went for Bush by a larger margin – about 1,500 votes.

As we have noted over the past few days, Obama appears to have scored big in many of the “Monied ’Burb” counties. It could signal a shift for the Democratic Party."

Anonymous said...

""Los Alamos County, N.M. (home of Los Alamos). Our wealthy, well-educated “Monied ’Burb” also flipped to Obama on Tuesday – by a slim 700 votes (5,709 for Obama and 4,986 for McCain). Obama’s win in the small county marks a significant change for the locale. Bush won here in 2004 by about 600 votes (5,810 for Bush and 5,206 for Kerry). And in 2000, this community went for Bush by a larger margin – about 1,500 votes."


That sinks the 6:44 pm's point.
Real data will sink these morans every time.

"6:44 pm: "That's the demographic that makes up the bulk of LANL, and Los Alamos.""

Note that 6:44 pm had no data he
only said that he lived in Los Alamos, ergo he knows. Let this be a lesson to all you idiots in this blog sphere, facts are your enemy,
facts will get you every time. Viva la facts!

Anonymous said...

Well, if these idiots voted for Obama, then they are getting what they deserve!

Anonymous said...

6/1/09 9:47 AM - just to get YOUR facts right; neither are all voters of Los Alamos county employed by LANL nor does LANL exclusively employ Los Alamos residents.

Anonymous said...

F-off 8:37 AM and your "data". I have my opinion and that is enough for me, no data, so called facts, or numbers will change my mind.

Anonymous said...

I voted for Obama. I guess I deserve a ridiculously well- paying job. And an intelligent, sane president.
And I even get to keep my guns!

Anonymous said...

Let's review the situation...

For the NNSA labs, it is cuts, cuts and more cuts. Meanwhile, Obama has promised to raise government spending on research from 1% of GDP to 3% of GDP over the next decade.

Let that fact sink in for awhile. This amounts to an historic 200% increase in federal science funding! Federally funded scientists in the US have never had it so good. However, the downside to this is that little of this massive boom in scientifc funding will ever make it into the dieing NNSA weapon labs.

Instead of hiring new staff, NNSA labs are hoping for a large amount of staff attrition. Even if you have funding, the extreme overhead costs quickly eat up the funding and risk adverse NNSA/LANS policies work to kill off your research.

For younger staff, it's pretty much become a no brainer. Why suffer with the high costs, low morale, crappy for-profit management and constant job insecurities at LANL? The place is now being run by a construction company, for Christ sakes!

As the cluster f*ck at the NNSA labs continues, it's going to be almost impossible to keep the best scientists from leaving when they see all this new funding flooding into the non-NNSA labs like manna from heaven. The future of LANL seems to be cleanup, construction and plant maintenance with a a small amount of LDRD supported science done on the side for PR benefit. I wish this wasn't the case, but that's how I see it.

Anonymous said...

5/31/09 9:52 PM

Oh boy. Here we go again. You must be joking, right? I mean you really think "modernizing" our nuclear stockpile is going to have any impact on South Korea or Iran's nuclear ambition?

Go back to your room, curl up in the corner with your flag and your flintlock. Let the rest of us deal with the bad guys.

Anonymous said...

8:28AM

Which Korea?-----

Anonymous said...

8:28AM Said

Sorry, that would be North Korea. You get the point I am sure.

Anonymous said...

On the subject of SK:
As much as I hate to say it, I do think modernizing our weapons may affect the decision of South Korea and Japan regarding their nuclear ambitions. Both countries have the technological base, both nuclear and non- nuclear, to build sophisticated weapons very quickly. I bet the first Japanese test will beat the DPRK's by about 10KT. Or more. Then wait until they start to design modern bombs. Maybe if we ask nicely they will shelter us under their umbrella....
That is one of the real dangers of the recent test of the N. Koreans: setting off a regional arms race.

Anonymous said...

7:51 pm: "I bet the first Japanese test will beat the DPRK's by about 10KT. Or more. Then wait until they start to design modern bombs."

Sorry, you are way too late. The design work was done decades ago, and the testable units are simply waiting in storage (providing a LLC program automatically). I believe the Japanesse will have enough confidence to "test" their first one in combat, as we did.

Anonymous said...

6/2/09 7:51 PM

So "modernizing" our weapons will make Japan,South and North Korea do what exactly? I must have missed something. You mean to suggest North Korea will stop developing nuclear weapons I guess? If so, how does "modernizing" our weapons cause that to happen. It is a simple question which has yet to be answered by anybody on this blog. I'll keep asking though.

Anonymous said...

"I believe the Japanesse will have enough confidence to "test" their first one in combat, as we did."

Yet we need to hurry up and "modernize" our decrepit nuclear stockpile before it's too late. The North Koreans are coming to get us with their vastly superior weapons system (after all, they test). Oh lordy lord, what will we do, what will we do!?
Incredible!

Anonymous said...

"So "modernizing" our weapons will make Japan,South and North Korea do what exactly? I must have missed something."

Yes, you missed that I left out North Korea in the states that are affected by our modernization program. I left it out on purpose, because our weapons (design and manufacturing)activities don't really affect the DPRK's. And I never said that it would MAKE anybody do anything. I said it MAY affect the strategic decisions made by Japan and South Korea.

Perhaps you should read more carefully next time before commenting.

Anonymous said...

8:52 am: "Yet we need to hurry up and "modernize" our decrepit nuclear stockpile before it's too late. The North Koreans are coming to get us with their vastly superior weapons system (after all, they test)."

It's about safety and use control, not NK or any other potential adversary.