SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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[H.A.S.C. No. 10740]
MANAGEMENT OF THE NATIONAL NUCLEAR SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
SPECIAL OVERSIGHT PANEL ON DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY REORGANIZATION
COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED SEVENTH CONGRESS
MARCH 21, 2002
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SPECIAL OVERSIGHT PANEL ON DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY REORGANIZATION
MAC, THORNBERRY, Texas, Chairman
DUNCAN HUNTER, California
LINDSEY GRAHAM, South Carolina
JIM RYUN, Kansas
JIM GIBBONS, Nevada
HEATHER WILSON, New Mexico
KEN CALVERT, California, Vice Chairman
JOE WILSON, South Carolina
ELLEN TAUSCHER, California, Ranking Member
JOHN SPRATT, South Carolina
GENE TAYLOR, Mississippi
CYNTHIA McKINNEY, Georigia
JOHN LARSON, Connecticut
JAMES LANGEVIN, Rhode Island
Hugh N. Johnston, General Counsel
Dudley Tademy, Professional Staff Member
Daniel T. Hilton, Staff Assistant
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C O N T E N T S
Thursday, March 21, 2002, Management of the National Nuclear Security Administration
Thursday, March 21, 2002
THURSDAY, MARCH 21, 2002
MANAGEMENT OF THE NATIONAL NUCLEAR SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
STATEMENTS PRESENTED BY MEMBERS OF CONGRESS
Tauscher, Hon. Ellen O., a Representative from California, Ranking Member, Special Oversight Panel on Department of Energy Reorganization
Thornberry, Hon. Mac, a Representative from Texas, Chairman, Special Oversight Panel on Department of Energy Reorganization
Foster, John S., Chairman, Panel to Assess the Reliability, Safety and Security of the United States Nuclear Stockpile
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCFoster, John S., Chairman
Tauscher, Hon. Ellen O.
Thornberry, Hon. Mac
DOCUMENTS SUBMITTED FOR THE RECORD:
[There were no Documents submitted for the Record.]
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS SUBMITTED FOR THE RECORD:
[The Questions and Answers are pending.]
MANAGEMENT OF THE NATIONAL NUCLEAR SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
House of Representatives,
Committee on Armed Services,
Special Oversight Panel on DOE Reorganization,
Washington, DC, Thursday, March 21, 2002.
The special oversight panel met, pursuant to call, at 11:09 a.m., in room 2212, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Mac Thornberry [chairman of the panel] presiding.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. MAC THORNBERRY, A REPRESENTATIVE FROM TEXAS, CHAIRMAN, SPECIAL OVERSIGHT PANEL ON DOE REORGANIZATION
Mr. THORNBERRY. [Presiding.] This hearing will come to order.
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The special oversight panel on the Department of Energy (DOE) reorganization is pleased to have back with us today Dr. John S. Foster, chairman of the Panel to Assess the Reliability, Safety and Security of the United States Nuclear Stockpile.
The purpose of this hearing is to receive testimony from Dr. Foster on the expectations for the U.S. Nuclear Stockpile Stewardship Program.
Dr. Foster's panel was established by the Strom Thurmond National Defense Act of 1999. Congress recognized some of the technical leadership and organizational challenges to maintain a safe and reliable nuclear weapons stockpile and the importance to our overall national security.
Dr. Foster and his team recently completed the third in a series of reports on this topic. The panel's previous two reports describe what they called, quote, ''the disturbing gap between the stated policy that said maintaining a safe and reliable nuclear stockpile is a supreme national interest and the actions taken to support this policy.''
These reports describe specific problems in the weapons program, particularly in the certification process, management, production capabilities and test readiness.
The third and final report outlines a way ahead for the nuclear weapons complex.
At this time I turn to the distinguished ranking member, the gentlelady from California, for any statement she would like to make before we turn to the testimony.
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[The prepared statement of Mr. Thornberry can be found in the Appendix on page ?.]
STATEMENT OF HON. ELLEN TAUSCHER, A REPRESENTATIVE FROM CALIFORNIA, RANKING MEMBER, SPECIAL OVERSIGHT PANEL ON DOE REORGANIZATION
Mrs. TAUSCHER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I am very happy to be here, as usual, with Dr. Foster and you and this great panel. We have, I think, done a lot of work together. We still have a lot of work to complete.
Dr. Foster, I would like you and your colleagues to know how much we appreciate your efforts to assist Congress in exercising its oversight responsibility in an area that is critical to the security of our nation, maintaining the safety and reliability of our strategic nuclear stockpile without live testing.
This is an area that for some time in the past was neglected. I believe that congressional neglect contributed to the dysfunctional management climate and bureaucratic kudzu that existed in the Department of Energy defense program's area.
I personally appreciate your willingness, Dr. Foster, to devote your technical expertise, countless hours, your pedigree and your credibility to assist us in this effort.
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Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your continued hard work. And, you know, this is one of those panels, I think, Mr. Chairman, where real bipartisanship really is working for the American people. So I thank you for your leadership.
I thank my colleague for being here. I know we will have more people joining us today. And I am happy to see that there are people here to hear the hearing, which is nice on a day when Congress is actually out of session.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I look forward to hearing Dr. Foster.
[The prepared statement of Mrs. Tauscher can be found in the Appendix on page ?.]
Mr. THORNBERRY. I thank the gentlelady.
And Dr. Foster, let me also add my appreciation for you and the work that you have done on this panel. It has been a three-year task. And please pass along our appreciation to the other members, too.
You have served your country in a number of capacities over a number of years. And we continue to benefit from your service. We appreciate you being here today.
Your full statement will be made part of the record, as will your report. And we will turn it over to you for any testimony you would care to give or summary.
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STATEMENT OF JOHN S. FOSTER, CHAIRMAN, PANEL TO ASSESS THE RELIABILITY, SAFETY AND SECURITY OF THE UNITED STATES NUCLEAR STOCKPILE
Dr. FOSTER. Well, thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I would like to just point out that the prepared remarks that you have submitted to the record and our report for this year, which will be published next week, represents a unanimous views of the members of the panel. And that is Dr. Harold Agnew, Dr. Sydell Gold, Mr. Steve Guidice and Dr. James Schlesinger.
And now, Mr. Chairman, if I may, I would just like to make a few brief introductory remarks. Would that be appropriate?
Mr. THORNBERRY. Proceed any way you see fit, sir.
Dr. FOSTER. Last time I briefed your committee, it was June 2001, last year. And at that time, as you say, the panel saw a significant disconnect between the declared national policy and the state of the weapons program.
Since then, we have made progress. In recent months, some actions have been taken to address the situation. Congress has provided an National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) budget with some funds for upgrading the production infrastructure. Congress also provided the needed budget flexibility in the management of the program.
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The administration completed its Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). Both the Secretary of Energy and the Secretary of Defense have supported the stockpile program.
NNSA has added several key officials. It is published a new management plan. And it is broadly outlined a future year's funding plan.
There are some new management teams that have been established at Pantex and at Y12. The Nuclear Weapons Council (NWC) has been reinvigorated and is providing strong leadership. U.S. CINCSTRAT and his stockpile assessment team continue to play a critical role in the annual certification process.
But some major challenges remain. The weapons program has, in the view of this panel, reached a watershed. Confidence in the nuclear tests pedigree is deteriorating.
The decision has been made that more warhead types will undergo extensive refurbishment in the coming decade. This work entails new materials and production methods and modified designs. It must be done in a weapons complex that has atrophied to a point not fully appreciated by many.
Sustaining confidence now poses an unprecedented technical challenge for both the laboratories and the production complex.
To do our best, we will need to transform the weapons program. The panel's report recommends needed actions and provides expectations that the Congress can use to judge progress.
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The panel urges Congress to continue its strong focus and leadership, particularly in the following four areas.
First, to meet the growing technical challenges, we must strengthen the processes for stockpile surveillance, assessments and certification. Significant process changes are needed to obtain a rigorous, balanced and complete assessment of the stockpile.
Every option that can contribute to confidence must be considered. Key to the integrity of these processes is the competition of ideas between the nuclear design laboratories, which has been a foundation for the weapons program for five decades and, in fact, is the raison d'etre for two such laboratories.
Second, the administration and Congress need to articulate and fund a weapon program that is balanced and forward looking. The program must deliver on the requirements for a warhead refurbishment.
At the same time, it needs to adequately support the exploration of advanced concepts and maintain leading capabilities in weapons-relevant science and technology.
A renewed focus on deliverable products is needed. It is the deliverable products that will drive the need for restoring the weapons complex and training a new generation of stockpile stewards. The United States is the only major nuclear power that is unable to manufacture the nuclear components for its nuclear warheads.
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Third, test readiness: The time required to conduct a test after a decision is made must be more realistic. We recommend that the administration and Congress support test readiness of under a year and as little as three months, depending on the type of test.
This is not because a need to test is imminent, but because prudence requires that every president have realistic options to test, should technical or international events make it necessary.
Fourth, and final, the coming year will be critical for determining whether the NNSA can provide the strong leadership Congress sought by establishing this organization in 1999.
The Secretary of Energy has taken some steps to free NNSA from DOE staff oversight. He should be urged to do still more. For example, considerations should be given to establishing an NNSA Chief Financial Officer independent of the DOE.
NNSA must create a resource plan that explains just how it will address the challenge of stockpile stewardship. And it must establish the management capable of executing the plan.
The panel reviewed NNSA's recent report on its proposed new organizational structure. In principal, the proposed approach can be made to work.
It is time now for decisions, for communication and disciplined implementation. There remains an urgent need for NNSA to address the fundamental problems that Congress created it to correct.
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The startup phase is now over. If NNSA is unable to accomplish these tasks, Congress should take positive action to further strengthen the mandate and the support needed to adequately manage the nation's nuclear capabilities.
So, Mr. Chairman, it has been this panel's privilege to address this vital national security concern.
We thank you for providing the opportunity to share the panel's views. And I welcome any questions the committee may have.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Foster can be found on page ?.]
Mr. THORNBERRY. Thank you, sir.
I would like to ask one preliminary question and then yield to my colleagues.
As you are, of course, aware, nuclear weapons are much more in the public eye in recent days. We have had the administration's nuclear posture review, which takes a fresh look and a somewhat different approach to nuclear weapons.
There is a great deal more discussion about what role in deterrence we expect from nuclear weapons. Is it just to prevent other nuclear powers? Is there a deterrence role from other kinds of weapons of mass destruction?
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And so the role of nuclear weapons in our security is something that is certainly being highlighted with the current war and the current world situation.
And yet, as your report points out, it is a technically difficult job to keep these things operating safely and reliably well beyond their design life. And they are getting older and older. I think there is even a point in your report where you talk about how they change as they age.
And so we have got something very important. We have aging nuclear weapons without the ability to make new ones right now. And in last year's reportand I am reading from the letter that transmitted your report, February 2001it said that you found growing deficiencies in the production complex, morale and personnel problems, slippage of program milestones, an unacceptably high risk to completion of needed weapons refurbishment.
I guess my first question is are we doing better? Your panel spent three years visiting all the sites, studying this problem. Nuclear weapons are very important. We have got a tough job. But we had real problems that you identified last year. Are we doing better?
Dr. FOSTER. Mr. Chairman, I think we are doing better. It is a question, perhaps, of the rate of improvement that is required and should be expected. I believe there is an improvement in morale. I think we are over some of the problems that were visited on the laboratories.
I think the funding that has been provided by the Congress, particularly for the infrastructure, for the plans, has made a major difference.
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And I believe that as the weapon refurbishment program proceeds, we will see the whole system begin to behave properly. That is to say, devices will be designed, production will occur. And the products will be delivered.
We have had a decade where there was no production. There was atrophication in the laboratories. And there was concern. The labs went and looked for other things to do. So we have got to change that now and come back to job one.
Now, the kinds of capability we have had deployed are the kinds that were necessary for the Cold War. And as we look to the future, it is possible that the situation may develop where there will be a major adversary and there will be the potential for a nuclear confrontation. And those capabilities that we have would be helpful to deter such events.
However, we also have a different kind of a situation. We have a concern that there are small nations, in fact, maybe even terrorist organizations that seek nuclear weapons.
And given the events of 9/11, we have concerns that, for whatever reasons, they might be prone to use them. And so we need deterrents against that kind of thing. And that may require different kind of weapons than the ones we have in the stockpile.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Thank you. There is a lot that flows from that. And I will have a number of other questions.
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Mrs. TAUSCHER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. That was indeed a provocative question.
Dr. Foster, thank you again for your service.
And kind of pivoting off the chairman's question, my concerns are essentially that in light of the vastly changed world that we operate in post-September 11, I think that it was safe to say that we had gone through two evolutions of the post-Cold War environment. And then we hit upon September 11 and the world has vastly changed.
And I think that your report is prescient and troubling at the same time. What concerns me is that we have had, in this vastly changed world, the realization that these weapons are organic and that they are changing, and that they are, you know, some of them are as old as I am, for God's sake. They were not meant to live that long and what do we do with them now?
We have a nuclear posture review that is controversial. There are definitions changing. There are questions about whether we are actually going to understand what deterrence means in a vastly changed environment of asymmetrical warfare.
When you do not have a big power pitted against you and you are not marshaling your forces, basically in parallel like we were with the Soviet Union, it is a vastly changed world.
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We also have the situation of agreements now with Russia where we appear to be moving to have drastic reductions, but we effectively are not going to dismantle or destroy any weapons. We are going to put them on blocks in a garage.
That puts tremendous challenges, in my opinion, on stockpile stewardship and our ability to deal with nuclear non-proliferation if we are, in fact, not going to dismantle or destroy any of these weapons. So I think we are in a very complicated place.
Saying all that, it does not mean that any of this is good, bad or indifferent. I just think we need a lot of time to understand where we are.
And I think your efforts are going to be very important, because we, on this committee level, have got to be able to deliver a safe and reliable stockpile that works for the American people in a vastly changed environment now.
When you say ''deliverable products,'' are you specifically talking about things like pits? Are you talking about other pieces of the warehouse type of opportunity that we do not have? And can you talk a little bit about that?
Dr. FOSTER. Yes. I think the term that the administration uses is ''refurbish the warheads.'' And they use refurbish rather than remanufacture because when the warheads decay to a point where it is felt one really ought to refurbish them, what one does is to take them apart very, very carefully, make sure we identify in greatest detail how they were really built.
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Were they really built to specifications? Is there any deterioration here that we ought to be concerned about? What has really happened in the last 20 years or whatever life of that warhead?
And then we find that we can keep some of these parts and use them still again. And in particular, we find that, so far, it looks like it is reasonable to be able to use the pit again. And that is very fortunate, because at the moment, we are not in the position to be able to manufacture that.
And there are other components that are specially made, special materials. And we do our best to be able to reuse those. Some, of course, like the high explosives and detonators and cables and so on and so on, have to be replaced.
Now, in doing that, you end up with a warhead that as far as we know, is in good shape. However, it has had some changes made. We have used different materials because some of the materials are not permitted to be used now for environmental reasons. So those materials are now different. It is close, however, as possible to the original.
Some components are different from the ones that were originally in the nuclear package. And some of the design has changed in order to accommodate some of the different components. And that has interaction effects with other parts of the warhead.
And then it goes through a manufacturing process which is actually different because we have had to rebuild the facility that is to manufacture. So there are different machine tools. There are people there who have never performed that kind of work before and so on.
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So you end up with, really, a different warhead, but as close to the original as possible.
Now, the concern is that with all of those changes, you know, can you be confident that this warhead will perform according to specifications?
That is a risk. It is an honest risk. And one cannot know whether it is certainly going to work or certainly will fail. You cannot know that. And you cannot prove it.
Mrs. TAUSCHER. How do we buy down that risk?
Dr. FOSTER. The way you reduce the risk is to do the very best we know how. Now what the panel has suggested is that in the future, you change the ground rules with regard to the process that is used.
Up to now, we have had warheads in the stockpile that did not look like they had any serious deterioration. And so it was possible for the laboratory design folks to look at it and come to the conclusion thatto put it in a simple waythis warhead is still under warranty.
And so the lab director could certify that the warhead would perform according to specifications. And that information could be received by the Commander in ChiefStrategic Command CINCSTRAT and by the Secretary of Energy and Defense. And they could recommend to the President that this warhead would be reliable for the foreseeable future and there was no need to test it in underground nuclear testing.
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In the future, however, we have a different warhead there. And so the question is how do you remove, to the degree you can, the risk?
What the panel has suggested is the following kind of thing. First of all, you do what we call a ''red team effort.'' The laboratory director sets up in the laboratory a red team consisting of the best people around, technical people, engineers, physicists, chemists, forensic folks if you can get them, put that team together and look into the situation, searching for possible failure modes.
In the whole process, that is to say, you start with the surveillance activity at Pantex, what is it we could be overlooking that could make all the difference?
Back in the laboratory, what is there in that design code that could be fooling you? There is a lot of information in that design code that is not based on hard scientific evidence. It is just our best guess. And the results of the simulation by the computer seem to be in close agreement with the actual nuclear tests.
So they look to see where it is the computer could be fooling us. They look to see where the experiments that are performed, the hydro-experiments, where could those results be different from what you think the real warhead will behave like?
And then the dozens and hundreds of small experiments that are done to understand how materials behave, the properties of matter, the actual dynamics when the warhead operates and so forth, look into all of that, always from the point of view of the design team should not be as confident as it is.
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And finally what the red team does is to say, well, you know, we think we have built such a case here that you really should not trust this warhead. What you should do is the following: Either you go test it or you pick another design that has been tested, that has more margin
Mrs. TAUSCHER. And reliability.
Dr. FOSTER. And for reliability and safety. So there is that alternative.
In other words, the laboratory director, instead of just concluding that he could certify this thing, he has to make a judgment. And to judge a thing, you have to compare something with something else. So he will be given two or three or four alternatives.
The panel also concludes that the other design laboratory ought to do the same thing with regard to that warhead, because the other design laboratory has other warheads, other designs that have been tested. They have other alternatives to offer.
And as a result now, the two laboratory directors can send forward some alternatives. And they may have a preference or different preferences.
When that information reaches the CINCSTRAT, that commander has a different set of alternatives. He may not want to use that warhead unless somebody wants to test it. He may want not to use that particular weapons system. He can use something else or use it under different conditions.
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And so he is being asked to provide alternatives and so on through to the secretary of defense and energy up to the president. The president will then have an opportunity to look at some alternatives.
Mrs. TAUSCHER. If I could just briefly ask one final partso, essentially, what you are saying, Dr. Foster, is we cannot embark on any kind of nuclear weapons reduction plan unless we complete this part of it, because to a certain extent, if we all agree that we are going to reduce the number of nuclear weapons, part of our analysis has to be what do we have in the stockpile inventory that is obsolete, not reliable, not working, you know, not part of what DOD tells us is part of what they want as a defense component.
So we have to complete this piece of it in order to this piece of it in order to knowledgeably and appropriately make decisions on, for example, what we do in START III.
Dr. FOSTER. Yes. We are reducing the stockpile. The more we reduce it, the more you have to be very confident that what you have will really work.
If, in retiring weapons in the stockpile, you keep them in storage, then you raise an issue that we have currently with the Russians.
If we agree in the end to reduce those, too, then we are faced with a situation that if the international events caused us to need more nuclear weapons, we would have to then build them, including the pits.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And it is for that reason that the panel recommends strongly that the nation proceed with the development of a manufacturing capability for pits.
Mrs. TAUSCHER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I will yield back at this time.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Thank the gentlelady.
The chair recognizes the distinguished ranking member of the procurement subcommittee, gentleman from Mississippi.
Mr. TAYLOR. Thank you.
Doctor, I only have one question. It is going back to your testimony on page four where you mention that wewhen your quote is we are the only major nuclear power that is unable to manufacture the nuclear components for its nuclear weapons.
I am curious. Is that a result of a lack of market because of environmental factors? Is that a manufacturing-based problem? Why is this?
Dr. FOSTER. Let's see. I believe it was back in 1989 that we had environmental problems at Rocky Flats. And that is where the plutonium fabrication took place.
When it was shut down for those reasons, it was planned to reopen. However, they did not reopen it. And more than that, they did not have a plan for a future production facility. And so, for the last 13 years or whatever it is, the United States has not had a plutonium production capability.
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In our first report and second report, we urged the beginning of examination of a conceptual design of a U.S. plutonium production facility.
And last year, the administrationwith funding from the Congress, the administration actually started to examine such a facility and are now in a position to go forward, though at the moment to our knowledge, there is no commitment to provide that facility by any date certain. Nor is there in the planned budget a line item for that for the out years.
Mr. TAYLOR. So for the past 13 years they have relied on foreign sources or just not purchased any?
Dr. FOSTER. We have just not made any. There is a pilot facility at Los Alamos, where they are trying to relearn how we go about making those. And that information would be valuable, in fact necessary, in the design of the future plant.
Mr. TAYLOR. Has the Department of Defense (DOD) or Congressional Budget Office (CBO) come up with an estimate of what it would cost to restore these capabilities?
Dr. FOSTER. I do not know that it would be helpful for me to give you the estimates that I have heard at this point.
When the panel looked at that issue
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. TAYLOR. Doctor, ultimately the money would have to come from Congress. It may not be helpful, but it would certainly be worth my while to know.
Dr. FOSTER. Well, let me just try and frame it for a moment.
How much that you end up paying for something depends very much on how you go about it.
The panel was persuaded that at this stage it would be very helpful if people who were experienced in industrial production were to be tied into the Los Alamos effort at TA55, because it is not clear to the panel that if we go forward and try to rebuild what we had at Rocky Flats we would be doing the right thing. So that is the first thing.
Second, in any of these things, one is going to run into some surprises. And so it seemed to the panel that it would be very worthwhile to try to build some modules, do some what you might call pilot experiments, rather than committing to a great gestalt that has been built by a bunch of plans and we are going to start pouring concrete and installing machines. And then if something is wrong, you have really got a real problem on your hands, a big job to fix.
So, we thought it would be sort of like building an airplane where you build a couple of pilots first. When you do that, then, the estimate might be less to begin with and the overrun might be less.
The kinds of numbers range in the $2 billion to $4 billion. That means that over a period of a decade or so it is roughly a five percent increase in the budget. However, there will we a year or two or three where it is a big impact on the budget.
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That is the kind of thing I think one ought to ask of General Gordon.
Mr. TAYLOR. When does the lack of this capability become critical?
Dr. FOSTER. We do not know. Nobody knows.
Mr. TAYLOR. What is the worst-case scenario that causes it to become critical?
Dr. FOSTER. Probably the worst-case scenario that I can raise in this forum is one in which we discover a kind of a corrosion going on that seems to be happening in one or two types of weapons. And it is clear to us that if this continues, we could lose the warhead. In other words, it might go fairly quickly.
That is an example.
Mr. TAYLOR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Thank the gentleman.
Gentleman from South Carolina.
Mr. SPRATT. Dr. Foster, welcome, good to see you again.
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In the history of scientists who have made contributions to our national defense, you have few, if any, fears. And we are fortunate indeed to have not only your depth of perspective, but your sustained interest and the wisdom of your advice.
We welcome you warmly to the committee today.
I read your testimony and knowing you personally and reading what you have written on paper here, I have to feel that a little bit of diplomacy in this and a little bit of caution, given the fact that we are in an open forum.
You have used some words that probably mean something very precise and very comprehensive to you but do not necessarily convey the same meaning to us it might convey if we were in a private session and off the record.
Let me just ask you what a few of these phrases mean, if you would go a little bit further. First of all you say we need to broaden the scope of our annual certification process. And I think that is what you were saying as you described to Mrs. Tauscher what needed to be done.
Is there something in the annual certification process now that is lacking or missing? Or does it need to have this methodology you were laying out better instilled?
Dr. FOSTER. Yes, sir. Let me try it this way. The stockpile stewardship program started using the words ''scientific stockpile stewardship.''
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The focus was on the scientists at the nuclear laboratories. And the idea was to make sure that we preserved those capabilities. And so certification had to do with whether or not from the laboratory's scientific and engineering point of view these warheads could still meet the specifications.
When the panel looked at this situation, the panel was concerned that the focus was too narrow. It was on science and computers and so on. And the panel was concerned that we were not taking into account the fact that there was no production complex, that the production complex was deteriorating, had been deteriorating for, in fact, about 20 years.
And so there was some $800 million of backlog in maintenance. And there was some $300 million to $500 million a year needed to recapitalize the infrastructure. And this was not being attended to.
And so, when you talk about whether or not you can maintain reliable and safe weapons, you have to have the capability to do so. And it was not there.
And so that is why we talk about broadening this whole consideration of certification to be able to certify whether or not we have the people and the laboratories and plants, whether they are trained, whether they will be trained in the future, whether or not the facilities exist to do the job, whether or not we are doing a very careful surveillance of the stockpile so we would know in a timely way whether something is wrong. That was what we meant by broadening.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SPRATT. Our chief concern when we coined that concept, stockpile stewardship, was really the stewards. We wanted to be sure that we continued to attract some of the best and brightest physicists and other scientists in this country, the next generation of weapons scientists who could take the handoff from this generation and their depth of knowledge and experience, glean from hundreds of tests and that it would be carried forward. We would not lose it for various reasons.
That was our chief concern, not our only concern, but our chief concern. Number one, are we doing this? And number two, what do you mean when you say we need to restore management responsibility at the labs?
Dr. FOSTER. I think the panelmy sense of the panel's view of this is that starting around 1989 with the beginning of the demise of the Soviet Union and the reduction of the budget for the weapons program, that the laboratories became very concerned about their future.
A lot of the very best people felt that it looked like there was not going to be any nuclear weapons testing. It looked like the production would not occur and so on. And so they went off to other things.
And in fact, as the laboratory dropped, they looked for other activities. They tried to address other problems that the nation was having. And so that was a management focus that left the weapons program and focused on a number of other things.
Now we are in a different situation. That is why the panel says, look, we are at a watershed here. Two things are different. One, there is a nuclear posture review. That spells out what the nation has to do with regard to maintaining nuclear deterrence.
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Second, we have deterioration in the stockpile to the point that it has been ordered that we will remanufacture, refurbish three types of weapons that are in the stockpile, and further, that we have to develop a different kind of nuclear capability in order to be able to penetrate some of the underground targets.
Those two things put us on a totally different course for the future. Now to deliver on that course, we are going to have to galvanize the management.
The management has been concerned with a whole bunch of other things, at least as regards to laboratories. Now they are going to have to turn their attention to job one.
Mr. SPRATT. One of the diversions in 1989 was toward waste management and environmental remediation. Not only was it a management diversion of purpose management time, but also resources. Almost half the allocation of the weapons program today goes for waste management and environmental remediation.
I notice that you did mention that here. And one of the surprising recommendations coming from John Foster in this report is that your chief recommendation for the further reorganization of DOE and NNSA is a chief financial officer.
Of all the things that I would have expected to hear this morning, that would have been somewhere on the bottom of the list. But you seem to assign priority to that particular aspect.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Dr. FOSTER. The panel has difficulty trying to understand why, with all the money and the tasks that need to be done, we cannot get on with it.
Now, one of the problems is clearly what you might call the bureaucracy. We have managed over the last decade or so to add to the bureaucracy that used to be there in the DOE before.
We have added processes when it comes to safety and healthenvironment, safety and healththose things, to the point where we have tied up the management of the laboratories and the plants performing endless studies and reviews in order to see whether or not we could do this or do that.
Things that we used to be able to do in a matter of a week now can take months. It is just incredibly process oriented. And these processes do not add to safety or security. In fact, in some cases they actually hurt the situation.
One of the processes that is particularly difficult for General Gordon is when he reaches an understanding with the Office of Management and Budget on what the financial program ought to look like and he works it out with the Department of Defense and the National Weapons Council, he then has to struggle with the financial officer reporting to the secretary of energy.
Now one would think that this problem need not exist. But it does. One solution would be to provide General Gordon a financial officer that reports to him and permits him to go directly from there to the Department of Defense and to the Congress.
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Mr. SPRATT. Well, he really needs a counterpart at OMB who has some corporate memory and perspective.
If you will recall when we first finally brought together some attention and focused it upon the environmental problem, because aside from being a problem, they did threaten the rest of the complex because this complex, which had been widely supported, 17 different facilities throughout the countryas people began to give more and more attention to the legacy of environmental problems, they became a lot less supportive.
And so to keep support in place, we had to address these kind of problems.
The first Bush administration, OMB did a rather groundbreaking piece of work. They put it together in a small pamphlet. And they simply laid out in a programmatic way what the plant and equipment requirements were and also, but principally what the environmental requirements were.
And we, for the first time, realized that this was an enormous backed up, pent up requirement. And it had to be addressed methodically over a long period of time. And suddenly OMB understood.
So if you went down there and asked for environmental remediation money, more money, they were the ones who had programmatically worked out what the requirements were going to be.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC They need to do the same thing for the weapons side of the budget now. It is my understanding when Secretary Abrahams went down there and General Gordon went down the first time, they got cut substantially on a lot of different programs for which there had been pretty strong support.
And somehow or another we need to make OMB understand this. And DOD needs to support it as well. Now, I think DOD takes the attitude that we have got enough on our plate to say grace over. We do not need to go over and dissipate our effort by pitching in for DOE. But we need their support down at OMB so that you can get sustained support.
If I hear you correctly, you are also saying they need a Future Years Defense Program (FYDP). They need a long-term plan and it needs to be subtle. And it needs to adequately accommodate all their requirements.
Dr. FOSTER. Yes, very much so. And the reason is that from DOD's point of view, they have got a deterrent capability that is decaying. And they want it refurbished. And they want it on the schedule that has been agreed to.
And you cannot do that unless you have clearly laid out a management plan and a financial plan that the Congress understands and can support.
Mr. SPRATT. And you have got somebody there who understands this. And you do not have to explain it to him every 12 months in your new budget process.
You said there are many capabilities missing or deficient. We know one of those is the pit manufacturing facility.
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I would remind you that there was a replacement facility built at Rocky Flats. It was building 600 or something like that. I have forgotten what it was.
And the labs felt that they were left out of the process altogether. That is why they have reasserted their interest in this. TA55 is the lab's model facility for this purpose.
But we did it once. We spent $600 million, ran it for about six months and then shut the thing down. And not only did we not have the capability, we then had a radioactive plant on our hands that we had to dispose of.
And we do not want to make that mistake again, obviously. And we want to do it right.
But that is one thing, a pit manufacturing facility. Then we need a tritium production facility, too.
Nuclear components, is Kansas City adequate? Do we needwhatever pieces are missing, whatever capabilities are in critical condition and need to be replaced now or in the near future?
Dr. FOSTER. Okay. In a place like Kansas City, the thing that I remember from the visit there, where they really need to upgrade is test equipment.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And they have got test equipment that is causing as much trouble as the thing they are looking at. So that needs to be fixed. On the other hand, the management there is first class.
At Pantex, yes, they have got leaky roofs and so on. And that has got to be fixed, no question. The work that they have to do now that we have increased the rate at which we have to retire these weapons, their load has gone up.
If you then look to see what their load is going to be in the next several years as these refurbishment requests come in, they are really going to be hard put to try and meet that schedule. What is called for is more than they can do, so they are going to have to build up that capability.
Y12 is probably the biggest problem. There you have absolutely outstanding management in John Mitchell. You have probably all worked with him over the years when he headed up the ballistic missile program for the submarines.
He has an enormous plant, most of which he does not need. He has to, in a sense, rebuild manufacturing capabilities for special materials, in particular, for the enriched uranium, be able to supply the hydrodynamic assemblies for the laboratories to do their hydrodynamic tests. He has got a massive job there.
Mr. SPRATT. Seems to me one of the problems is that we have got an attitude right now that we are not going to make these weapons for now. We are not going to test these weapons for now. And we are probably not going to use these weapons.
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So, therefore, this can be nudged aside while we deal with much more immediate needs. And every year that attitude keeps putting their budget further and further back.
Dr. FOSTER. Yes, the panel has come across folks with the view that, you know, what is wrong with letting these just decay? Isn't that the best way to end this situation?
I mean, if the enemy does not know it, they can still be there as a deterrent.
I think the panel's view of that is that we have got a society in which you cannot pull that off. If we want to deter a major nation from a major war, we want to deter a terrorist from using a nuclear weapon they have gotten one way or another, we want to believe that ours will work. And we want him to believe they will work.
Mr. SPRATT. You think we can deter terrorists, fanatics like those that blew up the World Trade Tower? I guess that is our big concern. Are they even amenable to deterrent?
Dr. FOSTER. I do not know the answer to that, sir. I think we ought to give serious thought to what kind of capability we would be prepared to use if it came to that. There is certainly no sense in dropping a one-megaton bomb on that staging area of theirs.
But to the extent that we could build, for example, a low-yield nuclear device that would go very deep and be a clean weapon, that is to say, major reduction in the fallout, if any, yes, I think we have to look seriously at the possibility.
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Mr. SPRATT. Bottom line is you would agree that they need a capital budget. And they need a long-term budget, like a six-year, future years defense budget that adequately deals with all of these missing pieces and capabilities that you have just described.
Dr. FOSTER. Yes, sir.
Mr. SPRATT. Thank you, sir.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Thank the gentleman.
Before yielding to the gentleman from South Carolina, let me follow up on that.
One of the things that I hear frequently is that there is a frustration that we have not taken, as Mr. Spratt was talking about, a future years budget and integrated that into the stockpile work that needs to be done, and even integrate that into the facilities that it takes to do that work.
In other words, we do not bring it all together so you can really make plans. We will tell a facility, you got to do this. But then the money is not there to do it or they do not have the people.
Is that consistent with what you all found, that this lack of integration, the money, the people, the facilities is just not there?
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Dr. FOSTER. Yes, Mr. Chairman, that is the way we see it. As the GAO found and reported, they had some 70 different kinds of plans. But they were not integrated.
And the job that General Gordon has taken on is the business of integrating all of that. And while he does not have a precise plan, he has got the broad outlines that go in the right direction.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Thank you.
Distinguished gentleman from South Carolina.
Mr. GRAHAM. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And Dr. Foster, we appreciate your service very much.
And I am very appreciative of representing a portion of South Carolina that includes the Savannah River site. And we are very proud of our success there, working for victory in the Cold War.
And at this time there is such support for the site, I wanted to find out from you what your view is about the safety and security of that particular site.
Dr. FOSTER. The panel's impression from talking and working with the representatives from the Savannah plant is that that organization is in the best shape of all the plants.
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Mr. GRAHAM. Thank you. That is perfect. That is the kind of news
Mr. GRAHAM. This is excellent.
Dr. FOSTER. Now I am in trouble with all the others.
Mr. GRAHAM. Well, I am certainly going to relay this information back to persons who would be interested.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Dr. Foster, as I mentioned at the beginning, you had a number of very significant suggestions, comments in your report. And I am not sure we will have time to get to all of them. But let me ask about one.
You point out in your report that Congress tried to get a handle on the situation in creating the NNSA several years ago. And in part what you were describing earlier, the overlap with all these processes and all these people second guessing each other and passing paperwork back and forth prevented us from doing the work that needed to be done.
In its last report, you say that we still need to look at the Department of Energy, not the NNSA, but the Department of Energy for staff redundancies and duplication.
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You talked about the financial officer with Mr. Spratt, but what other suggestions do you have where the secretary of energy or maybe Congress ought to look for redundancies, duplications things that hinder NNSA from doing its job?
Dr. FOSTER. The opinion that you find expressed at the laboratories and to some extent at the plants is that the functional processes that are imposed on them is worse now than it was before NNSA was established.
What one has is security, environment and health and safety functional areas with, apparently, an ability from the top of the DOE reaching down into the laboratory at all levels to be able to control and direct the processes in the laboratory, in the plant.
Now, when the Department of Energy contracts with the University of California and Lockheed Martin and for the plants' various other industrial organizations to operate those facilities, one is choosing, as far as we can see, the best people that are available to perform those tasks.
And then to find that people in the government offices are presuming to tell these people not just what it is that we expect of them with regard to safety and health, but how to go about the job, that is the rub. That is what is wrong.
And it is taking a large number of people in the DOE headquarters, large number of people in the field offices, and a large number of people in the plants.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And you understand that the task, then, is to somehow reduce these numbers of people. And that is not easy. But that is what has to be done.
But it is more than that. Those functional people are there to serve the line management. And so it is important to be clear on who is the line management.
The way the panel can identify the line management is when something goes wrong. And from time to time, in a big complex like that, one does have things go wrong.
And we know where the burden is put. It is going to be put on General Gordon. It will be put on the plant manager. It will be put on the laboratory director. And the laboratory director knows where to put it. It will be on the manager for that particular operation.
That is the line management. And that line management should have the responsibility and the authority to say whatsince he is held responsible for those functional operations, he should be in a position to say that he will not accept that particular request for a study or a process or whatever.
And unfortunately, at the present stage, we have not a situation where it is clear to thoseclear who is the line manager, what is his responsibility and authority. And it is not clear to the functional folk what the limits on their responsibility and authority are.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Is this a problem which Congress can play a role in solving, other than urging the secretary and General Gordon to get rid of excess people and to clarify these lines of accountability?
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Dr. FOSTER. I think that is the right tact, yes.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Well, it is very disturbing. Some people believe that that problem is worse now than before. I mean, that is exactly the sort of problem that this was created to solve in the first place.
And that is why the statute says you have a clear chain of command. And it outlines it. And I know this is a frustration which people have felt for a number of years.
Let me go ahead and then just follow that out, because another point you make in the report is they better get some of this straight this year. And if they do not, Congress ought to look at doing something different.
Amplify that a little bit. What should we look at, a completely independent agency if they cannot get their act together?
Dr. FOSTER. While I think about that for a moment, let me just back up and point outI think we reported last year, but if I did not, we will try again.
The people in the laboratory have estimated what kind of inefficiency are we talking about here with this bureaucratic activity? And the answer seems to be 30 to 50 percent reduction in capability.
Now, when we look to the job ahead as we go over this watershed, and people complain about we do not have the number of people needed to do it, and we do not have the budget and so on, this 30 percent, 50 percent, you know, we are talking about a billion dollars a year, a billion dollars a year of inefficiency. I mean, that is unacceptable.
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So, I think the answer is the one you came to a moment ago, Mr. Chairman. That is why we have a secretary of energy. That is why we have a General Gordon. And they have to be held responsible.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Thank you.
Gentlelady from California.
Mrs. TAUSCHER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Dr. Foster, the test site and the readiness issue is a very controversial situation, as you can imagine. And you have put some timeframes and kind of picked some recommendations that are, I think, aggressive.
And, you know, I am not opposed at all to being reasonable about making sure we have the ability to test in the shorter timeframe than I think is now projected. And I think that that is part of our responsibility as the political and public policy arm to take the heat politically and to lead the American people to understand.
But you can understand that people will absolutely go ballistic if they believe that we are going to start testing again, and that it is going to be very difficult for us, unless we start doing the good work of preparing the American people and being reasonable and educating people as to what this about, sooner than later.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And just the idea of talking about testing, literally sends people into orbit.
So you have picked some numbers here of 12 months and three months, in some cases, of getting the test site ready to be able to facilitate testing on certain types of weapons.
Can you kind of give me the justification for these metrics? And can you talk a little bityou have been in this business long enough. You understand politics. Can you give us a little hint as to how we can start to get a grip on this so that when we converse with the American people they will understand what this is about and what it is not about?
Dr. FOSTER. I agree that our report that calls for test readiness of three months to a year depending on the type of tests may come across to people as being pretty aggressive.
However, let me take you back to our experience of 196263. We had a gentleman's agreement between Khrushchev and Eisenhower that we would not do anymore nuclear testing.
And then, abruptly, Khrushchev announced that for their strategic needs, they were going back to testing. And then in a matter of a couple of weeks or so, they conducted the largest atmospheric test program that had ever been held.
President Kennedy was then effaced with the situation of what the United States ought to do. We had had a ground rule as part of the safeguards that we should be ready to test. That was established when the agreement was made.
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But subsequent to the time the agreement was made, political pressure grew to have us not be very ready, not to take any actions in the proving ground that could indicate that we might be getting ready to test, because it might provoke the Russians, who might see it with their overhead satellites, to go test.
So, on the one hand we had a declaratory statement to the laboratory, get ready to test. On the other handI, as the director of the laboratory, was receiving pressure from chairman of the AEC, Glenn Seaborg, good friend, not to proceed.
Now, I think the same kind of thing can occur. We have, however, a slightly different situation now. It is not clear what our declaratory position is.
If one looks at START II thing, it is what, one year. If one takes the Department of Energy's posture, it is two to three years, currently, at readiness. There are those who think maybe it should be 18 months.
Now, whether or not we ought to be ready to test is an important issue to put on the table. And that is what the panel has done. It is put this issue on the table.
And it is chosen three months to a year not so much because we have some urgent need to perform a nuclear test today, but for two reasons.
One, we want to be prepared to test. And in getting prepared to test, we do not want to be interpreted that there is somehow some weakness in our posture, that the warheads might not work, that we really do not have a nuclear deterrent. We certainly do not want that.
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Second, it is not totally under our control. There are other nations that are trying to get nuclear weapons. There are nations that already have nuclear weapons, and they are decaying.
And it appears that nuclear weapons are important for the foreseeable future. Therefore, it is more likely, one could say, that a foreign country will go and test its nuclear weapons.
And the U.S. President may want, therefore, to take that opportunity for us to upgrade our confidence in the weapons that we have.
And if the President asks, when could you be ready to test this or that of particular importance and the answer is two to three years, that may not even be in his term.
Normally, a political window, as you folks know better than I, may be a month or three months or five or a few weeks. Two to three years does not do it.
So we decided that it is not so much a matter of what we think or the Department of Energy thinks. The only person who can answer that today is our president. And he ought to be asked.
Mrs. TAUSCHER. We will do that.
I yield back, Mr. Chairman.
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Mr. THORNBERRY. Mr. Spratt?
Mr. SPRATT. Dr. Foster, to go back just briefly to the question that the chairman put to you, obviously Congress can be intrusive itself if we start imposing rigid statutory guidelines. We do not want to cross the line and do that. But there may be some occasions youfrequently throughout your testimony you call for Congress to renew emphasis upon, bring the spotlight upon, and prod and exhort and so forth.
Should we, to speed things up, consider some sort of statutory prescription to have red teams, to have a five-year or six-year capital budget or FYDP (Future Years Defense Plans) to expand, enhance the certification process?
Is there something here where Congress could play a constructive role and get things moving a little more expeditiously?
Dr. FOSTER. I do not know, Mr. Spratt, what the best answer to that question is. I should report that, it was the panel's finding that the laboratories are not anxious to have a test readiness of the three months to a year.
They are not anxious to have red teams and to have the other design laboratory provide a critical review of their work.
Now, look, one can understand that. That is the way they would like it. But it is the panel's view that that is not the way it should be.
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Mr. SPRATT. Are they concerned about the tradeoff? All of these things cost money. Are they concerned that they will have to spend more money and neglect other things?
Dr. FOSTER. Yes. Certainly, if one asks for a test readiness of three months to a year, it is certainly going to cost money. How much money it will cost dependswhen you are askeddepends very much on whether or not you want to do it.
Mr. SPRATT. Whether or not you are in earnest, in other words.
Dr. FOSTER. If you feel that it is, as is likely, that the money spent to get ready in the Nevada Proving Ground will come out of the plant or the laboratory budget, then it is going to be a frightfully expensive operation.
On the other hand, if you ask the Department of Defense what would they like to have tested and they say, well, we would like to have tested the W88 or the W87 or the 61 or whatever. And what they want is to see if it will go off or not. That is a very low cost operation.
On the other hand, if the laboratory nevertheless had to go perform a nuclear test, they might like to find out in as much detail as possible how that warhead performs.
And they could put a lot of diagnostics on it, no question. And they would get a lot of information. And it would be very expensive.
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So the answer you get depends very much on where you are coming from and what is it that you want to find out. What is the priority? Is the priority to find out whether or not the warhead will work? Or is the priority to understand the science or the physics and some of the chemical actions in the warhead?
If that is the kind of thing, it is very different from just finding out whether or not it will work.
Mr. SPRATT. Will the advent of the NIF, the National Ignition Facility, enhance our ability to know some of these diagnostic things?
Dr. FOSTER. Yes, sir, I believe it will. I mean, it will provide the laboratory an opportunity to have fusion take place in a micro-explosion and to study the phenomena, and from that gain the kind of factual information one needs to put into the design codes. It will not do everything, but it will take us a long way.
Mr. SPRATT. Well, let me put you in the position of the tradeoff. If you had to spend more money to refurbish the Nevada Proving Ground, and if you had to take that money or jeopardize funding for what the NIF is going to cost to complete, how would you resolve the tradeoff?
Dr. FOSTER. Oh, I would not have anythis is just personalI would not have any difficulty deciding on that.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Down the road, next few years, with refurbished warheads, the name of the game is deterrence. I would want to make sure we have it. And I would test it in Nevada.
Mr. SPRATT. So you would put the money into testing even down the road or now?
Dr. FOSTER. Oh, sure.
Mr. SPRATT. Right now.
Dr. FOSTER. No. I just would not run the risk if I had the option. But you see, it is not that. It is a political concern. It is not just a technical military; it is a political concern.
Mr. SPRATT. But you were saying earlier if it is simply a reliability test to prove that something in the stockpile still works, that is a fairly simple process with respect to the proving ground to getting it back up to
Dr. FOSTER. Yes, I would spend the money there rather than someplace else in the complex.
Mr. SPRATT. Thank you, sir.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Dr. Foster, continuing just a little bit on the laboratoriesyour report is very strong saying that this is a watershed, that the last decade they have focused on scientific tools and things for stockpile stewardship, and now we have got to move to refurbishing the weapons.
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But we are not finished with the first part yet. I mean, particularly, if you look at the money, we do not have everything up and operating. We are still working on Advanced Simulation Computer Initiative (ASCI). We are stillyou know, going down the list.
Are you ready to turn in that different direction now? Surely we have got to finish what we have started.
Dr. FOSTER. Yes, sir, we do. But it is a matter of balance. I mean, we cannot ignore the fact that the production complex cannot produce the weapon. And the weapons are deteriorating.
So we have to face that fact. Therefore, more money has to go into the restoration of the production complex and in providing the capital equipment.
The degree to which the laboratory processes and capabilities has to suffer is a judgment that has to be made by the administration and the Congress.
If you held the budget flat and you have to rejuvenate the production complex, yes, the front end of the process, the laboratories would have to suffer.
But we do not have an alternative. We have to maintain the deterrent. It is decaying and has to be replaced.
Mr. THORNBERRY. There is an argument with regard to the laboratories about how diverse they need to be. And part of the argument is they need to be able to do a variety of things to help get and keep good people, that if all you do is work on weapons, that you are limiting yourself greatly.
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And yet, I get a feel from your comments that you think we need to at least narrow our focus a little bit more.
You have obviously been a laboratory director. Have we gotten sidetracked?
And I guess the other tension now is there is so much tremendous capability at laboratories dealing with weapons of mass destruction in a broad sense, there is a high demand to use that capability now.
But does that make it harder to do what their first job is?
Dr. FOSTER. Well, as we indicated earlier, the situation that we are in is partly as a result of history. First of all, when Oppenheimer and Lawrence and so on established the Los Alamos and Livermore laboratories, they knew that we had to have a strong science based, as well as a major effort on the design and development of nuclear weapons.
And so those laboratories, at the outset, had those capabilities. They were necessary.
However, in the last decade, the problem at the laboratories, when the budget dropped by a factor of two or so, they tried to save jobs, so to speak, and went and used their capabilities to solve other problems that the country had.
And of course, once you start down that track, then there are those who are in it who would like to keep going. So the labs diversified.
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Now, however, I think what is clear is that there are two main jobs in the laboratory. One of them is nuclear weapons and another one is non-proliferation. I mean, those two things are pretty much tied together. And so they ought to be considered the major effort.
Now, as we begin to push through the weapons in the production complex, I think we will balance and level out the whole operation. It will be forced to perform. It will have to deliver to the Department of Defense.
And that will change the balance and focus and interest. They will begin to realize that that, in fact, is their main priority even though they can contribute in a whole host of other areas.
I mean, the Los Alamos laboratory has made major contributions, as has Livermore in the biological field. And you can go on and on to other areas.
But they are unique. They are the only ones who are charged with this responsibility regarding nuclear weapons. And that is why they are there.
Mr. THORNBERRY. If you had to give us a target date when we should have pit manufacturing capability, what year should we be looking toward, do you think?
Dr. FOSTER. Well, I think we would all agree that it is possible for us to take an awfully long time. And the dates that I have heard, which may be optimistic, are 15 years.
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Now, that is quite different from the time it took us during World War II. I think we probably did the whole job in a couple years.
In my view, it has to be tied to the need. Certainly, the Los Alamos TA55 facility can turn out a number of warheads. That would be very, very useful for some deterrent capability.
For example, maybe some terrorist activities that may not need very many, we could build them at Los Alamos. And therefore, you can imagine getting some of these in the next few years.
However, if one has a problem in the stockpile where we will have hundreds or more of a particular type, then Los Alamos cannot handle it at all under any consideration. Therefore, we have to have a major production facility.
How soon one could get it, certainly faster than the 15 years. We are already in the process and hopefully we will continue it to get rid of, say, the first six of those 15 years involving the business of design and environmental concern and siting and so on and so on. Thereafter, one might be able to finish it in another four years.
Mr. SPRATT. Chairman, yield just a second?
Mr. THORNBERRY. Certainly.
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SPRATT. Dr. Foster, about 10 years ago when we stood down the Rocky Flats plant, there was asked by some Associated Press (AP) reporter, ''What are we going to do?''
And I said, ''Well, there is always TA55 in a lurch. We can use TA55 to meet some of our pit requirements since they have to be supplied.''
I became the hottest property on Santa Fe news after saying that. Everybody in New Mexico was calling me for further elaboration.
I am not sure how well it would be received in New Mexico. But it is a fallback capability for sure. But I do not think there is local enthusiasm for expanding it very much.
Dr. FOSTER. Well, my understanding of the study that has been performed in the last year by the DOE on this matter is that it could not do the job.
But it can do some things.
Mr. THORNBERRY. I am skipping around a little bit. And I appreciate you bearing with us.
You mention in your report that the new organizational structure within NNSA is somethingI believe you saythat can be made to work.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Sounds to me like a little less than enthusiastic endorsement of the system which General Gordon has come up with. What should we be looking for as he seeks to implement that plan this year?
Let me add one other thing. It seems to me it does go somewhat toward what you were talking about earlier. And that is you have a direct chain of command from headquarters to each facility and maybe that does help clarify things a little bit.
Dr. FOSTER. The panel's view is that General Gordon has a kind of a mess on his hands. And you folks know as well as anyone that it is very hard to clean up such a situation absent an absolute crisis.
And therefore, he is moving forward in trying to eliminate one layer of the management. And maybe there is still two layers too many. But if he is very forceful and will not stand for deviations, then I think, you know, the panel's view is he can make it.
So perhaps what the committee can do is to look to see if it is clear to you from those that testify from the laboratories, from the plants and from headquarters and from field offices and so on, everybody is singing from the same sheet of paper. Then he is making it work.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Okay. Thank you.
You all have otherI guess I have one final question I would like to ask, which may be a little out there.
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In your report, when you talk about being at a watershed and moving away somewhat from the emphasis of the past decade, it seems to imply to me a little bit that stockpile stewardship as a program is an interim measure.
In other words, we cannot count on it forever. At some point we have to make new weapons. At some point we have to get back to testing.
Is that the wayI realize this is kind of a longer-term view of things. But is that the way you see it?
Mrs. TAUSCHER. May I ask you to yield for a second?
Mr. THORNBERRY. Certainly.
Mrs. TAUSCHER. As part of that question, Dr. Foster, testing and the National Ignition Facility and stockpile stewardship could appear at odds.
It could appear to some people that if we are going to look to get the test site ready, then what are we building a huge laser for? What are we doing about making these superfast computers? Why do we need a simulation program if we are actually going to go test?
I desperately need for you to tell me that the NIF is very, very important and, you know, a la Mr. Wilson over here, I need some support here for the NIF.
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And I need you to talk about, just very briefly as part of your answer to the chairman's question, that these are not at odds, that they are complimentaryuse your own words. Feel free to do that.
But give us some support here on why some uninitiated folks who look at the comparison between testing over here and simulation over here do not all of a sudden think that testing now has become in favor and we do not need to do this other thing.
Dr. FOSTER. The panel's view, of course, is a consequence of the people that are on it. And their view is that we are running a lot of risk.
And it is clear that as we go over this watershed and get new and different warheads in the stockpile, we run a lot more risk than we have run in the last decade with warheads that had been tested.
Now, in the past, we have always pushed as hard as we could to get better hydrodynamic testing capability, improved diagnostics on those tests, the best computers.
The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) led the nation in the development of large computers. And it is doing so today. So you need this scientific stockpile stewardship capability whether or not you test.
However, the balance does change if you have an opportunity to test. The investment that the laboratory would choose to make, just as it used to make it when it was deciding how many dollars it wanted to put into test as opposed to how many dollars it wanted to put into laboratory operation.
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It always had to face that balance. And it would do so again if it were politically given the opportunity to go test.
Mrs. TAUSCHER. Thank you.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Thank you.
I believe that is all the questions I have, if my colleagues do not have anything else.
Dr. Foster, if there is anything else you think we ought to watch out for, please let us know. But thank you very much for being here. And again, thank you and the members of your panel for the work you have done over the past three years in looking at these very difficult issues.
But they are issues upon which our security is based. And so we are very grateful for you being here and for your work.
Dr. FOSTER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Hearing stands adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 12:45 p.m., the subcommittee was adjourned.]