SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
Page 1 TOP OF DOC?????
[H.A.S.C. No. 10714]
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
JUNE 26, 2001
Page 2 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office
Internet: bookstore.gpo.gov Phone: (202) 512-1800 Fax: (202) 512-2250
Mail: Stop SSOP, Washington, DC 20402-0001
SPECIAL OVERSIGHT PANEL ON DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY REORGANIZATION
MAC THORNBERRY, Texas
DUNCAN HUNTER, California
LINDSEY GRAHAM, South Carolina
JIM RYUN, Kansas
JIM GIBBONS, Nevada
HEATHER WILSON, New Mexico
KEN CALVERT, California
ELLEN O. TAUSCHER, California
JOHN SPRATT, South Carolina
GENE TAYLOR, Mississippi
CYNTHIA A. McKINNEY, Georgia
JOHN B. LARSON, Connecticut
JAMES R. LANGEVIN, Rhode Island
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Pete Berry, Professional Staff Member
Dudley Tademy, Professional Staff Member
Dan Hilton, Staff Assistant
C O N T E N T S
CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF HEARINGS
Tuesday, June 26, 2001, Management of the National Nuclear Security Administration
Tuesday, June 26, 2001
TUESDAY, JUNE 26, 2001
MANAGEMENT OF THE NATIONAL NUCLEAR SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
STATEMENTS PRESENTED BY MEMBERS OF CONGRESS
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Tauscher, Hon. Ellen O., a Representative from California, Ranking Member, Oversight Panel on Department of Energy
Thornberry, Hon. Mac, a Representative from Texas, Chairman, Special Oversight Panel on Department of Energy
Foster, John S., Chairman, Panel to Assess the Reliability, Safety and Security of the United States Stockpile
Foster, John S.
DOCUMENTS SUBMITTED FOR THE RECORD:
[The Documents submitted for the Record can be viewed in the hard copy.]
FY 2000 Report to Congress of the Panel to Assess the Reliability, Safety, and Security of the United States Nuclear Stockpile
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS SUBMITTED FOR THE RECORD:
[The Questions and Answers can be viewed in the hard copy.]
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
MANAGEMENT OF THE NATIONAL NUCLEAR SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
House of Representatives,
Committee on Armed Services,
Special Oversight Panel on Department of Energy Reorganization
Washington, DC, Tuesday, June 26, 2001.
The Special Oversight Panel met, pursuant to call, at 1:31 p.m., in room 2216, 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 DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY REORGANIZATION
Mr. THORNBERRY. The hearing will come to order.
The Special Oversight Panel on Department of Energy Reorganization is pleased to have with us today Dr. John Foster. Dr. Foster is well-known in the nuclear weapons community, having served as director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, director of Defense Research and Engineering at the Department of Defense (DOD), as well as positions in the private sector and a number of advisory panels and commissions, including President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) and the Defense Science Board.
He is here today as chairman of the Panel to Assess the Reliability, Safety and Security of the United States Nuclear Stockpile. Those issues, the reliability, safety, and security of the U.S. nuclear stockpile, are increasingly the focus of public attention.
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
In their recent meetings in Europe, President Bush and President Putin discussed the future of security environment. That environment will undoubtedly include nuclear weapons.
As Secretary Rumsfeld testified last week that 12 countries have nuclear weapons programs versus five in 1972.
There is no doubt that nuclear weapons will continue to play a central role in U.S. security far into the future. Yet, without the ability to build new weapons or to fully test old ones, maintaining the confidence of allies, adversaries and ourselves in nuclear deterrence is growing more difficult. Indeed, one of the major conclusions of Dr. Foster's panel's report in February was that there is ''a disturbing gap between the nation's declaratory policy that maintenance of a safe and reliable nuclear stockpile is of supreme national interest and the actions taken to support that policy.''
We clearly have enormous challenges before us, challenges which the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) was designed to address. How well it is addressing those challenges, is the subject for this hearing.
I now yield to the Ranking Member, Ms. Tauscher.
STATEMENT OF HON. ELLEN O. TAUSCHER, A REPRESENTATIVE FROM CALIFORNIA, RANKING MEMBER, SPECIAL OVERSIGHT PANEL ON DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY REORGANIZATION
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mrs. TAUSCHER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Dr. Foster, in addition to welcoming you to this hearing today, I want to thank you for your leadership and substantive contributions to the congressionally mandated assessment of the reliability, safety and security of the nuclear weapons stockpile.
You know that I represent California's 10th Congressional District. It is a great honor for me. But we are blessed in the 10th Congressional District to be the home of two national nuclear labs, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Sandia, California.
And you have an unbelievable pedigree and respect of the people in California. And I thank you for your service to this country.
You know, on this panel we are all too familiar with the horror stories and negative descriptions of the Department of Energy's (DOE) nuclear weapons management and budgeting process of the past. I have often referred to it as the equivalent of bureaucratic kudzu. The efforts of your panel are most helpful to us on this panel not only because of the implementation panel, but because our colleagues on the Procurement Subcommittee need to be provided with the congressional oversight this important area deserves.
None would challenge the declared policy that the nuclear stockpile is a supreme national interest in support of the nuclear deterrent strategy. Our challenge is to ensure that the stockpile is capable of meeting the needs of that declaration.
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Dr. Foster, I look forward to your testimony to include your assessment of the current state of improvement in the NNSA management and organizational structure. While I am optimistic of the general progress being made under the leadership of General Gordon, I realize that much work remains to be done.
For example, we know that General Gordon is still working on the organizational focus and structure below the level of the NNSA headquarters. Additionally, I am very interested in your recommendations regarding specific actions we could take to enhance the progress of improvement.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Thank you.
The chair is also pleased to note that we have in the audience the current director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Dr. Bruce Tarter. So there are all sorts of folks that are interested in what you have to say, Dr. Foster.
Without objection, your complete statement will be made part of the record. And you may proceed as you see fit.
STATEMENT OF JOHN S. FOSTER, CHAIRMAN, PANEL TO ASSESS THE RELIABILITY, SAFETY, AND SECURITY OF THE UNITED STATES STOCKPILE
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Dr. FOSTER. Well, thank you, Ms. Tauscher.
And, Mr. Chairman, I thank you for those remarks.
If it is appropriate, in your view, I would just like to read that opening statement, because I think it sort of sets the scene for the kinds of questions that you may have in mind.
Mr. Chairman, members of the Special Oversight Panel, in 1999 Congress established the Panel to Assess the Reliability, Safety and Security of the United States Nuclear Stockpile, which I chair. My prepared statement represents the unanimous view of my fellow panel members, Dr. Harold Agnew, Dr. Sydell Gold, Mr. Stephen Guidice, and Dr. James Schlesinger. And by the way, with me is David Graham and Jim Silk, and these two folks have been of immense value to the panel.
They are members of the staff of the Institute for Defense Analysis. And without them, we couldn't have done that job.
To provide context for the points I will be making concerning National Nuclear Security Administration management issues, I begin with three observations.
First, we see the disconnect between the declared national policy and the current state of the nuclear weapons facilities. National leaderscivilian and military, executive and legislativehave stated repeatedly that sustaining a safe and reliable stockpile in support of deterrence is a supreme national interest. President Bush recently reinforced this emphasis, stating that, ''Nuclear weapons still have a vital role to play in our security and that of our allies.'' It is the panel's view that the programs for sustaining the stockpile are not being managed in a manner commensurate with their importance.
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Second, irrespective of the future size of the nuclear stockpile, threshold levels of capabilities in the plants and laboratories are needed. The production complex must be revitalized regardless of stockpile size.
Third, new tools and methods will be needed to assess and maintain our aging stockpile regardless of whether we test. Our principal recommendations are not altered by future decisions regarding the moratorium on underground nuclear testing.
With regard to your specific concern today, NNSA management, there has been progress. John Gordon has been named the NNSA administrator. He is setting up a new organization. He is recruiting good people and has prepared the first multi-year program plan.
NNSA has worked with DOD to reinvigorate the Nuclear Weapons Council (NWC). The Nuclear Weapons Council has approved life-extension programs for three key warheads: the W76 ballistic missile warhead, the W80 cruise missile warhead, and the B61 bomb. Science and computing programs are progressing, and NNSA has given Congress a plan for developing the high energy physics tools to support stockpile stewardship.
My focus today is on the unfinished work. Congress created NNSA to address longstanding DOE management problems. Although we see progress, General Gordon and his staff still face major management challenges.
I will address three areas: restoring the production complex, reorienting headquarters management and oversight, and maintaining a strong weapons complex workforce. My remarks draw on the findings of our two reports to Congress, as well as our recent work.
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Restoring the production complex: We are encouraged that the Nuclear Weapons Council has approved the life-extension programs of the W76, the W80 and the B61. At the same time, the weapons complex is not likely to be able to meet the approved milestones. In fact, the complex has been unable to meet the schedule for today's workload which is modest compared to the future plans.
In addition, some specialized production capabilities have fallen into disrepair, and current plans and priorities will not permit them to be restored in time. We are seeing worrisome signs of deterioration elsewhere in the stockpile. And at the same time, there are major continuing shortfalls within the production complex. The United States is the only nuclear weapons state that cannot produce the pits for its weapons.
Milestones continue to slip for production and certification of a plutonium pit for the W88 warhead at the interim Los Alamos TA55 facilities. Conceptual design work for an adequate long-term facility continues to be delayed. Critical materials operations at the Y12 plant have not in fact been brought back on line since activities were disrupted in the mid-1990s. On a positive note, Y12 recently restored some of its highly enriched uranium operation.
The core objective of the 1994 defense posture reviewan integrated capability for design, production and certification warheadshas not been achieved. It is our view that the NNSA, with the support of the Nuclear Weapons Council, must develop a plan and a program for a fully capable weapons production complex.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC A top priority should be specific goals and milestones for restoring adequate production capabilities for plutonium pits and nuclear secondaries. Integrated capabilities for design, production and certification should be exercised end to end through the timely execution of the planned life-extension program.
Congress can play critical roles here in reviewing, overseeing, and supporting what must be a national program for restoring the weapons production complex.
Reorienting DOE management and oversight: Over the last two years, our panel has seen many of the same management problems, as were documented by the Galvin CommissionDOE's 120-day studyand the Chiles Commission. These are problems that Congress created NNSA to fix.
To prepare for my testimony today, I called a number of people, working within the laboratories and plants to get their views on progress in NNSA management. Based on what I heard, and the experiences of our panel, I must report that some of the more fundamental management problems still remain to be addressed. Resolving these problems will greatly reduce inefficiency and improve morale.
Completing the job of standing up the NNSA will require action in three areas. Roles and responsibilities within NNSA need to be rationalized and enforced. A key problem is that some offices within NNSA are continuing the DOE practice of micro-managing functional activities within both the labs and the plants. Examples of areas where these practices seem to be most prevalent are environmental, health, safety, and security practices.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC All DOE and NNSA functional interactions with the weapons complex should flow through NNSA line management. DOE orders that dictate weapons complex management practices should be eliminated. To an undesirable extent DOE/NNSA rules are still detailing how things are to be done within the labs and the plants. NNSA lines of authority and accountability also need to be streamlined and enforced. People in the field still complain that there is a need for an effective process for raising and resolving issues within a line management chain that has minimal layers.
NNSA headquarters should be limited to performing senior headquarters functions. In particular, NNSA has a vital leadership role to play in defining processes that engage the laboratories in a healthy competition of ideas, including vigorous efforts to find problems in the stockpile. Furthermore, NNSA must integrate plans and programs and allocate resources to meet national priorities.
We hire competent, intelligent people to provide leadership at NNSA, and to manage our labs and plants. We need to make it possible for them to manage effectively.
Maintaining a strong workforce: The Chiles Commission emphasized that the success of stockpile stewardship depends entirely on our stewards. We agree that hiring, training, and qualification of the next generation of stewards warrants special attention over the coming years. The proven method for training new designers, is to have them work under the tutelage of experienced designers. Our panel recommends systematic plans and programs that will involve new stewards in the design of robust, alternative warheads, that will provide a hedge if problems occur in the future, with one or more types of device within the current stockpile.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Our panel has appraised and wholeheartedly endorses the review conducted by Senator Howard Baker and Representative Lee Hamilton. They proposed measures to promote good science and good security by embedding the security mission within scientific programs. NNSA has recently taken encouraging actions to this end.
Congress recently took a valuable step in increasing laboratory-directed research and development funding. Congress can play an additional, invaluable role in helping to reinforce the national commitment to the nuclear mission. NNSA, working with DOE leadership, the Department of Defense, the president, and the Congress, must restore the sense of mission, rationalize the work plan and demonstrate commitment to stockpile stewardship.
Thank you for providing this opportunity to share with you the panel's views. I welcome your questions.
[The prepared statement of Dr. Foster can be found in the Appendix.]
Mr. THORNBERRY. Well, thank you Dr. Foster. I appreciate your testimony. I guess I would like to ask one brief question before yielding to my colleagues.
Looking at the statements in your testimony, about the programs for sustaining the stockpile are not being managed in a manner commensurate with their importance, and then looking back at some of the statements that you all made in your report in February, about growing deficiencies in the complex, deep morale and personnel problems, and an unacceptably high risk to completing weapons refurbishmentthose are pretty strong statements, it seems to me.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And we cannot measure any of this, you know, in a quantitative way; it is all judgment calls. But it sounds to me like your judgment is that we have some pretty serious problems. Am I reading that correctly?
Dr. FOSTER. Mr. Chairman, I think you are. Let me just say, it is a terribly important subject, a very large program, and there is much that one could say that is good.
The objective that this panel has taken is to make sure that we can present an unvarnished assessment of the situation. And so we have looked for places where we thought the program was short of what the American people and what our national deterrent deserves. And so that is the focus of the report.
But we believe that NNSA has a real opportunity here. This creation of the Congress could make a big difference. And if we can take the right actions now and put it on a good course, then it has a chance to do something that we could never have been able to obtain with the DOE organization.
Mr. THORNBERRY. And if we don't put it on the right course now?
Dr. FOSTER. Shame on us.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Ms. Tauscher.
Mrs. TAUSCHER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Dr. Foster, Secretary Rumsfeld is right now finishing a review that includes some sort of nuclear weapons review in concert with the president's National Security Council. The Secretary testified in front of the committee the other day, and it seems like they are still getting their Saturday morning Vulcan mind meld download on this, because he basically told me, when I asked him how many active weapons we needed to have, he didn't have any earthly idea.
From what you know about that review, do you believe it is sufficient to address the issues that your panel raises, including the state of the infrastructure necessary?
Do you believe that they are moving to look deeper down besides the number of weapons and their status to things like infrastructure that would be necessary to support our nuclear forces?
Dr. FOSTER. The Secretary of Defense has, as you indicated, these studies under way. And it seems to me that while, on the one hand, the panel has not delved into that issue specifically, it has pointed out that it is not clear that in order to provide deterrence in the future we may be adequately covered with the systems that we now have. And so we have suggested that such a consideration be given by the Department of Defense.
However, it is the Department of Energy's job, and in particular NNSA, to supply whatever nuclear explosive are needed by the Department of Defense. And so when the Department of Defense and NNSA, working together through the Nuclear Weapons Council, decide that they need to have particular weapon systems rebuilt or overhauled and placed back into the inventory on certain dates, that is about all the Department of Defense should require. It is then the responsibility of NNSA to deliver.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
As I indicated in the opening remarks, there just has been an agreement with regard to now a total of four weapons to be overhauled, and it is the responsibility of NNSA to make sure that the capabilities exist to perform those overhauls.
However, because the complex had been allowed to decay for so many years, the complex is not in a condition to go ahead and provide those retrofits without some major changes in its capabilities. In order to make those changes, they have made estimates of the kinds of expenditures that must be made.
Now, unfortunately, the investments that must be made, both to recapitalize some of those capabilities, and also to reverse deterioration that has occurred over the last, roughly, one decade, or more, is going to take funds that are not in the President's budget. And the recent House actions only aggravate that situation.
So the opinion of the panel is we will not be able to make that schedule unless some rather major changes are made that require the support, not only of the Department of Energy, but the Department of Defense, and the President, and Congress.
Mrs. TAUSCHER. Mr. Chairman, I have some other questions, but if you would like to yield to some of my other colleagues.
Thank you, Dr. Foster.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Thank you. The chair would now yield to the ranking member of the Full Procurement Subcommittee, the gentleman from Mississippi, Mr. Taylor.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. TAYLOR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Dr. Foster, I just left a briefing with the Secretary of the Navy. He didn't know how big the fleet should be or how much money we should spend to get to the size of fleet, that he is not so sure how it should be.
I am beginning to see a pattern here, where earlier in the year, any number of folks in the White House, and other people in this town, said the town is awash in money, and we don't have problems, so we need a big tax break. Then, after that happened, people started coming to us, and saying, ''Well, we don't have enough of a fleet.'' Or, just last week, some folks from the DOE came to me and said, ''We need about $8 billion to clean up some critical nuclear storage waste sites.''
Again, this was not brought to my attention, prior to that vote.
Your testimony today is fairly disturbing. As you know, Congress can only spend money one year at a time. What would be your recommendation for the next fiscal year, to fix those things that we need to fix on a reasonable recapitalization program?
Dr. FOSTER. First, I believe that what is needed is a commitment to turn around the decline in the production capability. One needs a commitment that we are going to turn it around; we are not going to let it continue to decay. Now, if you don't have that commitment, it seems to me it doesn't make that much difference what monies you talk about.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. TAYLOR. But if I may, sir. This town is long on words and real short on actions. As a rule, money well spent, translates into action. It fixes something. It makes something happen. It solves the problem.
Getting back to my question, if you want a commitment, I think the commitment that has to come from Congress is to appropriate the funds to solve the problem on a reasonable schedule of recapitalization. I don't think we can fix all of our problems this year, but we ought to fix more than enough problems, this year.
Dr. FOSTER. Congressman Taylor, I don't want to duck it at all. I was just making an introductory comment that really one has to decide whether or not we are going to try and have in the future, the capability to support nuclear weapons. Now, if you make that commitment, then the first action would be to take whatever steps seem to be appropriate, with regard to an interim budget correction for 2001this yearthat might amount to, $100 million, or so. I don't know the details for that. And then, to make the budget for NNSA, for the weapons program, which is the only one I am familiar with, for 2002 to be perhaps, oh, $6.1 billion, something like that.
That is the kind of number that the laboratories and plants came up with when they looked at what was necessary to do the job of turning around the production complex and meeting their design requirements for that complex.
So it is roughly, you know, almost $1 billion more in 2002 than is being requested.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. TAYLOR. I am curious, in the President's supplemental, were you involved in that decisionmaking process at all? Was your agency asked how much it needed to finish out this year?
Dr. FOSTER. No, sir.
Mr. TAYLOR. It was not?
Dr. FOSTER. No.
Mr. TAYLOR. But you feel like $100 million?
Dr. FOSTER. I am just thinking about how much one might be able to spend this far along in the year.
Mr. TAYLOR. Okay. In the briefing I had last week they talked about, for instance, the highly contaminated water at Savannah River and in Washington state. Now, in the $6.1 billion that you feel like is an appropriate amount for the coming year, is any of that targeted toward solving that waste problem or is this
Dr. FOSTER. No, sir.
Mr. TAYLOR. all on the acquisition side
Dr. FOSTER. No, no.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. TAYLOR. and the infrastructure to acquire side?
Dr. FOSTER. That is right. None of it is for environmental cleanup.
Mr. TAYLOR. In Secretary Rumsfeld's recommendations for the, I believe, $18-plus billion, none of that was targeted for you?
Dr. FOSTER. No, it is a different account.
Mr. TAYLOR. Okay. And what kind of conversations have you had with the Secretary of Defense for next year's budget?
Dr. FOSTER. None.
Mr. TAYLOR. Is this by your choice or his?
Dr. FOSTER. Of course, it is his. [Laughter.]
Mr. TAYLOR. I mean, have you sought an opportunity to present your situation to him.
Mr. THORNBERRY. I am sure if he asked Dr. Foster his opinion he would give it to him. [Laughter.]
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Dr. FOSTER. Pardon, sir?
Mr. TAYLOR. I mean, have you asked for the opportunity to sit down with the Secretary or his designee and outline your problems?
Dr. FOSTER. We, the committeemy signaturesent a letter to Secretary Rumsfeld indicating our concern with regard to the outcome that is related to his review of the nuclear posture and urged that he provide as much leadership as he felt would be appropriate to that effort. Because unless there is a strong need seen by the Secretary to maintain an appropriate deterrent for the country there is no need for the NNSA to have plants and laboratories that maintain it. So it hangs very much on whether or not for the foreseeable future the Department of Defense sees that need.
Now, we have the statement from the President that, yes, this will be very important. However, one needs to have a little more detail provided by the Department of Defense.
Mr. TAYLOR. Just for my information, in your line of communication to make your budget request, what would be the normal procedure? Would you report directly to the Secretary of Defense? Would you report to whom, sir?
Dr. FOSTER. No. I am acting as an outside adviser to NNSA and Department of Defense at the request of Congress. So I am just the chairman of a panel created by Congress.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. TAYLOR. Thank you very much, sir.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Mr. Spratt.
Mr. SPRATT. Dr. Foster, good to see you.
Dr. FOSTER. Good to see you, sir.
Mr. SPRATT. Thank you for coming and thank you for your continuing enormous service to our country.
You mentioned worrisome signs of deterioration in the stockpile. It was mixed into a paragraph where you were mainly talking about deficiencies in the production complex. Are you referring here to specific weapons systems as opposed to production facilities?
Dr. FOSTER. Yes, sir. You know, we have always known that these warheads decay, and different parts of the warhead decay at different rates. And so we have had experience with that over the last 50-odd years.
However, you know, the current stockpile average age is about 18 years, and their design life was perhaps 12 years. So we have warheads in the stockpile that are two or three times their stockpile life. And so we are beginning to see things we have never seen before because we have never had warheads that old.
So there are some surprises, and they are worrisome surprises because when we ask ourselves, having taken one of these apart, ''Well, you know, do we think that what we are seeing here might cause a gross malfunction'' the answer would be, ''Well, you know, we better look at it, better look at it carefully.''
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
So we do the best we can to examine past tests that may be relevant. We look at detailed computer calculations to see what effect those defects might cause. And then we come to a conclusion.
Now, in some cases, there are situations where we would perhaps have said in the past, ''Well, next time we go to the proving ground to do some tests, let's find out what happens under those conditions, with that particular defect.'' We can't do that, now. But in the past we could always just rebuild them if that happened. Now we can't do that because the capabilities to do it aren't there.
Mr. SPRATT. Well, you mention, in particular, plutonium pits.
Dr. FOSTER. Well, in particular, plutonium pits. Now, the fortunate thing about plutonium pits, is that they do not, to date, seem to have exhibited any serious, worrisome deterioration. And the detailed experiments that have been performed at Los Alamosand some at Livermoreseem to indicate that they might be quite long-lived. The problem, however, is the surprises.
You know, if we do a lot of experiments, and come to the conclusion that we haven't found a serious mode for decay, we can say, well, it looks like these might last 50 or 100 years. Of course, we don't know that, and we can't prove that. It is a judgment. The very next year, or sometime in the future, we might be able to find a surprise. And we might find that a large number of them have that disease, or whatever it is that started in. So, that is the unease we have about nuclear components.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. SPRATT. Now, can TA55 handle the likely volume of plutonium pit reconstruction that will be required in the foreseeable future, or do we need a new facility?
Dr. FOSTER. TA55 is created for the purpose of trying to, kind of, revalidate or rediscover and validate the processes that we had when we operated Rocky Flats in Colorado. That is its purpose. And in the process, of course, it can make some nuclear pits. And the ones that it is trying to make at the moment are those that would go in the W88.
The number that it can make in the year is roughly the kind of number that you would need if you were just to replace the ones that we are withdrawing from stockpile, in order to examine if everything is all rightthe surveillance unit. If we had a problem with a particular weapon in the stockpilethere are, of course, hundreds or thousands of that particular typewe couldn't possibly do it at Los Alamos, or even an extended facility at Los Alamos, unless you wanted to take decades.
Mr. SPRATT. So, we need a new facility, then?
Dr. FOSTER. Yes, sir, we do.
Mr. SPRATT. And the same for Tritium extraction?
Dr. FOSTER. Pardon, sir?
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SPRATT. Tritium extraction?
Dr. FOSTER. I think that the action by the prior administrationquite adequate. It looks like we will be irradiating rods and producing tritium in a timely way. But the problem with the plutonium plant, is not the fact that we need a production plant. It is the fact that, estimates by NNSA are that it will take about 15 years to obtain it. And the problem with that is, that from the time you find that you really have a problem, to get the plant running in 15 years, that just seems like quite an unacceptable proposition.
So what the panel has recommended is that it recognizes that the first dozen years, or so, are spent looking at where you might site such a plant, what kinds of environmental conditions that you might have to satisfy, what kind of a conceptual design would you like to have? Can you modularize, so that there is some flexibility, depending on the throughput that is required, and the types of weapons, and so on?
So it seemed to us reasonable to say, Why don't we just spend the small amounts of money that are needed up front, to take care of those few years where you are just trying to get through the procedures necessary, in order to get an authorization to build a plant. And so, these amount to, maybe $10 million a year, or so. So it is not the money; it is to get rid of that time.
Mr. SPRATT. Dr. Foster, the environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the new-production reactor at Savannah River, cost $41 million
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Dr. FOSTER. Yes, I understand.
Mr. SPRATT [continuing]. just to give you an idea. And it was a more benign facility than a plutonium pit facility would be.
Dr. FOSTER. That is true, so the $10 million investment may not be right and maybe we needwell, the number that we received from NNSA for the first year, after a little head start, was $10 million. And that kind of activity was continued for several years. I don't know what the total might be over, say, a five-year period.
Mr. SPRATT. Well, what do we have?
Mr. THORNBERRY. I think we are down to five minutes, or a little less. Maybe this would be a good time to take a break.
Dr. Foster, we have two votes, right quick, on the floor. If you would excuse us, I think the panel will stand in recess, and we will be right back.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Mr. Spratt, do you have further questions at this time?
Mr. SPRATT. Just a few of Dr. Foster because most of what I would ask would probably involve something in a closed session. But I take it when you have expressed concern about the production facilities, you are concerned that the lead time for getting replacements in place is such that we should be doing something now.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Dr. FOSTER. Yes, sir, that is correct. The schedule that has been developed and approved by the Nuclear Weapons Council calls for a build-up of several warheads about four or five years from now going through the facilities. And the capabilities that are necessary to perform that are, in some cases, missing or inadequate, and they have to be provided during the next two years. And so that is why the budget has to be able to accommodate those developments, those facilities.
Mr. SPRATT. When you refer to an integrated capability, I understand you to mean a downsized facility but with an adequate capacity to do everything necessary to make a nuclear weapon from scratch.
Dr. FOSTER. Yes, sir, that is correct.
Mr. SPRATT. Would that include canyons like the F-Canyon and the H-Canyon at Savannah River, chemical processing?
Dr. FOSTER. I don't know the answer.
Mr. SPRATT. But it would include a new pit production facility
Dr. FOSTER. Yes, sir.
Mr. SPRATT [continuing]. because TA55 is not quite capable of handling the volume you are talking about?
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
I think the department already has decided they need a new tritium extraction facility for the irradiated bars they will be extracting from these light water reactors.
I guess you always need a Kansas City to make the practical components, the electronic components. What else do you need?
Dr. FOSTER. You have the Y12 facility to provide case materials, secondary materials. And you need Pantex to be able to assemble the complete, as well as to be able to perform the surveillance operation, which are kind of the leading edge of the whole process.
Mr. SPRATT. Let me just ask you generally. We will come back to this perhaps sometime in a secure session. What about the young people, the scientists we are attracting to the labs and to the nuclear production facilities today? Are they adequate to the task?
Dr. FOSTER. The young people that are attracted are adequate to the task. The difficulty is that the events of the last year or two in the complex and the prior market situation was very difficult to attract young people to a career in the weapons design and production business.
And more than that, we were losing people particularly in the middle management ranks and we are doing that, sort of, for the first time; quite disturbing. So as a consequence, we were losing more people than we could attract. So there is nothing wrong with the people. It is just that we can't attract as many as we would like.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Now I think the situation could change. NNSA and Congress could make a big difference if we make a commitment to turn around the situation particularly with regard to the production and so that people have real work to do.
There are weapons systems flowing through, back into the inventory. Then the place is alive, and facilities are cleaned up, and the capabilities are brought back. And then I think people believe that, you know, this is important. And they want to be part of it. But that isn't the way it is, right now. There is no commitment to turn things around. There is no budget to do so.
Mr. SPRATT. Somewhat unrelated, but just for the record, because it comes up from time to time, would you comment on the necessity of the National Ignition Facility (NIF)?
Dr. FOSTER. I would be glad to do that. But I can't express the view of the panel, other than what you can read in our report, because different members have different views.
My personal view is that the National Ignition Facility is an extremely important facility for three reasons. First of all, being able to cause a fusion explosion in the laboratory would be a revolutionary development. And this one facility looks like it has a chance to do that. There is no other facility that has a similar chance.
Second, when that explosion occurs, it produces conditions which are very similar to the kinds of conditions that occur when a primary undergoes boost phase. That is the most critical and worrisome and uncertain and unknown part of the whole operation of nuclear weapons.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
That phenomena is scalable. That is to say, ''What takes place in the boosting of a primary, can be scaled to a small capsule inside of this laboratory facility, that would be provided for NIF.'' And so, in these small explosion experiments, we can make the kind of measurements that are needed in order to get the information, to put into the simulator codes, that we use to predict the performance of the primary explosives.
Third, such a machine would be a great attraction to scientists around the world to come to the laboratory. And hopefully, the laboratory would be able to arrange some of those scientists to also work on the weapons program.
So it has great attraction for people. It is a critical tool for obtaining measurements on the phenomena that are critical to the operations of primaries in nuclear explosives and also some other aspects of the operation of thermo-nuclear weapons. And it would be a revolutionary development from a scientific point of view.
Mr. SPRATT. You touched inadvertently on what was a bone of contention here not so long ago, and that is scientists from around the world. Do you think that DOE should continue to try to engage scientists from different nations, at least in its laboratories, and involve them in what it is doing?
Dr. FOSTER. Yes, I do.
You know, I do really for two reasons. First of all, most of the secret of nuclear explosives is in the open. So if one wants to go build nuclear explosives in some other country, you know, the formulas are there and one could do that with high confidence, provided you can obtain the materials, and so the secrecy issue is not the kind of importance that it used to have.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Second, I think this nation has always fared well when some of the best scientists came to America.
I think we ought to be able to have both worlds. We ought to be able to have good science and secrecy in laboratories associated with nuclear weapons. And in order to make those laboratories first class, we ought to be able to have some of the best scientists in the world visit them.
Mr. SPRATT. Thank you, very much.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Ms. Tauscher.
Mrs. TAUSCHER. Dr. Foster, I want to continue the line of questioning that Mr. Spratt was talking about. Obviously, I am concerned about the morale of our scientists, the brain drain problem that we have, of some of our best scientists reaching retirement age over the next few years, especially scientists that have designed and tested weapons, and this whole issue of the relationships between the labs and the hopes that part of the reason why NNSA was created, was to stop the labs from having to be their own advocates, to a certain extent. Over a long period of time, the labs were forced, along with the complex, generally, to kind of fend for themselves, under this DOE bureaucratic kudzu. And now we have an NNSA that, hopefully, will put together a much more cooperative environment.
What do we do? I seemed to hear, in one of your last answers, that you implied that a robust stockpile stewardship program would be enough to attract some of the brightest minds in the worldcertainly in the United Statesto our weapons complex. But I was concerned that you implied that new weapons had to be part of that, or would be part of that.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
I know it can be part of it. Is it part of it, so much so that that is going to be an integral necessity for us to attract new people or is the stockpile stewardship program, with a better funding mechanism, much more deferred maintenance cleanup, you know, lots more investment in infrastructure, enough for us to attract the kinds of people we are going to need in the future?
Dr. FOSTER. Congresswoman Tauscher, I think that is a lot of question. If you don't mind, I will take a few moments and try to answer.
First of all, the President, and supported by Congress, have handed the laboratory an incredible challenge: maintain the stockpile that is decaying without nuclear tests.
Now, I don't know of any other activity in America, or anywhere else in the world, where we have to provide such capabilities with the ground rule that you cannot test. We certainly don't do it for automobiles. We don't do it for space operation. We don't do it for medicine. But when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have this very peculiar requirement: maintain the deterrent, but you are not allowed to test; we want you to certify the stockpile, certify something when you know that you cannot know and you know that you cannot prove. So it is pretty challenging.
However, to address that challenge, the laboratories have some incredible facilities. Some of the very best and unique tools in the world are at those laboratories. And they have some people who know how to make the most of those tools. So when a young person comes into the laboratory, he has an opportunity to talk to people who have very unique experiences. They have designed nuclear explosives; they have taken them to the proving grounds; and they have tested them, and they have had surprises.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
They were absolutely positive that this would happen and that would happen, and it didn't. And in retrospect, they were stupid. They should have known this or that. And there are a few tens of those people in each of these laboratories. So you have an opportunity to work with those people.
Now, there are two kinds of work. One kind of work is to take a look at a warhead that has been taken apart at Pantex, and we found that this is corroded and that is cracked and this is broken and this is rusted and this is decayed and so on and so on, and now you have to rebuild it, with different materials, because those materials in that warhead are not available anymore; manufactured in different ways, because now new processes are available; the old ones are not, and so on and so on.
That is one kind of test. And every time you have to make judgments about whether or not this is as close as possible to what it was you had at the beginning. And how do you prove that when you do these simulations on computers? You do experiments in the laboratory, and so on and so on, to try and convince skeptics that this is going to perform properly. Okay, that is one kind of design job.
A different design job would be to say to the young person who comes in, ''Well, look, here are all the codes; here is all the information. Why don't you go out and design a warhead? And by the way, we will vet it when you are finished. Go ahead and do the design.'' So he will do it, and then the pros will come in and check him over. That is a different design problem. It is from one end to the other design problem.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC You have to hit the weight, the diameter, the performance, all of the functional operations that take place in less than a microsecond. You know, all those things have to be done right. That is a difference kind of experience.
What the panel was recommending was that a laboratory provide both experiences. Now there is a separate reason for having the new employee go through the full routine. We have, in the stockpiles, some designs that are very fussy. They are fussy in the sense that they have been optimized to be the minimum amount of weight, the highest possible yield, the smallest amount of nuclear materials and so on. They are kind of operating on the edge of the verge.
And so, when things begin to decay, you know you are a little more uneasy than you would if you had what you might call a more robust design, one with more margin to spare. Fortunately, before these fussy warheads, we had designed warheads than were heavier than they werehad more material in there. They were safe, but they had a lot of margin. And they were tested, and they worked. So these young people could use those nuclear designs to replace the one that is in stockpile that is rather fussy.
In 10 or 20 years for now, we may decide that this fussy design that has had this and that fixed so as to put it back into condition might be more risky than this robust design that can fulfill the job but maybe it only has two-thirds the nuclear yield, for example.
Mrs. TAUSCHER. That is a great answer which leads me to about five other questions
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Dr. FOSTER. Now we are even.
Mrs. TAUSCHER [continuing]. including a comprehensive test ban. Obviously, we have hadI am not sure it is going to be brought up in the Senate. I am not surenow that the Democrats are in control of the Senate, it may be brought up, but I am not sure it would actually pass.
The comprehensive test ban obviously is something that many of us believe is an important message to send around the world. I have constantly brought myself back to the comprehensive test ban because, while I believe it is embedded in our nonproliferation strategy and arms control and a bunch of other things, I am certainly not willing to put the United States in a position where we find ourselves with a bunch of simulations and a bunch of other things that provide us with a lot of information of simulated tests but we can't quite get to a place in five or 10 years where we can certify.
And we find ourselves in a situation where perhaps we find ourselves saying that we want to test but we are not ready because it will take too long and we don't have a site ready or whatever.
What is your sense on the comprehensive test ban treaty and its efficacy for us in the short term and long term?
Dr. FOSTER. The difficulty I have is that I have some expertise that the committee recognizes when it comes to the design of nuclear explosives and the management of the nuclear laboratory and weapons for the Department of Defense.
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
But the issue of whether or not this country should continue with a nuclear test ban is not a technical, political, military issue, and so I have no competence to give you an answer. And I don't want to parade whatever technical competence I have as justification for giving you an answer on a political problem.
Mrs. TAUSCHER. But the public policy problem, Dr. Foster, is that, should the United States Congress allow a country to be without the ability to test when we clearly do not have a guarantee that we can certify without testing?
Dr. FOSTER. That is a judgment that Congress has to make, and it is a difficult one. I mean, I can recognize something about the nature of the problem, but I am not an international political expert. I do not know whether or not a potential, wannabe nuclear power cares whether or not the United States tests or doesn't test. To my knowledge, the president has not asked the intelligence community to find out.
Mrs. TAUSCHER. Thank you, Dr. Foster.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Thank you.
Dr. Foster, from your testimony, it sounds to me as if you and the panel think the creation of NNSA was a good thing.
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Dr. FOSTER. No question about that, Mr. Chairman. We are fully supportive of it and very anxious to do whatever the panel can contribute to make NNSA a real success.
Mr. THORNBERRY. To follow through, I guess, in a way, on some of the questions Mr. Taylor was asking, I have read the two reports that the panel has put out so far. Do you meet or consult regularly with General Gordon, Secretary of Energy? Other than your reports, what is the interaction with the decision makers?
Dr. FOSTER. We meet, I would say, regularly with General Gordon. And we certainly have phone conversations; I talked with him last week. So, yes, we meet regularly.
We meet frequently with members of the National Weapons Council. In particular, we met recently with Undersecretary Pete Aldrich. We have not yet met the Secretary of Energy, although I believe he knows that when he has an opportunitymaybe when the energy crisis subsides a bitwe can get a chance to go in and see him.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Yes, if those people in California would kind of get
Mrs. TAUSCHER. If those people in Texas would stop charging us so much money. [Laughter.]
Mr. THORNBERRY. If you have it, you take advantage of it. Your problem is, you don't have it. [Laughter.]
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mrs. TAUSCHER. When you give us $16 billion back
Mr. THORNBERRY. I am going to move along, because I will lose if this exchange continues, I know. [Laughter.]
General Gordon has been on the job for just about a year. And he has made some changes at NNSA and recommended that Congress make some small changes in the legislation that would make what he wants to do possible.
I don't know if you have had a chance to study his plan to have an associate administrator for facilities and operations and another for management and administration. If you have, I would like to know what you think about it.
Dr. FOSTER. I have heard about it. I was not involved in the discussion of the alternatives. I know that General Gordon did discuss it with lab directors and, perhaps, plants.
My feeling is that it is not a critical issue, just how you set up management. There are a number of alternatives, all of which have historical cases of good performance.
What really is important, as I have tried to indicate in the short initial remarks, is that people at headquarters and people in the field offices, if there are to be field offices, recognize that there is no research and development performed at headquarters. There is no production performed at headquarters, and none is performed in field offices. That work is done in the laboratories and in the plants.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
And we hire managers of the laboratories and plants who are the best that are available to do that. And therefore, it is important that the people at headquarters, field offices, give those folks a chance to do their jobs.
Now, the people at headquarters, actually, from a point of view of technical folks, have an even harder job to do. People at headquarters have to decide, where are they going to take this NNSA? What are the objectives? What are the strategies by which you reach those objectives? What kind of plans and programs should we have in order to satisfy the needs of the Department of Defense?
Now, those are tough questions. It is a lot easier for the folks at headquarters and field offices to say, ''Well, okay, I don't know about that, but I would sure feel better if they would give us more reports on the financial thing,'' or, ''I am not sure that we are going about the right kind of process, when it comes to hiring people,'' and ''These pay scales are beginning to bother me,'' and there is no end of questions.
But the important thing is to address those fundamental ones and get them right.
Mr. THORNBERRY. The General Accounting Office (GAO) has reported to us that it believes there is still a confusing relationship between headquarters and the field offices. Do you agree with that?
And if so, can you sketch for us how you think it ought to work? I mean, what is the proper role of field office, or the field offices, or however you put it?
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Dr. FOSTER. That question may look pretty straightforward to you, but to me it looks like a minefield. [Laughter.]
Mr. THORNBERRY. Number one, do you think the relationship is the way it should go now? Or do you agree with GAO, that it is still confusing?
Dr. FOSTER. I believe we could have a good operation, if there were no field offices and it was all run out of headquarters. I believe you can have a good operation, if field offices existone or several.
But the fact of the matter is, we don't really have all those options, do we? We have field offices. And they are in various peoples' constituencies.
And so, it seems to me, that the important thing is to make sure that we have properly populated that system. If you have field offices, you don't need so many people at headquarters. And in the field offices, you ought to make sure that you don't have more people than you really need.
That is, sort of, where I come out.
Mr. THORNBERRY. One of the key issues that you talked about in your report is the need to integrate all of the plans that NNSA has in various places. A lot of times when we are talking about field offices, that is where that comes up, is that that is a needed role for somebody to do, at either headquarters or the field office, to integrate together all of these different timetables and plans.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
I guess I am curious, how far do we have to go to get where we need to be to have things that are integrated together so that you can make a management decision about where you are going?
Dr. FOSTER. The basic requirement is to make clear what the roles and responsibilities and authorities are at headquarters, and what roles and responsibilities and authorities do you want to vest in the field offices. What roles and responsibilities and authorities do you want to vest in the directors of the laboratories and the managers of the plants? If you can be clear on each of those, then I think things fall into place. If you do not make those responsibilities clear, then I think you have the situation that GAO has identified.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Here is another one of those questions that may be impossible to answer. If you consider the challenges that face us in NNSA, what percentage of them could be solved with dollars? And what percentage of them are something other than dollars?
Dr. FOSTER. I don't know about the percentages. It is clear you can't turn around the complex without putting more monies into the places where we have identified deficiencies.
In order to present to the Congress and successfully defend requests for those monies, you have to have leadership. I believe you have, in General Gordon, leadership. When it comes to straightening out the management issues, that is a matter of leadership, and I think in General Gordon you have that kind of leadership.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Now admittedly in his one year in office, he had a very difficult and awkward start and then a kind of delayed situation with the present administration. And with the changes that have taken place in the Senate, the confirmation of some of his critical people could be delayed. Perhaps you folks could influence that.
So look, I think maybe it is roughly 50-50. There are problems with the plants and labs that have to be attended to that will require more monies. And whether they can be made available from other parts of the Department of Energy or not, the panel has not examined.
So we don't know about the total budget. We just know a little about how much money seems to be required in order to turn around some of the things, and those estimates have come from NNSA.
Mr. THORNBERRY. For example, you have specific numbers on the infrastructure needs
Dr. FOSTER. Yes.
Mr. THORNBERRY [continuing]. in your report or testimony one. But they sound reasonable to you?
Dr. FOSTER. Yes, they do.
Mr. THORNBERRY. One of the issues that you discuss, again I think in your report, is the importance of having line managers be able to make decisions and not have a separate environmental person that would look over your shoulder and a separate securityyou know, be able to funnel it all down. It was one of the primary principles that we were trying to achieve in creating the NNSA.
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
How would you assess how far we have gotten in accomplishing that principle, of bringing it together not just at the headquarters but, you know, down where the guy at Pantex or the scientist responsible for a particular weapons system at the labs has to make decisions and actually do something, not study it?
Dr. FOSTER. I would say we have just started. It is also very tough. You know, I think the test is not clear to people. If something goes wrong with a computer situation or something goes wrong with safety, whom do we blame? Line management. It is not those functional folks. They are not held responsible.
So I think we have to make it very clear who has the authority and responsibility for these operations. And I think General Gordon is going to have to, and he will, make that clear.
By the way, you know, it wasn't clear to me when I was at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Nobody came to me and said, ''Now, John, we want you to understand what you are being held responsible for here. These are your authorities. These are not your authorities. Here is how you are going to be held accountable.'' None of that. I really would have appreciated it in retrospect.
Mr. THORNBERRY. I was interested in some of the statements that you made about, I guess, a couple of things. One isand I am not sure I understand itthat both labs ought to be involved in recertifying each system, as I understand it. Is that your recommendation?
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Dr. FOSTER. Yes, it is. Let me just take a moment and try and back up that position.
In 1952, it was recognized that it would be a good thing if a country were to establish a second nuclear design laboratory. And the reason for that was that it was concluded that this country ought to be more aggressive in pursuing the design of nuclear explosives. And while we didn't know what the Soviet Union was up to, we could occasionally smell their cooking, so to speak, when they had explosions in the atmosphere.
But not being able to see what they were doing, the best thing we could do is compete against ourselves so we had these two laboratories: Los Alamos and Livermore. And the presence of the two laboratories made quite a difference in the rate at which we changed the design concepts.
Now when a new design was taken to the field and tested and it worked, there was great pride. There was scientists and engineers, chemists, computer folks who took great pride in that design that was tested successfully and that would then go into some major weapons systems of a strategic or a tactical nature. So each laboratory had its share of pride in the various designs. That was the Cold War.
Now we have a totally different situation. We have a situation in which we can't test, we can't proof, we can't know that what is in stockpile will work 10 years from now, 20 years from now because not likely able to test.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And therefore the question is: As we rebuild these warheads, make changes after changes after changes, and people retire who have had the nuclear test experience and in particular some of those rude surprises, when they are no longer here, how can we be sure that we have done the very best we can to provide some confidence that those warheads represent a good deterrent?
The only way I know, and I think the panel fully supports it, is to set up a mechanism whereby the two laboratories compete to vet whether or not the design that is at hand has a good chance of performing. So, it is a competition between the two labs on a warhead proposition.
There is no ownership. None of them ever designed it. Ten years, twenty years from now, there is no ownership. That is a Cold War relic. That is a totally different challenge. And so, we have to discover mechanisms which will put the best brains that we have to the task of trying to think through what could possibly be wrong with that design.
So, it is not just a question of certifying that it will work. And the laboratory director can sign it and certify that it will work. He doesn't know, and he can't prove.
But what he might be able to tell the secretaries, tell the President, tell Congress, is he had set up the following procedure with the best people available to focus on the question of whether or not they can find anything wrong with that warhead.
And yes, they were able to find this, as a possibility. And we ran that to ground. And they proposed this, and we ran that to ground. And when we had exhausted all of things that they could possibly come up with, we couldn't find anything wrong with it, and so, the director of that laboratory is willing to certify it. And the other director of the other laboratory has performed the same operation, competitively, and he couldn't find anything either.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
It seems to me that this challenge that these laboratories have been given demands that kind of scrutiny. It is a scrutiny that must be, you know, more involvedmore imagination, more focus and intensitythan just about anything else that we do, just because of the challenge that we have been put to.
Mr. THORNBERRY. I agree.
You mention in your statement that you thought Congress took a valuable step in increasing laboratory directed research and development (LDRD). Can you tell us, briefly, why you think that is important to solving some of the problems you identified?
Dr. FOSTER. The laboratories have, of course, a lot of micromanagement imposed on them, and that ties them up, pretty much. There are a lot of constraints. But as each of those laboratories' directors have, I am sure, told you, it is a tremendous flexibility when they can have something like 6 percent of their total budget available at their discretion.
Now, in particular, they are asked to make up a budget for two years in advance, essentially. And in those two years, in a laboratory, a lot of things change. And so, if they have no flexibility to change, that is just too constraining. It is unreasonable, especially in a laboratory. So that 6 percent makes a big difference.
Another thing that I think is very important is that there is this imposition of about 30 different categories of budgets.
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Now, it is the panel's view that monies must be made available for particular tasks. For instance, if you are responsible for the redesign and development and reinstallation into the stockpile of a particular weapon, let's say a WW6, then that effort must be funded. And it is reasonable to say, ''All right, for that task it is going to cost so many million in this year and so many million in the next on out through the five-year plan.'' That is a reasonable thing to do. But there are not very many weapons, so making 30 different pots of money seems wrong.
But even when you assign a certain amount of money for a particular weapon life-extension program, you will find after a year or two it is necessary to make some changes. And so, it seems reasonable for the laboratories to propose a different budget flow for that particular weapon, and we would hope that General Gordon would be able to approve it, advising Congress of what he proposes to do. To put the control at Congress, however, seems to me unnecessary.
So the panel would urge that you remove those restrictions. In particular, I think everybody wants to get NNSA and John Gordon its best chance to succeed. And so, why not remove some of these onerous restrictions at the outset?
Mr. THORNBERRY. Going back to a discussion that you and Ms. Tauscher were having, if we go back to an older, more robust design, not as fussy, is it your view that we could deploy such a weapon without testing it?
Dr. FOSTER. Yes. These robust designs were already tested.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. THORNBERRY. With different manufacturing techniques and a variety of things that are different?
Dr. FOSTER. No, that is right. That is a very, very good point. However, I suspect when the laboratories examine it, they will find, yes, it has more margin. And so, yes, we have different materials and different manufacturing processes, but it will still be a better bet than this fussy design.
However, this warhead was tested as a warhead without any other pertinence. That is say, it was not in a re-entry vehicle. So all they have to look to see is whether or not putting that into a re-entry vehicle or into a bomb arrangement to be dropped by an aircraft would make a difference.
So it is not an open and shut case, but at least it does two things: It provides an alternative for the future, and it provides an opportunity to perform design work from one end to the other and train future designers.
Mr. THORNBERRY. With the least amount of risk, probably.
Dr. FOSTER. Yes. A judge, which would be the least amount of risk.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Let me shift gears a little bit. One of the concerns that a number of us have had in the past is the relationship between DOE, now NNSA, and the Department of Defense. You mentioned that you had talked with Undersecretary Aldridge. How do you judge that relationship now? Is there the proper amount of communication going back and forth? Is DOD a smart, properly informed customer?
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Dr. FOSTER. The track record in DOD has not been very good. It is now better. There is no question but in the last year that things have improved. And it is clear that with Undersecretary Aldridge and the Secretary of Defense, things are going to be better. It is also clear that the relationship between John Gordon, the Secretary of Energy, and the Department of Defense is certainly better than it has been in the past. So things are getting better, much better.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Again, you were talking about this a little bit earlier with some of the questions on, as we think about not only comprehensive test ban but significant reductions in the number of nuclear weapons that we have, that as we draw down and reduce the number of weapons that we have, in a way, we put great pressure on stockpile stewardship because you have less room for error.
For example, if you have a tremendous decrease in the number of weapons, you are probably having a tremendous decrease in the types of weapons. And therefore a problem in any one of those types could disable a greater percentage of the stockpile.
So it seems to me that there is a connection between what your panel is looking at, the reliability, safety, and security of our stockpile, and the kinds of studies going on in the administration because part of what they have to think about is the stockpile stewardship part to see what is possible on the arms control or number of weapons.
But as I take from your prior answers, you all are not really involved in that discussion much. And maybe those considerations have not been given their proper emphasis, as we look at how many nuclear weapons we want to have in the future, for example.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Dr. FOSTER. Mr. Chairman, I read, with great interest, the statements that you made on this subject, and I certainly agree with them.
We have, as I indicated earlier, been concerned about what the nuclear posture review would produce. We have thought a lot about what happens if one were to make significant reductions in the nuclear stockpile. And we came to the conclusion that I indicated earlier, that if one makes what would be considered drastic reductions in the stockpile, you still need the capability to maintain it. You still have to have the capability to go from design through production and surveillance, no matter how large it is.
However, the points you made in your statements, that I referred to, about making sure that we have enough to deter the wannabes from ever being able to obtain a threatening capability, that is true. Because if they are anywhere near that number, whatever you might choose to be, then you need a full weapons capability.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Well, I hope that as your panel, I guess, is into its final yearyour final report will come out next Februaryand as these issues are discussed, I think it is important for you and your panel to weigh in. Because as we think about how many nuclear weapons we are going to have, we have to take all the uncertainty and all of the challenge that is associated with our aging nuclear stockpile into consideration.
Dr. FOSTER. Well, Mr. Chairman, we will do that.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Thank you.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Dr. FOSTER. I will commit to do that.
Mr. THORNBERRY. At this point, do you have any suggestions that you would like to make to Congress as far as legislative changes in the NNSA Act, orother than dollarsother specific changes or improvements that you think we can make?
Dr. FOSTER. Well, you see, the kinds of things that come to mind, I think we have already mentioned. Do what one can to accelerate the appointment of presidential appointees; remove many of the financial boxes30 categories of budgets.
I can't think of any.
With your permission, Mr. Chairman, I would like to have an opportunity to look over the transcript and, if I may, insert some points that I have just failed to mention.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Absolutely. And I would take it a step further. As your panel continues its work over the next several months, if you have suggestions for us on refinements, big or small, that we need to make in the NNSA Act or other legislation, we would appreciate you letting us know. Because we do want to try to get it right.
Which, I guess, kind of leads me to, I guess, one of my final questions. When Congress created NNSA, it was the middle choice. One of the choices that the PFIAB recommended was to start from scratch with somebody completely disassociated from the Department of Energy: a new, separate, independent agency. Of course, other people argue we should put it somewhere in the Department of Defense. Really, creating a semi-autonomous agency within the Department of Energy was the middle choice.
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
And the feeling was, I think, on both sides of the Capitol, that, as you said earlier, we want to give these folks every chance to make it work. And if they can't make it work, we are going to go to the more radical change.
My question is, how long should we give them?
You, rightly, went through the difficulties General Gordon has experienced in the first year and the new administration and all of that. I don't mean that we should give him unreasonable timeframes.
On the other hand, you are also aware that every day, every month that goes on, the stockpile continues to age and the uncertainties multiply. I thought you all put it very well in your report. The trick is to have what you know stay ahead of what you don't know. And as the uncertainties multiply, at some point, you tip the scale.
Dr. FOSTER. Yes.
Mr. THORNBERRY. How long should we give them?
Dr. FOSTER. Not long. Let me expand on that.
You mentioned that we would provide a report next February, and I hope we are permitted an extension to do that.
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In that report, we have given ourselves a challenge that relates to your question. And the challenge is this: Can we identify for Congress what they should expect of NNSA in the out-years, next year, three years, five years, whatever it is? What should General Gordon and the complex have accomplished in one year, in three years?
And when you see that list of expectations and you ask the general, ''How are you doing on this and that,'' you can check it off. So here are some milestones, some hedges, some things to chin on. And if he can pass those, then I think, from the panel's point of view, you know, he will have done everything that certainly the panel and, we would hope, the Congress would expect of him.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Well, I think that would be helpful because, as we talked earlier, these are difficult judgments in large part. And to have some specific measurement devices to judge progress is hard for us on this side of the table, but I think it is essential that we have something to measure the progress by.
Dr. FOSTER. Well, you know, it is easy to say, but it is a challenge to us. However, you know, we will do everything we can. We are going to visit laboratories and plants, having advised each of them to give us what they think would be a reasonable set of expectations to expect of that laboratory, of that plant.
You know, now, of course, to achieve those expectations, they can't necessarily do it all on their own. They have to have the flexibility. They have to have the understanding, the authority, the funding. There are a number of things.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But if we obtain a list that is kind of a composite of the labs and the plants and NNSA itself, and go over it with John Gordon, and everybody collectively feels that this is the best that we can do, it will then be up to the administration and Congress and give them a chance to achieve those expectations.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Thank you.
Ms. Tauscher, do you have other questions?
Mrs. TAUSCHER. I just have a suggestion, Mr. Chairman. Perhaps if we can invite Dr. Foster back in October or November, my guess is that while the report certainly won't be written, you will have a better indication of where you are going and what your conclusions may be. And that would give us a chance to have a little peek, so to speak, as to where you think we are.
It is another four or five months. I agree with you. We cannot wait forever. It is not my suggestion that anybody says that we do that, but we have to get ready for the next budget in January. And I don't want to get behind the curve and wait for your excellent report in February and find out that we really are in a hole.
So if we could think about inviting Dr. Foster back and maybe some of the other panelists in the October-November time frame, that should give us a good idea. And perhaps we can talk in between about what we are going to be looking for.
Mr. THORNBERRY. I think that is a good idea.
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
And, Dr. Foster, I hope you will convey to the other panel members and the members of your staff how much we appreciate the work that they are doing. It is an enormous challenge that this country has set out before us. And we need smart, capable people to help us evaluate how we are doing and make suggestions on what we need to do.
So I very much appreciate your being here today and your testimony. I appreciate the work that you are doing and have done. And if you would convey that appreciation to the other panel members, I would appreciate it.
And if there is nothing else, then I guess this hearing stands adjourned.
Dr. FOSTER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[Whereupon, at 3:39 p.m., the panel was adjourned.]