The Reliable Replacement Warhead Program: Background and Current Developments
The Reliable Replacement Warhead Program:
Background and Current Developments
Updated September 12, 2008
Specialist in National Defense
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
The Reliable Replacement Warhead Program:
Background and Current Developments
Most current U.S. nuclear warheads were built in the 1970s and 1980s and are
being retained longer than was planned. Yet they deteriorate and must be maintained.
To correct problems, a Life Extension Program (LEP), part of a larger Stockpile
Stewardship Program (SSP), replaces components. Modifying some components
would require a nuclear test, but the United States has observed a test moratorium
since 1992. Congress and the Administration prefer to avoid a return to testing, so
LEP rebuilds these components as closely as possible to original specifications. With
this approach, the Secretaries of Defense and Energy have certified stockpile safety
and reliability for the past 12 years without nuclear testing.
The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which operates the U.S.
nuclear weapons program, would develop the Reliable Replacement Warhead
(RRW). For FY2005, Congress provided an unrequested $9.0 million to start RRW.
The FY2006 RRW appropriation was $24.8 million, and the FY2007 operating plan
had $35.8 million. For FY2008, the request was $88.8 million for NNSA and $30.0
million for the Navy; Congress appropriated no RRW funds for NNSA and $15
million for the Navy. For FY2009, DOE requests $10.0 million for RRW. The Navy
requests $23.3 million for RRW but says it prepared its request before Congress
eliminated NNSA RRW funds and that the Navy funds would not be used for RRW.
The House Armed Services Committee, in its report on H.R. 5658, the FY2009
defense authorization bill, recommended eliminating the Navy and NNSA RRW
funds while adding funds for the Navy and NNSA for related purposes. The House
defeated an amendment to add $10.0 million in NNSA RRW funds to H.R. 5658.
The Senate Armed Services Committee recommended retaining NNSA’s request for
RRW but eliminating the Navy’s request. Both appropriations committees
recommended eliminating NNSA RRW funds for FY2009. The Senate Defense
Appropriations Subcommittee recommended deleting Navy RRW funds; its House
counterpart reportedly did likewise.
NNSA argues it will become harder to certify current warheads with LEP
because small changes may undermine confidence in warheads, perhaps leading to
nuclear testing, whereas new-design replacement warheads created by the RRW
program will be easier to certify without testing. Critics believe LEP and SSP can
maintain the stockpile indefinitely. They worry that untested RRWs may make
testing more likely and question cost savings, given high investment cost. They note
that there are no military requirements for new weapons. Others feel that neither LEP
nor RRW can provide high confidence over the long term, and would resume testing.
Another point of view is that either LEP or RRW will work without nuclear testing.
Issues facing the 110th Congress include how best to maintain the nuclear
stockpile, whether to continue RRW or cancel it in favor of LEP, and how RRW
might link to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and nuclear nonproliferation. This
report provides background and tracks legislation. It will be updated often. CRS
Report RL33748, Nuclear Warheads: The Reliable Replacement Warhead Program
and the Life Extension Program, compares these two programs in detail.
Most Recent Developments......................................1
The Need to Maintain Nuclear Warheads for the Long Term............4
The Solution So Far: The Life Extension Program....................8
Is LEP Satisfactory for the Long Term?...........................10
RRW and the Transformation of Nuclear Warheads..................12
Performance, Schedule, and Cost Tradeoffs....................14
Environment, Safety, and Health (ES&H)......................15
Skill Development and Transfer.............................15
RRW Program Developments.......................................18
Congressional Action on the FY2006 RRW Request.....................21
Congressional Action on the FY2007 RRW Request.....................27
Congressional Action on the FY2008 RRW Request.....................30
Congressional Action on the FY2009 RRW Request.....................43
Policy Options and Issues for the 110th Congress and Beyond..............46
Slow the pace of RRW.....................................47
Reestablish the RRW program...............................47
Examine the link between RRW and a reconfigured Complex......48
Consider how to handle moving WR1 to a more advanced phase of
devel opm ent ........................................48
Should RRW be linked to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
Will RRW weaken U.S. nuclear nonproliferation efforts?.........50
For Additional Reading............................................54
Appendix. Nuclear Weapons, Nuclear Weapons Complex, and Stockpile
The Reliable Replacement Warhead
Program: Background and
Most Recent Developments
In a press release of September 10, the Senate Appropriations Committee stated
that its Defense Appropriations Subcommittee deleted the Navy’s request for funds
listed as RRW from its mark of the defense appropriations bill. On August 8, the
National Nuclear Security Administration delivered a report on the feasibility of
using existing pits in RRWs. On July 14, the Senate Appropriations Committee
reported the FY2009 energy-water appropriations bill, with no funds for RRW. On
June 25, the House Appropriations Committee marked up the FY2009 energy-water
appropriations bill; its mark contained no funding for RRW. On May 22, 2008, the
House passed the FY2009 defense authorization bill, H.R. 5658, with no funds for
RRW. In its mark of the FY2009 defense authorization bill, released May 1, the
Senate Armed Services Committee recommended providing DOE’s $10 million
request but eliminating the Navy’s $23 million request. In its FY2009 budget
request, submitted to Congress February 4, DOE requested $10 million for RRW.
Separately, the Navy requested $23 million for RRW-related work. In the FY2008
Consolidated Appropriations Act, P.L. 110-161, signed into law December 26, 2007,
Congress eliminated funds to develop RRW.
While some argue for abolition of nuclear weapons,1 there is widespread
agreement within the United States that this nation must maintain its nuclear
warheads as long as it retains them. Yet warheads deteriorate with age. The current
Life Extension Program (LEP) maintains them by replacing deteriorated components.
The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the DOE agency in charge
of the nuclear weapons program, however, expresses concerns that LEP might be
unable to maintain warheads for the long term on grounds that the accumulation of
minor but inevitable variations between certain original and replacement components
may reduce confidence that life-extended warheads remain safe and effective. It
recommends a new approach, the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW), described
below. On the other hand, a study released in November 2006 estimates that pits, a
key warhead component (see Appendix), should have a service life of 85 to 100
1 See, for example, George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger, and Sam Nunn, “A
World Free of Nuclear Weapons,” Wall Street Journal, January 4, 2007, p. 15.
years or more,2 which some argue makes it unnecessary to replace current warheads
for decades by extending the time for which confidence in them should remain high.
Reflecting NNSA’s concern, Congress first funded the RRW program in the
FY2005 Consolidated Appropriations Act, P.L. 108-447. The entire description of
RRW in the conference report was a “program to improve the reliability, longevity,
and certifiability of existing weapons and their components.”3 No committee report
earlier in the FY2005 cycle had mentioned RRW. Congress authorized the program
in the FY2006 National Defense Authorization Act, P.L. 109-163, Section 3111.
Congress has spelled out dozens of goals for the RRW program. A key goal is
to increase confidence, without nuclear testing, that warheads will perform as
intended over the long term. Other goals are to increase ease of manufacture and
certification, reduce life cycle cost, increase weapon safety and use control, and
reduce environmental burden. CRS Report RL33748, Nuclear Warheads: The
Reliable Replacement Warhead Program and the Life Extension Program, details 20
such goals. To achieve them, RRW would trade characteristics important during the
Cold War for those of current importance, as described below. The Department of
Defense (DOD) has approved this tradeoff. It would be impossible to meet all the
goals simultaneously by modifying existing warheads, in part because their designs
are so “tight” that NNSA is concerned that even minor changes might reduce
confidence in the reliability of these warheads over the long term. As such, the RRW
program would design new warheads to replace existing ones. In contrast, LEP
makes changes chiefly to maintain weapons, and in particular minimizes changes to
the nuclear explosive package (see Appendix).
RRW is sharply debated. Supporters anticipate that RRW will permit replacing
a large stockpile of nondeployed nuclear warheads with fewer warheads in which
DOD can have greater confidence over the long term, and restructuring the nuclear
weapons complex (the “Complex”; see Appendix) to be smaller, safer, more
efficient, and less costly. A Defense Science Board task force finds that LEP “is
clearly not a sustainable approach” and recommended proceeding with RRW.4
NNSA argued that RRWs “will be re-designed for long-term confidence in reliability
and greater security, and ease of production and maintenance.5 Critics question
whether some of the tradeoffs and goals are feasible, necessary, or worth potential
costs and risks. For example, one commenter argued, “The plutonium research
2 R.J. Hemley et al., Pit Lifetime, JSR-06-335, MITRE Corp., November 20, 2006, available
3 U.S. Congress, Committee of Conference, Making Appropriations for Foreign Operations,
Export Financing, and Related Programs for the Fiscal Year Ending September 30, 2005,thnd
and For Other Purposes, report to accompany H.R. 4818, 108 Cong., 2 sess., 2004,
H.Rept. 108-792, reprinted in U.S. Congress, Congressional Record, November 19, 2004,
Book II, p. H10556.
4 U.S. Department of Defense. Defense Science Board. Report of the Defense Science
Board Task Force on Nuclear Capabilities: Report Summary, December 2006, p. 39, 41.
5 U.S. Department of Energy. National Nuclear Security Administration. Office of Defense
Programs. Complex 2030: An Infrastructure Planning Scenario for a Nuclear Weaponsst
Complex Able to Meet the Threats of the 21 Century, DOE/NA-0013, October 2006, p. 1.
results [see footnote 2] obliterate the chief rationale for NNSA’s emerging strategy”
of RRW,6 while the New York Times opined that RRW “is a public-relations disaster
in the making overseas” and “a make-work program championed by the weapons
laboratories and belatedly by the Pentagon.”7
Several external reviews of the program have been released. (1) The House
Appropriations Committee directed NNSA to have the JASONs, a group of scientists
who advise the government on defense matters, conduct an independent peer review
to evaluate the competing RRW designs. The JASONs should evaluate the RRW
design recommended by the POG [the RRW Project Officers Group] against the
requirements defined by congressional legislative actions to date and the
elements defined in the Department of Defense’s military characteristics for a
reliable replacement warhead requirements document. The JASON review
should also include an analysis on the feasibility of the fundamental premise of
the RRW initiative that a new nuclear warhead can be designed and produced
and certified for use and deployed as an operationally-deployed nuclear weapon8
without undergoing an underground nuclear explosion test.
The report was due March 31, 2007.9 In accordance with a schedule decided by the
JASONs, NNSA, and the House Appropriations Committee, NNSA transmitted the
report to Congress on September 28,10 and JASON transmitted the final report, in11
classified form, to NNSA by October 1. (See “Congressional Action on the
FY2008 RRW Request,” below, for details.) (2) The Nuclear Weapons Complex
Assessment Committee of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
studied whether RRW is the best path for addressing certain potential risks of SSP
and LEP and for developing a responsive infrastructure in a report released April 24,
6 Daryl Kimball, “New Reasons to Reject New Warheads,” Arms Control Today,
7 “Busywork for Nuclear Scientists,” New York Times, January 15, 2007, p. 18.
8 U.S. Congress. House. Committee on Appropriations. Energy and Water Development
Appropriations Bill, 2007, H.Rept. 109-474 to accompany H.R. 5427, 109th Cong., 2nd sess.,
10 Letter of transmittal from Thomas P. D’Agostino, Administrator, National Nuclear
Security Administration, to The Honorable Bill Nelson, Chairman, Subcommittee on
Strategic Forces, Committee on Armed Services, United States Senate, September 28, 2007.
See also The MITRE Corporation, JASON, “Reliable Replacement Warhead Executive
Summary,” JSR-07-336E, September 7, 2007, 8 p., available at [http://www.fas.org/
11 Information provided by Professor Roy Schwitters, Chair of the JASON Steering
Committee, email, December 1, 2007.
12 American Association for the Advancement of Science. Center for Science, Technology
and Security Policy. Nuclear Weapons Complex Assessment Committee. C. Bruce Tarter,
Chair. “The United States Nuclear Weapons Program: The Role of the Reliable
Replacement Warhead.” April 2007, 34 p. Available at [http://cstsp.aaas.org/files/
3111, mandated a report due March 1, 2007. It was to “discuss the relationship of the
Reliable Replacement Warhead program within the Stockpile Stewardship Program
(SSP) and its impact on the current Stockpile Life Extension Programs” and RRW’s
“feasibility and implementation.” The report was delivered to Congress on May 5,
2008.13 It concluded, “DOE and the DoD firmly believe that it is time for the United
States to seek an alternative to the current strategy of extending the lives of legacy
warheads indefinitely,” and “To ensure the viability of its nuclear deterrent, the
United States must initiate and invest in the RRW program now — so there will be
no disconnect between today’s credible deterrent and the one required for the
future.”14 (4) P.L. 110-181, FY2008 National Defense Authorization Act, Section
3121, required NNSA to report on using existing pits for RRW. The report was due
on July 28, 2008, and was submitted on August 8. It concluded, “The multiple
objectives of the RRW program would be best met by newly manufactured pits.
Until we can achieve adequate pit production capacity, we must plan on using
existing pits for any warhead replacement or life extension programs.” Further,
“Gravity bomb designs, due to the large available weight and volume, allow the most
opportunities for desired improvements and are therefore the most technically
feasible candidates for pit reuse.”15
As discussed under “Congressional Action on the FY2008 RRW Request,”
below, several FY2008 reports on defense authorizations and energy-water
appropriations have called for other reports related to RRW, such as linking RRW
to broader issues of strategy, nuclear nonproliferation, and stockpile size.
This report (1) describes the LEP, difficulties ascribed to it by its critics, and
their responses; (2) shows how changed post-Cold War constraints might open
opportunities to improve long-term warhead maintenance and reach other goals; (3)
describes RRW and its pros and cons; (4) tracks RRW program developments and
congressional action on budget requests; and (5) presents options and issues for
Congress. An Appendix describes nuclear weapons, the SSP, and the Complex.
The Need to Maintain Nuclear Warheads for the Long Term
Nuclear warheads must be maintained because they contain thousands of parts
that deteriorate at different rates. Some parts and materials have well-known limits
AAAS% 20RRW% 20Repor t .pdf ] .
13 Information provided by National Nuclear Security Administration, June 16, 2008.
14 U.S. Department of Defense and Department of Energy. “Report on the Feasibility and
Implementation of the Reliable Replacement Warhead Program: Submitted to the
Congressional Defense Committees Pursuant to Section 3111 of the National Defense
Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006, Public Law 109-163, by the Secretary of Defense
and the Secretary of Energy in Consultation with the Nuclear Weapons Council,” April
15 U.S. Department of Energy. National Nuclear Security Administration. “Report on the
Feasibility of Using Existing Pits for the Reliable Replacement Warhead Program,” p. 14.
The letter of transmittal is dated August 8, 2008.
on service life,16 while the service life of other parts may be unknown or revealed
only by multiple inspections of a warhead type over time. A 1983 report argued that
maintenance requires nuclear testing:
Certain chemically reactive materials are inherently required in nuclear weapons,
such as uranium or plutonium, high explosives, and plastics. The fissile
materials, both plutonium and uranium, are subject to corrosion. Plastic-bonded
high explosives and other plastics tend to decompose over extended periods of
time ... portions of materials can dissociate into simpler substances. Vapors
given off by one material can migrate to another region of the weapon and react
chemically there.... Materials in the warhead electrical systems ... can produce
effluents that can migrate to regions in the nuclear explosive portion of the
weapon.... The characteristics of high explosives can change with time.... Vital17
electrical components can change in character....
A 1987 report, written to rebut the contention of the foregoing report that
nuclear testing is needed to maintain warheads, agreed that aging affects components:
It should also be noted that nuclear weapons engineering has benefitted
from a quarter century of experience in dealing with corrosion, deterioration, and
creep since the time that the W45, W47, and W52 [warheads] entered the
stockpile in the early sixties (just after the test moratorium of 1958-1961).... Most
of the reliability problems in the past have resulted from either an incomplete
testing program during the development phase of a weapon or the aging and18
deterioration of weapon components during deployment.
Some feel that deterioration, while a potential problem, has been overstated. A
scientific panel writing in 1999 stated,
there is no such thing as a “design life.” The designers were not asked or
permitted to design a nuclear weapon that would go bad after 20 years. They did
their best on a combination of performance and endurance, and after experience
with the weapon in storage there is certainly no reason to expect all of the
nuclear weapons of a given type to become unusable after 20 or 25 years. In fact,
one of the main goals of SBSS [Science-Based Stockpile Stewardship, an earlier
term for the Stockpile Stewardship Program, discussed below] is to predict the
life of the components so that remanufacture may be scheduled, and results to
date indicate a margin of surety extending for decades.... Until now, clear
evidence of warhead deterioration has not been seen in the enduring stockpile,
16 U.S. General Accounting Office, Nuclear Weapons: Capabilities of DOE’s Limited Life
Component Program to Meet Operational Needs, GAO/RCED-97-52, March 5, 1997,
available at [http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/report/gao/rced97052.htm].
17 “Some Little-Publicized Difficulties with a Nuclear Freeze,” prepared by Dr. J.W.
Rosengren, R&D Associates, under Contract to the Office of International Security Affairs,
U.S. Department of Energy, October 1983, p. 5-6; reprinted in U.S. Congress. Senate.thnd
Committee on Foreign Relations. Nuclear Testing Issues. 99 Cong., 2 sess., Senate
Hearing 99-937, 1986, pp. 167-168.
18 Ray Kidder, Stockpile Reliability and Nuclear Test Bans: Response to J.W. Rosengren’s
Defense of His 1983 Report, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, UCID-20990,
February 1987, pp. 4-5.
but the plans for remanufacture still assume that deterioration is inevitable on the19
timescale of the old, arbitrarily defined “design lives.”
The deterioration noted above pertained to warheads designed in the 1950s and
early 1960s that are no longer deployed. Newer warheads correct some of these
problems. As knowledge of warhead performance, materials, and deterioration
increases, the labs can correct some problems and forestall others. Still other aging
problems have turned out to occur more slowly than was feared. In particular, it was
long recognized that plutonium would deteriorate as it aged, but it was not known
how long it would take for deterioration to impair performance of the pit, the fissile
core of a nuclear weapon’s primary stage (see Appendix). NNSA had estimated that
that would take at least 45 to 60 years, but a November 2006 study found
there is no degradation in performance of primaries of stockpile systems [i.e.,
warheads] due to plutonium aging that would be cause for near-term concern
regarding their safety and reliability. Most primary types have credible minimum
lifetimes in excess of 100 years as regards aging of plutonium; those with
assessed minimum lifetimes of 100 years or less have clear mitigation paths that20
are proposed and/or being implemented.
During the Cold War, any deterioration problems were limited in their duration
because this nation introduced generations of long-range nuclear-armed bombers and
ballistic missiles, each of which would typically carry a new warhead tailored to its
mission. New warheads were usually introduced long before the warheads they
replaced reached the end of their service lives. Three trends concerning deterioration
have emerged since the end of the Cold War. (1) SSP and other tools, described
below, have greatly increased NNSA’s understanding of warhead deterioration and
how to deal with or prevent it. (2) By maintaining the current set of warhead designs
for many years, design and production errors have been subjected to systematic
identification and elimination. (3) Nuclear warheads have much more time to age,
as warheads that were expected to remain in the stockpile for at most 20 years are
now being retained indefinitely. The net of these trends is that understanding of
deterioration, while improving, is not perfect, so deterioration remains a concern.
Current warheads were designed to meet an exacting set of constraints, such as
safety parameters, yield, and conditions (such as temperature) that they would
encounter in their lifetimes. Design compromises were made to meet these
constraints. Ambassador Linton Brooks, NNSA Administrator, said that to meet
requirements, “we designed these systems very close to performance cliffs.”21 That
is, designs approached points at which warheads would fail.22 Many parts were hard
19 Sidney Drell, Raymond Jeanloz, et al., Remanufacture, MITRE Corporation, JASON
Program Office, JSR-99-300, October 1999, pp. 4, 8.
20 R.J. Hemley et al., Pit Lifetime, JSR-06-335, MITRE Corp., November 20, 2006, p. 1,
available at [http://www.nukewatch.org/facts/nwd/JASON_ReportPuAging.pdf].
21 U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Armed Services, Subcommittee on Strategic Forces,
Strategic Forces/Nuclear Weapons Fiscal Year 2006 Budget, hearing, April 4, 2005.
22 For example, if designers calculated that a certain amount of plutonium was the minimum
to produce or used hazardous materials. Warheads were often hard to assemble. This
approach increased the difficulty of replicating some components and of maintaining
warheads. Ambassador Brooks said, “it is becoming more difficult and costly to
certify warhead remanufacture. The evolution away from tested designs resulting
from the inevitable accumulations of small changes over the extended lifetimes of
these systems means that we can count on increasing uncertainty in the long-term
certification of warheads in the stockpile.”23
At issue is whether warheads can be maintained despite the absence of nuclear
testing by replacing deteriorated components with newly made ones built as close as
possible to the original specifications. This debate has been going on for decades.
In a 1978 letter to President Carter, three weapons scientists argued that the United
States could go to great lengths in remanufacturing weapon components:
it is sometimes claimed that remanufacture may become impossible because of
increasingly severe restrictions by EPA or OSHA to protect the environment of
the worker ... if the worker’s environment acceptable until now for the use of
asbestos, spray adhesives, or beryllium should be forbidden by OSHA
regulations, those few workers needed to continue operations with such material
could wear plastic-film suits.... It would be wise also to stockpile in appropriate
storage facilities certain commercial materials used in weapons manufacture24
which might in the future disappear from the commercial scene.
However, a 1987 report by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory stated:
!Exact replication, especially of older systems, is impossible.
Material batches are never quite the same, some materials become
unavailable, and equivalent materials are never exactly equivalent.
“Improved” parts often have new, unexpected failure modes.
Vendors go out of business....
!Documentation has never been sufficiently exact to ensure
replication.... We have never known enough about every detail to
specify everything that may be important....
!The most important aspect of any product certification is testing; it
provides the data for valid certification.25
at which the warhead would work, they might add only a small extra amount as a margin of
23 Brooks statement to Senate Armed Services Committee, April 4, 2005, p. 3.
24 Letter from Norris Bradbury, J. Carson Mark, and Richard Garwin to President Jimmy
Carter, August 15, 1978, reprinted in U.S. Congress, House Committee on Foreign Affairs
and Its Subcommittee on Arms Control, International Security and Science, Proposals tothst
Ban Nuclear Testing, H.J.Res. 3, 99 Cong., 1 Sess., hearings, (Washington: GPO, 1985),
25 George Miller, Paul Brown, and Carol Alonso, Report to Congress on Stockpile
The Solution So Far: The Life Extension Program
With the end of the Cold War, the Complex, like the rest of the defense
establishment, faced turmoil. Budgets and personnel were reduced, design of new
weapons ended, and a test moratorium began. For a time, the chief concern of
DOE’s nuclear weapons management was survival of the Complex.
To address this concern and set a course for the nuclear weapons enterprise,
Congress, in the FY1994 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 103-160),
Section 3138, directed the Secretary of Energy to “establish a stewardship program
to ensure the preservation of the core intellectual and technical competencies of the
United States in nuclear weapons, including weapons design, system integration,
manufacturing, security, use control, reliability assessment, and certification.” Since
then, the Clinton and Bush Administrations have requested, and Congress has
approved, tens of billions of dollars for this Stockpile Stewardship Program (SSP),
which is presented in NNSA’s budget as “Weapons Activities.”26
SSP uses data from past nuclear tests, small-scale laboratory experiments, large-
scale experimental facilities, examination of warheads, and the like to better
understand nuclear weapon science. It uses this knowledge to improve computer
codes that simulate aspects of weapons performance to aid the nuclear weapons
laboratories’ understanding of it. Such advances help scientists analyze data from
past nuclear tests more thoroughly, mining it to extract still more information.
Theory, simulation, and data reinforce each other: theory refines simulation,
simulation helps check theory, theory and simulation guide researchers to look for
certain types of data, and data help check simulation and theory.
A key task of the Complex is to monitor warheads for signs of actual or future
deterioration. This work is done through a program that conducts routine
surveillance of warheads in the stockpile by closely examining 11 warheads of each
type per year to search for corrosion, gases, and other evidence of deterioration. Of
the 11, one is taken apart for destructive evaluation, while the other 10 are evaluated
nondestructively and returned to the stockpile.27 In addition, an Enhanced
Surveillance Program supports surveillance; its goal “is to develop diagnostic tools
Reliability, Weapon Remanufacture, and the Role of Nuclear Testing, Lawrence Livermore
National Laboratory, UCRL-53822, October 1987, p. 25. For an opposing view, see R.E.
Kidder, Maintaining the U.S. Stockpile of Nuclear Weapons During a Low-Threshold or
Comprehensive Test Ban, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, UCRL-53820, October
26 See CRS Report RL34417, Energy and Water Development: FY2009 Appropriations,
coordinated by Carl Behrens, section on Nuclear Weapons Stockpile Stewardship.
27 Information provided by NNSA, May 9, 2005.
and predictive models that will make it possible to analyze and predict the effects that
aging may have on weapon materials, components, and systems.”28
When routine surveillance detects warhead problems, the Complex applies
knowledge gained through SSP to fix problems through the Life Extension Program
(LEP), which attempts “to extend the expected stockpile lifetime of a warhead or
warhead components at least 20 years with a goal of 30 years”29 beyond the
originally-anticipated service life.
A warhead’s components may be divided into two categories: those that are part
of the nuclear explosive package (NEP), and those that are not. As described in the
Appendix, the NEP is the part of the warhead that explodes, as distinct from the
more numerous components like the outer case or arming system. Because non-NEP
components can be subjected to extensive experiments and nonnuclear laboratory
tests, they can be modified as needed under LEP to incorporate more advanced
electronics or safer materials. In contrast, NEP components cannot be subjected to
nuclear tests because the United States has observed a moratorium on nuclear testing
since 1992. As a result, LEP seeks to replicate these components using original
designs and, insofar as possible, original materials. In this way, it is hoped,
components will be close to the originals so that they can be qualified for use in
warheads. Because NEP components cannot be tested while other components can
be, long-term concern focuses on the former.
Warheads contain several thousand components. While not all need to be
refurbished in an LEP, some are difficult to fabricate, and assembly may be difficult,
as discussed earlier. As a result, the LEP for an individual warhead type is a major
campaign requiring extensive preparatory analysis and detailed work on many
components that can take many years. For example, NNSA describes the LEP for the
W76 warhead for Trident submarine-launched ballistic missiles as follows:
The W76 LEP will extend the life of the W76 for an additional 30 years with the
first production unit (FPU) targeted in FY 2008. Activities include design,
qualification, certification, production plant Process Prove-In (PPI), and Pilot
Production. The pre-production activities will ensure the design of refurbished
warheads meets all required military characteristics. Additional activities include
work associated with the manufacturability of the components including the
nuclear explosive package; the Arming, Firing, and Fuzing (AF&F) system; gas
transfer system; and associated cables, elastomers, valves, pads, cushions, foam30
supports, telemetries, and miscellaneous parts.
28 Katie Walter, “Enhanced Surveillance of Aging Weapons,” Science & Technology
Review, January/February 1998, p. 21.
29 U.S. Department of Energy. Office of Chief Financial Officer. FY2009 Congressional
Budget Request, DOE/CF-024, February 2008, vol. 1, National Nuclear Security
Administration, p. 101.
30 Department of Energy, FY2009 Congressional Budget Request, vol. 1, p. 101.
Stockpile stewardship has made great strides in understanding weapons science,
in predicting how weapons will age, and in predicting how they will fail. Many agree
with the following assessment by NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino:
the Stockpile Stewardship Program is working — today’s stockpile remains safe
and reliable and does not require nuclear testing. This assessment is based on a
foundation of past nuclear tests augmented by cutting edge scientific and
engineering experiments and analysis, and improved warhead surveillance. Most
importantly, it derives from the professional (and independent) judgment of our31
laboratory directors advised by their weapon program staffs.
Others reply that the United States cannot have confidence in stockpile stewardship
without conducting nuclear tests to validate the tools and computer models. In this
view, it is easier to fit computer models to data from past nuclear tests than to predict
results of future tests.32
Is LEP Satisfactory for the Long Term?
In the turmoil following the end of the Cold War, it is scarcely surprising that
the method chosen to maintain the stockpile — a task that had to be performed in the
face of the many changes affecting the Complex and the many unknowns about its
future — was to minimize changes. Now, with SSP well established, NNSA feels
that it is appropriate to use a different approach to warhead maintenance, one that
builds on the success of SSP and challenges the notion underlying LEP that changes
must be held to a minimum.
Advocates of RRW recognize that LEP has worked well and concede that it can
probably maintain warheads over the short term. Their concern is with maintaining
reliability of warheads over the long term. They assert that LEP is not suited to the
task because it will become harder to make it work as the technology under which
current warheads were created becomes increasingly archaic and as materials,
equipment, processes, and skills become unavailable. They maintain that if the labs
were to lose confidence that they could replicate NEP components to near-original
designs using near-original materials and processes, the United States could
ultimately face a choice between resuming nuclear tests or accepting reduced
confidence in reliability. Instead, for example, the three nuclear weapons laboratories
(Los Alamos, Livermore, and Sandia) argue that a “vision of sustainable warheads
with a sustainable [nuclear] enterprise can best be achieved by shifting from a33
program of warhead refurbishment to one of warhead replacement.”
31 “Statement of Thomas P. D’Agostino, Administrator, National Nuclear Security
Administration, U.S. Department of Energy, Before the House Committee on Armed
Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces,” February 27, 2008, p. 5 (original emphasis).
32 For further discussion of this point, see U.S. Congress. Congressional Research Service.
Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty: Issues and Arguments, CRS Report RL34394,
by Jonathan Medalia, section titled, “Can the United States Maintain the Nuclear Weapons
Enterprise Without Testing?”
33 K. Henry O’Brien et al., Sustaining the Nuclear Enterprise — A New Approach, published
Advocates of RRW note further that while the current stockpile — most units
of which were manufactured between 1979 and 1989 — was designed to deter and,
if necessary, defeat the Soviet Union, the threat, strategy and missions have changed,
leaving the United States with the wrong stockpile for current circumstances.
Ambassador Brooks said that current warheads are wrong technically because “we
would [now] manage technical risk differently, for example, by ‘trading’ [warhead]
size and weight for increased performance margins, system longevity, and ease of
manufacture.” These warheads were not “designed for longevity” or to minimize
cost, and may be wrong militarily because yields are too high and “do not lend
themselves to reduced collateral damage.” They also lack capabilities against buried
targets or biological and chemical munitions, and they do not take full advantage of
precision guidance.34 Furthermore, LEP’s critics believe the stockpile is wrong
politically because it is too large:
We retain “hedge” warheads in large part due to the inability of either today’s
nuclear infrastructure, or the infrastructure we expect to have when the stockpile
reductions are fully implemented in 2012, to manufacture, in a timely way,
warheads for replacement or for force augmentation, or to act to correct35
unexpected technical problems.
Finally, they believe the stockpile is wrong in terms of physical security because it
was not designed for a scenario in which terrorists seize control of a nuclear weapon
and try to detonate it in place. According to Brooks, “If we were designing the
stockpile today, we would apply new technologies and approaches to warhead-level
use control as a means to reduce physical security costs.”36
Advocates of LEP challenge each assertion. They believe that LEP can continue
to maintain warheads. They note that criticisms of LEP are vague: not that LEPs will
fail, but that life-extended warheads might at some future point lead to a reduction
in confidence. LEP supporters do not accept even that criticism. As Richard Garwin,
IBM Fellow emeritus said,
I don’t agree with the generally stated assumption that confidence and the
reliability of our existing nuclear weapons will inevitably decline with time as
the weapons age ... the Science-Based Stockpile Stewardship Program and, in
particular, the advanced scientific computing capabilities that have been procured
at great cost over the last 15 years for the Stockpile Stewardship Program, have
paid off handsomely, as indicated in confidence in increased pit longevity. Thus,
in the case of the essential and sensitive thermonuclear weapon primaries, the
passage of time has brought greater, not lesser, confidence in pit longevity.... And
with the passage of time and the improvement in computing tools, I believe that
jointly by Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, and Sandia National Laboratories, UCRL-AR-
34 Ibid., pp. 2-3.
35 Ibid., p. 3.
36 Ibid., p. 4.
confidence in the reliability of the existing legacy weapons will increase rather37
than diminish, just as has been the case with the nuclear weapon pits.
They challenge the assertion that RRW would improve the current stockpile.
In this view, new weapons may not offer much new capability: earth penetrators
could not destroy hardened facilities buried very deeply or at imprecisely-known
locations, and nuclear weapons are of questionable effectiveness against chemical38
and biological agents. They note that Congress rejected funds for the Robust
Nuclear Earth Penetrator, which many Members perceived as being a new nuclear
weapon, and that the FY2006 National Defense Authorization Act, P.L. 109-163,
Section 3111, set “fulfill[ing] current mission requirements of the existing stockpile”
as an objective for the RRW program. They anticipate that RRWs, like any other
product, would have “birth defects,” whereas such defects have been wrung out of
existing warheads, and believe that such defects could require a larger stockpile.
They state that performance margins of current warheads are adequate and can be
improved somewhat if needed, such as by new systems to deliver boost gas. They
question the argument that RRW would reduce physical security costs on grounds
that a terrorist attempt to seize and detonate a nuclear warhead in place is most
unlikely given the high level of security currently in place, and doubt that Congress
or NNSA would reduce the guard force because of RRW.
RRW and the Transformation of Nuclear Warheads
The nuclear stockpile was designed to meet Cold War requirements. For
example, high explosive yield per unit of warhead weight (the “yield-to-weight
ratio”) was critically important while cost, ease of manufacture, and reduction of
hazardous material were less so. Now, yield-to-weight has become less important,
the others just mentioned have become more important, new constraints have
appeared in the wake of 9/11, and warheads must continue to be safe and reliable.
As a result, RRW advocates claim, it is possible and necessary to transform the
stockpile to reflect these changes.
With RRW, NNSA and DOD are revisiting tradeoffs underlying the current
stockpile in order to adapt to post-Cold War changes and meet possible future
requirements. NNSA and DOD assert RRW would trade negligible sacrifices to
secure major gains. This section presents some Cold War warhead requirements,
how they have changed, and implications of these changes for RRW and LEP.
37 U.S. Congress. House. Committee on Appropriations. Subcommittee on Energy and Water
Development. Hearing on nuclear weapon activities. 109th Congress, 1st Session, March 29,
38 Roger Speed and Michael May, “Assessing the United States’ Nuclear Posture,” in
George Bunn and Christopher Chyba, eds., U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy: Confronting
Today’s Threats, Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University,
and Brookings Institution Press, Washington, 2006, pp. 256-264.
Yield-to-Weight Ratio. A major characteristic of warheads for ballistic
missiles was a high yield-to-weight ratio.39 Lower weight let each missile carry more
warheads to more distant targets; higher yield made each warhead better able to
destroy its target; and high yield-to-weight enabled these goals to be met at the same
time. For example, the W88 warhead for the Trident II (D5) submarine-launched
ballistic missile uses a conventional high explosive (CHE) that is more sensitive to
impact than insensitive high explosive (IHE) used on many other warhead types.
IHE is safer to handle, but CHE packed more energy per unit weight. A missile
could carry the lighter CHE warheads to a greater distance, so a submarine could
stand off farther from its targets. Increased ocean patrol area forced the Soviet Union
to spread out its antisubmarine assets, improving submarine survivability. Hard-to-
manufacture designs, hazardous materials, and other undesirable features were
deemed acceptable tradeoffs to maximize yield-to-weight.
Now, ballistic missiles carry fewer warheads than they did during the Cold War,
so each warhead can be heavier.40 In particular, the first RRW, “WR1,” which is to
replace some W76 warheads now on the Trident II submarine-launched ballistic
missile, will have the yield of the W76 but the higher weight of the W88, resulting
in less yield per unit weight. The added weight is allocated to design features to
improve use control, margin (excess performance designed into a warhead beyond
the minimum required for it to perform as intended), ease of production, and the like.
LEP advocates see current warheads as satisfactory. Barry Hannah, chairman
of the RRW POG, said, “The W76 LEP that is currently underway is an excellent
program in terms of technology, schedule, and cost. I believe it meets the Navy’s
needs.”41 They point to risks in RRW, such as defects in design or manufacturing,
that are typical of most new products.
Nuclear Testing. Between 1945 and 1992, the United States conducted over
1,000 nuclear tests, mostly for weapons design.42 These tests added confidence that
a weapon incorporating hard-to-manufacture components was made correctly, that
a weapon would work at extremes of temperatures it might experience, and that the
design was satisfactory in other ways. Testing also enabled the labs to validate
39 Bombs were less constrained in weight because bombers carry heavier loads than missiles.
40 Ballistic missiles carry warheads inside reentry vehicles (RVs). An RV is a streamlined
shell that protects its warhead from the intense heat and other stresses of reentering the
atmosphere at high speed. RVs are designed to carry a specific type of warhead on a
specific missile; the maximum stress that the RV encounters is carefully studied. Increasing
warhead weight significantly would increase these stresses, possibly causing the RV to fail
and the warhead to burn up, fail, or miss its target by a wide margin.
41 Information provided by Dr. Barry Hannah, SES, Branch Head, Reentry Systems,
Strategic Systems Program, U.S. Navy, telephone conversation with the author, October 23,
42 The United States conducted 1,030 tests. A total of 1,125 devices were detonated in those
tests, of which 891 were weapon related. (The United Kingdom conducted another 24 tests
jointly with the United States at the Nevada Test Site.) U.S. Department of Energy, Nevada
Operations Office, United States Nuclear Tests, July 1945 through September 1992,
DOE/NV-209, rev. 15, December 2000, p. xvi.
changes to existing warhead designs. With a congressionally-imposed U.S. nuclear
test moratorium that began in October 199243 and that Presidents Clinton and George
W. Bush have continued to the present, this nation cannot rely on tests to validate
designs. Instead, WR1 seeks to provide high confidence in the design without
nuclear testing by being a “close neighbor” of previously-tested designs, staying
within design parameters that past nuclear tests have validated, and building in high
margins. RRW advocates express concern that current warheads were designed with
“thin” margins, and that minor changes as a result of LEPs can erode these margins
further, possibly reducing confidence in these warheads that could testing to restore.
Advocates of LEP have high confidence in current warheads, and believe that
this confidence is growing despite the absence of testing, as noted earlier. The
JASON study on pit aging, in this view, delays by decades the time when pits would
have to be manufactured for current warheads, thus delaying a potentially large risk
factor that could lead to testing. In contrast, RRW missile warheads, such as WR1,
would require the manufacture of new pits, and any new product runs the risk of
design or manufacturing defects, which in this case could lead to testing.
Others hold that neither RRW nor LEP provides confidence in the stockpile.
In this view, RRW uses untested designs, while the many changes introduced by
LEPs move current warheads away from tested designs, so the only way to restore
confidence is to resume a nuclear test program that would meet current needs with
a much lower rate and yield of testing than during the Cold War.
Performance, Schedule, and Cost Tradeoffs. Performance has always
been the dominant consideration for nuclear weapons. Weapons must meet standards
for safety and reliability, and meet other military characteristics. During the Cold
War, schedule was also critical. With new missiles and nuclear-capable aircraft
entering the force at a sustained pace, warheads and bombs had to be ready on a
schedule dictated by their delivery systems. As a result, “our nuclear warheads were44
not designed ... to minimize DOE and DOD costs.” Now, reducing cost has a
higher priority. Cost reduction is also more feasible: performance is still dominant,
but no imminent external threat drives the schedule.
WR1 offers many features that, its backers claim, will reduce costs over its life
cycle. It will be designed for ease of manufacture and reduce use of hazardous
material, lowering manufacturing cost. Enhanced use-control and use-denial features
may slow the growth of physical security costs. Reduced use of hazardous materials
and a design that permits easier disassembly will lower dismantlement cost. RRW’s
proponents also raise concerns that it is becoming more costly to maintain existing
warheads; for example, plants to make certain materials used in current warheads but
that are no longer commercially available may cost millions of dollars to build.
LEP supporters state that delaying pit manufacture for decades by continuing to
use existing pits in current warheads will save many billions of dollars. They note
43 The moratorium was begun pursuant to Section 507 of P.L. 102-377, FY1993 Energy and
Water Development Appropriations Act, signed into law October 2, 1992.
44 Brooks statement to Senate Armed Services Committee, April 4, 2005, p. 3.
that RRW is linked to a major upgrade of the nuclear weapons complex, which
would be costly, and that the RRW program may involve manufacture of thousands
of new warheads and dismantlement of thousands of old ones, adding costs. A study
by the American Association for the Advancement of Science found, “an RRW
program would likely add to costs in the near term, and it is not yet possible to
determine when (and whether) the RRW could lead to savings in the long term.”45
Environment, Safety, and Health (ES&H). During the Cold War, the
urgency of production and limited knowledge of the ES&H effects of materials used
or created in the nuclear weapons enterprise led to the use of hazardous materials,
dumping contaminants onto the ground or into rivers, exposing citizens to radioactive
fallout from nuclear tests, and the like. Now, ES&H concerns have grown within the
Complex, reflecting their rise in civil society at large, leading to a strong interest in
minimizing the use of hazardous materials in warheads and their production.
RRW advocates note that reduction of hazardous materials is a design goal of
RRW. A less stringent yield-to-weight requirement permits substitution of safer
materials, even if they are somewhat heavier, for some hazardous materials.
Manufacturing processes are simpler, reducing hazardous waste and increasing
safety. Substitution of insensitive high explosive for conventional high explosive,
it is argued, would increase worker safety. LEP supporters argue that the ability to
defer pit manufacture for decades improves ES&H, and that existing manufacturing
processes are well understood and have incorporated proper safety precautions.
Skill Development and Transfer. During the Cold War, the design of
dozens of warhead types, the conduct of over 1,000 nuclear tests, and the production
of thousands of warheads exercised the full range of nuclear weapon skills. Now,
with no design or testing, no new-design warheads being produced, and with
warheads being refurbished at a slower pace than that at which they were originally
produced, some have raised concern that Complex personnel are not adequately
challenged. In this view, skill development and transfer can no longer be simply a
byproduct of the work, but must be an explicit goal of the nuclear weapons program.
RRW advocates state that since RRW is a new design, designers must confront
the full range of tradeoffs simultaneously, balancing yield, weight, cost, safety, ease
of manufacture, use control, reduction of hazardous material, etc. In contrast, in this
view, LEP constrains choices for the nuclear explosive package because replication
is required to minimize divergence from parameters validated by nuclear testing.
LEP supporters cite the American Association for the Advancement of Science study:
“Although life extension is not equivalent to executing a new design, it nonetheless
employs many of the same tools, processes, and disciplines.”46
45 American Association for the Advancement of Science. Nuclear Weapons Complex
Assessment Committee. The United States Nuclear Weapons Program: The Role of the
Reliable Replacement Warhead. April 2007, p. 25. Available at [http://cstsp.aaas.org/files/
AAAS% 20RRW% 20Repor t .pdf ] .
46 American Association for the Advancement of Science, The United States Nuclear
Weapons Program: The Role of the Reliable Replacement Warhead, p. 23.
RRW and Nuclear Weapons Complex Transformation
Throughout its history, the nuclear weapons complex (the “Complex”) has
expanded and contracted in response to changing demands, whether the rush to
produce the first bombs in World War II, the program to produce many thousands of
warheads of many different types during the Cold War, or the need for more
dismantlement and less production with the end of the Cold War, and many plans for
Complex transformation have been drafted over the years.
RRW’s supporters saw RRW as the basis for addressing this transformation.
Representative David Hobson, Chairman of the House Energy and Water
Development Appropriations Subcommittee in the 108th and 109th Congresses, was
RRW’s prime sponsor. In introducing the FY2005 energy and water bill (H.R. 4614)
to the House, he emphasized the need to redirect the Complex:
much of the DOE weapons complex is still sized to support a Cold War
stockpile. The NNSA needs to take a ‘time-out’ on new initiatives until it
completes a review of its weapons complex in relation to security needs, budget47
constraints, and [a] new stockpile plan.
He saw RRW as a key part of his effort to redirect U.S. nuclear strategy, reshape the
nuclear weapons stockpile and Complex to support that strategy, undertake weapons
programs consistent with that strategy, and reject those inconsistent with it.48
Some see RRW as the key to transforming the Complex into the responsive
infrastructure envisioned in the 2001 Nuclear Posture Review. Thomas D’Agostino,
then NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs, said in 2006,
By “responsive” we refer to the resilience of the nuclear enterprise to
unanticipated events or emerging threats, and the ability to anticipate innovations
by an adversary and to counter them before our deterrent is degraded.... much
remains to be done to achieve stockpile and infrastructure transformation.... The
“enabler” for transformation is our concept for the RRW. The RRW will benefit
from relaxed Cold War design constraints that maximized yield to weight ratios.
This will allow us to design replacement components that are easier to
manufacture; are safer and more secure; eliminate environmentally dangerous,
reactive, and unstable materials.... RRW, we believe, will provide enormous
leverage for a more efficient and responsive infrastructure and opportunities for49
a smaller stockpile.
He also said, “We have worked closely with the DoD to establish goals for
‘responsiveness,’ that is, timelines to address stockpile problems or deal with new
47 Congressional Record, June 25, 2004, p. H5085.
48 Congressman David Hobson, “U.S. Nuclear Security in the 21st Century,” address to the
Arms Control Association, Washington, DC, February 3, 2005. (Transcript as delivered.)
49 “Statement of Thomas P. D’Agostino, Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs,
National Nuclear Security Administration, Before the House Armed Services Committee,
Subcommittee on Strategic Forces,” April 5, 2006, p. 3, 6.
or emerging threats. For example, our goal is to understand and fix most problems
in the stockpile within 12 months of their discovery.”50
To meet these goals, NNSA proposed a “Complex 2030” plan for restructuring
the Complex.51 It would consolidate fissile material, eliminate some redundancies
in R&D facilities, and consolidate elements of the current Complex. It assumes
Complex reconfiguration completed around 2030. As a result, even if the United
States proceeds with RRW, the Complex would, for decades, need to support current
warheads and RRWs simultaneously, so a Complex-in-transition would support a
stockpile-in-transition. Because RRW would be designed in part for ease of
manufacture, advocates claim it would permit a simpler a smaller and less costly
Complex. In NNSA’s view, Complex 2030, combined with easier-to-produce
RRWs, would be more responsive to DOD’s needs than the current Complex.
Another plan, by a Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) task force, proposed
more consolidation of production, experimental equipment, and uranium and
plutonium than the Complex 2030 plan.52 One of its elements was a Consolidated
Nuclear Production Center (CNPC), which would produce all uranium and plutonium
components for nuclear weapons, as well as assembling, surveilling, and
disassembling weapons, and storing all weapons not in DOD custody.53
In a letter to Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman in November 2006,
Representative Hobson expressed concern that DOE decided not to analyze the
SEAB plan and instead considered Complex 2030 as its proposed action.54
If the Department is not willing to conduct a thorough and objective analysis of
all reform alternatives including the CNPC, and instead is determined to conduct
an obviously prejudicial process aimed at ensuring the Department’s preferred
outcome, then I will not support funding for the Complex 2030 efforts, including
the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program. RRW is a deal with
Congress, but the deal requires a serious effort by the Department to modernize,55
consolidate, and downsize the weapons complex. Absent that, there is no deal.
50 “Statement of Thomas P. D’Agostino ...,” April 5, 2006, p. 4.
51 U.S. Department of Energy. National Nuclear Security Administration. Office of Defense
Programs. Complex 2030: An Infrastructure Planning Scenario for a Nuclear Weaponsst
Complex Able to Meet the Threats of the 21 Century, DOE/NA-0013, October 2006.
52 U.S. Department of Energy. Secretary of Energy Advisory Board. Nuclear Weapons
Complex Infrastructure Task Force. Recommendations for the Nuclear Weapons Complex
of the Future, 2005.
53 Ibid., p. 14.
54 DOE announced this decision in “Notice of Intent to Prepare a Supplement to the
Stockpile Stewardship and Management Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement —
Complex 2030,” in U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. Office of the
Federal Register. Federal Register, October 19, 2006, p. 61731-61736.
55 Letter from David L. Hobson, Chairman, Energy and Water Development Appropriations
Subcommittee, to Samuel W. Bodman, Secretary of Energy, November 16, 2006.
In January 2007, NNSA stated it would evaluate the SEAB plan.56
Representative Peter Visclosky, Chairman of the Energy and Water
Development Appropriations Subcommittee, also expressed concerns about the link
between RRW and Complex transformation:
I am also troubled by the apparent unbridled enthusiasm of the nuclear weapons
complex over the Reliable Replacement Warhead and wish I saw that same
enthusiasm replicated, as far as their dedication to downsizing the complex....
The department [DOE] will have to develop a modernization plan that is near-
term and demonstrates a recognition that the long-term requirements of the57
nuclear weapons complex are tied to a much smaller nuclear stockpile.
NNSA announced a revised plan for Complex reconfiguration, “Complex
Transformation,” in December 2007. NNSA stated that this plan would consolidate
nuclear materials within the Complex, close many buildings, reduce the footprint of
the Complex by as much as one-third, employ fewer workers, and dismantle58
warheads faster. The link to RRW, though, seems less clear. As discussed below,
Congress provided no NNSA funds for RRW for FY2008. NNSA stated that
Complex Transformation “is independent of whether [the nuclear] stockpile consists
of legacy designs or Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) concept designs.”59
RRW Program Developments
Representatives of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the armed services,
and NNSA participate in the Nuclear Weapons Council, which under 10 U.S.C. 179
coordinates their efforts in this area. The council approved forming a DOD-DOE
Project Officers Group (POG) for the RRW program in March 2005. According to
NNSA, the POG is composed of representatives of NNSA, the nuclear weapon labs
(Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore, and Sandia), the Office of the Secretary of
Defense, the U.S. Strategic Command, the Navy, the Air Force, and Lockheed Martin
Space Systems Company.60 There are also observers from the Office of the Chief of
56 U.S. Department of Energy. National Nuclear Security Administration. Office of Defense
Programs. Report on the Plan for Transformation of the National Nuclear Security
Administration Nuclear Weapons Complex, January 31, 2007, p. iii.
57 U.S. Congress. House. Committee on Appropriations. Subcommittee on Energy and Water
Development. Hearing on DOE’s FY2008 budget for NNSA programs, March 29, 2007.
58 U.S. Department of Energy. National Nuclear Security Administration. “NNSA Releases
Draft Plan to Transform Nuclear Weapons Complex,” press release, December 18, 2007, p.
Washington Post, December 19, 2007, p. 1. The Draft Complex Transformation
Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, released in January 2008, is
available at [http://www.complextransformationspeis.com/project.html].
59 Department of Energy, FY2009 Congressional Budget Request, vol. 1, p. 18.
60 Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corporation,
and its predecessor organizations have developed and manufactured all U.S. SLBMs. This
Naval Operations, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and three nuclear weapon
plants (Kansas City, Pantex, and Y-12).61 In practice, POGs do not take votes, so
members and observers participate on an equal footing. The Nuclear Weapons
Council tasked the POG to conduct an 18-month design competition, which started
with the first POG meeting in May 2005. In the competition, two teams — Los
Alamos and Sandia’s New Mexico branch, and Lawrence Livermore and Sandia’s
California branch — were tasked to provide warhead designs consistent with RRW
program objectives. The council set the terms of reference for the designs in a
memorandum to the POG. DOD requested that the study be done as a competition
between the two teams rather than as a collaboration, according to NNSA.
By February 2006, the two teams had become fully confident that their designs
would meet military requirements, would not require nuclear testing to certify, and
would meet other criteria including ease of manufacturing, reduction in the use of
hazardous and exotic materials, and significantly enhanced safety and use control.
The teams completed their preliminary designs in March 2006, and released their
designs to the competing team. Over the next few months, the labs, POG, and NNSA
reviewed and analyzed candidate design concepts. On November 30, 2006, the POG
briefed the council on RRW, and the council determined that RRW “is feasible as a
strategy for sustaining the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile for the long-term
without underground nuclear testing.” According to a December 1 press release, the
council was expected to select a preferred design “in the next few weeks.”62 On
March 2, 2007, NNSA announced that the Nuclear Weapons Council had selected
the California team’s design. According to NNSA,
The two nuclear weapons laboratories both submitted designs that fully met all
RRW requirements. However, [Acting NNSA Administrator Thomas]
D’Agostino noted that higher confidence in the ability to certify the Livermore
design without underground testing was the primary reason for its selection.63
That design was more closely tied to previous underground testing.
The competing designs were for a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM)
replacement warhead. This was consistent with a statement in a House Armed
Services Committee report: “the committee encourages the Department of Defense
and the Department of Energy to focus initial Reliable Replacement Warhead efforts
on replacement warheads for Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles.”64 Specifically,
company is on the POG to provide expertise on compatibility of candidate SLBM
replacement warhead designs with their delivery system, Trident II missiles.
61 The Savannah River Site, another nuclear weapons plant, is not involved in the POG
because it does not design warhead components; its role is to supply tritium for warheads.
62 U.S. Department of Energy. National Nuclear Security Administration. “Nuclear Weapons
Officials Agree to Pursue RRW Strategy.” Press release, December 1, 2006.
63 U.S. Department of Energy. National Nuclear Security Administration. “Design Selected
for Reliable Replacement Warhead.” Press release, March 2, 2007.
64 U.S. Congress, House Committee on Armed Services, National Defense Authorization Act
the designs sought to provide the military capability of the W76 warhead. In
particular, as General James Cartwright, USMC, then Commander of the U.S.
Strategic Command, stated in 2007, the yield of this RRW would be within 1% or
and the Air Force is co-chair. At the same time, the designs were made so that they
can also be used on land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles. In this way, the
RRW could serve as a backup in case ICBM warheads encountered a problem. This
approach could permit reducing the number of warhead types, meeting an objective
in the House Appropriations Committee’s energy and water report: “A more reliable
replacement warhead will allow long-term savings by phasing out the multiple
redundant Cold War warhead designs that require maintaining multiple obsolete
production technologies to maintain the older warheads.”66
NNSA requested $88.8 million for FY2008, with most of the funds to be used
for a design definition and cost study. The study was to be completed by the end of
2007.67 The FY2007 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 109-364, Section
3111) set as an objective having the first production unit (FPU, the first complete
warhead from a production line certified for deployment) of RRW in 2012, and
NNSA stated in April 2007 that 2012 remained its target date for FPU. However, a
Nuclear Weapons Council memorandum of March 2007 stated, “Given the level of
maturity of the [RRW] design effort to date, our planning target for the First
Production Unit, is 2014 plus or minus two years.”68 Each year, it would be up to
Congress to decide whether to fund the program as requested, modify it, or cancel it.
RRW would involve plants as well as labs. The plants involved in RRW
(Kansas City, Pantex, and Y-12) provided the labs with design information beginning
at an early stage. They worked with the labs and NNSA to identify options for
manufacturing processes and infrastructure transformation, such as steering the labs
away from hard-to-manufacture designs. The contribution of the plants would change
over time as the designs became more mature, at which time designers would be in
a position to accept detailed recommendations on manufacturing from the plants.
The results of this work, NNSA states, would be incorporated in the design and cost
study. This role of the plants is in keeping with numerous congressional statements
for Fiscal Year 2006, H.Rept. 109-89, to accompany H.R. 1815, 109th Cong., 1st sess., 2005,
65 U.S. Congress. House. Committee on Armed Services. Subcommittee on Strategic Forces.
Hearing on U.S. Strategic Command, 110th Congress, 1st Session, March 8, 2007, transcript
by CQ Transcriptions.
66 U.S. Congress, House Committee on Appropriations, Energy and Water Development
Appropriations Bill, 2006, H.Rept. 109-86, to accompany H.R. 2419, 109th Cong., 1st sess.,
67 U.S. Department of Defense and Department of Energy. Nuclear Weapons Council.
Memorandum for the Nuclear Weapons Council, “Reliable Replacement Warhead 1 (RRW-
68 Ibid., attachment by RADM S.E, Johnson, U.S. Navy, and T. D’Agostino, NNSA.
that ease and safety of manufacture, cost savings, and reduction of hazardous
materials are goals of RRW.
As of November 2007, the Navy-led RRW POG was conducting a Phase 2A
design definition and cost study. The Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, and Sandia
National Laboratories were working within the POG study to refine the design,
review tradeoff options, plan the potential development program, and estimate costs
of the design.69
The FY2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act, P.L. 110-161, eliminated funds
for RRW. When it was signed into law (December 26, 2007), NNSA instructed the
laboratories to cease all technical work on RRW and to document the work done to
that point so it would be available for use. In fact, the congressionally mandated
Advanced Certification Campaign is currently drawing on this work.70 As specified
in P.L. 110-161, this campaign will address means of increasing confidence in
certification of warheads through improved peer review, refinement of computer
models, improved understanding of surety mechanisms and failure modes, and the
like. The FY2009 request and congressional action on it are discussed below.
Congressional Action on the FY2006 RRW Request
Consistent with congressional action in FY2005, NNSA requested $9.4 million71
for RRW for FY2006. The request stated that the program “is to demonstrate the
feasibility of developing reliable replacement components that are producible and
certifiable for the existing stockpile. The initial focus will be to provide cost and
schedule efficient replacement pits (see Appendix) that can be certified without
The House Appropriations Committee reported the FY2006 Energy and Water
Development Appropriations Bill, H.R. 2419, on May 18, 2005 (H.Rept. 109-86).
The bill passed the House, 416-13, on May 24 with no amendments to the Weapons
Activities section. In its report, the committee offered a “qualified endorsement” of
RRW “contingent on the intent of the program being solely to meet the current
military characteristics and requirements of the existing stockpile.” (p. 128) (Page
numbers in this section refer to H.Rept. 109-86.) It did not endorse RRW if it
produces new weapons for new military missions. (p. 128)
69 Information provided by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, November 30, 2007.
70 Information provided by K. Henry O’Brien, RRW Program Manager, Lawrence
Livermore National Laboratory, March 6, 2008.
71 U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Management, Budget, and Evaluation/CFO, FY2006
Congressional Budget Request, vol. I, National Nuclear Security Administration, DOE/ME-
0046, February 2005, p. 68. (Hereafter cited as Department of Energy, FY2006
Congressional Budget Request, vol. I.)
72 Department of Energy, FY2006 Congressional Budget Request, Vol. I, p. 82.
The committee saw RRW as part of a new Sustainable Stockpile Initiative, in
which DOE would “develop an integrated RRW implementation plan that challenges
the [nuclear weapons] complex to produce a RRW certifiable design while
implementing an accelerated warhead dismantlement program and an infrastructure
reconfiguration proposal that maximizes special nuclear material [essentially, highly
enriched uranium and weapons-grade plutonium] consolidation.” (p. 128)
The committee focused on RRW throughout its discussion of Weapons
Activities, linked RRW to many Weapons Activities programs, and used the potential
of RRW as the rationale to reduce or delay several requested programs. Its many
actions and statements on RRW include the following:
!“The RRW weapon will be designed for ease of manufacturing,
maintenance, dismantlement, and certification without nuclear
testing, allowing the NNSA to transition the weapons complex away
from a large, expensive Cold War relic into a smaller, more efficient
modern complex. A more reliable replacement warhead will allow
long-term savings by phasing out the multiple redundant Cold War
warhead designs that require maintaining multiple obsolete
production technologies to maintain the older warheads.” (p. 128)
!“The Committee directs the Secretary of Energy to establish a
Federal Advisory Committee on the Reliable Replacement Warhead
initiative....” (p. 128)
!A rebaselined LEP, an RRW program plan, and a dismantlement
plan would provide “reliable nuclear deterrence” with a stockpile
after 2025 that is significantly smaller than the stockpile level
planned for 2012. As a result, “the current Life Extension Plans will
be scoped back to lower levels and the resources will be redeployed
to support the Sustainable Stockpile Initiative.” Accordingly, the
committee recommended reducing the budget request for Directed
Stockpile Work, a major category of Weapons Activities that
directly supports weapons in the stockpile, by $137.3 million to
$1,283.7 million. (p. 129)
!The committee recommended increasing RRW funding from $9.4
million to $25.0 million “to accelerate the planning effort to
initiative a competition between the NNSA weapons laboratories to
develop the design for the RRW re-engineered and remanufactured
warhead.” (p. 130)
!The committee recommended eliminating the $4.0 million requested
to study the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, in part because it
“threatens Congressional and public support for sustainable
stockpile initiatives that will actually provide long-term security and
deterrent value for the Nation.” (p. 131)
!Test Readiness is a program to enable the resumption of nuclear
testing at Nevada Test Site should that be deemed necessary. Last
year, the committee opposed a move to reduce the test readiness
posture (the time between a presidential decision to test and the
conduct of the test) from 24 to 18 months, this year, it added RRW
to the rationale against an 18-month posture: “The initiation of the
Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program designed to provide
for the continuance of the existing moratorium on underground
nuclear testing by insuring the long-term reliability of the nuclear
weapons stockpile obviates any reason to move to a provocative 18-
month test readiness posture.” (p. 132) Accordingly, it recommended
reducing Test Readiness funds from $25.0 million to $15.0 million.
!The committee noted that “Congressional testimony by NNSA
officials is beginning to erode the confidence of the Committee that
the Science-based Stockpile Stewardship is performing as
advertised.” Accordingly, it “redirects ASCI [Advanced Simulation
and Computing] funding to maintain current life extension
production capabilities pending the initiation of the Reliable
Replacement Warhead program” and recommended reducing
funding from $660.8 million to $500.8 million. (pp. 133-134)
!The committee recommended eliminating the $7.7 million requested
for the Modern Pit Facility (see Appendix). It recommended that
“NNSA focus its efforts on how best to lengthen the life of the
stockpile and minimize the need for an enormously expensive
infrastructure facility until the long-term strategy for the physical
infrastructure of the weapons complex has incorporated the Reliable
Replacement Warhead strategy....” (p. 134)
!The committee recommended eliminating the $55.0 million
requested for construction of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research
Facility Replacement (CMRR) at Los Alamos. “Construction at the
CMRR facility should be delayed until the Department [of Energy]
determines the long-term plan for developing the responsive
infrastructure required to maintain the nation’s existing nuclear
stockpile and support replacement production anticipated for the
RRW initiative.” (p. 136)
The House Armed Services Committee reported the FY2006 National Defense
Authorization Bill, H.R. 1815, on May 20 (H.Rept. 109-89). The bill passed the
House, 390-39, on May 25 with no amendments concerning RRW. The committee
recommended providing the amount requested for RRW. The report stated: “The
committee firmly believes that the nation must ensure that the nuclear stockpile
remains reliable, safe, and secure and that national security requires transforming the
Cold War-era nuclear complex. Thus, the committee supports the Reliable
Replacement Warhead program. To clearly articulate the congressional intent
underlying this program authorization, the committee further states the key goals of
the program.” (H.Rept. 109-89, p. 463) In Section 3111 of H.R. 1815, the committee
required the Secretary of Energy, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, to
carry out the RRW program, and spelled out its objectives for RRW:
(b) Objectives- The objectives of the Reliable Replacement Warhead program
shall be —
(1) to increase the reliability, safety, and security of the United States nuclear
(2) to further reduce the likelihood of the resumption of nuclear testing;
(3) to remain consistent with basic design parameters by using, to the extent
practicable, components that are well understood or are certifiable without the
need to resume underground nuclear testing;
(4) to ensure that the United States develops a nuclear weapons infrastructure
that can respond to unforeseen problems, to include the ability to produce
replacement warheads that are safer to manufacture, more cost-effective to
produce, and less costly to maintain than existing warheads;
(5) to achieve reductions in the future size of the nuclear weapons stockpile
based on increased reliability of the reliable replacement warheads;
(6) to use the design, certification, and production expertise resident in the
nuclear complex to develop reliable replacement components to fulfill current
mission requirements of the existing stockpile; and
(7) to serve as a complement to, and potentially a more cost-effective and reliable
long-term replacement for, the current Stockpile Life Extension Programs.
The committee’s report (pp. 464-465) described these objectives in more detail.
Section 3111 of H.R. 1815 also required the Nuclear Weapons Council to submit an
interim report on RRW by March 1, 2006, and a final report by March 1, 2007. The
final report is to assess characteristics of warheads to replace existing ones; discuss
the relationship of RRW within SSP and its impact on LEPs; assess the extent to
which RRW, if successful, could lead to a reduction in warhead numbers; discuss
RRW design criteria that will minimize the likelihood of nuclear testing; describe the
infrastructure needed to support RRW; and summarize how funds will be used.
Of the committee’s 28 Democratic members, 23 signed a statement of additional
views (H.Rept. 109-89, pp. 511-512). According to the statement, “Democrats are
willing to explore the concept of the RRW program, but do not yet embrace it.” They
felt that, to merit support, RRW must reduce or eliminate the need for nuclear testing,
lead to dramatic reductions in the arsenal, avoid introducing new mission or weapon
requirements, deemphasize nuclear weapons’ military utility, increase nuclear
security, and “[lead] to ratification and entry into force of the Comprehensive Test
Ban Treaty.” On the latter point, they maintained that a successful RRW program
should erase the main rationale against the treaty, uncertainty about the reliability of
the nuclear arsenal. Therefore, “[w]e believe strongly that ratification of the CTBT
[Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty] is the logical end result of a successful RRW
The Senate Armed Services Committee reported the FY2006 National Defense
Authorization Bill, S. 1042, on May 17.73 It recommended providing the amount
requested for RRW. It noted that NNSA Administrator Brooks had presented several
goals for RRW in his testimony to the committee on April 4:
!increasing warhead security and reliability;
!developing replacement components that can be manufactured more
easily, using materials that are more readily available and more
!developing replacement components that provide high confidence in
warhead safety and reliability;
!developing these components on a schedule that would reduce the
need to conduct a nuclear test to address a reliability problem;
!reducing the cost and increasing the responsiveness of the
!increasing confidence in the stockpile enough to permit reductions
in non-deployed warheads.
“The committee supports these goals and this modest investment in feasibility
studies.” It required NNSA’s Administrator to submit a report to the congressional
defense committees by February 6, 2006, “describing the activities undertaken or
planned for any RRW funding in fiscal years 2005, 2006, and 2007.” The bill passed
the Senate, 98-0, on November 15. The reporting requirement was superseded by a
similar requirement in the conference bill.
The defense authorization conference bill, as reported (H.Rept. 109-360)
December 8, included the House provision on RRW, somewhat revised, as Section
The conferees support the goal of continuing to ensure that the nuclear weapons
stockpile remains safe, secure, and reliable. The conferees believe that the
Reliable Replacement Warhead program is essential to the achievement of this
goal and support its establishment with the objectives as defined in the provision
[section 3111], and as further described in the committee reports of the
Committees on Armed Services of the Senate and the House of Representatives74
for fiscal year 2006.
The measure was signed into law (P.L. 109-163) January 6, 2006.
73 Material in this paragraph is from U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Armed Services,
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006, report to accompany S. 1042,thst
74 U.S. Congress. Committee of Conference, National Defense Authorization Act,
conference report to accompany H.R. 1815, 109th Cong., 1st sess., H.Rept. 109-360, 2005,
The Senate Appropriations Committee reported H.R. 2419 on June 16.75 It
endorsed RRW and recommended increasing its funding above the FY2006 request.
The Committee recognizes that RRW is early in its development and will not
significantly alter the near-term plans for stockpile support such as LEPs, but
NNSA is encouraged to move aggressively to incorporate benefits from RRW
into the stockpile as soon as possible.
The Committee recommends $25,351,000 for RRW to accelerate the
planning, development and design for a comprehensive RRW strategy that
improves the reliability, longevity and certifiability of existing weapons and their76
The bill passed the Senate, 92-3, on July 1, with no change to the RRW provision.
Conferees on the energy and water bill reported H.R. 2419 (H.Rept. 109-275)
on November 7, 2005. The House agreed to the conference bill, 399-17, on
November 9, and the Senate agreed to it, 84-4, on November 14. The President
signed it into law (P.L. 109-103) November 19. The bill provides $25.0 million for
RRW. Conferees wanted the Complex to use various resources “to support a Nuclear
Weapons Council determination in November 2006.”77 This determination would
be a decision on which design to use for the first reliable replacement warhead.
Conferees also emphasized goals and requirements of the RRW program:
The conferees reiterate the direction provided in fiscal year 2005 that any
weapon design work done under the RRW program must stay within the military
requirements of the existing deployed stockpile and any new weapon design must
stay within the design parameters validated by past nuclear tests. The conferees
expect the NNSA to build on the success of science-based stockpile stewardship
to improve manufacturing practices, lower costs and increase performance
margins, to support the Administration’s decision to significantly reduce the size78
of the U.S. nuclear stockpile.
In sum, Congress supported RRW in various ways in the FY2006 budget cycle.
Both Armed Services Committees recommended fully funding the request, both
Appropriations Committees recommended a sharp increase in RRW funding, and
Congress appropriated $25.0 million, reduced to $24.75 million by a rescission.79
75 U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Armed Services. Energy and Water Appropriations
Bill, 2006, S.Rept. 109-84, to accompany H.R. 2419. 109th Cong., 1st sess., 2005.
76 Ibid., p. 155.
77 U.S. Congress. Committee of Conference, Making Appropriations for Energy and Water
Development for the Fiscal Year Ending September 30, 2006, and for Other Purposes,thst
H.Rept. 109-275, to accompany H.R. 2419. 109 Cong., 1 sess., 2005, pp. 158-159.
78 Ibid., p. 159.
79 “The FY2006 [amount] includes an across-the-board rescission of 1 percent in accordance
with the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2006, P.L. 109-148.” U.S. Department
of Energy, Office of Chief Financial Officer, FY2007 Congressional Budget Request, vol.
The four committees saw RRW as a way to achieve a wide range of goals for the
nuclear weapons program, spelled out many of these goals in legislation and in
committee reports, and required several reports to track the status of RRW.
Congressional Action on the FY2007 RRW Request
NNSA’s FY2007 budget document80 evidenced a program that gained
momentum in the preceding year. The request for RRW was $27.7 million, up from
$24.8 million for FY2006. (p. 71) (Page numbers in parentheses in the next few
paragraphs refer to NNSA’s FY2007 budget document.) Outyear budgets are:
FY2008, $14.6 million; FY2009, $29.7 million; FY2010, $29.6 million; and
FY2011, $28.7 million. (p. 72) The FY2006 budget request document contained few
references to RRW because the program received its first funding just two months
before that document was released. In contrast, the FY2007 document contains 30
or more references to RRW that show many sites and programs linked to RRW.
Programs are discussed below; sites include Kansas City Plant (p. 620), Livermore
(p. 627), Los Alamos (p. 635), Pantex (p. 646), Sandia (p. 651), and Y-12 (p. 665).
What emerges is a program that is drawing on many resources of the Complex
beyond the program’s own budget. This is in accord with a directive in the FY2006
energy and water conference report:
The conferees expect that the laboratories and plants will also utilize the existing
resources in the Directed Stockpile, Campaigns, and Readiness in Technical Base
and Facilities accounts [the three largest accounts of the Stockpile Stewardship
program] where applicable to further the RRW design options to support a81
Nuclear Weapons Council determination in November 2006.
Various programs expect to support RRW in many ways:
!“During the period FY2007-2011, the Science Campaign will
endeavor to make significant progress toward providing the
experimental data and certification methodologies necessary to
support the current stockpile workload and future requirements that
will include the Reliable Replacement Warhead and reflect an
evolving stockpile.” (p. 96)
!Within the Dynamic Materials Properties program of the Science
Campaign, “A second principal effort is to characterize the reaction
kinetics and dynamics of high explosives, with special emphasis on
improving the modeling of insensitive high explosives that will be
80 Department of Energy, FY2007 Congressional Budget Request, vol. 1.
81 Committee of Conference, Making Appropriations for Energy and Water Development
for the Fiscal Year Ending September 30, 2006..., H.Rept. 109-275, pp. 158-159.
used in replacement warheads to provide improved safety and
surety.” (p. 100)
!Within the Engineering Campaign, Enhanced Surveillance
deliverables in the outyears are planned to support Reliable
Replacement Warhead components assessment” (p. 116) and the
Enhanced Surety program “will support studies such as the Reliable
Replacement Warhead.” (p. 118)
!“Only through ASC [the Advanced Simulation and Computing
Campaign] simulations can National Nuclear Security
Administration (NNSA) determine the effects of changes to current
systems as well as margins and uncertainties in future and untested
systems, such as the RRW.” (p. 176)
!Within the Pit Manufacturing and Certification Campaign,
“Additional personnel will be hired and additional equipment
procured to support manufacture of existing pit types (or a RRW
pit),” and Los Alamos and Livermore “will continue planning and
development of integral experiments in FY2007 in support of
certification of reliable replacement warhead pits.” (p. 191)
The budget document offers many details of the proposed program.
The Nuclear Weapons Council (NWC) approved the Reliable Replacement
Warhead (RRW) Feasibility Study which began in May 2005, and is expected to
take 18 months to complete. The goal of the RRW Study is to identify designs
that will sustain long term confidence in a safe, secure and reliable stockpile and
enable transformation to a responsive nuclear weapon infrastructure. The Joint
DOE/DOD RRW Project Officer’s Group (POG) was tasked to oversee a
laboratory design competition for a RRW warhead with the FPU [first production
unit] goal of FY 2012. The POG will assess technical feasibility including
certification without nuclear testing, design definition, manufacturing, and an
initial cost assessment to determine whether the proposed candidates will meet
the RRW study objectives and requirements. At the end of the study, the POG
will establish the preferred RRW design options and recommendations to the
NWC Standing and Safety Committee (NWCSSC) and NWC....
In FY 2007 specific activities include: with NWC approval, proceed with
detailed design and preliminary cost estimates of RRW concepts to confirm that
RRW designs provide surety enhancements, can be certified without nuclear
testing, are cost-effective, and will support both stockpile and infrastructure
Further, “The RRW budget will increase when the RRW option is selected and starts
development and production engineering activities.” (76)
The John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007, P.L.
109-364 (H.R. 5122), increased the amount requested by $20.0 million to support a
second RRW design competition. It required NNSA to submit a plan for transform
the Complex to achieve a responsive infrastructure by 2030 (Section 3111), with a
report on the plan due February 1, 2007. An objective of the plan is “To prepare to
produce replacement warheads under the Reliable Replacement Warhead program
at a rate necessary to meet future stockpile requirements, commencing with a first
production unit in 2012 and achieving steady-state production using modern
manufacturing processes by 2025.” It required (Section 3116) NNSA to enter into
an arrangement with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to have the latter
prepare a study of Quantification of Margins and Uncertainties, a method to assess
the nuclear stockpile. The study is to evaluate, among other things, “Whether the
application of the quantification of margins and uncertainty used for annual
assessments and certification of the nuclear weapons stockpile can be applied to the
planned Reliable Replacement Warhead program so as to carry out the objective of
that program to reduce the likelihood of the resumption of underground testing of
nuclear weapons.” As of June 2008, NAS planned to deliver a classified version to
DOE and Congress in July and planned to make an unclassified version available to
the public as soon as possible thereafter. NAS held the ninth meeting for this project
at Los Alamos National Laboratory on August 13-15.82 NAS also plans to do a phase
The House Appropriations Committee “supports the RRW, but only if it is part
of a larger package of more comprehensive weapons complex reforms.”84 It
criticized NNSA’s Complex 2030 plan as basically modernization in place, and
favored a plan by a DOE task force.85 It recommended $52.7 million for RRW, an
increase of $25.0 million, but fenced the latter amount until DOE provides the
committee with a “comprehensive complex transformation plan.”86 It directed NNSA
to engage the JASON Defense Advisory Group to “evaluate the competing RRW
designs” and to analyze “the feasibility of the fundamental premise of the RRW
initiative that a new nuclear warhead can be designed and produced and certified for
use and deployed as an operationally-deployed nuclear weapon without undergoing
an underground nuclear test.”87 The report is due March 31, 2007. Professor Roy
Schwitters, Chair of the JASON Steering Committee, met with House Appropriations
Committee staff and NNSA officials to set a schedule for the JASON study; the
schedule calls for a preliminary report to be submitted to NNSA by March 1, 2007,
an executive summary of the final report by August 1, 2007, and the final report by
82 National Academy of Sciences, “Project Information,” at [http://www8.nationalacademies.
org/ cp/proj ectvi ew.aspx?ke y=48780].
83 Information provided by National Academy of Sciences, June 16, 2008.
84 U.S. Congress. House Committee on Appropriations. Energy and Water Development
Appropriations Bill, 2007, H.Rept. 109-474 to accompany H.R. 5427, 109th Cong., 2nd sess.,
85 Ibid., p. 107. For the task force plan, see U.S. Department of Energy. Secretary of Energy
Advisory Board. Nuclear Weapons Complex Infrastructure Task Force. Recommendations
for the Nuclear Weapons Complex of the Future, 2005.
86 House Committee on Appropriations, Energy and Water Development Appropriations
Bill, 2007, p. 108, 111.
87 Ibid., p. 109-110.
October 1, 2007.88 (As noted, the executive summary was transmitted on September
The Senate Appropriations Committee recommended $62.7 million for RRW.
The Committee ... recognizes the need to protect against unforeseen challenges
and urges the NNSA to accelerate the transition to a responsive infrastructure
and to proceed expeditiously with the RRW design. The Committee also realizes
that a dual track strategy of supporting eight legacy systems and a RRW program
is not sustainable and therefore has taken steps in this legislation to reduce the
number of legacy systems and begin the replacement with RRW designs. The
Committee has also initiated a second design competition for another RRW89
Regarding the second competition, the committee urged DOE and NNSA to “expand
the RRW program immediately to ensure that our strategic forces have at least two
different certified RRW warheads” to guard against failure in one system. It
recommended using $10.0 million for this second competition, with a first production
unit goal of 2014,90 and adding $4.0 million to “accelerate the deployment” of
surveillance devices into the RRW design.91 This bill was placed on the Senate
legislative calendar on June 29, but the Senate took no further action on it.
Congress did not pass a separate FY2007 Energy and Water Development
Appropriations Act, but instead included these funds in a continuing resolution (P.L.
110-5, February 15, 2007) to fund energy and water and many other programs
through the balance of FY2007. DOE’s FY2007 operating plan includes $35.8
million for RRW.
Congressional Action on the FY2008 RRW Request
The President submitted his FY2008 budget request to Congress on February
5, 2007. The NNSA request document presents details of the DOD-NNSA plan for
RRW. In November 2006,92 according to the document,
88 Information provided by Roy Schwitters, S.W. Richardson Foundation Regental Professor
of Physics, University of Texas at Austin, and Chair of the JASON Steering Committee,
email, January 29, 2007.
89 U.S. Congress. Senate Committee on Appropriations. Energy and Water Appropriations
Bill, 2007, S.Rept. 109-274 to accompany H.R. 5427, 109th Cong., 2nd sess., 2006, p. 146.
90 Ibid., p. 148.
91 Ibid., p. 151.
92 U.S. Department of Energy. Office of Chief Financial Officer. FY 2008 Congressional
Budget Request. Volume 1, National Nuclear Security Administration. DOE/CF-014,
February 2007, p. 19. Available at [http://www.mbe.doe.gov/budget/08budget/Content/
V olume s/V ol_1_NNSA.pdf].
the NWC [Nuclear Weapons Council] decided that the RRW for submarine
launched ballistic missiles is feasible and should proceed to complete a Phase 2A
design definition and cost study. In addition, the NWC determined that the RRW
is to be adopted as the strategy for maintaining a long term safe, secure and
reliable nuclear deterrent and as such also directed the initiation of a conceptual93
study for an additional RRW design.
The document also stated that the
shift in strategy from a Life Extension Program to a RRW program will require
substantial planning and resource realignments between the Departments of
Defense and Energy that will not be completed in time for the FY 2008 budget
submission. When planning is complete, expected at the end of FY 2007, an94
RRW budget adjustment will be requested.
It further stated that the budget approach for FY2008 for transforming the
nuclear stockpile included the following goal: “Maintain a relatively level DSW
[Directed Stockpile Work] budget with RRW development funded through
reductions in resources required to support legacy weapons.”95
While NNSA’s RRW budget figures are thus subject to revision, the projected
figures as presented are as follows (in millions): FY2008, $88.769; FY2009,
$99.787; FY2010, $109.240; FY2011, $167.358; and FY2012, $179.933.96 In
addition, the Navy requests $30.0 million for FY2008, and estimates a request of
$50.0 million for FY2009, for RRW.97 These figures are DOD funds to develop a
cost estimate and to “[c]ontinue the RRW Program into Phase 3 Engineering
Development, when approved by Congress and the Nuclear Weapons Council.”98
Examples of this work for RRW include development of an arming, fuzing, and
firing system and of “ancillary reentry body types,” as well as integration of RRW99
with the Trident II (D5) missile that will carry the RRW. The Navy plans to award
contracts for at least $29.5 million of the FY2008 request in October 2007, and for
93 Ibid., p. 88.
94 Ibid., p. 19.
95 Ibid., p. 64. Directed Stockpile Work, or DSW, is the part of the Weapons Activities
budget that involves work directly on nuclear weapons in the stockpile, such as monitoring
their condition; maintaining them through repairs, refurbishment, life extension, and
modifications; R&D in support of specific warheads; and dismantlement. “Legacy
weapons” are those currently in the stockpile, which were designed, tested, manufactured,
and deployed during the Cold War; the Life Extension Program is one of the programs
within the Stockpile Stewardship Program that is used to maintain them.
96 Ibid., pp. 75, 76.
97 U.S. Department of the Navy. Fiscal Year (FY) 2008/2009 Budget Estimates: Justification
of Estimates, Research, Development, Test & Evaluation, Navy, Budget Activity 7, February
2007, at [http://www.finance.hq.navy.mil/fmb/08pres/rdten/RDTEN_ba7_book.pdf], pages
(using pdf numbers) 24-25, 40-42.
98 Ibid., pdf p. 41.
at least $49.0 million of the FY2009 request in October 2008.100 While keeping in
mind NNSA’s caveats, the projected total for RRW in the NNSA budget for FY2008-
FY2012 and the Navy budget for FY2008-FY2009 is $725.1 million.
The House Armed Services Committee’s Strategic Forces Subcommittee
marked up its portion of H.R. 1585, the FY2008 defense authorization bill, on May
2, 2007. The full committee retained the subcommittee’s provisions relating to RRW
and completed its markup May 9. The rule for considering the bill (H.Res. 403,
H.Rept. 110-151) did not make in order any amendments regarding RRW. H.R.
The bill as passed by the House included several provisions relevant to RRW:
!A congressional commission on U.S. strategic posture (Section
1046). Among other things, the commission would recommend a
strategic posture and nuclear weapons strategy. It would include the
force structure to support the strategy, “the number of nuclear
weapons required to support the strategy, including the number of
replacement warheads required, if any,” an analysis of the
effectiveness of the strategy, and the size of the Complex needed to
support the strategy. The committee stated in its report that it
“believes that there is an urgent need for a debate over the role of
nuclear weapons in U.S. strategic posture ... the Administration ...
has not articulated its views on the role of nuclear weapons in U.S.
strategic posture since issuance of the [Nuclear Posture Review, i.e.,
at the end of 2001]. The committee believes clear policy objectives
should be established before Congress commits to ambitious new
programs.”101 The commission’s report would be due by December
!A reduction in the Navy’s request for RRW funds from $30.0
million to $5.0 million. The committee noted (p. 191) that the Navy
said the funds would permit continuing RRW into Phase 3
engineering development (see below), but “[t]he committee does not
support moving into Phase 3 activities during fiscal year 2008, but
understands that the Navy intends to pursue better design definition
[of RRW] as part of the Phase 2a study during fiscal year 2008.”
!A reduction in NNSA’s RRW funds, from $88.8 million requested
to $68.8 million (pp. 528-529). The committee noted that P.L. 109-
163, the FY2006 National Defense Authorization Act, set several
objectives for RRW, such as increasing reliability, safety, and
security of the nuclear stockpile, reducing the likelihood of resumed
nuclear testing, and using components that can be certified without
100 Ibid., pdf p. 42.
101 U.S. Congress. House. Committee on Armed Services. National Defense Authorization
Act for Fiscal Year 2008, H.Rept. 110-146, to accompany H.R. 1585, 110th Congress, 1st
Session, 2007, p. 390.
nuclear testing. “The committee believes it is too soon to judge
whether the RRW program can achieve these objectives ... the
committee believes the focus of the RRW program during fiscal year
2008 should be the analysis necessary to describe in detail how the
RRW program will achieve these objectives.” Further, “[t]he
committee supports establishing clear nuclear weapons requirements
before committing to the RRW program, and sees the planned Phase
Accordingly, the committee limited FY2008 NNSA RRW funds “for
Phase 2a study activities only.”
!Elimination of funds ($24.9 million requested) for a Consolidated
Plutonium Center (CPC) (pp. 529-530). This facility would make
pits. The committee “finds that construction of a CPC is only
required if the United States moves toward large-scale production of
pits. The committee does not believe the need for such large scale
processing has been established.”
!A study on using existing pits for RRW (pp. 538-539). The
committee felt that the need for CPC had not been established in part
because of the prospect of reusing existing pits in RRWs. In
testimony before the Strategic Forces Subcommittee in March 2007,
Thomas D’Agostino, then Acting Administrator of NNSA, stated
that existing pits might be suitable for use in RRW bombs but not
RRW ballistic missile warheads.102 The House-passed bill required
NNSA, in consultation with the Nuclear Weapons Council, to
conduct the study, to be completed by February 1, 2008. The study
(section 3111 of H.R. 1585) would assess the feasibility of pit reuse
for RRW, whether it is more desirable to remanufacture warheads
with existing or with newly-manufactured pits, the number of pits
suitable for remanufacture, and “the extent to which remanufacturing
warheads with existing pits, as compared to remanufacturing
warheads with newly manufactured pits, would reduce future
requirements for new pit production.”
!Eliminate funds for a B61 bomb life extension program (LEP). The
prospect of pit reuse figured into another committee action. The
request contained $63.1 million for the B61 LEP account. The B61
is currently undergoing an LEP, but NNSA planned to begin a Phase
However, “[t]he committee views the initiation of a new B61 LEP
... as unwarranted while the NNSA examines the feasibility of pit
reuse for the remanufacture of warheads.” Accordingly, it reduced
the B61 LEP account by $4.2 million and directed NNSA “to make
102 U.S. Congress. House. Committee on Armed Services. Subcommittee on Strategic
Forces. Hearing on the FY2008 budget request for DOE’s atomic energy program.
Testimony of Thomas D’Agostino, Acting Administrator, NNSA, March 20, 2007.
no funds available for commencement of the new B61 LEP.” (p.
In its May 23 markup of the FY2008 Energy and Water Development
Appropriations Bill, the Energy and Water Development Subcommittee eliminated
NNSA funds for RRW. (The subcommittee has jurisdiction over RRW funds in the
NNSA request but not in the Navy request.) Subcommittee Chairman Peter
Visclosky’s statement on the subcommittee’s markup included the following:
REDUCING UNNEEDED NUCLEAR WEAPONS
Without question, there is a need for a comprehensive nuclear defense strategy
and stockpile plan to guide transformation and downsizing of the stockpile and
nuclear weapons complex, and until progress is made on this critical issue, there
will be no new facilities or Reliable Replacement Warhead. Only when a future
nuclear weapons strategy is established can the Department of Energy determine
the requirements for the future nuclear weapons stockpile and nuclear weapons
Given the serious international and domestic consequences of the U.S. initiating
a new nuclear weapons production activity, it is critical that the administration
lay out a comprehensive course of action before funding is appropriated. Given
the track record of mismanagement at the agency for projects that have a plan,
I don’t think it is asking too much for a comprehensive nuclear strategy before103
we build a new nuclear weapon.
The House Appropriations Committee marked up the bill on June 6.104 The
committee bill recommended eliminating all NNSA funds for RRW. The report
expressed extreme displeasure at changes in the program: “The Committee finds the
RRW program the DoD and NNSA have pursued at the direction of Congress goes
far beyond the scope and purpose of the original congressional language and intent....
The Committee is unconvinced that pursuing the RRW design competition to a
production phase is necessary at this time.” It expressed concern that this program
might impede nuclear nonproliferation:
A particularly troubling issue for the Committee related to the RRW proposal is
the contradictory U.S. policy position of demanding other nations give up their
nuclear ambitions while the U.S. aggressively pursues a program to build new
nuclear warheads. The Administration needs to develop a policy rationale that
explains why the RRW program is not contradictory and does not undermine our
international nuclear nonproliferation goals.
103 U.S. Congress. House Committee on Appropriations. Subcommittee on Energy and
Water Development. “Fiscal Year 2008 Energy and Water Development Appropriations
Bill: Statement of Chairman Peter J. Visclosky,” May 23, 2007, pp. 3-4, available at [http://
appropriations.house.gov/ pdf/V iscloskyStateme ntFY2008SubC.pdf].
104 U.S. Congress. House Committee on Appropriations. Energy and Water Development
Appropriations Bill, 2008. 110th Congress, 1st Session, 2007, unnumbered full committee
print. Quotes in this paragraph are from ibid., pp. 93-98.
The committee raised further concerns with the Administration’s rationale for
the nuclear weapons program and NNSA’s plan for the Complex. It stated that the
RRW program and Complex 2030 “are being proposed in a policy vacuum without
any Administration statement on the national security environment that the future
nuclear deterrent is designed to address.” Accordingly, “The Committee believes it
is premature to proceed with further development of the RRW or a significant
nuclear complex modernization plan, until a three-part planning sequence is
completed.” This sequence has three elements: “a comprehensive nuclear defense
and nonproliferation strategy”; a detailed description translating that strategy into a
“specific nuclear stockpile”; and “a comprehensive, long-term expenditure plan, from
fiscal year 2008 through fiscal year 2030....” The Committee did not specify a due
date for this plan, but “views completion of this three-part planning sequence as a
necessary condition before considering additional funding for Complex 2030 and
RRW activities.” The House passed the bill, 312-112 (roll no. 641), on July 17,
leaving the RRW provisions unchanged.
The Senate Armed Services Committee’s National Defense Authorization Bill,
S. 1547, would reduce the Navy’s RRW request of $30.0 million by $15.0 million,
the amount for support of Phase 3. The committee’s report “recommends no funds
for RRW activities beyond phase 2A in fiscal year 2008.”105 The committee stated
that in addition to $88.8 million that the NNSA request labeled as RRW, the request
contained RRW funds in other budget elements: Engineering Campaigns, $86.4
million; Pit Manufacturing and Certification Campaign, $37.9 million; and Readiness
Campaign, $25.0 million, for a total of $238.1 million. The committee recommended
reducing this amount by $43.0 million and restricting FY2008 RRW work to Phase
2A and below. “[T]he committee believes that many years of research are necessary
before any such decision [proceeding beyond Phase 2A] can be made or even
meaningfully discussed.”106 Further, “The RRW as envisioned by the NNSA and the
NWC [Nuclear Weapons Council] would be a new warhead.... As a new warhead,
there are many policy questions, concerns, and issues that must be raised, discussed,
and resolved before any decision can be made to move to phase 3 or beyond.”107 At
the same time, “The committee believes that the technical work [on RRW] must go
forward apace with the policy discussion and before any decision on RRW
development, manufacturing, or deployment.”108
The committee discussed its policy concerns in detail. It stated,
The idea of a new nuclear warhead and leadership in nonproliferation are
distinctly at odds in the absence of additional steps and policies to reduce the
reliance on nuclear weapons, accelerate reductions in the size of the stockpile,
formalize the moratorium on nuclear weapons testing, strengthen the
105 U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services. National Defense Authorization
Act for Fiscal Year 2008, S.Rept. 110-77 to accompany S. 1547, 110th Congress, 1st Session,
106 Ibid., p. 624.
107 Ibid., p. 625.
108 Ibid., p. 627.
nonproliferation regime, and renew commitments to all aspects of the Treaty on109
the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
As part of this policy focus, Section 1061 of S. 1547 required a revised nuclear
posture review, to include, among other things, the role of nuclear forces, the
relationship among deterrence policy, targeting, and arms control, the nuclear
delivery systems required, the nuclear weapons complex required, and the stockpile
required, “including any plans for replacing or modifying warheads.”
Section 3122 of S. 1547, “Sense of Congress on the Nuclear Nonproliferation
Policy of the United States and the Reliable Replacement Warhead,” is another part
of the committee’s policy focus. Under this section, it would be the sense of
Congress that the United States should: reaffirm its commitment to Article VI of the
Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (discussed below), initiate talks with Russia to
reduce numbers of nuclear weapons, work with other nuclear weapon states to
“decrease reliance on, and the importance of, nuclear weapons,” and “formulate any
decision on whether to manufacture or deploy a reliable replacement warhead within
the broader context of the progress made by the United States toward achieving each
of the goals described in [this section].” Further, under Section 3122, “the Senate
should ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.”
The Senate Appropriations Committee reported S. 1751, the Energy and Water
Development Appropriations Bill, on July 9.110 The report stated, “The Committee
is divided on the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program, but unified in its
desire to review and discuss our national strategic defense policy and the role ofth
nuclear weapons in the post-cold war and post-September 11 world.” The
committee recommended $66.0 million for NNSA for RRW in order to complete
Phase 2A. It made clear that it was not committed to proceeding with Phase 3 but
wanted “a more vigorous analysis and debate” first. It wanted more information to
help with this decision, such as characteristics of the future stockpile, the possible
effects of RRW on U.S. nuclear nonproliferation efforts, and comparative costs of
RRW vs. LEP. To this end, it favored a bipartisan, congressionally-created
commission “to evaluate and make recommendations on the role of nuclear weapons
in our future strategic posture.... That Commission report can form the basis of
information and advice from which the President and the Congress can make
decisions about the future of RRW and other weapons programs.” At the same time,
“[i]t will be incumbent upon NNSA to provide specific details as to how many RRW
weapons will be manufactured, how the Department of Defense intends to integrate
the system into the stockpile and how many weapons from the existing deterrent can
be retired.” Although the committee recommended funds to continue Phase 2A work
on the first RRW type, it barred the use of funds for initial research on a second
109 Ibid., p. 626.
110 U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on Appropriations. Energy and Water Appropriations
Bill, 2008, S.Rept. 110-127, to accompany S. 1751, 110th Congress, 1st Session, 2007.
Quotes in this paragraph are from ibid., pp. 150-153.
On July 20, the Secretaries of Energy, Defense, and State issued a statement
urging Congress to fully fund RRW for FY2008.111 They stressed the “essential role
that nuclear weapons play in maintaining deterrence,” argued that “it becomes
increasingly difficult to certify the existing stockpile of weapons,” and said that
pursuit of RRW “is critical to sustaining long-term confidence in our deterrent
capability.” Further, “[d]elays on RRW also raise the prospect of having to return to
underground testing to certify existing weapons.” Responding to this statement,
Representatives Skelton and Tauscher wrote a letter to the secretaries, stating in part:
We see promise in the proposed RRW program, but we take issue with your
assertion that any delay in RRW would “force the United States to maintain a
large stockpile of nuclear weapons and sustain it through increasingly costly and
risky Life Extension Programs,” and “raise the prospect of having to return to
underground nuclear testing to certify existing weapons.”
As we stated in the report accompanying the National Defense
Authorization Act for FY 2008, it is too early to know whether RRW can deliver
on the objectives that have been established for the program, and the prudent
course at this point is rigorous study of the feasibility of achieving those112
Representatives Hobson and Visclosky also responded to the statement. They
said, “the Joint Statement reads as a description of the status quo,” and continued,
the Joint Statement goes so far as to imply that RRW is the only available option
for addressing the concerns about the existing stockpile of legacy nuclear
weapons. Particularly troubling is the direct link between a resumption of
nuclear testing and the provision of funding for RRW:
“Delays on RRW also raise the prospect of having to return to
underground nuclear testing to certify existing weapons.”
It is irresponsible for the Administration to make such an assertion .... There
is no record of congressional testimony or reports sent to Congress by the
Administration claiming that the safety, security, or reliability of the existing
legacy stockpile is on a performance cliff such that a resumption of testing to113
verify performance of the warheads would be a necessity.
111 “National Security and Nuclear Weapons: Maintaining Deterrence in the 21st Century:
A Statement by the Secretary of Energy, Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State,” July
century_j ul2007.htm] .
112 Letter from Representative Ike Skelton, Chairman, House Armed Services Committee,
and Representative Ellen Tauscher, Chairman, Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, House
Armed Services Committee, to Secretary Samuel W. Bodman, Department of Energy,
Secretary Robert M. Gates, Department of Defense, and Secretary Condoleezza Rice,
Department of State, July 26, 2007.
113 Letter from Representative David Hobson, Ranking Minority Member, and
Representative Peter J. Visclosky, Chairman, Subcommittee on Energy and Water
Development, House Appropriations Committee, to The Honorable Robert Gates, Secretary
Funds for the Navy’s RRW work fall under the jurisdiction of the Defense
Appropriations Subcommittee. The House Appropriations Committee reported the
defense appropriations bill (H.R. 3222, H.Rept. 110-279) on July 30. It recommended
eliminating the $30.0 million Navy request for RRW. The House passed this bill,
On August 1, Senator Feinstein introduced S. 1914, Nuclear Policy and Posture
Review Act of 2007. Subsection (c) of this bill would require the President to report
to Congress on the results of a nuclear policy review by September 1, 2009, and to
report to Congress on the results of a nuclear posture review by March 1, 2010. The
bill also provides, “no funds may be appropriated or otherwise made available for the
Reliable Replacement Warhead Program for fiscal years 2008, 2009, or 2010 until
the reports required under subsection (c) have been submitted to Congress.”
A Phase 3 decision could be delayed to FY2010 or beyond for several reasons.
The House Armed Services Committee called for a report on U.S. strategic posture,
due December 2008, stating, “The committee believes clear policy objectives should
be established before Congress commits to ambitious new programs.”114 The Senate
Armed Services Committee called for a nuclear posture review, to be submitted to
Congress in December 2009.115 Congress may wish to evaluate these reports before
deciding how to proceed with RRW. There may also be interest in examining what
approach to RRW a new presidential administration may adopt in 2009. Staff at the
Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, and Sandia National Laboratories have indicated
that were a delay to occur, continuing Phase 2A through FY2008 and FY2009 would
allow more time for in-depth study of RRW issues such as safety, use control, cost,
and manufacturing, thereby potentially reducing technical risk. They believe that this
work could be accomplished by a small core team at modest cost.116
The Senate Appropriations Committee reported H.R. 3222, the Department of
Defense Appropriations Bill, on September 14. It recommended reducing Navy
RRW funding by $15.0 million.117
of Defense, The Honorable Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State, and The Honorable
Samuel Bodman, Secretary of Energy, August 1, 2007.
114 U.S. Congress. House. Committee on Armed Services. National Defense Authorization
Act for Fiscal Year 2008, H.Rept. 110-146, to accompany H.R. 1585, 110th Congress, 1st
Session, 2007, p. 390.
115 U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services. National Defense Authorization
Act for Fiscal Year 2008, S.Rept. 110-77 to accompany S. 1547, 110th Congress, 1st Session,
116 Information provided by Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, and Sandia National
Laboratories, multiple personal communications, August 2007.
117 U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on Appropriations. Department of Defense
Appropriations Bill, 2008, S.Rept. 110-155, to accompany H.R. 3222, 110th Congress, 1st
Session, 2007, p. 228.
As noted earlier, the JASON Defense Advisory Group delivered a classified
report on RRW, along with an unclassified executive summary, to Congress on
September 28. The report was required by the FY2007 House Appropriations
Committee’s report (H.Rept. 109-474) on energy and water appropriations. The
JASON report stated that the design for the first RRW type, WR1, “is pursued with
the above principles [on how to assess confidence and provide for successful
certification] in mind, but certification is not yet assured. The certification plan
presented needs further development.... Substantial work remains on the physical
understanding of the surety mechanisms that are of high priority to the RRW
program.”118 It recommended steps to “ensure that the new manufacturing processes
[proposed for RW1] do not have a deleterious effect on WR1 performance” and
made several recommendations to establish a peer review to establish confidence in
the warhead’s design, such as having the effectiveness of the peer review mechanism
“examined periodically by an independent organization” and having the review team
“broadly constituted” with “authority to pose formal tests of a computational or
experimental nature to the design team.”119
NNSA lauded the report, saying that it confirmed that NNSA’s “approach
towards developing a Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) was proceeding with
appropriate scientific principles” and “concluded that NNSA’s current approach, with
additional technical, experimental and peer review enhancements, could determine
that RRW can be certified for the stockpile without the need to conduct an
underground nuclear test.” Further, NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino said,
“I am pleased that the JASON panel feels that we are on the right track.”120 In a
subsequent letter, D’Agostino stated, “Resolution of issues raised in the JASON’s
study can only be achieved if this [RRW] R&D effort is allowed to proceed and is
funded along the lines of the request submitted last February....”121
Representatives Visclosky and Hobson, in a statement on the JASON report,
said, “Once again, independent sources have raised serious questions that must be
addressed before proceeding with the RRW.... Only when the Department of Energy
has completed the work recommended by the JASON report, can the nation
appropriately consider what role an RRW might play as a 21st century nuclear
In October, DOD appealed items in the FY2008 defense appropriations bill.
One such item was RRW. DOD asked that Congress provide the $15 million that the
118 The MITRE Corporation, JASON, “Reliable Replacement Warhead Executive
Summary,” JSR-07-336E, September 7, 2007, p. 6.
119 Ibid., pp. 7-8.
120 U.S. Department of Energy. National Nuclear Security Administration. “Independent
Scientific Review Confirms Technical Approach to RRW,” news release, September 28,
121 Letter from Thomas P. D’Agostino, Administrator, NNSA, to The Honorable Carl Levin,
Chairman, Committee on Armed Services, United States Senate, October 5, 2007, p. 2.
122 “Visclosky and Hobson: Work Outlined in JASON Report Must Be Completed before
Considering RRW,” September 27, 2007.
Senate provided for the Navy’s RRW effort rather than the House-passed $0. It
stated that $15.0 million is “the minimum level of funding needed by the Navy to
begin Phase 2A activities in FY2008, and with at least the same level of funding in
FY2009, to complete the effort within 2 years, one year later than the date that could
have been achieved with the President’s original budget request for this item.” DOD
indicated how the money would be spent: it “is required to begin the Navy portion
of Phase 2A and for risk reduction analysis and preliminary development of a follow-
on Arming, Fuzing and Firing (AF&F) subsystem for all weapons associated with the
Mk5 aeroshell deployed on the TRIDENT II D5 Fleet Ballistic Missile System.”123
(These funds would not be used to develop WR1 itself; that task is the responsibility
of NNSA.) The nuclear warhead currently associated with the Mk5 is the W88.
According to Steve Henry, Deputy Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Nuclear
The W88 is housed in a MK5 aeroshell. Because of the MK5 size, it was also
the aeroshell for the proposed RRW. In the not too distant future, a W88 LEP
will have to be performed and the AF&F will require replacement. The future
AF&F for the MK5 aeroshell is the same AF&F regardless of the NEP [nuclear124
explosive package] (W88 LEP’d or an RRW).
Thus, the new AF&F subsystem could be used with the life-extended W88 and WR1,
but if WR1 does not go forward, the AF&F subsystem would still be used with the
life-extended W88. In March 2008, the Navy provided further details on how it plans
to use RRW funds:
The FY 08 RRW funding is currently on hold, so no work has been performed
to date but, SSP has been directed by the Office of Secretary of Defense (OSD)
to use the FY 08 and FY 09 RRW funding to support Mk5A life extension
efforts. Once the FY 08 funds are released and the FY 09 funds are appropriated,
SSP will use the RRW funds for risk reduction analysis and preliminary
development of a follow-on Arming, Fusing and Firing (AF&F) subsystem for
all weapons associated with the Mk5 aeroshell deployed on the TRIDENT II
(D5) Fleet Ballistic Missile System. Specific Mk5A AF&F efforts directed by
the Office of Secretary of Defense (OSD) supports a number of tasks needed to
address early technology for the life extension program for the MK5/W88
nuclear weapon system. Below is a list of some of the major areas of technology
to be pursued:
!define new safety architectures for the AF&F
!design of high density high power radar
!Non-volatile radiation hardened memory
!Radiation hardened application Specific Integrated Circuits
!High density thermal battery development
!Radiation hardened Wide band analog electronics
123 U.S. Department of Defense. FY 2008 Defense Appropriation Appeals. October 2007, p.
R&D-52. An aeroshell is the cone-shaped shell that carries an individual warhead on a
ballistic missile. It protects the warhead against burnup as it reenters the atmosphere at high
speed and minimizes degradation of accuracy.
124 Personal communication, March 7, 2008.
!Low noise radar receivers utilizing commercial parts
!Fuze modeling and test analysis
In support of this effort, the above technologies will be synthesized into bench125
top systems for test purposes.
On November 6, conferees on the defense appropriations bill filed their report
(H.Rept. 110-434), which included $15.0 million for the Navy for RRW.126
(Adjustments reduced this figure to $14.455 million.) On November 8, the House
agreed to the conference report, 400-15, and the Senate did so by voice vote.
An article in November 2007 offered some support for RRW. It reported that
a letter to Senators Jon Kyl and Pete Domenici from former Secretary of State Henry
Kissinger said, “I believe that research and design of the RRW should continue.”
The article also cited a letter by former Secretary of State George Shultz and Sidney
Drell, professor emeritus of physics at Stanford University, to Kissinger that stated,
“research work on new RRW designs should certainly go ahead. Such work would
make possible the decision to implement the construction phase of the program were
that to be desired at some future time. The design work itself is relatively small in
cost and need not be viewed in any way as an eventual commitment to go ahead.”127
The conference version of H.R. 1585, FY2008 National Defense Authorization
Act, provided $66.0 million for RRW. It contained several provisions on RRW.
!It barred moving RRW beyond Phase 2A in FY2008 (section 3111).
The conference report stated, “The conferees believe clarification of
the United States’ long-term nuclear weapons policy is a prerequisite
to any major decisions on the size and composition of the nuclear
weapons stockpile and the complex that supports it. To that end, the
conference agreement includes section 1062 establishing a
congressionally appointed bipartisan commission to examine U.S.
nuclear policy and strategic posture, and section 1070, requiring that
a new Nuclear Posture Review be submitted to Congress in
!It required a study on the use of existing pits in the RRW program
125 Information provided by Strategic Systems Program, U.S. Navy, March 18, 2008. The
Mk5A is an upgrade to the Mk5.
126 U.S. Department of the Navy. Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 Budget Estimates: Justification of
Estimates. Research, Development, Test & Evaluation, Navy Budget Activity 7, February
127 Jon Fox, “Former Secretaries of State Support New Warhead,” Global Security
Newswire, November 15, 2007. The article does not provide the date of the letters.
128 U.S. Congress. Committee of Conference. National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal
Year 2008. H.Rept. 110-477, conference report to accompany H.R. 1585. 110th Congress,st
!It included a sense of Congress provision that the United States
should make any decisions on RRW in the context of progress made
toward several goals related to nuclear nonproliferation and arms
reduction (section 3126)
!As an aid to future decisions on nuclear weapons and related
matters, it provided for establishing a commission on nuclear policy
and strategic posture (section 1062), with a report due December 1,
2008, and required a new nuclear posture review be submitted to
Congress by February 1, 2010 (section 1070).129
On December 12, the House agreed to the conference report on H.R. 1585, 370-49.
On December 14, the Senate agreed to the conference report, 90-3. President Bush
vetoed the measure on December 28 for reasons having to do with Iraqi economic
issues; he signed a bill revised to accommodate these concerns, H.R. 4986, into law
(P.L. 110-181) on January 28, 2008.
On December 16, the House Rules Committee posted the FY2008 consolidated
appropriations bill (the House amendments to Senate amendment to H.R. 2764, State,
Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2008). The House
and Senate agreed to this bill through an exchange of amendments, December 17-19,
and the President signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, FY2008, into law
(P.L. 110-161) December 26. P.L. 110-161 eliminated NNSA RRW funds.
According to the explanatory statement,
The amended bill provides no funds for the Reliable Replacement Warhead
(RRW), as proposed by the House. As stated in both the House and Senate
reports, Congress believes a new strategic nuclear deterrent mission assessmentst
for the 21 century is required to define the associated stockpile requirements
and determine the scope of the weapons complex modernization plans. The
NNSA is directed to develop a long-term scientific capability roadmap for the130
national laboratories to be submitted to the Committees on Appropriations.
Commenting on the bill, according to a press report, Representative Peter
Visclosky, Chairman of the House Energy and Water Development Appropriations
129 Regarding the due date for this report, Section 1070 states, “The report shall be submitted
concurrently with the quadrennial defense review required to be submitted under section 118
of title 10, United States Code, in 2009.” However, 10 U.S.C. 118 requires the Secretary
of Defense to conduct a quadrennial defense review every four years in the year following
a year divisible by four. Further, “The report [on the quadrennial defense review] shall be
submitted in the year following the year in which the review is conducted, but not later than
the date on which the President submits the budget for the next fiscal year to Congress under
section 1105 (a) of title 31.” Since that section requires the President to submit the budget
by the first Monday in February, this means that the nuclear posture review, the quadrennial
defense review, and the FY2011 budget request are all due to Congress on February 1, 2010.
130 U.S. House. Committee on Appropriations. Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008.
Unnumbered committee print on H.R. 2764/P.L. 110-161, 110th Congress, 1st Session,
January 2008, Book 1 of 2, p. 583. Available at [http://www.gpoaccess.gov/congress/house/
Subcommittee, said, “[m]oving forward on a new nuclear weapon is not something
this nation should do without great consideration ... the U.S. needs a comprehensive
nuclear defense strategy, and a revised stockpile plan to guide the transformation and
downsizing of the [nuclear weapons] complex,” while an NNSA spokesman said that
eliminating NNSA RRW funding means “we will likely have to go down a path of
a full-life extension program for nuclear weapons in our stockpile, which in the long
run will be more costly, without introducing modern safety and security measures
into our weapons.”131
Congressional Action on the FY2009 RRW Request
For FY2009, DOE requests $10.0 million and projects a request the same sum132
for each year FY2010-FY2013. It justified the request as follows:
$10 million is requested to enable maturation of the RRW design to address
questions raised by the JASON review of RRW feasibility study activities.
Design refinement is necessary to establish parameters for potential impact on
certification. Without further design work, there is insufficient detail available
to use this design to resolve certification questions raised by the JASONs review.
This funding will also facilitate documenting the Phase 2A RRW work that has
been completed through 2007 (prior to the FY 2008 Consolidated Appropriations
Act (P.L. 110-161)) to support future administration decisions on options for our
nuclear weapons stockpile. The Department of Defense and the Joint DoD-DOE
Nuclear Weapons Council fully support continuing efforts to examine how the
RRW concept can address issues of safety, security and long-term reliability of133
the nation’s nuclear deterrent.
In February 2008, NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino testified that
proceeding with the RRW study will provide information crucial to completing the
review of the nuclear posture in a timely manner. Further, it would address concerns
about U.S. ability to maintain the stockpile for the long term with LEP, offer the
prospect of improving warhead surety, and address the maintenance of nuclear
skills.134 In the same hearing, General Kevin Chilton, USAF, Commander, U.S.st
Strategic Command, argued for “a warhead that is designed for the 21 century,” with
greater emphasis on reliability, safety, security, and maintainability, rather than on
131 Walter Pincus, “Nuclear Warhead Cut from Spending Bill,” Washington Post, December
132 U.S. Department of Energy. FY2009 Congressional Budget Request, vol. 1, National
Nuclear Security Administration, pp. 91-92.
133 Department of Energy, FY2009 Congressional Budget Request, vol. 1, p. 25. The
JASON study referenced is JSR-07-336E, “Reliable Replacement Warhead Executive
Summary,” cited earlier.
134 U.S. Congress. House. Committee on Armed Services. Subcommittee on Strategic
Forces. Hearing on FY2009 budget for strategic defense programs, 110th Congress, 2nd
Session, February 27, 2008, transcript by CQ Transcriptions.
maximizing yield to weight.135 According to one report, he also said that without
completing the RRW study “he would be ill-prepared to advise the incoming
president next year on how best to modernize the atomic arsenal.”136
Others expressed opposition to RRW. Regarding the need to improve surety,
Daryl Kimball, Executive Director of the Arms Control Association, said, “Should
we spend billions of dollars to replace existing warhead types in our arsenal to reduce
by an infinitesimal amount [the possibility] that al-Qaeda could detonate it?”137 And
former Senator Sam Nunn said, “In this world atmosphere, in this climate, for us to
build a new warhead now would be a real setback to all of our nonproliferation
efforts, so I am opposed to it.... At this moment I think it would be a mistake for
America to go forward with that program.”138
For FY2009, the Navy requests $23.3 million under “Reliable Replacement
Warhead,” a reduction from a planned request of $50.0 million.139 The previous
section details how the Navy plans to use FY2008 and FY2009 RRW funds.
In its markup of the FY2009 defense authorization bill, reported in a press
release of May 1, 2008, the Senate Armed Services Committee recommended
retaining NNSA’s request for RRW but eliminating the Navy’s request.140 As of
September 11, the Senate was considering the bill.
In its May 7 markup of its portion of the defense authorization bill, the Strategic
Forces Subcommittee of House Armed Services Committee recommended
eliminating NNSA and Navy funds for RRW. Chairwoman Tauscher said in a
statement that these funds were “re-directed to higher priority nuclear weapons
research.”141 In its May 16 report on the authorization bill, H.R. 5658, the House
Armed Services Committee adopted these positions and explained them in some
136 Elaine Grossman, “U.S. General Calls for Faster Action on Reliable Replacement
Warhead,” Global Security Newswire, March 6, 2008.
137 Ibid. Bracketed text in original.
138 Greg Webb, “Leading U.S. Scientist Criticizes Warhead Effort,” Global Security
Newswire, February 27, 2008.
139 U.S. Department of the Navy. Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 Budget Estimates: Justification of
Estimates. Research, Development, Test & Evaluation, Navy Budget Activity 7. February
140 U.S. Senate. Committee on Armed Services. “Senate Armed Services Committee
Completes Markup of National Defense Authorization Bill for Fiscal Year 2009.” Press
release, May 1, 2008, p. 20, at [http://armed-services.senate.gov/press/09mark.pdf]. See
also U.S. Senate. Committee on Armed Services. National Defense Authorization Act forthnd
Fiscal Year 2009. S.Rept. 110-335, to accompany S. 3001, 110 Congress, 2 Session,
141 U.S. Congress. House. Committee on Armed Services. “Statement of Chairwoman Ellen
Tauscher, Strategic Forces Subcommittee Mark-Up, H.R. 5658, National Defense
Authorization Act for FY2009,” May 7, 2008, available at [http://armedservices.house.gov/
detail. Regarding the Navy’s request, the committee “finds that the activities
described in the budget request are premature and not executable in fiscal year 2009.”
Noting that this request was for an AF&F system (described under “Congressional
Action on the FY2008 RRW Request,” above), the committee eliminated funds for
RRW and authorized $13.3 million for research into integrated AF&F systems.142
Regarding the NNSA request, the committee stated that the $10.0 million request was
to “address questions raised by the JASON review of RRW feasibility study
activities.” However, it noted, other funds requested by NNSA, in Advanced
Certification and Enhanced Surety, would also examine these certification issues.
The committee stated its support for research on certification and stewardship issues
“critical to sustaining and modernizing the Stockpile Stewardship Program (SSP),
whether or not the RRW program proceeds.” Accordingly, it recommended
eliminating the $10.0 million requested for RRW and adding $10.0 million within
Advanced Certification to address issues raised by the JASON review and for “other
high priority SSP challenges.”143 On May 22, Representative Stevan Pearce offered
H.Amdt. 1052 to H.R. 5658. The amendment would increase funding for RRW by
$10.0 million in Title XXXI, Department of Energy National Security Programs,
while offsetting that amount by a like amount “to be derived from energy
conservation on military installations.” The amendment failed by a vote of 145 to
The House Appropriations Committee marked up the FY2009 energy-water
appropriations bill on June 25 and released a committee print version of its report in
June.144 The committee eliminated the $10.0 million NNSA request for RRW. The
committee was highly critical of this request:
The Committee is aware of the advantages of a modern warhead design and
strongly supports improved surety. The Committee also understands that high
margin provides protection against failure due to compound unknowns. The
Committee supports trading off Cold War high yield for improved reliability, in
order to move to a smaller stockpile requiring a smaller and cheaper weapons
complex with no need for nuclear testing.
That said, the Committee remains to be convinced that a new warhead
design will lead to these benefits. The Committee will not spend the taxpayers’
money for a new generation of warheads promoted as leading to nuclear
reductions absent a specific glide path to a specified, much smaller force of
nuclear weapons. Similarly, the Committee finds no logic in spending the
taxpayers’ money on a new generation of warheads promoted as avoiding the
need for nuclear testing, while the Secretary of State insists that “the
Administration does not support the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.” ...
Before the Committee will consider funding for most new programs,
substantial changes to the existing nuclear weapons complex, or funding for the
RRW, the Committee insists that the following sequence be completed:
142 U.S. Congress. House. Committee on Armed Services. Duncan Hunter National Defense
Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009. H.Rept. 110-652, on H.R. 5658. 110th Congress, 2nd
Session, 2008, pp. 201-202.
143 Ibid., pp. 561-562.
144 U.S. Congress. House. Committee on Appropriations. Energy and Water Development
Appropriations Bill, 2009. Unnumbered committee print. 110th Congress, 2nd Session, 2008.
(1) replacement of Cold War strategies with a 21st Century nuclear
deterrent strategy sharply focused on today’s and tomorrow’s threats,
and capable of serving the national security needs of future
Administrations and future Congresses without need for nuclear
(2) determination of the size and nature of the nuclear stockpile
sufficient to serve that strategy;
(3) determination of the size and nature of the nuclear weapons145
complex needed to support that future stockpile.
The committee stated that while plans to execute these steps were laid out in the
FY2008 Omnibus Appropriations Act, “none of the required plans have been146
submitted.” The committee approved the bill by voice vote on June 25, but as of
September 11, it had not reported the bill to the House, and the bill had not been
assigned a number. Also as of September 11, the committee had not reported the
Department of Defense appropriations bill. According to a press report on that bill,
“The draft House appropriations markup also denies all requested Navy funding for
the Reliable Replacement Warhead, according to congressional officials.”147
The Senate Appropriations Committee reported S. 3258, the FY2009 energy-
water appropriation bill, on July 14. It recommended eliminating the requested
NNSA RRW funds.148 As of September 11, the bill was on the Senate legislative
calendar. The committee’s Defense Appropriations Subcommittee deleted Navy
RRW funds in its mark of the Department of Defense appropriations bill.149
Policy Options and Issues for the 110th Congress
In the FY2008 budget cycle, Congress eliminated FY2008 funds for NNSA to
develop RRW and asked for several reports on nuclear posture and policy, the last
145 Ibid., pp. 123-124.
146 Ibid., p. 124.
147 Elaine Grossman, “Draft House Markup Adds $9 Million for Fast Strike,” Global
Security Newswire, September 9, 2008, at [http://www.nti.org/d_newswire/issues/2008_9_9.
148 U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on Appropriations. Energy and Water Development
Appropriations Bill, 2009. S.Rept. 110-416, to accompany S. 3258. 110th Congress, 2nd
Session, 2008, p. 120.
149 U.S. Senate. Committee on Appropriations. “Senate Defense Appropriations
Subcommittee Approves Fiscal Year 2009 Defense Appropriations Bill.” Press release,
September 10, 2008, p. 4 at
[http://approp r i ations.senate.gov/ Ne ws /2008_09_10_Summa ry_of_FY_2009_Defense_A
ppropriatiions(Subcommittee_Mark).pdf?CFID=38277515&CFT OK EN=94766170].
of which is due in December 2009. Whether RRW continues may depend on the
results of these reports and the views of the next President and Congress.
Drop RRW. Congress could short-circuit the entire decision process that RRW
would entail by terminating RRW and proceeding with LEP only. CRS Report
RL33748 presents many arguments for and against this course. Congressional action
on the FY2008 budget did not necessarily terminate the RRW program.
Slow the pace of RRW. The first production unit of RRW was scheduled
for 2012 or 2014, as noted earlier. At the same time, the pit aging study referenced
above has extended the anticipated service life of pits considerably. Since one
justification for proceeding quickly with RRW was the fear that age-related defects
might cause pits not to function correctly by about the time a new pit manufacturing
facility could become operational, the extended “lease on life” offered by the pit
aging report might permit RRW to proceed at a slower pace. A press report stated,
Some members of Congress have said the plutonium studies raised questions
about the need for the RRW program. Rep. David L. Hobson ... said yesterday
that, based on the plutonium studies, “they should take a breath because there are
lots of demands for money.” He added: “Congress is not going to be as robust150
about this though there is a need to have some scientific work done.”
Congress might also delay RRW by waiting for the results of the reports on
nuclear policy and posture, and the views of the next President on RRW and how it
fits into the next Administration’s nuclear and foreign policy. If the Administration
decides late in calendar year 2009 how it wants to proceed with RRW, and the
Congress waits for that decision, a request to proceed with RRW could come in the
FY2011 budget (presented in February 2010), in which case work on RRW would
not resume at least until October 2010. Alternatively, if the next President decided
early in 2009 to proceed with RRW, he or she might request a supplemental
appropriation or a reprogramming to do so, possibly permitting work on RRW to
resume midway through calendar year 2009. It is not at all clear, however, that
Congress would favor making a decision on RRW outside the regular budget cycle.
Reestablish the RRW program. While Congress eliminated FY2008
NNSA funds to continue development of RRW, and three committees have
recommended doing so for FY2009, RRW’s advocates believe that it is important to
reestablish the program. They argue that this course would
prevent the loss of core nuclear weapon capabilities in NNSA’s labs and plants,
and [would] provide the optimum replacement approach for those over-age
weapons in our stockpile which will be needed for decades to come. The RRW
provides our only opportunity at the moment to recapture the experienced,
integrated management expertise necessary to guide new nuclear weapons from
150 Walter Pincus, “New Nuclear Weapons Program to Continue,” Washington Post,
December 2, 2006, p. 7.
concept definition to service introduction. Without RRW, this invaluable151
capability will, for all intents and purposes, be lost.
RRW’s critics respond that work on LEPs exercises laboratory and production
plant expertise. They anticipate that LEPs will enable the United States to retain and
maintain its current warheads for decades more. They see no point in proceeding
with RRW in 2008. Instead, they suggest waiting for the next Administration to
decide how it wants to proceed on strategic policy and what nuclear weapons it wants
in order to support that policy. Congress could reconsider RRW at that point.
Examine the link between RRW and a reconfigured Complex. Some
argue that the Complex must be streamlined and consolidated to support RRW, and
that RRW will permit a smaller and less costly Complex because RRW components
will be easier to manufacture and assemble and will use less hazardous material. On
the other hand, revising the Complex would be very costly, as would production of
perhaps thousands of RRWs, and the pit aging study may provide grounds for
delaying a decision on Complex reconfiguration. Congress may wish to determine
how long it would take for savings from RRW and a reconfigured Complex to exceed
the investment costs, with both figures adjusted for net present value to reflect the152
time value of money. Congress may also consider what upgrades the Complex
would need in order to support LEPs.
Consider how to handle moving WR1 to a more advanced phase of
development. Nuclear weapons development proceeds in carefully-defined
“phases.” This process dates back at least to a 1953 agreement between the Atomic
Energy Commission (a predecessor agency of DOE) and DOD that numbers the
phases as follows: 1, weapon conception; 2, program study; 3, development
engineering; 4, production engineering; 5, first production; 6, quantity production and
stockpile.153 The Nuclear Weapons Council updated this agreement in 2000 with
guidelines for a “Phase 6.X Process” in which the phases in the 1953 agreement were
applied to refurbishment of existing weapons (i.e., those in Phase 6).154 Thus, Phase
6.1 was concept assessment for refurbishing an existing weapon. The 2000 update
included a Phase 6.2A, design definition and cost study. By extension, Phase 2A is
design definition and cost study for a new warhead.
151 Center for Security Policy, “Towards a New Deterrent: Analysis and Recommendations
for the Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States,” c. May 2008, p. 3.
152 For further information on net present value, see U.S. Department of Defense. Office of
the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics. “Contract
Pricing Reference Guides,” Volume 2, Chapter 9, at Defense Procurement and Acquisition
Policy website, [http://www.acq.osd.mil/dpap/cpf/docs/contract_pricing_finance_guide/
153 U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. “An Agreement Between the AEC and the DOD for
the Development, Production, and Standardization of Atomic Weapons,” March 21, 1953,
154 U.S. Department of Defense and Department of Energy Nuclear Weapons Council.
“Procedural Guideline for the Phase 6.X Process,” April 19, 2000, 13 p.
NNSA staff provided the following information in April 2007. The plan was
for the first RRW to enter Phase 2A in early May 2007, with a goal of completing
that phase by the end of December 2007. The weapon would then be ready for a
decision by the Nuclear Weapons Council on moving to Phase 3. If the council
approved, during FY2008, of beginning RRW Phase 3, NNSA might ask the Armed
Services and Appropriations Committees for approval to reprogram funds for that
purpose. Most of the $88.8 million requested for RRW for FY2008 was for work on
Phase 2A, with a small portion of the money for Phase 3 work. As noted, the FY2008
Consolidated Appropriations Act eliminated FY2008 funds for NNSA to develop
RRW, but that does not necessarily terminate the program. As a result, any decision
to resume RRW would be important for Congress.
Beyond that, any decision to move RRW to Phase 3 would also be important for
Congress. Phase 3 involves considerably more money than does Phase 2A. In
addition, while Phase 2A is a study, the results of which might lead to the
cancellation of a weapon program, Phase 3 carries a much stronger presumption that
the weapon would proceed through development to production and deployment.
Legislation reflects the importance of the move from Phase 2A to Phase 3. P.L.
107-314, FY2003 National Defense Authorization Act, Section 3143, “Requirements
for Specific Request for New or Modified Nuclear Weapons,” requires that a request
for funds for each new weapon in Phase 3 or higher, or for each modified weapon in
Phase 6.3 or higher, with exceptions such as for life extension programs, be presented
as a separate line item, while requests for funds for earlier phases are to be combined
into a single line item. P.L. 108-136, FY2004 National Defense Authorization Act,
Section 3117, also highlights the importance of engineering development as a
congressional decision point by barring the Secretary of Energy from beginning
engineering development or any subsequent phase of the Robust Nuclear Earth
Penetrator without specific congressional authorization.
Should RRW be linked to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty155
(CTBT)? The CTBT bars all nuclear explosions. The United States and other
nations signed it beginning in 1996; as of July 2008, 178 nations have signed it and156
144 have ratified. However, 44 specified nations must ratify for it to enter into
force, and 9 of them, including the United States, have not ratified. The Senate
rejected it in 1999 on such grounds as the capability of the Stockpile Stewardship
Program to maintain current warheads, possible need for new warheads, need for new
security features, questions about monitoring ability, and the prospect that other
nations might make militarily significant gains through clandestine testing. Since
then, Congress has rejected new warheads for new missions and some argue that
Stockpile Stewardship has demonstrated its capability and that detection capability
has improved greatly. In this view, the CTBT merits a reconsideration. Others prefer
to avoid nuclear testing but also do not want to enter the CTBT; they would maintain
155 See U.S. Congress. Congressional Research Service. Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban
Treaty: Background and Current Developments, CRS Report RL33548, and Comprehensive
Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty: Issues and Arguments, CRS Report RL34394, both by Jonathan
156 For status of ratifications, see the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization
Preparatory Commission website at [http://www.ctbto.org].
the current moratorium. Still others argue that Stockpile Stewardship tools have not
been verified by nuclear testing, militarily significant clandestine cheating is still
possible, and some security features could be added only with testing. They would
resume testing at a low pace and low yield.
RRW’s support in Congress has by some accounts diminished,157 so some
favoring RRW see a CTBT-RRW link as a possible quid pro quo. Similarly, some
favoring the CTBT also raise the prospect of a quid pro quo, arguing that NNSA
claims that RRW will reduce the likelihood of a need to return to testing. On the
other hand, some RRW supporters see RRW as deserving approval on its merits and
fear that the CTBT could impair U.S. security, while some CTBT supporters feel that
the prospects for CTBT ratification will increase over time and that RRW would
undermine U.S. ability to take the lead on nuclear nonproliferation; advocates of both
positions would reject a CTBT-RRW link.
Will RRW weaken U.S. nuclear nonproliferation efforts? RRW
advocates hold that LEP will cause confidence in the stockpile to decline, and with
it U.S. ability to assure allies that the U.S. deterrent is sound, to dissuade competitors
from beginning nuclear programs, to deter adversaries, and if necessary to defeat
enemies, as called for in the 2001 Nuclear Posture Review. In contrast, they say,
RRW is designed as a replacement weapon rather than a new weapon with new
military capabilities, and one that will be easier to manufacture, maintain, and certify
than current warheads, with wider performance margins to raise confidence that it
will work as intended. This confidence is important for nuclear nonproliferation
because it makes friends and allies less inclined to develop their own nuclear
weapons in response to actions of potential proliferators like North Korea or Iran.
As Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso said shortly after the North Korean nuclear
test of October 2006, “There is no need to arm ourselves with nuclear weapons
either. For Japan’s own defense we have this Mutual Defense Treaty with [the]
United States and we have the commitment, and that commitment has been
reconfirmed by Secretary Rice, that there is this commitment to make sure that the
security system will work.”158 Without confidence in U.S. nuclear weapons, it is
argued, that commitment becomes of questionable value. Moreover, any nation
seeking to manufacture nuclear weapons would require a decades-long effort that is
insensitive to U.S. actions. According to John Harvey, Director of NNSA’s Policy
Planning Staff, “The RRW effort itself has positive implications for non-
proliferation. Because these warheads would be designed with more favorable
performance margins, and be less sensitive to incremental aging effects, they would
reduce the possibility that the United States would ever be faced with a need to
conduct a nuclear test to diagnose or remedy a stockpile reliability problem.”
Further, he notes that this nation has taken many actions consistent with Article VI
of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), in which the parties “[undertake] to
pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the
157 Walter Pincus, “Congress Skeptical of Warhead Plan,” Washington Post, April 22, 2007,
158 U.S. Department of State. “Remarks [by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice] with
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso After Their Meeting,” Tokyo, Japan, October 18, 2006,
available at [http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2006/74669.htm].
nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.” Such actions include
agreeing, in the Moscow Treaty, to significant reductions in operationally-deployed
strategic nuclear weapons; taking steps to reduce the U.S. nuclear stockpile; and
removing up to 200 metric tons of highly enriched uranium from weapons use.159
Critics are concerned that other nations would perceive RRW as a new weapon
that is at odds with the reciprocity of obligations between nuclear and nonnuclear
weapon states that is the core of the NPT, and particularly with U.S. obligations
under Article VI. As a result, in this view, RRW would make it harder to deal with
Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs, and those programs in turn could lead
to a follow-on wave of possible proliferators. For example, if Japan, Saudi Arabia,
and Egypt saw nuclear weapons spreading, they might undertake nuclear programs
of their own. By signaling that the United States places heavy value on nuclear
weapons through the RRW program instead of seeking to downplay and devalue
these weapons, these critics maintain, the United States undermines its ability to lead
worldwide nuclear nonproliferation efforts. Former Senator Sam Nunn said,
On the RRW itself, if Congress gives a green light to this program in our current
world environment — and I stress in our current world environment — I believe
that this will be misunderstood by our allies, exploited by our adversaries,
complicate our work to prevent the spread and use of nuclear weapons ... and
make resolution of the Iran and North Korea challenges all the more difficult.
Also, I think it will make it more difficult to discourage the many new countries
that are right on the tipping point of beginning their enrichment process ... we
will pay a very high price in terms of our overall national security if Congress
goes forward with this program.... So I would not fund additional work on the
RRW at this time, certainly not development and going forward with160
Similarly, former Secretary of Defense William Perry said, “on balance, I believe that
we could defer action for many years on the RRW program. And I have no doubt
that this would put us in a stronger position to lead the international community in
the continuing battle against nuclear proliferation, which threatens us all.”161
159 John Harvey, “U.S. Nuclear Weapons Programs: Implications for Nonproliferation,”
Remarks at NATO Conference: “NATO and the Future of the NPT,” NATO Defense
College, Rome, Italy, September 12, 2006 (as revised November 27, 2006), pp. 3, 6.
160 U.S. Congress. House. Committee on Appropriations. Subcommittee on Energy and
Water Development. Hearing on nuclear weapon activities. 109th Congress, 1st Session,
March 29, 2007.
12/01/08 — A study by the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture
of the United States, established by the conference version of H.R.
08/08/08 — NNSA delivered to Congress a report on using existing pits for the
RRW program, required by P.L. 110-181, FY2008 National Defense
Authorization Act, section 3121.
05/22/08 — The House defeated, 145-271, H.Amdt. 1052 to H.R. 5658, the
FY2009 defense authorization bill, to add $10.0 million to NNSA’s
budget for RRW.
05/16/08 — The House Armed Services Committee reported H.R. 5658, the
Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act for FY2009.
05/05/08 — The Secretaries of Defense and Energy transmitted “Report on the
Feasibility and Implementation of the Reliable Replacement Warhead
Program” to Congress. Congress required the report in the FY2006
National Defense Authorization Act, P.L. 108-163, Section 3111.
12/26/07 — President Bush signed P.L. 110-161, FY2008 Consolidated
Appropriations Act, into law. The measure contains no NNSA funds
to develop RRW.
12/12/07 — The House agreed to the conference report on H.R. 1585, the defense
authorization bill, 370-49.
12/06/07 — The conference report on H.R. 1585, the national defense
authorization bill, was ordered to be printed. It contains several
provisions on RRW, as described above.
11/06/07 — Conferees on the Department of Defense appropriations bill filed
their report, which included $15.0 million for the Navy for RRW.
09/28/07 — NNSA delivered to Congress a JASON report on RRW that was
required by the House Appropriations Committee’s report on FY2007
energy and water appropriations.
09/14/07 — The Senate Appropriations Committee reported H.R. 3222, the
Department of Defense Appropriations Bill.
07/17/07 — The House passed the FY2008 Energy and Water Development
Appropriations Bill, 312-112, leaving RRW provisions unchanged.
07/09/07 — The Senate Appropriations Committee reported S. 1751, the Energy
and Water Development Bill.
06/06/07 — The House Appropriations Committee marked up the FY2008 Energy
and Water Development Appropriations Bill. The committee
recommended eliminating NNSA funds for RRW and directed the
Administration to prepare a comprehensive nuclear planning
assessment, which it views “as a necessary condition before
considering additional funding for Complex 2030 and RRW
05/25/07 — The Senate Armed Services Committee’s mark of S. 567, FY2008
National Defense Authorization Bill, reduced the total RRW request
(NNSA and Navy) by $43 million and limited FY2008 activities for
the RRW program to Phase 2A activities.
05/23/07 — The House Energy and Water Development Appropriations
Subcommittee’s mark of the FY2008 Energy and Water Development
Appropriations Bill eliminated NNSA funds for RRW.
397-27. The bill reduced RRW funding for by $20.0 million and for
the Navy by $25.0 million, kept the program for the first RRW in
Phase 2A for FY2008, and required several studies related to RRW.
04/24/07 — The American Association for the Advancement of Science released
a report, “The United States Nuclear Weapons Program: The Role of
the Reliable Replacement Warhead.”
03/02/07 — NNSA announced that the Nuclear Weapons Council selected the
design by Livermore and Sandia-California as the winner of the RRW
03/01/07 — The Secretary of Energy and Secretary of Defense are to submit a
final report to congressional defense committees on feasibility and
implementation of the RRW program, as required by P.L. 109-163,
FY2006 National Defense Authorization Act, Section 3111.
02/18/07 — A committee of the American Association for the Advancement of
Science delivered an interim progress report, “The United States
Nuclear Weapons Program: The Role of the Reliable Replacement
01/31/07 — NNSA released its “Report on the Plan for Transformation of the
National Nuclear Security Administration Nuclear Weapons
Complex,” as required by P.L. 109-364, the FY2007 National
Defense Authorization Act, Section 3111. An objective of the plan
is “To prepare to produce replacement warheads under the Reliable
Replacement Warhead program....”
For Additional Reading
American Association for the Advancement of Science, Center for Science,
Technology and Security Policy, Nuclear Weapons Complex Assessment
Committee, The United States Nuclear Weapons Program: The Role of the
Reliable Replacement Warhead, April 2007, 34 p.
Brown, Harold, and John Deutch, “The Nuclear Disarmament Fantasy,” Wall Street
Journal, November 19, 2007, p. 19.
Center for Security Policy, “Towards a New Deterrent: Analysis and
Recommendations for the Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United
States,” 5 p., c. May 2008, at [http://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/modules/
news manager/ center%20publicati on%20pdfs / t o ward s %20a%20new%20
D’Agostino, Thomas, “Statement of Thomas P. D’Agostino, Administrator, National
Nuclear Security Administration, U.S. Department of Energy, Before the House
Committee on Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces,” February
Fox, Jon, “Former Secretaries of State Support New Warhead,” Global Security
Newswire, November 15, 2007.
Gaffney, Frank, Jr., “The Genie-Stuffers,” Washington Times, June 19, 2007, p. 15.
Grossman, Elaine, “U.S. General Calls for Faster Action on Reliable Replacement
Warhead,” Global Security Newswire, March 6, 2008.
Grossman, Elaine, “Draft House Markup Adds $9 Million for Fast Strike,” Global
Security Newswire, September 9, 2008
Harvey, John, “Maintaining the 21st [Century] Nuclear Deterrent: The Case for
RRW,” remarks to the Stanley Foundation conference, “U.S. Nuclear Force
Posture and Infrastructure,” updated February 8, 2008.
Hemley, R.J., et al., Pit Lifetime, (JASON report), The MITRE Corporation,
McLean, VA, JSR-06-335, January 11, 2007, 20 p.
Hoffman, Ian, “Nuclear Deal May Come with Strings: Democrats Signal Openness
to New Arsenal, as Long as It Is Linked with Test Ban Treaty Ratification,”
Contra Costa Times, February 3, 2007, p. F4.
JASON [Defense Advisory Group], The MITRE Corporation, “Reliable
Replacement Warhead: Executive Summary,” JSR-07-336E, McLean, VA,
September 7, 2007, 8 p.
Kimball, Daryl, “Replacement Warheads and the Nuclear Test Ban,” Defense News,
March 5, 2007.
“National Security and Nuclear Weapons: Maintaining Deterrence in the 21st
Century: A Statement by the Secretary of Energy, Secretary of Defense and
Secretary of State,” July 2007.
“The Next Generation of Nuclear Weapons,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
(several short articles by multiple authors), July/August 2007, pp. 30-49.
Pincus, Walter, “Congress Skeptical of Warhead Plan,” Washington Post, April 22,
Scheber, Thomas, Reliable Replacement Warheads: Perspectives and Issues,
publication 0005 of the United States Nuclear Strategy Forum, National Institute
Press, August 2007, 31 p.
Spring, Baker, “Congress’s Critical Role in the Reliable Replacement Warhead
(RRW) Program,” Heritage Foundation Executive Memorandum 1026, May 11,
U.S. Department of Defense and Department of Energy. Nuclear Weapons Council.
“Memorandum for the Nuclear Weapons Council (NWC), Subject: Reliable
Replacement Warhead 1 (RRW-1) Path Forward,” March 18, 2007, 1 p. +
U.S. Department of Defense and Department of Energy. “Report on the Feasibility
and Implementation of the Reliable Replacement Warhead Program: Submitted
to the Congressional Defense Committees Pursuant to Section 3111 of the
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006, Public Law 109-163,
by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Energy in Consultation with
the Nuclear Weapons Council,” April 2008, 14 p.
U.S. Department of Energy. National Nuclear Security Administration. “Design
Selected for Reliable Replacement Warhead,” news release, March 2, 2007.
U.S. Department of Energy. National Nuclear Security Administration. “Report on
the Feasibility of Using Existing Pits for the Reliable Replacement Warhead
Program,” transmitted to Congress August 8, 2008, 15 p.
U.S. Department of Energy. National Nuclear Security Administration. Office of
Defense Programs. Report on the Plan for Transformation of the National
Nuclear Security Administration Nuclear Weapons Complex, [report to]
Congressional Defense Committees as requested by the United States Congress
in Public Law 109-364, John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for
Fiscal Year 2007, January 31, 2007, 31 p.
Webb, Greg, “Leading U.S. Scientist Criticizes Warhead Effort,” Global Security
Newswire, February 27, 2008.
Appendix. Nuclear Weapons, Nuclear Weapons
Complex, and Stockpile Stewardship Program
This report refers to nuclear weapons design, operation, and production
throughout. This Appendix describes key terms, concepts, and facilities as an aid to
readers not familiar with them.
Current strategic (long-range) and most tactical nuclear weapons are of a two-
stage design.162 The first stage, the “primary,” is an atomic bomb similar in principle
to the bomb dropped on Nagasaki. The primary provides the energy needed to trigger
the second stage, or “secondary.”
The primary has at its center a “pit,” a hollow core containing fissile material
(typically plutonium) and containment shells of other metals. It is surrounded by
chemical explosive shaped to generate a symmetrical inward-moving (implosion)
shock front. When the explosive is detonated, the implosion compresses the
plutonium, increasing its density so much that it becomes supercritical and can
sustain a runaway nuclear chain reaction. A neutron generator injects neutrons into
the plutonium. The neutrons drive this reaction by splitting (fissioning) plutonium
atoms, repeatedly doubling the number of neutrons released. But the chain reaction
can last only the briefest moment before the force of the nuclear explosion drives the
plutonium outward so that it becomes subcritical and can no longer support a chain
reaction. To increase the fraction of plutonium that is fissioned, boosting the yield
of the primary, another system injects “boost gas” — a mixture of deuterium and
tritium (isotopes of hydrogen) gases — into the pit before the explosive is detonated.
The intense heat and pressure of the fission chain reaction cause this gas to undergo
fusion. While the fusion reaction generates energy, its purpose is to generate a great
many neutrons and thus “boost” the fission chain reaction to a higher level.
A metal “radiation case” channels the energy of the primary to the secondary,
which contains fission and fusion fuel. The energy ignites the secondary, which
releases most of the energy of a nuclear explosion. The primary, radiation case, and
secondary comprise the “nuclear explosive package.” Thousands of “nonnuclear”
components are also needed to make the nuclear explosive package into a militarily
usable weapon, such as an arming, firing, and fuzing system, an outer case, and
electrical and physical connections linking a bomb to an airplane or a warhead to a
Nuclear weapons were designed, tested, and manufactured by the nuclear
weapons complex, which is composed of eight government-owned contractor-
operated sites: the Los Alamos National Laboratory (NM) and Lawrence Livermore
National Laboratory (CA), which design nuclear explosive packages; Sandia National
Laboratories (NM and CA), which designs nonnuclear components; Y-12 Plant (TN),
which produces uranium components and secondaries; Kansas City Plant (MO),
162 U.S. Department of Energy, Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for
Stockpile Stewardship and Management, DOE/EIS-0236, September 1996, summary
volume, p. S-4. That page contains further information on nuclear weapon design and
which produces many of the nonnuclear components; Savannah River Site (SC),
which processes tritium from stockpiled weapons to remove decay products; Pantex
Plant (TX), which assembles and disassembles nuclear weapons; and the Nevada
Test Site, which used to conduct nuclear tests but now conducts other weapons-
related experiments that do not produce a nuclear yield. These sites are now involved
in disassembly, inspection, and refurbishment of existing nuclear weapons. The
National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semiautonomous part of the
Department of Energy, manages the nuclear weapons complex and program.
NNSA maintains nuclear weapons and associated expertise through the
Stockpile Stewardship Program (SSP), which Congress created in the FY1994
National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 103-160, section 3138). The legislation
specified that the goal of SSP is “to ensure the preservation of the core intellectual
and technical competencies of the United States in nuclear weapons” through
“advanced computational capabilities,” “above-ground experiments” (experiments
not requiring nuclear testing), and construction of large experimental facilities. SSP
has three main elements. Directed Stockpile Work involves work directly on nuclear
weapons in the stockpile, such as monitoring their condition, maintaining them
through refurbishment and modifications, R&D in support of specific warheads, and
dismantlement. It includes the Life Extension Program and the RRW program.
Campaigns provide focused scientific and engineering expertise in support of
Directed Stockpile Work, in such areas as pit manufacturing and certification,
computation, and study of the properties of materials. Readiness in Technical Base
and Facilities funds infrastructure and operations at the nuclear weapons complex
sites. While the legislation did not specify that SSP was not to involve nuclear
testing, that goal seems clear from the history, and has become a goal of the program.
NNSA does not rule out the possible need for testing, such as if a problem were to
emerge in a warhead type that could not be remedied in any other way, but the United
States has been able to maintain its nuclear stockpile without testing since 1992.