Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Nuclear Posture Report Review - Post #8

This post is part of a series that I continue to write about the NPR report issued by the Obama administration. You can download the report here. This post will deal with both the "Strengthening Regional Deterrence and Reassuring U.S. Allies and Partners" and "Sustaining a Safe, Secure, and Effective Nuclear Arsenal" chapters of the NPR. Standard disclaimer:  I am employed by Sandia National Laboratories. The views written here are not the official position of SNL and should not be viewed that way. They are my views as a private citizen.

The "Strengthening Regional..." chapter (pages 31-36) did not cause me much difficulty or tension as I read it.  I did get "worried" in this chapter when the administration claims that, "we will work closely with our allies."  I have seen too much arrogance (?), contempt (?), or something else from Obama toward our traditional allies like the United Kingdom and Israel to believe that there is much behind the words.

The "Sustaining a Safe..." chapter (pages 37-44) is essentially a three decade look ahead put out by the administration.  In this look ahead, the NPR realizes that every stockpile weapon will require some degree of technical attention.  Until a few months ago when the administration released the number of weapons in our stockpile, the specific number and type of warheads were classified (Secret Restricted Data - Sigma  5).  The administration did not release the type of warheads, so I will assume that the information is still classified.  The "transparency" with respect to classified information really chaps me.  I am not claiming that the President didn't have the authority to release the information (both the President and Vice President have this power), but I do not believe that it is smart to start revealing this type of data.

Continuing with the chapter, on page 39, the administration details a plan that we will not produce any new warheads.  Instead, we will continue our practice of Life Extension Programs (LEP).  In addition, the administration has declared that we will have no new designs of nuclear components, no new missions for nuclear weapons, and no new capabilities in the nuclear stockpile. I don't like the outlook here, but this is consistent with maintaining the stockpile for defensive purposes only. One positive that comes out of this section is that all options (the refurbishment of current weapons, the reuse of nuclear components for different warheads, and the replacement of nuclear components for different warheards) are on the table for future LEPs. However, a strong preference for refurbishment and/or reuse was voiced in this NPR.

There is a section starting on page 40 called "Critical Infrastructure and Human Capital."  The irony of this section is that you need highly educated, trained, and experience personnel to maintain the nuclear stockpile while these needed scientists/engineers are not going to be interested in the fact that the NNSA has declared that we will do nothing new.  You don't spend most of your life training for an R&D job, and then decide you are going to work as a "caretaker" for someone else's project.  The goal of no new design work and maintaining capabilities work against each other.  On a very personal note, pages 40-41 are basically a job security outline for me.

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