NNSA:

Nuclear Weapon Reports Need to Be More Detailed and Comprehensive

GAO-02-889R: Published: Jul 3, 2002. Publicly Released: Jul 3, 2002.

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The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) spends $5.5 billion a year to maintain the safety and reliability of the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile through the Stockpile Stewardship Program. Because the United States is no longer designing and building new nuclear weapons, extending the life of each of the nine weapon types in the current stockpile is a key component of this program. However, the criteria used by NNSA for determining when its reporting should begin may prevent Congress from receiving complete information on life extension costs. The current Nuclear Weapon Acquisition Reports (NWAR) are less detailed and comprehensive than the Department of Defense's Selected Acquisition Reports. Finally, the cost data in the NWARs exclude significant costs that are necessary to successfully complete the life-extension efforts.

Status Legend:

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  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To improve the quality and usefulness of the NWARs, the Secretary of Energy should direct the Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration to revise the analysis presented in the NWARs to conform more closely to that presented in DOD's SARs by including items such as baseline and variance information for each contractor working on a life extension.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In its October 22, 2002 Section 236 response, NNSA stated that it concurred with this recommendation, and that it would revise the information in its Nuclear Weapons Acquisition Reports (NWARs) to more closely conform to the format and information presented in the Department of Defense's (DOD) System Acquisition Reports (SARs). Congress had required the NWARs to be in the SARs format. In its fiscal year 2004 budget submission, NNSA included a classified annex that contained SARs for the four life extensions--W87, B61, W76, and W80--currently in process. These SARs were developed in a format consistent with the DOD SARs.

    Recommendation: To improve the quality and usefulness of the NWARs, the Secretary of Energy should direct the Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration to include available information on the estimated cost of additional blocks for those weapons refurbished using a block approach, recognizing that such information may be preliminary and subject to change.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In its October 22, 2002, 10 U.S.C. 720 response to GAO's recommendations, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) stated it did not believe that it was appropriate to try to capture the costs of future "blocks" for any weapon refurbishment. For cost estimating purposes, NNSA believed that it should consider only the block currently being refurbished (a block is a group of weapons that will be refurbished at the same time). NNSA viewed cost estimates for future blocks as too preliminary and not of the same quality as cost estimates for the block currently being refurbished. Moreover, in the fiscal year 2005 Nuclear Weapon Acquisition Reports (NWAR), which have been renamed Selected Acquisition Reports (SAR), NNSA changed its approach and is no longer using the block approach. Instead, NNSA bases the cost estimates in the SARs that are submitted to the Congress with NNSA's and DOD's annual budget requests on the total needed quantity of each weapon that is determined by the DOE/DOD Nuclear Weapons Council and the Bush Administration's Nuclear Posture Review.

    Recommendation: To improve the quality and usefulness of the NWARs, the Secretary of Energy should direct the Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration to begin reporting life extension costs at Phase 6.2 Feasibility Study and Option Down-Select.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In its October 22, 2002 Section 236 response to GAO's report, NNSA stated that while it believed it was important to capture the costs associated with the various life extensions in the Nuclear Weapons Acquisition Reports (NWARs), it did not believe it was appropriate to include the study phase costs (Phase 6.2) associated with the life extensions in the NWARs. In NNSA's view, until the Nuclear Weapons Council decides to go forward with the refurbishment--which happens in Phase 6.3--there is no program for which data can be reported. GAO continues to believe that once the refurbishment is authorized, the costs incurred in the earlier phases, such as 6.2, are relevant to presenting a complete picture of life extension program costs to Congress, and should be included in the NWARs.

    Recommendation: To improve the quality and usefulness of the NWARs, the Secretary of Energy should direct the Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration to include all weapon-specific research and development, testing, and construction costs, regardless of where the costs appear in NNSA's budget structure.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Initially, its October 22, 2002 Section 236 response, NNSA stated that it did not concur with this recommendation, and that it would not include all weapon specific costs, such as research and development costs, in the NWARs. However, after issuing its Section 236 response, in response to GAO's report GAO-03-583 on the stockpile life extension program, NNSA relented and established a team to review the management and budgeting by weapon system. As a result of the effort of this team, portions of the budget, such as research and development, were reassigned to the life extensions which are covered in the NWARs--now called Selected Acquisition Reports (SARs). This effort was contained in the fiscal year 2005 budget and accompanying fiscal year 2005 SARs.

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