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entitled 'Nuclear Weapons: Preliminary Results of Review of Campaigns 
to Provide Scientific Support for the Stockpile Stewardship Program' 
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United States Government Accountability Office:

Washington, DC 20548:

April 29, 2005:

The Honorable Terry Everett:
The Honorable Silvestre Reyes:
Ranking Member:
Strategic Forces Subcommittee:
Committee on Armed Services:
House of Representatives:

Subject: Nuclear Weapons: Preliminary Results of Review of Campaigns to 
Provide Scientific Support for the Stockpile Stewardship Program:

In 1992, the United States began a unilateral moratorium on testing 
nuclear weapons. Subsequently, in 1993, the President and the Congress 
directed the Department of Energy (DOE) to establish a program to 
ensure the preservation of the United States' core intellectual and 
technical competencies in nuclear weapons without testing.[Footnote 1] 
In response, DOE developed the Stockpile Stewardship Program to (1) 
increase understanding of the basic phenomena associated with nuclear 
weapons, (2) provide a better predictive understanding of the safety 
and reliability of nuclear weapons, and (3) ensure a strong scientific 
and technical basis for future U. S. nuclear weapons policy objectives. 
The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a separately 
organized agency within DOE, is responsible for carrying out the 
Stockpile Stewardship Program. This responsibility encompasses many 
different tasks, including activities associated with the research, 
design, development, simulation, modeling, and nonnuclear testing of 
nuclear weapons, as well as the planning, assessment, and certification 
of the weapons' safety and reliability. Three nuclear weapons design 
laboratories support NNSA's mission: Lawrence Livermore National 
Laboratory (LLNL) in California, Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) 
in New Mexico, and Sandia National Laboratories in California and New 

In 1999, DOE developed a new structure for the Stockpile Stewardship 
Program that included a series of what DOE called "campaigns," which 
DOE defined as technically challenging, multiyear, multifunctional 
efforts to develop and maintain the critical capabilities needed to 
continue assessing the safety and reliability of the nuclear stockpile 
into the foreseeable future without underground testing. DOE originally 
created 18 campaigns that were designed to focus its efforts in science 
and computing, applied science and engineering, and production 
readiness. Other program activities associated with the Stockpile 
Stewardship Program include "directed stockpile work," which includes 
the activities that directly support maintaining the current weapons in 
the stockpile, and "readiness in technical base and facilities," which 
includes the physical infrastructure and operational readiness required 
to conduct campaigns and directed stockpile work activities.

The Stockpile Stewardship Program is now over 10 years old, and NNSA's 
campaign structure is in its sixth year. In this context, you asked us 
to determine (1) how NNSA has organized the campaigns to provide the 
scientific capabilities required to support the nuclear stockpile, (2) 
the extent to which the scientific campaigns have met their overall 
goals and supporting milestones, and (3) the effectiveness of NNSA's 
current planning process for the campaigns. To address these issues, we 
identified the six individual NNSA campaigns that primarily deal with 
providing the scientific capability required to support the nuclear 
stockpile. For these campaigns, we reviewed NNSA campaign planning 
documents and other documents related to campaign performance, such as 
external review panel reports. We also interviewed campaign program 
managers at NNSA, LLNL, and LANL. We focused our work principally on 
two campaigns--the Primary Assessment Technologies (Primary) and 
Secondary Assessment Technologies (Secondary) campaigns--because these 
campaigns set the requirements for the experimental data and computer 
models needed to assess and certify the performance of nuclear weapons. 
We briefed your staff on the preliminary results of our review. This 
letter summarizes our briefing. Enclosure I contains the briefing 
slides we presented. We conducted the work for this letter from August 
2004 through April 2005 in accordance with generally accepted 
government auditing standards. Our work is continuing, and we expect to 
issue a final report on NNSA's Stockpile Stewardship Program scientific 
campaigns in December 2005.

In summary:

NNSA has six individual campaigns that are intended to provide the 
scientific capability required to support the nuclear stockpile. The 
Primary and Secondary campaigns are designed to analyze and understand 
the different scientific phenomena that occur in the primary and 
secondary stages of a nuclear weapon during detonation.[Footnote 2] As 
such, the Primary and Secondary campaigns set the requirements for the 
experimental data and computer models needed to assess and certify the 
performance of nuclear weapons. Four other campaigns--Dynamic Materials 
Properties, Advanced Radiography, Advanced Simulation and Computing, 
and Inertial Confinement Fusion and High Yield--provide the 
experimental and computational support needed to meet the goals set by 
the Primary and Secondary campaigns. For example, the Advanced 
Simulation and Computing campaign provides the leading-edge computers 
and models needed to simulate the performance of nuclear weapons 
without underground testing. From fiscal year 2001 to fiscal year 2004, 
NNSA spent about $5.8 billion on these six campaigns.

The Primary and Secondary campaigns have not achieved the overall goals 
originally established for them in 1999; however, the Primary and 
Secondary campaigns have made progress in completing important 
supporting milestones. Initially, the Primary campaign set goals for 
certifying the primary stage of a nuclear weapon to within a stated 
primary yield level during the 2005 to 2010 time frame. The goals for 
the Secondary campaign were closely linked to the goals established for 
the Primary campaign. However, achieving these goals has been 
technically challenging and has depended on the timely completion of 
major facilities such as the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at LLNL 
and the Dual Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test Facility (DARHT) at 
LANL--both of which have experienced major delays due to problems with 
technical issues and project management and are still not 
complete.[Footnote 3] In 2003, NNSA modified the original goals for the 
Primary and Secondary campaigns and extended them into the 2010 to 2014 
time frame.

Between 1999 and 2003, NNSA did not have a uniform planning process for 
approving and tracking campaign milestones, and the planning process 
that did exist was not applied in a consistent manner at LANL and LLNL. 
However, in 2003, NNSA implemented a new planning process for the 
campaigns, including the establishment of a uniform set of requirements 
for campaign program and implementation plans. In addition, NNSA 
implemented a system for tracking the progress of major milestones 
through the use of a milestone reporting database and a quarterly 
performance review meeting for managers involved in the Stockpile 
Stewardship Program. However, NNSA officials have acknowledged that 
current campaign plans still do not provide clear linkages between 
goals and supporting milestones, and they do not adequately coordinate 
and set priorities for the scientific research currently conducted 
across the weapons complex. In response, NNSA officials are revising 
campaign plans and overall milestones for the Primary campaign for 
fiscal year 2006. Finally, NNSA, LANL, and LLNL officials have endorsed 
the use of a new methodology for assessing and certifying nuclear 
warheads. This methodology, known as the Quantification of Margins and 
Uncertainties, draws together data from simulations, experiments, and 
expert judgments to quantify confidence factors for the key potential 
failure areas in a nuclear weapon. However, NNSA and laboratory 
officials, as well as outside experts, acknowledge that this 
methodology is still incomplete and evolving. According to NNSA plans, 
full implementation of this methodology is not expected until the 2010 
to 2014 time frame.

We provided NNSA with a draft of our report and received oral comments 
from NNSA's Assistant Deputy Administrator for Research, Development, 
and Simulation. NNSA generally agreed with our findings. With respect 
to our statement on the implementation of the Quantification of Margins 
and Uncertainties methodology, NNSA stated that it plans to establish 
intermediate milestones to support the implementation of this 
methodology prior to 2010. NNSA also stated that it believes this 
methodology provides a clearer and more comprehensive approach to 
assessing the performance of nuclear weapons than was provided by the 
initial goals established for the Primary and Secondary campaigns. In 
addition, NNSA made technical clarifications that we incorporated as 
appropriate in this report.

As agreed with your offices, we will make copies of this letter 
available to others upon request. This letter will also be available at 
no charge on GAO's Web site at

If you or your staff have any questions about this letter or need 
additional information, please contact me at (202) 512-3841 or James 
Noel, Assistant Director, at (202) 512-3591.

Major contributors to this letter include Jason Holliday, Keith Rhodes, 
Judy Pagano, Doreen Feldman, Carol Herrnstadt Shulman, and Peter 

Signed by: 

Gene Aloise:

Director, Natural Resources and Environment:


Preliminary Results of Review of Stockpile Stewardship Program 
Scientific Campaigns:

[See PDF for slide presentation]

[End of slide presentation]

[End of section]



[1] National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1994, Pub. L. 
No. 103-160, . 3138 (Nov. 30, 1993).

[2] Modern nuclear weapons have two stages: the primary, which is the 
initial source of energy, and the secondary, which is driven by the 
primary and provides additional explosive energy. 

[3] DARHT was originally scheduled for completion in 2003 and is now 
scheduled for completion in 2008. NIF will not be complete until 2008, 
5 years after the original completion date of 2003.