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

GAO-05-636R Published: Apr 29, 2005. Publicly Released: Apr 29, 2005.
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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. 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 Mexico. 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, Congress 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.

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