Secretary of Defense Robert Gates spoke at the Carnegie Endowment For International Peace today (10/28/2008) — Topic: The Future Of U.S. Nuclear Weapons. I caught most of it on C-SPAN and have tried to paraphrase it below. It also looks like you’ll be able to listen to it yourself in the future via this link:
B-1 Bombers and four Trident Submarines no longer have a nuclear mission
In 1992 we unilaterally stopped nuclear testing and developed a Stockpile Stewardship Program
The U.S. has completed all reductions for START
The U.S. is planning to reach a 2/3 reduction of our 2000 nuclear deployed force numbers by 2010 as part of Moscow Treaty, nearly two years early
The U.S. will have 75% fewer nuclear weapons than at the end of the Cold War
A new defense triad developed:
Strike capability consisting of existing capabilities
Defense capability including a limited ballistic missile defense
New infrastructure to support
Rising and resurgent powers, rouge nations -- we need to keep a deterrence
Other countries lacking funding are putting more reliance on their nuclear force
Russia and China are not considered adversaries but we cannot ignore their developments
Proliferation: the fewer nuclear armed states, the better
We simply cannot predict the future, our track record has not been that great
The genie cannot be put back in the bottle
If we can accept that nuclear weapons are still relevant, must continue responsibility
Recent issues of Air Force handling of nuclear weapons and related material
1990’s streamlining folded some nuclear related components into regular supply chain
Another element to credibility: Safety, Security, and Reliability of the weapons
Our weapons are currently safe, secure, and reliable
Long term prognosis -- Bleak
No new design since the 1980’s, no new devices have been built since the 90’s
A serious brain drain of veteran nuclear scientists and technicians
NNSA has lost a quarter of work force since 90’s
Half of nuclear lab scientists are over fifty years old
By some estimates, three-quarters of experienced workforce will be at retirement age in several years
Weapons were designed on the assumption of a limited shelf life then replacement
Sensitive parts do not last forever and developed with narrow technical margins
No test to certify these weapons since 1992, test data becoming incomplete
Currently the U.S. is the only declared nuclear power that is neither modernizing its nuclear arsenal or has the capability to produce a new nuclear warhead
To be blunt, there is no way to maintain a credible deterrence while reducing the number of weapons in stockpile without testing or pursuing a modernization program
Funding for a Reliable Replacement Warhead program has only been supported at a conceptual phase and now the funding for that has been cut
The program did not deal with new capabilities; it dealt with the future credibility of our nuclear deterrent
The U.S. must transform from an aging cold war nuclear weapons complex to a smaller, less costly, modern enterprise that can meet our nations nuclear security needs
A new paradigm is required for the post cold-war world era
Need ability to deter a range of potential adversaries from taking a variety of actions
Also must face nation states passing weapons into the hands of terrorists
Need to design redundant systems to make attack appear pointless
As long as human nature is what it is…
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I retired early when the management of the Lawrence Livermore National Lab transitioned from the University Of California to LLNS. I saw the funding issues, I saw the moral issues, and I endured the management issues. I smile though as I reminisce to when I contributed my limited pieces to the puzzle.
p.s., My thanks to those who maintain the "LLNL, The True Story" web site.
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