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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Albright: '3+2' Warhead Strategy Unlikely To Be Realized

Weapons Complex Monitor
March 25, 2014

Albright: '3+2' Warhead Strategy Unlikely To Be Realized

Budgetary pressure and technical considerations are likely to doom the Obama Administration’s “3+2” strategy for modernizing the nation’s nuclear stockpile, former Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Director Parney Albright said yesterday. Speaking at George Washington University, Albright said he supported the strategy, which would modernize and consolidate the nation’s nuclear stockpile through three interoperable warheads, a gravity bomb and an air-launched cruise missile, but he painted a bleak picture for the strategy’s prospects, which has received a lukewarm response from Congress and the military.

Albright said the Administration’s recent decision to delay work on the W78/W88 interoperable warhead by five years would likely trigger a series of events moving the Administration away from the strategy. With the interoperable warhead delayed, he noted that the Administration still will need to do work on the non-nuclear portion of the W88, which he suggested is likely to expand to include the nuclear package as well. “Then the Navy almost certainly will argue that if I’m doing that, why do I want to pay for an interoperable warhead; that costs too much money,” said Albright, who resigned from the top spot at Livermore in October. “Let’s just go ahead and make this the way we did last time which is what they did on the W76.” Such an approach would decrease the incentive for the Air Force to pursue an interoperable warhead for the W78, and could lead to its retirement if the Air Force concludes it can live with the W87 as its only ICBM warhead. “I really think ‘3+2’ is the right thing to do. I really do,” Albright said. “I just don’t think it’s going to happen. I think there is a reasonable chance that we should be prepared for.”

Whether the “3+2” strategy succeeds or fails, Albright suggested the nation’s nuclear weapons laboratories and their workforce face a grim future with a large gap in warhead work looming, and he argued that new weapons designs could invigorate the workforce. “If you don’t change how you think about Stockpile Stewardship then the labs basically become Maytag repairmen,” he said. “They’re basically—‘let’s take these things down to Pantex, let’s cut them open, oh, there’s a smudge, let’s fix it or not fix it and go forward.’ Think about the kind of workforce you’ll attract in that kind of environment if that was all they did.”

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

We have two competing sets of Maytag repair men arguing with each other about two whether to fix the smudge.

Anonymous said...

If you were part of the actual process, you'd know that's not true.

Anonymous said...

I think Parney did a favor to current employees by clearly framing a question.

A current or perspective employee can ask policy makers, say Diane Feinstien, "... are you going to support sufficient weapons science or am I going to be a "Maytag repairman"?

The answer illuminates your future choice.

Anonymous said...

"Basic weapons science" funding will not help if the "Maytag repairman" proves incapable of solving the problem. You will need experienced weapons engineers and scientists who have hands-on knowledge of the system. Not many of those are left, and they are apparently not valued by the people who should be worried about the issues that are currently causing concern. Everyone who should be taking responsibility for the problems is clueless or purposely looking the other way. It used to be that people cared about a credible nuclear deterrent.

Anonymous said...

Our main deterrent isn't nuclear, it's our conventional air force and navy followed by our army. That will be enough for any potential adversary excepting maybe Russia and China. But given our 5000-bomb stockpile, any single one of which would probably suffice to give pause to a confrontation as all sides ponder armageddon, why do we need more than Maytag repairmen?

Anonymous said...

As we're about to find out, neither the NATO alliance nor the US has conventional forces that have the capability to stand up to Russia.

Anonymous said...

But that's what nukes have done for 70 years, without being used and (for the last 20+ years) without testing either - they ensure that Russia and the US/NATO will never battle a conventional war. Still only need Maytag repairmen.

Anonymous said...

It will start conventional. Then all bets are off.

Anonymous said...

A nuclear deterrent keeps other country's from attacking your territory. Is does nothing to stop other countries from attacking smaller country's. See Russia in Ukraine for further enlightenment.

We do need a great conventional force to keep others at bay.

Anonymous said...

You think a "great conventional force" will keep Iran from nuking Israel, or Israel from nuking them back? Who do you think gets nuked next? Any conventional war between nuclear-capable states WILL go nuclear. That includes any conventional attack against any NATO state.

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