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The Bush Administration's Views on the Future of Nuclear Weapons: Interview with NNSA Administrator Linton Brooks

Linton Brooks, the administrator of the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), discussed the Bush administration’s policy on a variety of issues related to the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile in a Dec. 2 interview with Arms Control Today Editor Miles Pomper and Arms Control Association Executive Director Daryl Kimball.

ACT: I assume right now you’re in the process of working out your fiscal year 2005 budget request, with the usual back and forth with the Office of Management and Budget. Could you tell us where you stand in the process and anything about your proposed request? Is it an increase from the bill that the president just signed, and what are some highlights?

Brooks: Well you know, until the budget goes forward, it’s all just talk, and there’s a pretty robust tradition: we don’t pre-empt the president. But the administration has been very clear in its support for nonproliferation, and I expect the budget to reflect that. The administration has been very clear that we need to maintain the safety, security, and reliability of the nuclear stockpile, and I expect the budget to reflect that. But we’re still in the formulation stage.

ACT: Any particular initiatives you might want to highlight?

Brooks: Well, once again, they call it the president’s budget for a reason, so if there are any initiatives, they will be his initiatives. But we’ve got more than enough to do to continue with the efforts that we’ve already got in place. So, I would expect you will see continued stress on the control of nuclear materials, particularly in Russia. I’d expect you to see continued stress on [research and development]. I’d expect you to see continued stress on border security in the sense of the so-called Second Line of Defense Program in Russia and what we call Megaports, which is tied to [the U.S. Custom Service’s] Container Security Initiative.[1] So, I think you’d see more of the same in most areas; and on the weapons side, I think you’ll see continued stress on the importance of stockpile stewardship and on the development of the tools that we’re using to substitute for the fact that we’re not testing.

ACT: You mentioned R&D…Congress just approved the repeal of the Spratt-Furse provision, as you know, which would allow NNSA to pursue low-yield nuclear weapons research.[2] How do you plan to use the $15 million that’s been earmarked for the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrating device?

Brooks: Well, first of all, it’s important to understand that those are two completely separate issues. The Congress approved the research on the Nuclear Earth Penetrator in fiscal year 2003, and it wasn’t impacted by the prohibition on low-yield nuclear weapons research because it isn’t anything new. At one level, what we’re doing with the Nuclear Earth Penetrator is very simple. We’re taking the existing bomb, and we’re putting a very heavy case around it so that it can penetrate into rock, and then we’re trying to figure out if we can take the existing nuclear package and have it still function. And we’re actually going to do that with two different bombs, the B61 and the B83, to see which version works. So, since it’s all existing weapons and it’s packaging, it wasn’t caught up [with the repeal of the Spratt-Furse provision].

The reason it was important to reduce or get rid of the prohibition on low-yield nuclear weapons was not because we’re trying to develop or developing low-yield nuclear weapons—that’s a common misconception. It’s one of those things that everyone knows, except if you go back, you can never find anybody from the administration who actually said that. What we said was that the amendment was poorly drawn and it prohibited research that could lead to a low-yield nuclear weapon. And so, we were in a situation where to think about anything you sort of had to have two physicists, an engineer, and a lawyer, because most concepts could lead to low-yield [weapons], regardless of what they were designed to do and because there are questions that needed to be investigated, questions about how you have a robust stockpile, an enduring stockpile in what could be a very long-term absence of testing. Do you need to redesign existing weapons to give yourself a greater margin? We didn’t want to get that caught up in questions of “Were we in violation of the law?”

In the nuclear weapons business, you have to be absolutely meticulous with regards to rules of law. So, we didn’t want to be in the position where we couldn’t do the thinking that we think we need. But there is no list of low-yield weapons we’re thirsting to develop—that’s a misconception.

ACT: So, what will you do with the $6 million you have earmarked for low-yield weapons?[3]

Brooks: Well, we don’t know. We’re going to work with the Department of Defense. There are a number of ideas. Those ideas range from capabilities we don’t have, such as the ability to destroy biological agents without spreading them, to improved safety and security to designs that are more capable or more robust in a no-testing environment. There could be some exploration of any or all of those. What we do on these is we work with the Department of Defense to try and sort out both what’s most technically interesting and what would be the most useful. But probably, it will be more of that effort will be focused on safety, security, flexibility, greater margins than on fundamental new capabilities.

ACT: Now, if I could just ask you about what kinds of criteria come into play with the decision about moving forward beyond research, on to these new concepts?

Brooks: Well, it depends a little bit on the concept. The kind of criteria that come into play…first of all, if you’re talking about a new concept, that obviously requires the Department of Defense to conclude that it needs it, and it also requires us to go back to Congress if we want to move into production. The secretary has been very clear in his testimony that we don’t believe that we can or should move from research into production without going back to Congress. The Congress has been equally clear in the law that that’s their view too.

ACT: You mean research into development and production?

Brooks: Development and production, yes. So, first question is, is there a military necessity? Second sort of criteria is cost. I mean, there are clearly things you can conceive of, things that are incrementally better, but they aren’t worth the cost. Third criteria is the ability to do whatever you want to do without testing. Nuclear weapons—and these are clichés, but clichés are useful— nuclear weapons are devices that are hotter than the surface of the sun and where time durations are measured in nanoseconds, and there is a good deal that is not perfectly understood, and so there’s a limit to how much you can change things without testing. The policy of the United States is that there is not now a need for testing. One would not be interested in pursuing something even if it were affordable, and even if there might be a military requirement, the criteria would be, can you do something without testing? And I guess a fourth criteria would be technical feasibility. I don’t think there’s a checklist in this sense, these are individualized decisions.

But for example, when our predecessors decided to develop a variant of the B61 bomb, the B61-11, which penetrates earth but not rock, and we just wanted the same thing, only with rock, they looked at those things. They looked at, “Was there a military necessity for this adaptation of a weapon?” They looked at, “Could they afford this?” They looked at, “Could they do without nuclear testing?” They looked at whether the technical risk was high. That was not in the legal sense a “new weapon,” anymore than the Earth Penetrator is in a legal sense, a “new weapon,” but it was an adaptation of an existing weapon. And so, they sort of went through that checklist—that’s kind of the checklist we would go through. But you know, we’re not there yet at the moment. At the moment, what I am trying to do is get a little less than one-tenth of one percent of the weapons budget to do some thinking, conceptual thinking that we haven’t been doing lately. I don’t mean to minimize the importance of the Advanced Concepts work—we’re pleased the Congress supported it, and we think it’s important—but it’s not most of what we do. Most of what we do is fairly straightforward stockpile stewardship.

Research Goals

ACT: Talking a little more about those other programs, more broadly, what are your goals for NNSA for the next two years on R&D? I mean, not just in this area, but stockpile stewardship and so on. And what are the priority areas that you’re looking to move ahead on?

Brooks: Well, I think there are several. First, there is the completion of the various tools that are part of the Stockpile Stewardship. The most obvious is the National Ignition Facility (NIF).[4] We won’t complete it in the next two years, but we will continue to move forward. It’s already the most powerful laser in the world at four percent of its ultimate capability. But it is very, very important because it’s the closest we can come to duplicating on a very small scale the physical phenomena involved in nuclear burn. Similarly, the ATLAS facility, which we’re reassembling in Nevada.[5] Similarly, the dual axis hydro-test facility, or hydro-test device, in Los Alamos.[6] So, that’s the first broad group of things, and that’s clearly where the most money is. It is in the scientific tools to continue the transformation of the nuclear weapons business from an empirical art to a theoretical science. Then, the second set of research priorities is in nonproliferation, and there it is to continue our ability both to monitor nuclear explosions in all environments and to detect and therefore deter proliferation. Third, I guess, is something we haven’t spent very much on, but over the next two years, we need to put more research and development into physical security and cyber-security. One of the things that we learned since September 11 is that there are groups of people who are willing to die to inflict damage on the United States, and that’s caused us to look very closely at the security of the nuclear weapons complex. I’m satisfied with where we are now, but in the long run, we need to leverage technology more. The strength of America is technology and not our ability to produce more and more guns and gates and guards. So, that’s a third broad area. I guess those are the three biggest.

ACT: Can I just ask you about the first set that you mentioned? There has been a running debate about the importance and the cost of the NIF. You came in here in the last year…tell me what your evaluation is of the importance of the NIF to the task of the maintaining the existing stockpile. Some have said that this is vital. Others have said that this would be useful, but it is not the major facility that is necessary to conduct the surveillance and evaluation necessary to maintain the stockpile. Can you give us your perspective on how this fits in?

Brooks: Well, first of all, that question was on people’s minds, particularly a few years ago when there were management and cost problems with the program.[7] Those have been largely overcome. The program is, as far as I can tell now, extremely well managed, it’s on schedule, it’s on cost, it’s meeting milestones, it’s worked over three million hours without a lost time action. Just in program management terms, things are going well, but it’s still a very expensive program. No single thing replaces nuclear testing. So, we have sort of a spectrum of things that work at different physical regimes, and all of them are necessary to give us a complete theoretical understanding of nuclear phenomena. NIF will do things that nothing else will do, and those things are important to the understanding of the physical phenomena. If you believe—it’s certainly the policy of the administration of the United States—that we would prefer not to return to nuclear testing, then things like NIF become important. It’s always hard to use words like “crucial.” If the building burns down tomorrow, I won’t recommend we get out of the nuclear business. But it’s clearly very, very important. We’ve looked at it. We’ve had it looked at by external groups, and I believe it is one of the most important of the major projects we’re doing.

ACT: Getting back to something you said a little earlier, you mentioned the possibility of low-yield research on preventing the spread of biological agents…

Brooks: As an example of one of the things that people sometime suggest as a fundamentally new capability.

ACT: As you know, there’s been a debate on this issue. Some people say—members of Congress, people at Los Alamos, and so on—that these kinds of warheads should be developed to destroy hardened bunkers, especially for chemical or bio agents. Others say you can destroy these bunkers, but you can’t do this without creating substantial collateral damage. Where do you come down in that debate?

Brooks: Well, but those are often given as if they are mutually exclusive. They’re not mutually exclusive. Look, to make it absolutely clear, the use of nuclear weapons is an awesome decision. The idea that you can have a nuclear weapon that is used without having anything happen is fanciful. And nobody in this administration has any interest in lowering the nuclear threshold, and it’s very important to keep that in mind. So, if jobs can be done, if military missions can be accomplished by conventional means, then of course that’s what you want. I mean, this is the administration that in the Nuclear Posture Review has recognized that nuclear and non-nuclear and nonkinetic means of offense need to be looked at in total. This is the administration that assigned new missions to the U.S. Strategic Command to provide that integration precisely because we don’t want to be left with the choice of nuclear or nothing.

So, you have to understand that the people who say that the use of nuclear weapons would have severe consequences are right—they’re right politically, and they’re right physically, and they’re right in terms of collateral damage. But it’s also true that there is a substantial difference between relatively low collateral damage and very high collateral damage. It’s also true that it might be better in certain circumstances to have collateral damage from a nuclear blast, but no spread of chemical or biological weapons. We don’t know whether or not there’s any role for nuclear weapons here because we haven’t been thinking for the last ten years. What we want to do…we keep getting asked, “What are you trying to develop?” I don’t know. I’m trying to get some smart people to think a little bit about what kind of capabilities we might be able to offer, and then there’s a debate to be had about whether those capabilities are needed, whether they’re worth the cost, both political and financial, whether they can actually be done. So, I want to have the same debate my critics want to have, only I just want to have facts, and they want it now.

ACT: Could I just ask a clarification question, which I am confused about? You mentioned the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator research on the B61 and B83.[8] You mention relatively low collateral damage and higher collateral damage…I mean, the B61 and the B83…

Brooks: Those are two separate discussions.

ACT: Those are big weapons as I understand.

Brooks: We don’t talk specific yields, but let’s just say whatever yield the B61 has now [is the] same yield it’s going to have after I put this hardened case on it. The issue with the Nuclear Earth Penetrator is a military effectiveness issue. It says, “Are there situations in which there is something in hard rock you’d like to destroy and you don’t know how to do it conventionally?” The answer: Probably. Could you do it with a nuclear weapon if you spent some money hardening it? That answer: I don’t know. That’s what the Congress is letting me go find out. Then, if the answer to that turns out to be “yes,” then there’s a debate to be had. Is having that capability worth the cost? And that’s the debate we’ll need to have, but it’s premature to have that debate until we’ve answered the technical question about whether is it feasible. Quite separately from that, there are those who would argue that any use of nuclear weapons is apocalyptic, and I tend to agree with that. But the question comes, do we have a responsibility, is it desirable to look at things which would have less collateral damage? And there, I think the answer is “yes,” but the difference is that “yes” doesn’t mean “none.” And so, that’s the kind of thing that we might look at, but I want to distinguish between that and the Nuclear Earth Penetrator. We’re not planning to change the physics package in those weapons at all. That’s why to some extent the blurring of that with other questions has been an unfortunate confusion.

ACT: When you talk about these hardened and deeply buried targets of concern, where are they? Are they in Russia, or are they elsewhere?

Brooks: Well, they’re in a number of countries. We’ve provided to the Congress in a classified report some details that the Department of Defense provided. But I’m not comfortable enough with what I know from The New York Times and what I know from highly classified intelligence [to talk about it].

ACT: Is this our traditional threat?

Brooks: This is not going up against the Russians in case Stalin comes back. That’s not what we’re primarily thinking of. We are thinking in terms of…I mean, what have we learned in the last 10 years? Well, everybody’s learned something a little different. One thing that I’ve learned is that our ability to predict the future is not nearly as good as we thought it was, and we’ve learned that we may need to deter people who have very different value sets. And we’ve learned that there are lots of people in lots of places who are building underground facilities. So, that suggests, without focusing at all on any particular country, that [there will] come a time when having the ability to hold at risk underground targets may be important. And the question is, “Should the president have that capability in his back pocket?” And the answer is: Don’t know. Depends on how much it costs, depends on all the things I won’t know until I finish doing the research.

The U.S. Nuclear Arsenal

ACT: The Nuclear Posture Review, the National Security Strategy documents, and the Moscow Treaty provide a rough outline for the force size, composition, and mission of the deployed and reserve nuclear arsenal. Can you fill in some of the details? I mean, for example, are there cuts we can expect in the arsenal in 2004 and 2005? Is there any more specificity now on the final size of the arsenal afterwards?

Brooks: Well, I mean, we’ve talked about the 1,700-2,200 in 2012. When you get into the specific requirements of the deployed arsenal, you’re in the wrong department. You really ought to talk to my friends in the Department of Defense. I won’t ask them to talk about stockpile stewardship, I probably ought not talk about force requirements.

ACT: But you must be involved at some level with the stockpile plan, which I think Congress asked for last year. Is that report scheduled to go to the Hill in the next few months?

Brooks: I believe we will be forwarding it. But once again, these are classified documents, and I am not in a position to talk. They are primarily…the generation of military requirements is primarily the responsibility of the Department of Defense. My function in all of that is to help understand what is feasible and then to figure out how to actually make sure that the weapons are safe, secure, reliable, there on time.

ACT: As you know, Congress only appropriated half of what you requested for fiscal 2004 for the Modern Pit Facility, in part because of the lack of the stockpile plan.[9] How is that going to affect your schedule for that project?

Brooks: We don’t know yet. The Modern Pit Facility, as you know, is not scheduled to actually reach IOC [Initial Operational Capability] until late in the next decade, so…

ACT: 2018, right?

Brooks: 2018, yes. So there’s plenty of time to catch up, assuming we reach consensus on where we’re going. We’re continuing to work on analyzing alternative locations. We’re continuing to work with our friends in the Department of Defense on getting the kind of stockpile detail the Congress wants. What is important to understand is, sooner or later, we have to build the Modern Pit Facility, and we have to do it for reasons that are not political, but physical. Plutonium is a radioactive material, and as it decays, its properties change. And there comes a point—and our estimates in the environmental impact statement were somewhere between 45 and 60 years—there comes a point at which uncertainties in the way plutonium behaves are so great that we can no longer be certain that the stockpile will function. What happens is, the plutonium decays, little pockets of gas build up, and the metallurgy changes. What you have to do is melt it down and reform it, and to do that, you need a facility that can make such pits. While we have an interim capability that we’re developing at Los Alamos, in order to rework the whole stockpile, we need a facility, and Congress understands that. So, the argument is not, “Will there be a facility?” The argument is a little about its size. And for that, you do need to understand the future stockpile. I’m fairly confident that we will be able to convince the Congress that we do have a handle on the stockpile and that we’ll get back on track with the Modern Pit Facility. We are very early in this process, and I don’t think it will be significantly delayed, but of course we will have to see.

ACT: Does the draft environmental impact statement suggesting that you might need 125-900 pits per year take into account the nuclear force reductions?

Brooks: I believe that it is 125-450. I don’t believe…I’ll have to go back and look, but certainty I’ve never heard anybody look at it [who doesn’t believe] that it’s much more likely to be at the low end of the range. Turns out, if you look at sort of a cost versus capability, it’s like most things. To do one pit a year costs a lot of money, and then after that it goes up fairly gently with more. If it turns out to be something less than 125, and you’ve sized it for 125, you haven’t really wasted very much money. That spec was set at a time when we sort of knew where we were going, but you don’t want to place too much emphasis on the numbers. In steady-state, it’s very easy. You tell me how long plutonium will last, you tell me how many weapons I’ve got, and I can tell you how many I have to process every year. But it’s not that way at the very beginning because we made them all in a bunch, so you’ll have to do greater processing at the beginning. That’s why you can’t afford to wait.

ACT: So, given that uncertainty about the overall size of the stockpile by 2018, given some of the uncertainty and changing findings about the aging properties of plutonium, do you see any scenario under which the existing facility at Los Alamos, TA-55, might be capable of producing the quantity? You’re quite definitive about the need for a facility, but TA-55 has been upgraded, and it has the capability of being upgraded further. Why can’t TA-55 do the job?

Brooks: Capacity. I think sooner or later, I mean, it might buy you some time, it certainty is important in giving you an interim capability. But the reason TA-55 is so important is not for the rework of the whole stockpile, but in case you have a problem that is unforeseen in a particular weapon that requires you to do some rework there. I don’t believe that anything like the numbers you need to turn over a stockpile of a few thousand, which is probably a prudent plan for 20 years from now—and we have many decisions—you can’t do that in a place like TA-55. Let’s just assume that we settle on a 50-year lifetime. Then, let’s say you can do 50 pits a year, which I think is…most people would wonder if you can get up that high at TA-55. That’s 2,500. You’re looking at 1,700-2,200 deployed, and when you look at spares and augmentation, it just…so that would be sort of the bare minimum you could get by with something…and I don’t think you can be certain enough 15 years in the future that that’s the stockpile, so I am pretty sure we’re going to need a facility.

ACT: You’ve talked about a number of times about not wanting to return to nuclear testing, and you’ve testified before that the stockpile is safe and reliable without testing. Do you foresee any need to resume nuclear testing in the next two to three years?

Brooks: No.

And why is that?

Brooks: Because everything that we know about the stockpile right now is that it is safe, secure, and reliable and that things that we need to investigate typically are things that can be investigated without nuclear testing. So, I don’t have any reason to believe that we were going to need to return to testing. But we can’t give up the ability to test if we discover a problem that can only be resolved through testing. That’s the reason why our view is completely consistent, the president having made it clear that we have no interest in returning to testing but having made it equally clear that we don’t plan to endorse the Comprehensive Test Ban [Treaty], which would preclude us from doing what we need at some hypothetical time in the future. But absolutely no reason to believe that there will be any need to test in the next few years, and that shouldn’t be taken to imply that we’ll need to test afterwards, it’s just these are inherently hard…it’s hard to foresee problems that you haven’t yet found.

ACT: Last fall, former undersecretary for acquisition at DOD, Mr. [Edward “Pete”] Aldridge, seemed to have some other thoughts. I think he sent a memo to the lab directors and others at the Nuclear Weapons Council to look into the value of a renewed testing program to maintain the safety and reliability of the arsenal.[10] Does that research effort or that study continue, and what motivated that request?

Brooks: Well, you would have to ask Pete Aldridge what motivated it specifically. He and I talked about the importance of asking the question. What I think motivated it was that it’s important to make sure to make sure that what I just said is true. So, you have to think through it fairly systematically. We did that. We had a conference in August, which examined a number of questions about maintaining the stockpile. I’m not going to go into the details of that conference, which was classified, but I was there, and you heard what I just said about the need for testing. So, I don’t believe there’s any disagreement in the community. But you need to keep looking at these things. We look at a lot of things, not because we’ve decided that we need to change things…it’s a lot like some of the Advanced Concepts work. You need to keep looking to make sure you understand where the science is and where stockpile is and what could be done. You need to stop and systematically ask yourself, and we do every year when we do the assessment of the stockpile, is there any need for testing? And each year, we’ve concluded, “No, there’s no need.”

Proliferation Concerns

ACT: I know you’re short on time, so two quick proliferation questions I wanted to ask. One has to do with the programs with Russia, the various programs of cooperation in the nuclear arena. Appropriators expressed concern about the failure of, the lapse of various agreements with Russia, particularly the Nuclear Cities Initiatives and plutonium disposition activities…[11]

Brooks: One of the plutonium disposition activities…

ACT: Right. Can you tell us, first of all, what is the status of negotiations with the Russians, and how would you respond to critics who contend that these programs were already on the administration’s chopping block and the administration is using this holdup as an excuse to drop them?

Brooks: Let me answer the second one first: that’s nonsense, just absolutely nonsense. The Plutonium Disposition Program remains important, and we continue to work on the liability. The Nuclear Cities…the secretary worked with his Russian counterpart to take advantage of a provision in the Nuclear Cities agreement that allows us to continue on-going programs, and we did a survey of all the on-going projects, making sure we got as many as possible started, so they could be called on-going and codified that when Deputy Administrator Paul Longsworth and his counterpart met in September.[12] We did that precisely so we could keep this going until we are able to reestablish a formal agreement.

…The issue with the Russian Federation has been liability. The United States believes that, in the present state of the Russian legal system, it’s important that our contractor and our personnel be indemnified against liability for their acts. The Russians accepted that principle in the Cooperative Threat Reduction Agreement. They accepted it again when they extended it. They are having some trouble in generalizing that principle, and we’re working with them, but I’m confident that it’s solvable.

Once solved, we will revive, if you will, the Nuclear Cities agreement. It will be formally a new agreement, but it will be the same Nuclear Cities program, with liability solved. Once it’s resolved, we will continue plutonium disposition. So, what you’re seeing is the clash of competing values. We want the programs to go forward. We want adequate liability protection. Particular agreements turned out to be the ones that happened to expire in 2003. If there had been some other agreements that had happened to expire, they’d have been the ones, because we were unwilling to renew an agreement without adequate liability, but we are willing to continue working with agreements. We didn’t preemptively cancel Nuclear Cities…

ACT: You said you front-loaded these into the pipeline before the agreement expired. Is there a date when that will bite?

Brooks: Ummm…I don’t know. The Congress last year gave us the authority to merge the Nuclear Cities and the Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention into something called Russian Transition Initiatives. Because of that, we have a good deal of flexibility to shift money back and forth, so that also lets us continue the effort. You know, I want to see Nuclear Cities…We are hopeful that the liability issue will be resolved soon. We measure soon, I think, in single-digit number of months. It’s not days or weeks. It’s just a practical matter of dynamics of Russian politics and the Duma elections are such that we’re not going to get this all sorted out until the after the first of the year.

ACT: Your boss, Secretary [Spencer] Abraham, said in his speech to the [United Nations] that world leaders had to think about how the grand bargain between nuclear and non-nuclear states “can be sustained into the future.” As you know, one of the major threats to that bargain has been the ability of non-nuclear states to manipulate the NPT’s provisions for the transfer of peaceful nuclear technology to aid clandestine nuclear weapons programs. What might be done to alter this bargain? For example, what is your view of IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei’s suggestion to place under multilateral control crucial fuel-cycle facilities for plutonium reprocessing and uranium enrichment? Are there discussions within [the Department of Energy] and elsewhere about how to deal with this?

Brooks: There’s always discussions. There’s always discussions. It’s an important issue. I think in general terms, you have the right to believe that, if there are important issues, somebody who works for me is trying to think through it. Problem is, thinking through thinking and coming up with great ideas that can actually be implemented aren’t the same thing. So, as the secretary made it clear, we are trying to understand how we can modernize the fundamental bargain of Atoms for Peace, the notion that we could proliferate the benefits of nuclear power without proliferating nuclear weapons. And almost certainly, focusing on fuel cycle is the right way to do that. But whether that suggests simply more attention to the current regime, new regimes, we don’t know that yet.

ACT: Is there anything you’d like to add that we have not asked about?

Brooks: I guess only that we talked about the nonproliferation, and we talked about the weapons program, and it’s important to understand that, from our perspective, we’re talking not about two things, but one. The creation of the National Nuclear Security Administration and the consolidation of these programs under me is because we see them as very deeply related. Their related technically obviously. I mean, what I learn in protecting American nuclear weapons spills over into my ability to protect Russian nuclear weapons. But they are linked philosophically, and that is that, on the one hand, we want to minimize threats to the United States by making sure that nuclear materials and nuclear weapons stay out of the hands of people who would do us harm.

On the other hand, we want to make sure that we have a safe and effective deterrent, so even if people acquire the capability to do us harm, they will, to the maximum extent possible, be deterred from doing so. So, it’s often been suggested that there’s some tension between a weapons program and a nonproliferation program, but as somebody who’s responsible for both, I don’t see tension, I see complementarity, and I think that’s the point I’d like your readers to understand.


1. The Second Line of Defense Program is a National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) cooperative program with the Russian Federation and other countries to detect and deter the illicit trafficking of nuclear and radiological material at strategic transit and border sites such as border crossings and air and sea transshipment hubs. The Megaports Initiative builds upon the experience gained through the Second Line of Defense Program to provide technical assistance to screen the world’s busiest seaports for radioactive material prior to shipping cargo to U.S. ports.

2. The Spratt-Furse amendment [Sec. 3136 of P.L.103-160, the FY 1994 National Defense Authorization Act] bars “the conduct of research and development that could lead to the production by the United States of a low-yield nuclear weapon which, as of the date of the enactment of this Act [Nov. 30, 1993] has not entered production.” The law defines a “low-yield nuclear weapon” as one that has “a yield of less than 5 kilotons.”

3. Congress appropriated $6 million for the Advanced Concepts Initiative, which has been suspended since 1993. Christine Kucia, “Congress Authorizes New Weapons Research,” Arms Control Today, December 2003.

4. The National Ignition Facility (NIF), billed as the world’s largest laser, is a 192-beam facility under construction at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories to support the Stockpile Stewardship Program. It will simulate the temperatures and pressures that occur during nuclear-weapon explosions to study fusion ignition and to monitor the effect of aging on the reliability of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. When construction began in 1997, the projected cost of NIF was $1.2 billion. Arms Control Today, May 1997.

5. The ATLAS facility is a pulse-powered energy implosion device originally constructed at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico to support the Stockpile Stewardship Program. The Department of Energy is reassembling the facility at a Nevada location, where it will continue to support stockpile management but will also be used for other experiments.

6. The Dual-Axis Radiographic Hydrodynmaic Test Facility (DARHT) at Los Alamos National Laboratories, when completed, will provide stereoscopic viewing (3-D) of imploding pits in support of the Stockpile Stewardship Program.

7. On August 17, 2000, the General Accounting Office (GAO) issued a report that sharply criticized the Energy Department for “inadequate oversight” and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for “poor management” of the National Ignition Facility. Officials associated with the program apparently told GAO that they knowingly submitted unrealistically low budget estimates to Congress in order to secure approval for the project, believing that “the value of NIF to the future of the Laboratory overshadowed potential cost concerns.” Arms Control Today, September 2000.

8. The B61 and B83 are nuclear gravity bombs. The B61 Mod 11 was developed in 1997 and has an upper yield in the hundreds of kilotons, while the B83 is a megaton-class weapon.

9. The Bush administration requested and received authorization for a funding level of $22.8 million for the Modern Pit Facility, but appropriators only provided $10.8 million. Christine Kucia, “Congress Authorizes New Weapons Research,” Arms Control Today, December 2003.

10. The memo was sent October 21, 2002. Christine Kucia, “Pentagon Memo Raises Possibility of Nuclear Testing,” Arms Control Today, December 2002, p. 14.

11. The Nuclear Cities Initiative provides U.S. assistance to Russia to shut down former weapons production sites that comprised the core of Russia’s nuclear weapons infrastructure during the Cold War and to channel the talents of former nuclear weapons scientists and engineers into non-nuclear or civilian projects. The plutonium initiative enables U.S. and Russian scientific collaboration to help Russia dispose of excess plutonium, and the program is a key component of current efforts to establish mixed-oxide fuel facilities in both countries to begin disposing of 34 metric tons of plutonium under a September 2000 agreement. Both agreements are set to expire this year if not renewed. Christine Kucia, “Liability Concerns Jeopardize Renewal of Nonproliferation Programs With Russia,” Arms Control Today, September 2003, p. 40.

12. Paul Longsworth is the deputy administrator for defense nuclear nonproliferation of the NNSA.

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