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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 51, October 2000

Report on US Nuclear Weapons Production Infrastructure

On September 22, an Audit Report into the ' of the Nuclear Weapons Production Infrastructure' was released by the US Energy Department' Office of the Inspector General. The audit, conducted between July 1999 and June 2000, expressed significant concerns about the effectiveness of the Department' Stockpile Stewardship Programme. The report' findings - accepted by the Administrator of the Department' National Nuclear Security Administration, John Gordon - were summarised as follows in a September 22 memorandum from Inspector General Gregory H. Friedman to Secretary Richardson:

"Since the cessation of underground testing of nuclear weapons in the early 1990s, the Department of Energy' responsibility to ensure the safety, security, and reliability of the nuclear weapons stockpile has been met through its Stockpile Stewardship Program. ... In 1998, the Department concluded that maintenance problems existed within the nuclear weapons complex. Postponement of repairs to aging and deteriorating weapons complex facilities had resulted in a $422 million maintenance and repair backlog at the production facilities. At that time, the Department planned to initiate actions to resolve these maintenance issues. The objective of the audit was to determine whether the Department had maintained the nuclear weapons production infrastructure to meet current and future goals of the Stockpile Stewardship Plan. ...

Results of Audit

Because the nuclear weapons production infrastructure has not been adequately maintained, current and future goals of the Stockpile Stewardship Program are at risk. Although the data available to us suggests that current military requirements were being met, the deterioration of the infrastructure has resulted in delays in weapons modification, remanufacture and dismantlement, and in the process of surveillance testing of nuclear weapons components.

The audit disclosed that the Department had not fully implemented a process to link workload, production capacity, and budget information with facility requirements. As a result, some Stockpile Stewardship Plan milestones have slipped or have not been attained, restoration costs have increased, and future nuclear weapons production work, as required by Presidential Decision Directives, is at risk. Knowledgeable officials within the National Nuclear Security Administration and the Department of Defense have estimated that the Department must invest $5 billion to $8 billion more than currently budgeted amounts over the next 10 years to offset the effects of delayed or neglected infrastructure activities.

We recommended that the [NNSA] Administrator...develop an overall infrastructure restoration plan based on individual site plans and current and planned stockpile workload requirements. In our judgment, the infrastructure restoration plan, among several benefits, would provide a documented rationale for future weapons complex maintenance funding requests. ...

The findings in our report are consistent with observations made by the Under Secretary [Ernest Moniz] in his November 1999 report, US Department of Energy Stockpile Stewardship Program 30-Day Review. The Under Secretary described a large ' wave' of deferred improvements needed to address ' and marginally maintained' facilities. Based on this study, the Department, in May 2000, initiated a comprehensive review of infrastructure challenges facing the Nuclear Weapons Production Complex. Our report includes descriptions of specific maintenance problems that, if not corrected in a timely fashion, could jeopardize achieving significant aspects of the Department' Stockpile Stewardship Program."

Note: the full report is available at http://www.ig.doe.gov/pdf/ig-0484.pdf.

Report: Management of the Nuclear Weapons Production Infrastructure, Audit Report, US Department of Energy Office of Inspector General, DOE/IG-0484, September 22.

© 2000 The Acronym Institute.