In the absence of nuclear testing, assessment of the state of the stockpile must rely on analytic and computational evaluations, comparisons with archived data, and sophisticated new experiments. This assessment activity fits within the category of “predictive science,” which provides the capability for improved understanding of the underlying physics of materials and components in nuclear weapons. This physics-based understanding is then extrapolated through the integrated response at the engineering level to an understanding of the performance of specific weapon systems.
The Predictive Capability Framework (PCF) is a planning methodology that coordinates the complex array of performance requirements that constitute stockpile assessment, with the development of advanced calculational methods for evaluating this performance.
As shown in Figure 1, this predictive science activity proceeds from key planning documents (e.g., the Primary Assessment Plan), through organization and scheduling of the major components of work by the PCF to implementation by the Programs and Campaigns. In addition, there is crucial “feedback” from programmatic activity to the PCF and master planning. This feedback establishes resource requirements and indicates when there is a need for revision of high level planning assumptions.
Figure 1 The Role of PCF in Stockpile Stewardship and Management Planning
The PCF planning process produces a continually updated array of scheduled and interlinked activities, such as development of sophisticated modeling tools, which are required for continued assessment and certification of the stockpile. PCF planning also includes schedules for a sophisticated array of experimental tests required to verify key stockpile modeling tools.
Figure 2 shows the current array high level activities as formulated in the PCF. Each of the points (referred to as “pegposts”) in the PCF represents a major body of work that contributes to some aspect of stockpile assessment or certification. Prominent examples are the four key elements of the National Boost Initiative (each represented by a pegpost). The progression of work in key groupings of science, technology, and engineering activity are represented by the five lines or “strands.” In the language of Project Management, the PCF pegpost diagrams are akin to Pert or Gantt charts or, in other words, an array of scheduled, interlinked activities that lead to well-established major goals.
Figure 2. Current array of pegposts or major bodies of work projected within the Predictive Capability Framework
The PCF is also highly linked to the Component Maturation Framework (CMF). The CMF performs a similar role for technology development that the PCF does for Predictive Science. An example of the linkage is computational tools charted in the PCF are crucial for the design of some key new technologies in the CMF Plan. Conversely, the CMF (and the Technical Basis for Stockpile Transformation Planning) often project changes in stockpile technology that PCF-based tools must assess and validate.
The PCF also has a formal management process. Pegposts are outyear projections of requirements that do not yet have a complete development plan. Before placement on the PCF chart, each pegpost must have a complete management plan whereby it will evolve into a specific milestone deliverable on a 3-year timescale. All of these steps are outlined in a comprehensive PCF Management Plan. The PCF Council, composed of high level representatives of the three weapons laboratories in concert with National Nuclear Security Administration management, oversees this plan.
The PCF and its planning methodology are a vital part of the Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan—the overarching plan for Defense Programs activity.