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Presented at the 2009 Energy Communities Alliance Annual Conference

February 12, 2009

Presented at the 2009 Energy Communities Alliance Annual Conference Presented by Thomas D'Agostino, Administrator, NNSA

Good morning and thank you for inviting me here today. I appreciate the opportunity to discuss the future of NNSA, our contributions to broader national security challenges, and the transformation of our nuclear weapons complex.

Since many of your communities host sites that comprise our enterprise, I appreciate your past support and look forward to your continuing contributions to our work as we address the challenges of the future.

Today, one of our biggest challenges is the absence of a national consensus on the future role of our nuclear deterrent or on the implications of our nuclear posture for U.S. nonproliferation obligations/objectives.

While many are helping to promote a broader understanding of the nuclear mission, more must be done……. And soon, since we can’t wait years to address the inevitable degradation of our stockpile and infrastructure capabilities that comes with aging.

We must ensure our evolving strategic posture places the stewardship of our nuclear arsenal, nonproliferation programs, missile defenses, and the international arms control regime into one comprehensive strategy that protects the American people and our allies.

The core capabilities and expertise developed over six decades at sites near your communities must contribute even more to this “comprehensive strategy” in the future.

To date, our nuclear weapons program has:

  • Enabled critical global nuclear threat reduction efforts,
  • Supported nonproliferation, arms control, and nuclear counterterrorism advancements,
  • And it has contributed to a broad array of national security goals beyond nuclear weapons.

Let’s recall for a moment the role that U.S. deterrent served during the Cold War:

  • Helped to prevent the new large-scale wars of aggression that historically led to tens of millions of deaths,
  • Deterred the use of nuclear weapons against the U.S. and its allies,
  • Assured allies who rely on our extended deterrence for their own security, thus averting the need for them to undertake their own nuclear programs.

But today’s security environment is more varied, less predictable, and dependent on local and regional factors.

  • Regional tensions or the potential for major wars, have not gone away,
  • Nuclear weapons remain a factor in the security calculations of several countries, some with increasing emphasis, and
  • Opportunities for states to “go nuclear” may increase with trends of increased global reliance on nuclear power.

In this security environment, a credible extension of the U.S. nuclear umbrella to allies is at least as important today as it was a decade ago.

Moreover, with growing concerns about nuclear terrorism, renewed focus must be given to preventing terrorists from acquiring nuclear warheads or fissile materials.

And we should not expect terrorists to be deterred by threats of retaliation.

However, when coupled with vigorous programs to eliminate or restrict access to special nuclear materials, as well as, credible nuclear forensics capabilities and declaratory policy, the U.S. can send a strong, clear message to discourage the transfers of nuclear capabilities or materials to terrorists.

Therefore, as one component of a broad strategy for a safer world, the United States will continue to maintain a nuclear deterrent for the foreseeable future and it is my job in the National Nuclear Security Administration to take care of the warheads that make up the deterrent.

Over the coming months, President Obama will be advancing his program to bolster U.S. leadership in reducing global nuclear dangers and achieving strengthened nonproliferation.

Just look at the White House web page on “Preventing Nuclear Terrorism” which lists the following objectives:

  • Secure Nuclear Weapons Materials in Four Years:
  • Strengthen Policing and Interdiction Efforts:
  • Strengthen Nuclear Risk Reduction Work at Defense, State, and Energy Departments:
  • Convene a Summit on Preventing Nuclear Terrorism:
  • Strengthen the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and
  • Seek Real, Verifiable Reductions in Nuclear Stockpiles.

Our labs and plants in your communities will play a critical role in this effort through the world-class technical capabilities they bring to the table.

Let me explain.

Scientists and engineers in the National Nuclear Security Administration have developed and sustained a unique set of skills and capabilities that respond to a much broader array of nuclear security needs beyond nuclear weapons:

They provide support to international efforts to control warheads and fissile materials,

They provide support to the intelligence community on foreign nuclear weapons programs,

They have assessed potential terrorist nuclear designs and come up with ways to render safe these dangerous capabilities,

They are inventing new nuclear forensics capabilities to identify the origin of terrorist nukes and thereby provide means to deter witting state transfers of warheads/materials to terrorists,

These same scientists and engineers would respond to any nuclear incident anywhere in the world, and would be at the forefront of dealing with the consequences of such an event,

And of course they perform R&D to:

  • detect nuclear warheads/materials being smuggled, and
  • detect proliferant activities.

It is essential to retain these core capabilities and broaden and deepen their application to a much wider range of security issues beyond nuclear warheads.

In so doing, the common linkages connecting U.S. nuclear force posture, nuclear threat reduction, nonproliferation, nuclear counterterrorism, and arms control and disarmament will be strengthened and global security advanced.

As the nation reaches a consensus on the deterrent, I believe one thing will be clear…… we cannot move forward without a strong technical base to provide a foundation for our decisions.

This technical base is what makes the DOE and NNSA different from most other organizations.

In fact, if our stockpile gets smaller, we will depend on these capabilities even more in the future.

The importance of our capabilities, both in people and the infrastructure supporting them, are the reason that I called for transformation of our Complex nearly three years ago in testimony to Congress.

Our vision remains a smaller, safer, more secure and less expensive enterprise that leverages the scientific and technical capabilities of our workforce, and meets national security requirements.

We have made progress but much work remains to be done.

One example of progress is that a Complex Transformation Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement was completed to inform recent decisions on facilities and missions at our sites.

Many people from your communities participated in the more than 84 hours of public meetings last year as part of this environmental assessment process.

We received more than 100,000 comment documents on our proposed plans.

In December, 2008, I signed two records of decision on modernization and consolidation of aging facilities at our sites that considered this extensive public input.

However, Complex Transformation is about more than our physical infrastructure…. And the changes are far from being complete.

We must realize greater operational efficiencies to reduce our cost of doing business, optimize our people resources, and communicate better to enhance confidence in our operations.

We must encourage business practices, and incentives that will enhance operational agility, and cost effectiveness of our individual sites and overall enterprise.

Successful transformation will also depend on retaining and enabling a committed and highly skilled workforce.

The next generation of scientists, engineers, and technologists will need ready access to extensive training, anchored in mentor relationships with experienced personnel who are retiring at a troublesome rate, and must be given opportunities to work on meaningful tasks to grow their abilities and to enhance their intellectual prowess.

We must continue to transform in response to the national security needs of the future.


Despite uncertainties that may exist in the nuclear community, I am optimistic.

I am optimistic because I see the next phase of stockpile stewardship leading us into even more discovery and an even better understanding of our nuclear deterrent.

I am optimistic because the next phase will shed light on how we make the smallest stockpile consistent with our needs, the safest deterrent possible, and the most secure deterrent by deploying the best of modern security technologies, and the most reliable deterrent so that we can even have greater confidence that we would not need an underground test.

I am optimistic because I see a wonderful opportunity to come to a consensus on our nation’s security strategy.

I am optimistic because this consensus starts with meetings like this that provide an opportunity for dedicated community leaders to engage in the debate, thus providing inputs to our future.

I look forward to the Strategic Posture Commission report and subsequent nuclear posture review, knowing that both will help inform Congress and the Administration on a path forward that clearly defines our future direction.

A significant part of my job will be to participate in that national debate, but more importantly to lay out a vision for our nation’s capability in all things nuclear.

This vision is based on the reality that the nuclear debate is not just about warheads and the size of the stockpile.

The vision is that we must think more broadly and we must think about shifting our focus towards nuclear security…..  Or, within the NNSA, from a nuclear weapons complex to a nuclear security enterprise.

In the end it all comes down to people and unsurpassed technical capabilities.

It comes down to maintaining and attracting the best people in this country, doing incredibly challenging and important work for our Nation’s security.

What a fantastic opportunity we have before us.   Let’s be sure to get it right.

Thank you and I would be happy to take a few questions.

Washington, DC