Design Basis Threat

NNSA has taken aggressive action to improve the security of its nuclear weapons material (often referred to as special nuclear material, or SNM) and nuclear weapons in its custody.

NNSA has taken aggressive action to improve the security of its nuclear weapons material (often referred to as special nuclear material, or SNM) and nuclear weapons in its custody.  One major challenge has been, and remains, ensuring that SNM is well protected, while at the same time, accessible for use in meeting the critical work activities of U.S. national security missions – maintaining a safe, reliable, and credible nuclear deterrent, supporting the nation’s nuclear non-proliferation efforts, and advancing energy security.

After the events of September 11, 2001, the Department of Energy set new requirements, called the Design Basis Threat (DBT), for securing the nation's nuclear weapons and weapons material.

NNSA met the goals of the first Design Basis Threat (DBT) policy at sites with nuclear material that requires the highest levels of security.  The net effect of these upgrades continues to be that the nuclear weapons complex is among the most heavily fortified and secured locations in the world.

Meeting the Second Design Basis Threat Policy
The Department of Energy has issued a new DBT which reflects a significant increase in the planning threat over the first one for facilities that have high-security nuclear weapons material.  While this is a large increase in threat capability, the upgrades in response to the first DBT do provide a strong foundation for future improvements.  Some of the new guidelines include:

  • Improved protective force tactical capabilities with expanded training ranges and support facilities, advanced tactical training courses, and additional full-time instructors.
    • The shift to an "Elite Forces," or Tactical Response Force (TRF) model, to transform NNSA's protective forces into a more tactically oriented force, well-trained in the small unit and weapons tactics, is a critical feature of NNSA's future upgrades plans.
  • Additional utilization of technology to augment the detection, delay, and attrition of attacking adversaries in order to:
    • Achieve detection further from our traditional security boundaries;
    • Engage the threat at longer distances and with greater efficiency;
    • Increase the survivability of site protective forces; and
    • Enhance command, control, and communication for protective forces.
  • Partner with NNSA's Office of Defense Programs in transforming the nuclear weapons complex to one which is more agile and responsive to our nation's needs.
    • Consolidation of SNM operations and storage is key to reducing the number of targets that must be defended and reducing the fiscal burden of protecting our sites. This consolidation is a key part of NNSA's "Complex Transformation" vision to guide transformation to a smaller, more effective and more efficient nuclear weapons complex.
    • NNSA is removing all of its high-security nuclear weapons material from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory by 2012. NNSA removed all of this material from Sandia National Laboratories in 2008.
    • Major construction projects, such as Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility at Y-12 and the Nuclear Materials Safeguards & Security Upgrades Project at Los Alamos National Laboratory will provide significant security upgrades.