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Securing NNSA's Nuclear Weapons Complex in a Post-9/11 World

January 02, 2009

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has several missions that are critical to the country's national security. NNSA is responsible for securing thousands of nuclear weapons and components, and hundreds of tons of special nuclear material in all forms, shapes and sizes. The eight sites in NNSA's nuclear weapons complex are some of the most secure facilities in the world, because NNSA uses the best, most modern security technology, deploys the most sophisticated assets and has a well-trained, world-class protective force to keep nuclear weapons and material secure.

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, NNSA took steps to protect its critical facilities from vehicle bombs, strengthened its facilities against attacks, and improved the training and equipment of its protective forces. A key to improved security has been consolidating materials and reducing facilities as part of NNSA's future complex-wide transformation efforts. In response to increased security demands, NNSA:

  • Consolidated Material and Hardened Facilities

    • Reduced the number of targets to be protected by consolidating special nuclear material storage locations.
    • "Hardened" storage vaults and improved facility configurations.
    • Installed anti-air, anti-vehicle, and anti-personnel capabilities.
    • Implemented a "denial" strategy to interdict and destroy an enemy's access to a nuclear weapon or large stores of special nuclear material.
    • Provided back-up "recapture and recovery" strategies that do not allow an adversary to escape from an NNSA site with special nuclear material.
  • More and Better Trained Tactical Security Police Officers
    • Hired additional armed security police officers.
    • Shifted towards a paramilitary, "tactical response force" that utilizes a robust mix of offensive and defensive qualified officers who are well-trained in small team and weapons tactics.
    • Improved training capabilities by expanding training ranges and support facilities, developing additional tactical training courses, and hiring additional instructors.
    • Increased survivability and lethality of officers by providing armored vehicles, heavier caliber weapons with greater firepower and armor-penetrating ammunition, and outlining ballistically protected fighting positions.
  • Instituted Force Multipliers
    • Used technology as "force multipliers" to improve site defenses and gain even more tactical control over wider areas.
    • Deployed highly specialized technology equipment to improve enemy detection, assessment, delay and response.
  • Improved Physical Security
    • Used highly effective low-technology measures (such as concrete blocks, razor-wire barriers, and steel-plated fighting positions) to upgrade the physical security features.
    • Eliminated public access to roads near special nuclear material facilities.
    • Installed physical barriers around key entrances to sites and critical facilities to protect against vehicle bombs and to delay vehicle and personnel movement.
  • Improved Cybersecurity
    • Established a new secure information network that will allow for more secure and reliable cyber-connections between all the NNSA sites.
    • Switched desktop computers to become "diskless," bringing more control and security over classified material on the secure NNSA network.

Media contact(s):
NNSA Public Affairs (202) 586-7371