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  • Chuck Hagel's nuclear exemption, LA Times, 26 Feb 2014
    group concluded that 450 deployed warheads would be enough one of its members was a retired senator named Chuck Hagel But since then Hagel has been virtually mute about reducing nuclear arms If there was ever a time to start resetting this institution and restructuring it s now he said Tuesday as he pitched his budget to a roomful of defense experts But when I asked him whether he still harbored the goal of shrinking the nuclear force he ducked the question saying his only goal was to leave the military stronger than he found it The reason officials don t like to talk about reducing nuclear arsenals is simple and it applies in both Washington and Moscow The weapons may have a diminishing role but they are protected by political sponsors sometimes based on honest disagreements over strategy sometimes because of the jobs they provide When Hagel came before the Senate for confirmation last year Republicans interrogated him about his signature on the Global Zero report he retreated saying the proposal was merely illustrative and that any nuclear reductions would need to be negotiated with Russia first Among his critics were senators from states where nuclear missiles are based Wyoming Montana and North Dakota It would be easier to argue for more nuclear cuts if Russia were eager to join in the reductions but Putin rebuffed Obama s most recent proposal for another round of disarmament The Russians seem to have glommed onto the idea that their status as a great power depends on their nuclear weapons said Steven Pifer a former U S ambassador to Ukraine who is now at the Brookings Institution in Washington It s also about jobs There are a lot of one factory towns in Russia producing military hardware and they re part of

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/LATimes_26Feb2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • The Threat to America’s Nukes, Politico Magazine, 25 Feb 2014
    complain that earlier promises haven t been kept and arms controllers complain that the price of ratification has become way too high Besides no treaties are queued up for the Senate s consideration The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty fell 19 votes short in 1999 and has been languishing ever since Senate Republicans have permitted Democratic presidents just one treaty each John F Kennedy the Limited Test Ban Lyndon B Johnson the Outer Space Treaty Jimmy Carter the Panama Canal handoff before failing on SALT II and Bill Clinton the Chemical Weapons Convention before losing the CTBT vote President Barack Obama got New START his strategic arms treaty with Russia in 2010 His prospects for a second treaty look bleak given the state of partisan rancor on Capitol Hill Replacing aging warheads subs land based missiles and bombers does not come cheap perhaps 1 trillion over the next 30 years according to a report by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies Nuclear deterrence backers counter that this amounts to just 3 percent of the Pentagon s budget But too many bills are coming due at once A former head of the U S Strategic Command puts it this way We re in a bad place at the worst possible time The average age of U S warheads now exceeds 20 years The Department of Energy s National Nuclear Security Administration has proposed five warhead types for major rehabs and life extensions Designing a replacement for Trident submarines which carry nuclear tipped missiles has been postponed for two years because the Navy s shipbuilding budget can t absorb the costs These subs will now be retired when their hulls are more than 40 years old The utility of the Air Force s Minuteman missiles was in question even before reports surfaced of missile crews being bored and cheating on proficiency exams Then there s the cost of building new bombers to replace 70 year old B 52s and supplement 20 year old B 2s There s more America s nuclear weapon labs now rebranded as the nuclear enterprise want costly new facilities including one at Los Alamos with the capacity for a five fold annual increase in plutonium pit production in the event that existing pits which provide the yields expected of nuclear detonations become faulty There are massive cost overruns for a uranium processing facility at Oak Ridge and not enough money for all of the warheads scheduled for life extensions Securing congressional support for a tab this large the Congressional Budget Office estimates 355 billion over the next 10 years well before new subs and bombers come on line would be hard even if there were a treaty ratification vote to plus up nuclear accounts But nuclear deterrence boosters oppose reductions below New START limits which would allow the United States to maintain more than 1 000 deployed warheads with multiples in reserve as a slippery slope to nuclear abolition Supporters of arms control have returned fire by labeling

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/Politico_25Feb2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • U.S. nuclear weapon plans to cost $355 billion over a decade: CBO report, Chicago Tribune, 20 Dec 2013
    a 25 page report Weapons labs weapons and naval reactors will cost 105 billion and the United States will spend another 56 billion on command and control systems Adding expected cost growth of 59 billion raises the total to 355 billion over a decade The estimates come as the United States is at the start of what Air Force General Robert Kehler the head of U S Strategic Command has called a multi decade effort to recapitalize our nuclear deterrent force and its supporting infrastructure In addition to modernizing 1970s era weapons in some case replacing 1960s model vacuum tubes with current day electronics the Pentagon will soon need to replace much of the triad of delivery systems including a new class of ballistic missile submarines and a new type of long range bomber Obama who favors eventually eliminating atomic weapons has endorsed the nuclear modernization effort saying it is needed to boost the security of the arms and to give U S military and political leaders the confidence they need to negotiate further reductions in the nuclear arsenal The New START treaty that Obama negotiated with Russia committed the former Cold War rivals to reducing deployed strategic nuclear weapons to 1 550 per side by 2018 Obama said in a speech in Berlin this summer he believes that figure could be reduced by another third to between 1 000 and 1 100 and still guarantee U S and allied security But with the U S government facing tight budgets as it attempts to reduce the massive federal deficit arms control groups and some think tanks question the wisdom of spending hundreds of billions on weapons that are unlikely to be used The impending nuclear modernization tidal wave will force increasingly difficult tradeoffs between nuclear and conventional capabilities said Kingston

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2013/Reuters_20Dec2013.html (2016-02-16)
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  • GAO questions NNSA long-term modernization cost estimates, NWMM, 13 Dec 2013
    the facilities and as a result NNSA s budget estimates for the infrastructure area are not fully aligned with its modernization plans and likely underestimate the amount of funding that will be needed in future years the GAO said GAO Utility of Budget Materials May be Limited According to the GAO the NNSA said the estimates for the modular plutonium strategy were not included in the budget projections because the agency is still evaluating options for replacing CMRR NF and the plans were not yet developed enough to include budget estimates in 2014 budget documents The GAO however chided the NNSA for not providing more information about its future plans Although NNSA s estimates beyond the FYNSP Future Years Nuclear Security Program period may be less precise then the near term estimates we believe that including as much information as is known about the full cost of a program has merit with regard to future planning the GAO said In cases where complete information is not yet known this could include a range of potential budget estimates for the projects based on available information Because NNSA excluded budget estimates for these two projects or their alternatives NNSA may underestimate the total anticipated cost for infrastructure potentially limiting the utility of the budget materials The GAO also said the agency has not added in enough contingency time to the schedule estimates for warhead life extension work ignoring problems on previous refurbishments The GAO urged the NNSA to better refine its budget numbers in future budget submissions and updates to its Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan noting that it was important for the agency to get the numbers right considering five of seven weapon types are or will be currently undergoing life extension work in the next three decades NNSA has an

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2013/NWMM_13Dec2013-GAO.html (2016-02-16)
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  • GAO raises questions about credibility of NNSA budget, NWMM, Aug 3, 2012
    see drastic increases The latest example of that is the B61 refurbishment program which has doubled in cost over the last year to 8 billion and perhaps as much as 10 billion according to a Department of Defense review The cost of the program forced the NNSA to defer work on the multi billion dollar Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility planned for Los Alamos National Laboratory but Congressional aides said this week that the GAO report justifies concerns that the NNSA s budget is disconnected from actual needs The Administration was willing to support modernization at a certain cost but if that cost is not the right one that s not been validated then we won t be able to meet any of the long term objectives we set out for the program one aide told NW M Monitor Is NNSA Relying Too Much on Contractors According to the GAO the NNSA spends much of its time analyzing the processes used by contractors to come up with budget planning figures rather than validating the budgets themselves and the GAO said that in Fiscal Year 2012 only about 1 5 percent of the agency s 11 billion budget was validated NNSA policy guidance indicates that 20 percent should be validated This process is not sufficiently thorough to ensure the credibility and reliability of NNSA s budget because it is limited to assessing the processes used to develop budget estimates rather than the accuracy of the resulting estimates and is conducted for a small portion of NNSA s budget the GAO said The issue manifests itself most notably in NNSA s noncompliance with a 2003 DOE order requiring a formal review of budget estimates The GAO said that NNSA didn t comply with the order because it did not believe

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2012/NWMM_3Aug2012.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Los Alamos Lab Tripped Up by Another Hazardous Year, NSDM, 15 Jan 2016
    to the laboratory not to its contract LANS is made up of the University of California Bechtel BWXT Government Group and URS a subsidiary of AECOM The current LANS contract is for seven years with built in incentives that had the potential to add as many as 13 additional years in which case the contract could have endured another 10 years until October 2026 Based on the current average budget of about 2 2 billion a year the unrealized value of the terminated contract would be on the order of 17 billion to 19 billion During the meeting McMillan revealed how close the margin actually was between extending or ending the contract In order to earn another year LANL was expected to have ratings better than satisfactory in all six of its performance objectives for fiscal 2015 Five of the six came in better than satisfactory one good two very good and two excellent The only satisfactory evaluation was in the operations and infrastructure category which came in at 49 percent while needing 51 percent or higher to qualify for the bonus award term The less than good evaluation was substantially higher than the previous year s grade which was zero percent The unsatisfactory rating for operations and infrastructure in fiscal 2014 reflected LANL s major failures in handling nuclear wastes and its causal responsibilities in the release of radiation at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southern New Mexico At the same time the laboratory s scores in the other five assessment categories all improved LANS in September also received a one year cost plus award fee bridge contract for cleanup at the lab with a maximum value of 309 8 million and two six month options At the end of the bridge DOE will have separate contracts for

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2016/NSDM_15Jan2016.html (2016-02-16)
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  • LANL Narrowly Missed Contract Extension Goal, LA Daily Post, 12 Jan 2016
    of the contract McMillan pointed to shortcomings in the category of operations and infrastructure that included safety management systems project management for capital projects and in cybersecurity McMillan also described two main contractual alternatives under consideration for the near term that a new contract would be competed to begin in 9 and a half months Oct 1 2016 or the new contract would be pushed back one more year to October 2017 The FY 2015 Performance Evaluation Report with more details on the award fee and rationale for the assessments is expected to be released The full communication from LANL January 11 2016 Lab mission remains vibrant not affected by contract competition timeline Laboratory Director Charlie McMillan reiterated that the Laboratory has a bright future ahead despite receiving an annual Performance Assessment from the National Nuclear Security Administration NNSA that did not grant an additional year of contract award term to Los Alamos National Security LLC LANS the corporate entity that operates the Laboratory on behalf of the federal government During an all employee meeting last week McMillan summarized the NNSA fiscal year 2015 FY15 Performance Assessment Despite making remarkable progress in many operational areas the Laboratory unfortunately fell short in the areas of safety certifying the Earned Value Management System EVMS project management in RLWTF LLW and the TA 55 Reinvestment Project Phase II and in cybersecurity McMillan said The Performance Evaluation covered five areas and the Laboratory received the following score in each Performance Objective PO 1 Manage the Nuclear Weapons Mission Very Good 88 percent PO 2 Reduce Global Nuclear Security Threats Mission Very Good 87 percent PO 3 DOE and Strategic Partnership Project Mission Excellent 96 percent PO 4 Science Technology and Engineering Excellent 92 percent PO 5 Operations and Infrastructure Satisfactory 49 percent PO 6

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2016/LADailyPost_12Jan2016.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Editorial: New lab contractor needs to sweat the small stuff, ABQ JRNL, 1 Jan 2016
    news comes that because of a series of recent failures foremost 2014 s leak at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant of a drum improperly packed at Los Alamos forcing shutdown of the nation s only nuclear waste repository and resulting less than stellar reviews by LANL s federal overseers the lab contract will be going out for bid for a second time sometime after the conclusion of the 2017 fiscal year It s hard for outsiders to say anything definitive about an alleged culture at Los Alamos But it has become clear that it s not failings in science or research that get the lab in trouble The problems are usually about keeping track of stuff whether it s computer disks with classified information or fraudulent purchases of things like barbecue grills and picnic tables or safety issues including preventing an electrical fire that resulted in severe burns for one employee a few months ago and blue collar work like packing waste drums Even a cursory review by a qualified scientist or maybe a high school chemistry teacher would have rejected mixing combustible organics wheat based cat litter with nitrates in the barrel that breached at WIPP And of course when plutonium is around safety issues really matter more than anything Current contractor Los Alamos National Security LLC lost its chance for a contract extension because of poor marks in its two most recent annual reviews in the nonscientific category of operations and infrastructure It got great marks on science An alternate view about the lab was published in 2011 in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists by Hugh Gusterson a George Mason University professor who has studied nuclear weapons scientists since the 1980s He maintains media and government stereotypes about a dysfunctional or careless LANL culture have led to

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2016/ABQJRNL_1Jan2016.html (2016-02-16)
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