Rep. David Hobson (R-OH) will play a very important role in crafting
the congressional response to the Bush Administration's FY 2006 request
for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). As chairman
of the House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee,
Hobson has a key role in writing the ultimate funding bill for NNSA.
Last year, his subcommittee decided against funding several controversial
nuclear weapons initiatives, and his subcommittee's recommendations
later prevailed despite opposition in the Senate and from the Bush Administration
The Administration seeks FY 2006 funding for the Robust Nuclear Earth
Penetrator (RNEP), the Modern Pit Facility, Nevada Test Site Readiness
Enhancement, and a variant of the Advanced Weapons Concepts program.
See FYI #37 at http://www.aip.org/fyi/2005/037.html
regarding a recent hearing on these initiatives.
A speech Hobson delivered last month before the Arms Control Association
provides insight into his approach on these controversial issues. Selections
of his speech on RNEP, weapons concepts, and a Modern Pit Facility follow;
the full text of Hobson's remarks can be read at http://www.armscontrol.org/events/20050203_hobson_text.asp
which include his thinking on the new Stockpile Plan.
"My primary message to you today is that the time has
come for a thoughtful and open debate on the role of nuclear weapons
in our country's national security strategy. There still is a basic
set of questions that need to be addressed:
"How large a stockpile should we maintain?
Should we have a set of older weapons with many spares, or should
we have a smaller stockpile of more modern weapons?
What design and manufacturing capabilities do we need to maintain
the DOE nuclear weapons complex, and where should these capabilities
Is this the best use of our limited financial resources for national
"I have been advocating for the past two years that
we must get beyond that Cold War legacy to a new strategy that makes
sense for the future. . . . Until we have a real debate and develop
a comprehensive plan for the U.S. nuclear stockpile and the DOE weapons
complex, we are left arguing over isolated projects such as the Robust
Nuclear Earth Penetrator or the RNEP study'.
"I am happy to describe how we dealt with those high
profile projects last year, but remember that these are peripheral
issues, and we have yet to address the more fundamental questions
about our nuclear stockpile."
ROBUST NUCLEAR EARTH PENETRATOR:
"With our FY 2005 [Energy and Water Development] bill,
I feel like we had some success putting the weapons program of the
NNSA (National Nuclear Security Administration) on a better path.
Obviously, the activity that attracted the most attention was the
RNEP study, also known as the nuclear bunker buster.' In the
FY 2005 bill, Congress zeroed out the funding request for the RNEP
study, primarily because of the lack of any programmatic justification
for such an effort.
"Neither the Department of Defense nor the Department
of Energy has ever articulated to me a specific military requirement
for a nuclear earth penetrator. At DoD's urging, I even spent an entire
day at Offutt Air Force Base getting briefed by STRATCOM, but I was
never told of any specific military mission requiring the nuclear
"The Department of Energy's nuclear weapons complex
has so many fundamental management problems that have not received
sufficient Federal oversight that it troubles me deeply that Congressional
opposition to RNEP generate so much attention. The development of
new weapons for ill-defined future requirements is not what the Nation
needs at this time. What is needed, and what is absent to date, is
leadership and fresh thinking for the 21 st Century regarding nuclear
security and the future of the U.S. stockpile."
ADVANCED WEAPONS CONCEPT/RELIABLE REPLACEMENT WARHEAD:
"One other change we made last year was to zero out
the Advanced Concepts Initiative and redirect the funding for weapons
design work into a new effort called a Reliable Replacement Warhead
to improve the reliability and longevity of existing weapons and their
"Part of the Department's rationale for the Advanced
Concepts proposal was to challenge the skills of the existing group
of weapons designers and provide opportunities for the younger generation
of designers to conduct design work and thereby maintain a skilled
cadre at the national labs.
"The Reliable Replacement Warhead concept will provide
the research and engineering problems necessary to challenge the workforce
while at the same time refurbishing some existing weapons in the stockpile
without developing a new weapon that would require underground testing
to verify the design. A more robust replacement warhead, from a reliability
standpoint, will provide the stockpile hedge that is currently provided
by retaining thousands of unnecessary warheads."
MODERN PIT FACILITY:
"In the FY 2005 bill, Congress rolled back the large
request for the Modern Pit Facility until the Department of Energy
completes the studies that will determine how big the production capacity
will have to be to maintain the stockpile. Until we have that information,
it is premature to design and site a pit facility. I do not oppose
the eventual design and construction of a pit facility. However, at
this stage in the process, my concern and responsibility is to provide
sufficient oversight to ensure the American taxpayers their money
is being well spent.
"DOE initially proposed a pit facility with a Cold War
production capacity of 450 pits per year ignoring the Stockpile reductions
decided by the President. I felt that made no sense and argued for
a go-slow approach on this new multi-billion construction project
until the Department completes the science experiments on plutonium
aging to determine the actual production capacity needed to support
the long-term size of the stockpile. The FY 2005 bill provides $7
million to continue a conceptual design effort and the only prohibition
concerning the modern pit facility is on designating a specific construction
site during fiscal year 2005."
Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics