Copyright ©2009 by Federal News Service, Inc., Ste. 500, 1000 Vermont Ave, Washington, DC 20005 USA. Federal News Service is a private firm not affiliated with the federal government. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, Inc. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person's official duties. For information on subscribing to the FNS Internet Service at www.fednews.com, please email Carina Nyberg at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-202-216-2706.
SEN. NELSON: (Sounds gavel.) Good afternoon. We're going to welcome Tom D'Agostino, the administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration; and General Donald Alston, assistant Air Force chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration; General Floyd Carpenter, commander of the 8th Air Force; and Rear Admiral Stephen Johnson, director of the Navy Strategic Systems Program.
It's a pleasure to have you. My opening statement will be put in the record, and when Senator Vitter arrives, his will as well and we'll ask him if he'd like to make any comments.
Gentlemen, we will put all of your opening statements in the record so the record will be complete, and we'll get right into it.
Mr. D'Agostino, there's an article in The New York Times and in a bunch of other papers about the publication of the Government Printing Office website of a report that, according to the article, quote, "gives detailed information about hundreds of the nation's civilian nuclear sites and programs, including maps showing the precise location of stockpiles of fuel for nuclear weapons," end quote. And I understand that they've taken this report down from the website.
Tell us about this and tell us what your assessment of any vulnerability that was disclosed in the report.
MR. D'AGOSTINO: Mr. Chairman, I'd be glad to. First of all, the report that you mention is the United States declaration associated with the advanced protocol, which is a more rigorous inspection regime set up to assist in our nonproliferation efforts around the world. In fact, it's not a report about our nuclear weapons activities or sites -- specific, you know, locations of nuclear weapons or nuclear security -- it's civil nuclear materials that exist around the United States.
It is a sensitive but unclassified report. Ultimately, it goes -- it would have gone, after 60 days here in Congress, it would go over to the International Atomic Energy Agency. We think the report's a great demonstration of U.S. leadership in wanting to be up front and wanting to be the first one to get onto these more rigorous inspections.
Certainly dismayed that this sensitive information was displayed publicly, but I can assure you, sir, I've looked at the actual report, in fact this morning again, to make sure that I was very clear, particularly at sites that are the responsibility of my organization, to make sure that the information there is all unclassified. It went through a detailed interagency review, and so while I'm dismayed that it's out, I can assure you, sir, that it doesn't release weapons information.
SEN. NELSON: So it is -- it's just an easy locator for where nuclear weapons complexes are.
MR. D'AGOSTINO: It's an easy locator for the civil side of what I would say the research and development that the Nuclear Energy Program does in the Department of Energy. Some of that work is done at the NNSA site; some of it is done at laboratories. There is some commercial power plant information that's out there, but it does not reveal any classified information.
Unfortunately, it's a nice compilation of information dealing with civil nuclear, and we are always very sensitive and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is as well very sensitive to how much information gets out there that doesn't necessarily need to be out there. And unfortunately, this is one of those cases.
The real concern, I think, has to do with, you know, how is this mix-up or how did this information get out onto the Government Printing Office website, and that's something I'm sure we'll be working very closely with Congress on, trying to figure that out.
SEN. NELSON: Do you have any idea how this would have appeared in the paper? Did they just cobble together a bunch of unclassified information?
MR. D'AGOSTINO: Well, I think what probably happened is this sensitive but unclassified report that was sent was inadvertently placed on the Government Printing Office website. Another group, I believe it was the Federation of American Scientists, picked it up and placed it on their website, and from there it spilled into the media. And it's since, as I understand it, been taken off of the GPO website, Government Printing Office website. It's all unclassified information, but it's sensitive. It details where the country is doing some of its civilian research in nuclear areas, so it's got information about materials and things like that.
SEN. NELSON: Do we have to worry about any enhanced security or do you feel like the security is adequate?
MR. D'AGOSTINO: I'm comfortable with the security. I'm very comfortable with the security at our NNSA sites. Those are the ones I know about the most. We design our security posture fairly rigorously against -- well, the details, of course, are classified, but against an imagined -- a pretty broad set of threats, and it would certainly cover the potential threats that, you know, might be here.
We don't want to make things easier for people, and I think unfortunately something like this does make something easier. It just means that we have to maintain our security posture and keep it strong and continue to check on how we're doing, per our own standards.
So I'm very comfortable with the security of our NNSA sites, even with this report out, because I've looked at the, quote-unquote, maps, if you will, and there's -- on all of our sites, and there's really nothing there, quite frankly. It just shows a corridor, for example, in a building, and nothing else around it. So you have no idea of those kinds of details.
SEN. NELSON: The Nuclear Posture Review is under way, and each of you have a role in the process.
So why don't we start with you, Admiral, and you all just go right down the line and tell us about your role in the process?
ADM. JOHNSON: Yes, sir. The Navy assigns a flag officer to each of the working groups for the Nuclear Posture Review. I am assigned appropriately to the Stockpile and Infrastructure Working Group, and I support Mr. Henry and Mr. Harvey, who are the chairmen of that group.
And then the Strategic Systems Program has key individuals supporting all parts of the NPR. We meet weekly. My opinion, it's good communication, it's a good, healthy process and I expect a good outcome.
SEN. NELSON: Okay, now, you said you're assigned and that you meet weekly. What's your role in the process?
ADM. JOHNSON: I provide the answers to postulated scenarios provided by the other groups, primarily the force structure groups. So in the case of change in weapons loading, we would analyze where would we store weapons, how many would have to be moved, how long would it take, what would it cost -- those sort of practical answers.
We're also, in my case, in the group that I'm in, we also help illuminate the investments necessary within the infrastructure for the Stockpile Stewardship Program and for the carry-on into the future.
GEN. CARPENTER: Well, sir, like the admiral, I have no real direct role other than as a technical adviser, if you will, or subject-matter expert on the bomber side, since 8th Air Force owns the nuclear bomber leg, which we consider a critical part of the triad. I act as an adviser when there are questions about that particular part of the triad and how many weapons would be appropriate for that part of the triad.
So I'm removed at Barksdale Air Force Base from the NPR process itself, but very much engaged through STRATCOM and through the air staff with General Alston.
SEN. NELSON: Do you get involved in the design of the bomber? Do you get involved in the design of the new bomber?
GEN. CARPENTER: I have not, sir. No, sir, I have not.
SEN. NELSON: How about you, Admiral?
ADM. JOHNSON: No, sir.
SEN. NELSON: With regard to the new submarine?
ADM. JOHNSON: Yes, sir.
SEN. NELSON: Do you get involved in the design?
ADM. JOHNSON: Yes, sir. I have been responsible on the Navy side for all the pre-milestone work, the system engineering work, that preceded the start of the analysis of alternatives, and I will be responsible for the design and the operation of the missile compartment.
SEN. NELSON: General?
GEN. ALSTON: Mr. Chairman, I am responsible for the Air Force support to the Nuclear Posture Review process, so I ensure that we have proper representation on all of the working groups that are working the Nuclear Posture Review.
Admiral Johnson and I have found ourselves, in my 21 months, together very often because of our somewhat common responsibilities, and we also share seats in some of the Nuclear Posture Review forums. But my responsibility would be not only to ensure that we've got active engagement at every level within the Nuclear Posture Review but that I ensure that as discussions and propositions and excursions would develop that whatever would be asked of the Air Force in terms of replies, that I would help manage those replies to that process.
I too agree that this has been a very collaborative process. I think it's been a very transparent process. It is bona fide that the services have been invited to participate fully and I'm very encouraged that with this level of collaboration and a focus on strategy and policy leading force structure that I too am confident that we will get a very competent outcome for the nation.
SEN. NELSON: Mr. D'Agostino?
MR. D'AGOSTINO: Yes, Mr. Chairman. I'm a member of the Senior Integration Steering Group, also known as the SISG. We meet weekly. Essentially there are a series of working groups -- the Stockpile and Infrastructure Working Group, as you heard Admiral Johnson describe, a policy working group, force structure working group, an international working group. And we have this organization above that worries about the interagency coordination between these detailed working groups, so I sit on that group.
We do trade-offs, we make sure that the strategy -- (inaudible) -- force structure (feeds ?), the number of warheads and types of warheads, and then do kind of the iteration back and forth to make sure all these pieces tie together.
And then occasionally I've sat in as acting for the deputy secretary in deputies' committee meetings at the National Security Council to be on the receiving side of some of this, which is starting to discuss -- I'd agree with General Alston, I've seen a tremendous level of collaboration not only between services and OSD policy, acquisition technology and the logistics, but state departments and international partners as well. So it's been a great process.
SEN. NELSON: All right, Mr. D'Agostino, you know that there is a reasonable chance that we're going to reduce the nuclear stockpile, and that's going to increase the size of the backlog of the nuclear weapons waiting to be dismantled. How would NNSA handle that increased number of dismantlements?
MR. D'AGOSTINO: Absolutely right, sir. We do expect a bit -- some increase in our dismantlement queue. As I mentioned publicly before, we have a pretty sizeable dismantlement queue. The actual number is classified, but at the pace that we're on we'll take apart our last warhead in that dismantlement queue in the year 2022. That actually is a fairly accelerated rate from where we were about four years ago on the pace that we were on, and our plan -- we submitted a report last year with classified details to Congress, and every two years we'll re-up that report.
The way we would handle the increased rate is to continue to use what we call special tool set. We call it seamless safety for the 21st century. It's a series of special tools that assist us in working on our warheads where we don't have to move the warhead around so much, but it sits in a special tool case where it allows us to take it apart fairly rapidly, but most importantly, more important than speed is the safety piece of this.
Many of these warheads, particularly these old warheads, have been together -- were built 40-plus years ago of fairly exotic materials and have been in very hot silos, in cold airplanes, and back and forth, and it's a very complicated job. So my primary concern is not if I can take them apart faster every single year, but can I continue on the safety record that we've held, essentially since the program started, because we're dealing with conventional high explosives that don't have the safe -- and old systems that don't have the safety features of our more modern systems.
So I can assure you safety is number one, not how fast I can do them, and clearly it's going to require us to maintain kind of a good set of production technicians who are trained in this area, and I think we've got that crew in place right now. What I don't want to do is hire up essentially 300 people, because it's going to take me a few years to get them trained up, have them work really hard for six years to take everything apart and have to lay them off, because I don't necessarily think that's an economical -- it didn't make sense economically.
SEN. NELSON: Do you have enough pit storage at Pantex?
MR. D'AGOSTINO: Yes, sir. Right now our expectations is that we will be able to handle our expected future pit capacity not only today on our current plans but the expectations of the Nuclear Posture Review.
I don't want to be predisposed that I know the answer before the review is done, and I don't, but we are going to re-evaluate all of these questions on storage facility locations as soon as we get the exact number.
So I'm anxiously waiting, frankly, to get this review done, get the details out, because that would assist me greatly in my five-year planning.
SEN. NELSON: Why did you move the responsibility for the construction of the pit disassembly from one office to another?
MR. D'AGOSTINO: Well, in many cases the pit disassembly and conversion facility move was directed by Congress, so we had a shift. I'm never a big fan of moving large projects from one to the other because what you do is you disrupt teams. These are very complicated facilities and they require a certain set of consistency over years of time.
So what we worked very closely -- both of those organizations are in the NNSA, so I am ultimately responsible for it, and ultimately that's going to be my objective.
SEN. NELSON: In disassembling the nuclear weapons, do you want to do that in Nevada or do you want to do that at Pantex?
MR. D'AGOSTINO: I want to do that at Pantex because I have -- first of all, my production technicians are at Pantex. Next, the facilities that I have at Pantex are actually certified by ourselves and checked by the Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board to be able to do what I would call the highest level of nuclear safety work, and safety's (prime area ?) number one.
If we're ever in a situation where we have, I would say, a problem disassembling a particular warhead, for example, because it's just been together for so long and we're in a situation where we need to get it out of the system because it's stopping a lot of other disassembly work from happening, we do have the option, and it will be on a case-by-case basis, to say let's use our device assembly facility at the Nevada test site, fly some technicians out there, do this specialty work on this particular warhead while we continue to work away this larger bucket of dismantlement work.
So Nevada's always a nice contingency plan for us. I don't see anything in the near future that would cause us to use it right now.
SEN. NELSON: Senator Sessions.
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R-AL): Thank you.
(Off mike) -- D'Agostino, on the -- when we talk about nuclear stockpile reductions, which will be part of the president's talks with the Russians -- I guess have they already begun or will they not -- they haven't begun yet, but --
MR. D'AGOSTINO: The assistant secretary, Rose Gottemoeller, from the State Department, has started working with the Russians, yes, sir, she has.
SEN. SESSIONS: It's on a fast track. I would just note that there's no reason that that has to be done this year. It's a self- imposed goal. We can extend the START treaty for up to five years with little problem. But at any rate, the president seems to be determined to move forward with that and announce some reductions.
But the question I think we're hearing from various experts in the field, that this -- any reductions of our current stockpile should be tied to some sort of modernization plan of our existing -- (off mike). Do you share that view?
MR. D'AGOSTINO: I think that's a discussion that I'm currently having right now. I think the one statement I'd make is I feel very strongly that we are in a position -- kind of a fragile position, if you will, from an infrastructure and people standpoint. There are a number of reports -- well, there's the Perry-Schlesinger report that has come out recently that has got a fairly accurate portrayal of the infrastructure and people concerns that they have.
One thing to do is make -- we have great people in our outfit. The people want to know that they're doing work that the country cares about and that they are doing work that exercises their skills. So an element of that is extending the life of the warhead, and the way the Perry-Schlesinger commission report describes, a life extension is a continuum of activities from refurbishment to replacement.
I think working in that continuum is where we're going to end up and what the Nuclear Posture Review is going to end up showing us, so I -- and all of these pieces are tied together; there's no -- you can't -- in my view, you can't just talk about one piece, just talk about size only and not address, frankly, the whole integrated situation, not only on the NNSA side but my colleagues in the Defense Department who also have concerns with critical skills.
SEN. SESSIONS: Former Secretary Perry, on a May 28th -- who's been, frankly, very aggressive, more than I would suggest -- (off mike) -- to draw our weapons systems down, said this in his article: quote, "The U.S. should maintain a safe, secure and reliable nuclear deterrent for itself and its allies and that this deterrent should be adequately funded and staffed with top-notch managers, scientists and engineers."
I know that you are challenged with making sure that there is no waste, that every dollar is spent wisely, but is the budget before us today that's been proposed, is that sufficient to meet the standards that Secretary Perry made?
MR. D'AGOSTINO: The budget we have before us today meets the standard for today, for the year that we're talking about, 2010. I would like to note, though, that this is a -- particularly when one looks at the out-year plan, typically we submit a five-year series of numbers to show direction, if you will, on our programs. This program, you'll note that our out-year numbers are exactly -- in some cases, in the science and technology, are fairly identical with the 2010 number. That is done because we recognize, I recognize that changes are going to have to be made in the out years in order to make Mr. Perry's statement a sustainable and true statement in the out years.
So the way I would describe this is this is a one-year budget submittal to Congress that once the NPR comes out, my plan, Tom D'Agostino's plan, is to make sure that the challenges of securing nuclear materials in four years, the challenges associated, as the Perry-Schlesinger report puts out, on doing life extensions on our warhead and exercising our people are duly reflected in the science element of my program, the infrastructure element of my program -- not my program, but the program that the country has entrusted me with for now, as well as the directed stockpile work piece, the life extension --
SEN. SESSIONS: (Off mike) -- there money in it sufficient to do those things in the out years?
MR. D'AGOSTINO: Not in the out years, but in 2010, yes, sir.
SEN. SESSIONS: Well, Secretary of Defense Gates just last October said, quote, "The U.S. is experiencing serious brain drain in the loss of veteran nuclear weapons designers and technicians," and he went on to say, quote, "To be blunt, there's absolutely no way we can maintain a credible deterrent and reduce the number of weapons in our stockpile without either resorting to testing our stockpile or pursuing a modernization program."
Do you agree with that?
MR. D'AGOSTINO: I largely agree with that statement. There's details below some of those statements. A modernization effort, in my view, encompasses a wide variety of activities, from reuse of components that we previously made, exercising our scientists to making sure that when we do a life extension on our program, we modernize the safety and security elements of our warheads. That's absolutely important.
The last thing I think we want to do is make sure we put, as we maintain our deterrent, put warheads into our stockpile that are based on 1970s and 1980s-era safety and security efforts, because we know that things have changed in the last 30 years.
SEN. SESSIONS: Well, a modernization program should result into weapons being more reliable and significantly more safe, should they not?
MR. D'AGOSTINO: Absolutely, Senator; I 100 percent agree with that statement.
SEN. SESSIONS: What objections are you getting to modernizing, even as we draw down some of the numbers?
MR. D'AGOSTINO: I think making sure that it's put in the context of the president's overall strategic direction, making sure that it fits in. We have an integrated framework to talk about nuclear security.
SEN. SESSIONS: But you don't have a commitment for funding that would allow you to do that, is that what you're saying?
MR. D'AGOSTINO: The program I have right now puts us in a position to be able to respond to the Nuclear Posture Review. I'm very confident -- and that's why I'm very excited about being able to get a Nuclear Posture Review out because we want that detail and that information in there. That's why Mr. Harvey, who is heading up the stockpile and infrastructure -- co-leading the stockpile and infrastructure group, who understands this program, has my views, is working that in the Nuclear Posture Review process, because I have these views that I want to be reflected in ultimately the administration's position for the future.
So I have no objection to modernization; I think it's important. We need to put safety and security into our stockpile. We have some in already. We want to make sure that if we're going to extend the lives and maintain our deterrent, that continues out into the future.
SEN. SESSIONS: Well, you also would acknowledge that we're the only nuclear weapons country in the world that doesn't have a modernization ongoing program. Is that right?
MR. D'AGOSTINO: That's correct if -- but life extension -- we do have a life extension program. I want to make sure that that's clear. Some of this is, if not semantics, there are some details behind the difference between a pure refurbishment life extension and a re-use life extension or a replacement life extension activity.
So it's absolutely correct if we're talking about what I would call advancing the ball dramatically on safety, security and reliability, but we do have a life extension program under way. In fact, we're supporting the Navy, Admiral Johnson's requirements for the W76 warhead in that respect.
SEN. SESSIONS: Okay. (Off mike) -- we need to do what is necessary to move forward with these programs, and I just am not seeing a firm commitment from the administration that that's what's going to happen. We hear some positive talk. I think you guys hope that the Nuclear Posture Review will help move us in that direction, but I haven't seen it yet and it makes me somewhat nervous.
Admiral Johnson, you -- tell us briefly about the missile defense -- about your requirements to test submarine-launched missiles, how often you launch those, how many you do and why you think that's necessary to guarantee the reliability of those systems.
ADM. JOHNSON: Yes, sir. The Navy tests four missiles per year in a program we call the Fleet Commanders Evaluation Test. The submarines are on patrol, they are notified -- they're selected at random. They're notified by message, they return to port, two missiles are selected, again randomly, and those missiles are then -- the warheads are removed and the appropriate test instrumentation, telemetry and destruct capability is installed. It takes a couple days, a matter of days.
And the ship proceeds to the range area and conducts normally two missiles from that submarine. We do that twice a year, a total of four. Those fleets --
SEN. NELSON: Tell me where that range is, Admiral.
ADM. JOHNSON: There are two ranges. The one that we're using right at this very moment and we fired from a week ago yesterday is off the coast of Florida. It's the same operations center that the Air Force runs for a variety of tests. They share that facility with us at the 45th Space Wing, and it's the eastern range. We fired, in this case, from her majesty's ship Victorious, a Royal Navy submarine fired off the coast of Florida for a 5,000-mile test, splashing down off the coast of Africa.
SEN. SESSIONS: Well, I just -- Mr. Chairman, I think one thing we'll need to look at is that the National Missile Defense, they've reduced the number to 30. If that goes forward, which I'm not comfortable with, I think it puts an even greater requirement on us to have enough missiles that we have testing over the years because all our other areas are tests.
And you've been a critic, I know, for some time that we probably haven't tested that system enough, and so however we come out -- (off mike).
Thank you. Appreciate your leadership. You are exceedingly knowledgeable on all these issues, and I'm pleased that you're chairing our committee.
SEN. NELSON: Just for you students here, this is the famous senator whose picture is on the front page of The Washington Post this morning. (Laughter.)
Mr. D'Agostino, we are not only reducing the number but we're going to reduce the actual types, and so how do you go about reducing the weapon types and reducing redundant warheads?
MR. D'AGOSTINO: What I would say now is there's discussion about reducing types but that will be left for the Nuclear Posture Review ultimately to come out. But I would offer the following, if I could.
Ultimately, we would respond -- ultimately, it gets driven by the Defense Department's requirements, the types of targets that are part of the algorithm that determines the size of the stockpile, whether or not certain targets can be covered by multiple warheads. Are there backups needed?
From my standpoint, reducing the numbers of types makes the maintenance element a lot easier. I don't have to make X number of different types of neutron generators or thermal batteries or other particular components that we have to replace on a periodic basis. So the maintenance piece becomes easier.
There's a down side, of course, to reducing the types, and that is you become more and more dependent on the types that you have remaining. And therefore, that drives you to want to make doubly sure or triply sure that you know exactly what's going on with those particular warheads that you've decided you're going to retain in your arsenal, both in numbers and types.
So I've always emphasized the point that if our stockpile gets smaller and if the numbers of types go down that more and more reinforces the need to do -- to have this discussion on having a very sustainable work force and infrastructure that does that. Right now, we don't have that in the out years, in my opinion, but that's what we have to get to.
General Chilton ultimately could probably provide a more wholesome answer, sir, to your question on reducing the types.
SEN. NELSON: We'll take that up with him.
Historically, each lab has been responsible for the weapons that it designed. What do you think of the idea of having all the data on all of the weapons available to each of the laboratories, and having each lab do an independent review of each weapon?
MR. D'AGOSTINO: I like that idea, sir. I think it's a great idea. We discussed last year on how we make our annual assessment process stronger as our stockpile size changes. We believe we reached that point where our stockpile size is small enough that we need two independent checks, full sets of experiments done independently by both labs, keeping the responsibility, of course, for the design with one laboratory, because we always want one organization responsible, but having another institution do that.
Secretary Chu has looked at this idea in his first month or so as the secretary. You know, we talked to him about that. He was convinced enough that he said -- he signed out, essentially, a piece of paper that directed us to go off and establish this system where we work that in.
It means a little bit more science work, it means a few more experiments, it means a bit more analysis and it means a bit more back and forth between our two laboratories, but that's a good thing.
I think the country will be better off because of that.
SEN. SESSIONS: (Off mike.) Briefly, The Wall Street Journal, June 2nd, has an article that -- (off mike) -- that the U.S. and Russian talks appear headed for a framework agreement by July 6th and a final treaty by December. That's moving right along. Have you been involved in that --
MR. D'AGOSTINO: Yes, sir, at what we call the interagency meetings that we have at the National Security Council in advising the assistant secretary of State; that is the prime negotiator for the administration.
SEN. SESSIONS: Mr. Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association here in Washington, which is a private group, I think a pro-disarmament group, apparently knows a lot about it, described the atmosphere at these meetings, usually tedious, as "electric," close quote.
The White House officially wouldn't say what their targets are on the treaty with Russia, but Arms Control Association's Mr. Kimball said that deployed nuclear weapons in each country could be reduced by 30 percent to 40 percent from their current limit of 2,200 -- (off mike) -- warhead delivery systems, Mr. Johnson, would be cut by half.
General Alston and team, let me ask the military witnesses whether they've conducted any analysis on the implications of these reductions in this -- for their leg of the triad. Who wants to start?
GEN. ALSTON: Senator, I'd be happy to start. The process so far with regard to the Nuclear Posture Review has been looking at the existing treaty limits with regard to Moscow and the combatant commander has been involved in his assessment as to, you know, force levels. But the discussions have not gotten so specific yet as to identify specific force levels.
It has been a priority, certainly of the Air Force, and I won't -- I'll let Admiral Johnson speak for his service -- that we are ensuring that our responsibilities to maintain nuclear surety at lower levels is a very important matter to us.
You would have, you know, your work force, the amount of -- their ability to perform their roles and responsibilities. It's a sensitivity that we have, and as we get deeper into this discussion and deeper into the Nuclear Posture Review, I know we're going to reach a point where we're going to have to be able to make the assessments that you indicate we'll need --
SEN. SESSIONS: But you haven't been asked to and have not completed an assessment to reduce your delivery systems by one-half?
GEN. ALSTON: No, sir, we have not. We have -- there have been some excursions to see what would be the art of the possible, but I really would not qualify those as reaching the point where they would be sufficiently mature for force structure recommendations.
But for half of the force, no, sir, there hasn't been that level of detailed discussion involved in the Air Force.
SEN. SESSIONS: General Carpenter?
GEN. CARPENTER: I agree with everything General Alston said. Our position basically has been that we have been promoting a balanced triad. Whatever the numbers are, that the end result should end with a triad, as we have today, that is a balanced triad, so that every leg has a sufficient number of weapons to make it sustainable.
SEN. SESSIONS: And Admiral Johnson?
ADM. JOHNSON: Yes, sir. I agree with the same position. I do make the observation that in the case of the missile tube numbers, the current numbers are set higher than the number of missile tubes that we have today, and that may provide some insight into the way that -- I haven't read the article so I can't exactly respond to it.
SEN. SESSIONS: Just speculate. They're talking about delivery systems being reduced by half. Let me ask you, you're aware -- I know when you've been promoted and had hearings you've been asked whether or not you would give your honest assessment, regardless of what the politicians tell you, so I'm going to ask each one of you three uniformed personnel, will you, if asked about whether or not you can accept a 50 percent reduction in the delivery systems triad, will you give your best military judgment?
GEN. ALSTON: Yes, sir.
GEN. CARPENTER: Yes, sir.
ADM. JOHNSON: Yes, sir.
SEN. SESSIONS: All three of you said yes and I appreciate that.
Also, Secretary D'Agostino, on the question of nuclear weapons, the numbers slip my mind right now. Perhaps you can recall how many tactical nuclear weapons the Russians have and how many we have.
MR. D'AGOSTINO: Well, the actual numbers are classified, but I will say there's a 10 to one ratio, roughly, give or take. You know, it's a big difference between the two.
SEN. SESSIONS: And if the START goes forward, we're talking about the strategic nuclear weapons primarily being reduced and there's no plan to narrow the gap in the tactical nuclear weapons, is it?
MR. D'AGOSTINO: The administration is focused -- you described the time frame earlier, which is correct, sir. Addressing the tacticals would be very difficult to do in the time period because there's other implications.
Russia's been very clear about the role of their tactical nuclear weapons vis-a-vis their overall national defense. It's a different approach than what we have.
SEN. SESSIONS: Oh, I see. The Russians don't want to talk about it. That's right, the Russians don't want to talk about tactical nuclear weapons. That's off the table. They're willing to talk about strategic nuclear weapons, and that's the fact of the matter, and the administration is determined to reach this treaty for reasons that baffle me.
I mean, we are -- hopefully we can go in that direction and move forward in that direction, okay? I'm supportive of it. But we're not in under any pressure to do this. This is a self-imposed pressure that worries me and so these are important issues.
I know you'll work on them and give your best judgment, and Mr. Chairman, thank you -- (off mike).
SEN. NELSON: (Thanks ?), Senator Sessions.
And originally under START II there was a general understanding that once we got to START III they would take up the tactical nuclear weapons. But we never got around to ratifying START II, so this is something you have brought up in a most timely fashion, and I thank you for bringing it up. We need to keep it out there on the table and ultimately get to that issue.
The idea was to address the strategic weapons first and then get to the tactical. Well, we never got there. So thank you, Senator Sessions.
SEN. SESSIONS: Thank you.
SEN. NELSON: Senator Vitter.
SEN. DAVID VITTER (R-LA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Welcome to all of you.
And in particular, General Carpenter, welcome to you and thanks for your new leadership of the Mighty 8th in Louisiana. We're very proud of that.
My first question goes to something focused there, which is the Air Force's movement on Global Strike, which is slated for Barksdale and obviously we hope that moves along and continues.
In terms of the new major command that's clearly a significant high national priority, and it's a national priority to stand it up in a timely, responsible way, can you just give us a -- you and/or General Alston -- an update on how that's progressing?
GEN. CARPENTER: Yeah, I can give you a timeline and General Alston can fill in any gaps that I might miss. But June 27th is the end of the environmental assessment period, and assuming that all comes out as we hope, then it will be announced as the final location.
Once that happens, then you'll start seeing people and resources being moved there. General Kowalski, who is the vice commander now of Global Strike Command, I believe, is scheduled to arrive in the first week and a half of July, followed by General Klotz, the commander -- the new commander. And he is to arrive on early August, and we're going to have a standup of the command, an activation of the command on I believe the 7th of August is the planned date right now, (tentatively ?). And I think everyone already should -- I think you know that then the initial operating capability is scheduled for September. Come December of this year the ICBM wings move over to Global Strike Command out of Space Command and then followed in February of '10 by the bomber units will be moved from Air Combat Command into Global Strike Command with finally full operating capability in September of '10. So that's the schedule as I know it today.
SEN. VITTER: Thank you very much and thanks for your leadership in that important transition. Again, thanks to your leadership of the Mighty 8th and your being a part of our military community in Louisiana. We're very proud to have you.
GEN. CARPENTER: Thank you.
SEN. VITTER: Gentlemen, I share many of Senator Sessions' concerns about some of this work toward treaties. With regard to START, I can support the concept and I can support the goal. I just want to make sure we do it right and don't set deadlines or timetables or goals with PR in mind, versus substance and basically put politics and PR ahead of substance.
With respect to that, I'm concerned about this schedule of trying to get to a new START in December, when the current Nuclear Posture Review isn't slated to be done yet -- isn't slated to be completed until early next year. Isn't that potentially putting the cart before the horse? Shouldn't we have the new NPR finalized to understand the landscape with regard to what we should agree to in terms of a new START?
GEN. ALSTON: Senator, I'll be glad to take a first answer there. Sir, I think the process that we have -- that we are participating in, with the Nuclear Posture Review, has been a very collaborative process. It has been a very transparent process. Personally, I see very talented people that are trying to work these issues very much in earnest, very much in the open and the services have been a part of this process from the beginning.
So the dynamic that is helping work through these issues I think is a very positive dynamic. So I can't comment on assessing the pace, but for the efforts that are under way, there's been a very good deliberate effort and I see that the -- I think the work is moving towards a productive outcome from the Department of Defense for the participation that the Air Force is having in this process right now.
SEN. VITTER: Well, I appreciate that. My question is about timing. Is it correct that that process is slated to be finalized early next year?
GEN. ALSTON: Sir, I think that the NPR is supposed to be complete by the end of this year, but clearly there is a relationship between the analysis that is under way with the Nuclear Posture Review and the START activities. It's just the way the process is working right now.
SEN. VITTER: I'm not sure I understand what that means. Let me ask it a different way. Does it make any sense to agree to a new START product before the NPR is completed and digested and understood, including by the START negotiators?
GEN. ALSTON: Sir, I'm -- I can't speak to that. I could only speak to the Air Force role contributing to that process. The department would be ultimately responsible for the quality of the Nuclear Posture Review product, so --
SEN. VITTER: Mr. D'Agostino, maybe it's sort of more appropriate for you to comment on that.
MR. D'AGOSTINO: Yeah.
SEN. VITTER: I mean, it seems pretty logical that you'd want to complete and digest and understand the NPR before you agree to a new START. What's the matter with that assumption?
MR. D'AGOSTINO: I think there clearly are two activities happening. And in fact, one does inform the other activity. But there's overlap and I think it's not unreasonable to say -- I mean, there's a lot of detail that would have to happen in the NPR that doesn't have anything necessarily to do with START. But if I can give an example or two, it might help: examples associated with maintenance of how we recapitalize our infrastructure and on what pace we would recapitalize our infrastructure; the actual different types of warheads themselves, where it depends on if the focus on the START number situation is a number and an agreement in the general direction we can get -- the president has already said publicly that he is looking at a lower number than what the Moscow treaty was and that he's interested in certain verification measures as well.
That framework, that broad framework is already established in essence and that provides a framework. So there isn't -- you don't have to wait until the NPR is exactly done, until the books are closed on it, because my expectation, frankly, what we want to do in the NPR process is fairly accelerated.
We need -- we the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration need elements of that NPR understood before we develop our budget for FY '11 through '15, our five-year budget. And that is a program and budget that we are working on to get done by September of this year. So there's an element of the NPR process that's accelerated to get to that answer sooner and -- so we can develop an actual program.
And in fact, that's exactly what we're going to do, and that's why General Alston described the NPR largely being completed by the beginning of the fiscal year, later on this fall, if you will, because that's going to inform us as we develop with the Defense Department our joint programs.
So there's certainly some parallelism going on. I can't deny that and I don't want to deny that. I don't want to send that signal. But at the same time, because we have such a very good collaborative process, frankly, and we've gone through already a couple of iterations of how policy drives the force structure and how the force structure drives the warheads numbers and types -- we've gone through an iteration that way -- we have some sense of where things may end up. We don't want to give an answer right now. I mean, ultimately there's a negotiation piece with Russia that's important.
So I'm very confident because of the transparency and because of our desire to get that NPR largely done, you know, later on this year so we can finish our budget preparations -- because we submit that to you, sir, in January -- that we're on a very tight path, but doable, is how I would describe it. It's not just one finishes and then the other starts, sir.
SEN. VITTER: Well, I'm not suggesting it should be one finishes and then the other starts. I'm suggesting it should not be that the treaty finishes before the NPR finishes.
MR. D'AGOSTINO: Yes, sir. I understand.
SEN. VITTER: Do you understand the difference?
MR. D'AGOSTINO: Yes, sir.
SEN. VITTER: And I'm not saying the NPR has to finish before treaty discussions start.
MR. D'AGOSTINO: Yes, sir.
SEN. VITTER: But it does seem a little odd for potentially detailed -- detailed treaty negotiations potentially to finish before the NPR is finished.
What am I missing?
SEN. NELSON: Let me interject here. I think there's an element of this that the NPR discussions will inform the START negotiations. And the box that they find themselves in, that neither the Russians nor the Americans want this START treaty extended. And under the terms of the treaty, it can only be extended for five years, five years only. It can't be extended one year. It can't be extended 10 years. It can only be extended five years.
So the expectation may well be, according to the implication of your question, which I think is right on the money, is that these negotiations on what may end up being several treaties will be informed by the Nuclear Posture Review discussions.
Is that in the ballpark, Mr. D'Agostino?
MR. D'AGOSTINO: That's my understanding, sir. I'm not an expert on, you know, the extension parts of the treaties, frankly. But that is, in essence -- we can be informed enough by the work we've actually done to date on the Nuclear Posture Review to start on the treaty discussions. Details do matter --
SEN. VITTER: Start, but my question is about finishing --
MR. D'AGOSTINO: Right.
SEN. VITTER: -- treaty discussions before you finish the NPR.
And Mr. Chairman, I appreciate your comment and you make some very good points, but forgive me, as a recovering lawyer, the first thing I'd say is I don't care what the current START says, you can sign a new treaty that's the same as the old one with one comma missing and make it last six months, if you want to, if that's the smart thing to do, and it can be a new treaty or it can just bridge to the next treaty, if that's the right thing to do substantively. My only suggestion is let's put substance first, whatever that is.
MR. D'AGOSTINO: Yes, sir. Absolutely.
SEN. VITTER: I have a similar question about the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Now, I have to say right off my impulse about that is a lot different from START, which is I question the whole premise of the soundness of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, but Secretary Gates has said that without testing it will, quote, "become impossible to keep extending the life of our arsenal," close quote.
Given that, do you think any consideration, ratification of a comprehensive test ban treaty should be preceded by plans for a new redesigned and more reliable warhead?
MR. D'AGOSTINO: Sir, I would look at -- I'm going to answer your question, but I would say for the last 13-plus years -- well, longer than that, frankly -- 16 years we have been operating, in effect, without underground testing as a matter of policy. So we have a program, the Stockpile Stewardship Program, designed to take a deep look inside our warheads, do an annual assessment.
In an earlier question Senator -- Chairman Nelson talked, asked about beefing up our peer review process to make sure that we can do that. I am comfortable that with a -- I'll call it sustainable effort on science, a sustainable effort on the facilities that are required, that the country is going to need, a sustainable effort on modernization activity for our stockpile, that we can maintain stockpile well out into the future -- long out into the future without underground testing.
I would add that the Comprehensive Test Ban -- that's one element of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty discussion, sir, that you'll be -- Senate will be looking at, I'm sure. The other element, of course, is the verification questions, which are fairly complicated, deal with seismic issues and being able to find out the rest of the world -- what the rest of the world is doing.
One comment I'd like to make on that is the same people that maintain our stockpile, our current stockpile, and that we need to beef up, if you will, over the next few years, are the exact same people that do the intelligence analysis, seismic analysis as well. So having a National Nuclear Security Administration infrastructure that is taken care of out in the future is going to be an important part of a comprehensive test ban treaty. That's the piece I'm going to make sure to communicate very clearly in this administration. That's my job, sir.
SEN. VITTER: I take it from what you said that you just disagree with Secretary Gates, that it will, quote, "become impossible to keep extending the life of our arsenal," close quote, without testing.
MR. D'AGOSTINO: Well, that's if -- if we just leave the arsenal the way it is, in other words just kind of do the day-to-day maintenance, I would agree with the secretary. If we do what I would call the life-extension approach, which is a reuse or replacement approach -- you know, and I think this is where Secretary Gates was going, in effect, was modernizing, driving more reliable performance margins in there so we are sure that we don't have to test, then my view is that we can do that in a non-testing future.
SEN. VITTER: Well, I just want to make clear, his comment was not about that; it was about testing. He said without testing, we won't have this. You're disagreeing with that, correct?
MR. D'AGOSTINO: I don't know the context of Mr. Gates's statement. So I think we are actually agreeing that if I can't modernize the stockpile, we're going to find ourselves where every year we're getting closer and closer to the point where the scientists and engineers in my organization are going to say -- they're going to get to a point where they say, "Mr. President," or, "Mr. Secretary," first, and then we tell the president, "We're facing a moment of truth here with respect to testing."
But we believe in the Department of Energy -- or in the National Nuclear Security Administration that an integrated program of fixing the infrastructure, of working on the stockpile and modernizing pieces of it together with the science program to back it up can take care of our nuclear deterrent out into the future indefinitely without testing.
SEN. VITTER: Well, I'll try to get that full context to you.
MR. D'AGOSTINO: Yes, sir.
SEN. VITTER: But my understanding is he wasn't talking about those things. He was talking about testing. Without testing, we can't do this. But I'll get that for you.
MR. D'AGOSTINO: Okay. We'll have to come back --
SEN. NELSON: I would be surprised, Senator Vitter, that it was said in that isolated context, because I've had lengthy discussions with General Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, on this very issue. And I think he has every confidence to feel that with the appropriate modernization program that we can have the reliability that we have to have. That's my impression.
SEN. VITTER: We'll, I'll get that full context to you --
MR. D'AGOSTINO: I'd love to do that and --
SEN. VITTER: -- and we'll follow up on the discussion.
MR. D'AGOSTINO: Absolutely, Senator. I would appreciate that. Thank you.
SEN. VITTER: And Admiral, if I can ask you -- and thank you for your visit yesterday; I enjoyed that very much -- the FY '10 budget continues funding for the next-generation follow-on to the Ohio class SSBN. Can you discuss the Navy's current plans for that next generation and steps in particular that are being taken early on to try to ensure we don't experience cost overruns or scheduling delays?
ADM. JOHNSON: Yes, sir. This budget includes a request for $495 million to begin the work for the replacement of the Ohio class. The Ohio class is a tremendously capable submarine today. It has no particular shortcomings and this request is based on the end of service life of that ship, which has been extended to 40 operational years.
Now, this is on time. It's not early, it's not late. It's an on-time start for the engineering and the research and development work to support and start construction in 2019. It's also on time with respect to the industrial base and it's timed well to support our ally the United Kingdom.
The work that we're doing early is concept work and missile launch or development prototype work. It can be guided by the decisions of the NPR and the other events that we talk about. And I think it's well-timed to accommodate all the work that's going forward. It includes the propulsion -- early propulsion work for a ship of that size as well.
SEN. VITTER: Okay.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, that's all I have.
SEN. NELSON: Now, I want to take your previous question and now ask that of the admiral.
How can you start the design of the new submarine if you don't know the outcome of the Nuclear Posture Review?
ADM. JOHNSON: Sir, the very early work is concept work, layout and qualification of vendors. In the case of the Ohio class, the youngest of the Ohio class is the Louisiana, delivered in 1996. So we have been out of production of large, heavy missile tubes and the launching equipment for -- it will be about 25 years. So this early work is a combination of laying out how we will make that part of the submarine acoustically quiet and its other stealth characteristics, because, of course, we have very quiet attack submarines but they do not have a missile compartment.
It will be assessing how to design and build that part of the ship, the missile compartment, with the same labor-saving techniques that we use on the attack submarines. It's just in that section of the ship that we've not looked at in our Navy for almost 40 years.
So the exact number of tubes, the exact number -- dimensions of those tubes, the exact speeds, none of those things need to be known in the first year of concept and research and development. Instead, we do things like we find a vendor capable of doing a missile hatch of that size out of the type of materials that we need to do, pour a test article, which is representative but not identical, and then destructively test it to make sure that that vendor can give us a device without -- or a hatch without flaw.
SEN. NELSON: General Alston, same question: How can you design a future airplane without knowing the results in the Nuclear Posture Review?
GEN. ALSTON: Sir, we won't do that. The follow-on bomber requirements -- we heard the secretary of Defense loud and clear in terms of our requirement to improve and take a harder look at the requirements that we had already posited, as well as the technology that would be available at the time that we need this penetrating platform to be available.
This platform would be informed by the QDR, probably even more so than the Nuclear Posture Review. But we do see linkage between both of those examinations and we think that we will be better informed as the QDR and the NPR analysis continues. So we think there's a strong relationship between the two studies and the outcome of that, with a better set of requirements for that platform in the future.
SEN. NELSON: Is the B-1 bomber going to be part of the Global Strike Command?
GEN. ALSTON: No sir, it's not. It's a conventional-only platform and that will remain in Air Combat Command.
SEN. NELSON: Okay. So you are separating out there -- (to Senator Vitter) -- okay, did you have a question?
SEN. VITTER: I just had one follow-up, but I didn't want to interrupt you.
SEN. NELSON: No, no, go ahead.
SEN. VITTER: I just wanted to follow up on the senator's line.
Admiral, I take it from what you're saying you would never, for instance, finish design of this submarine before the NPR was finished.
ADM. JOHNSON: Yes, sir.
SEN. VITTER: And General, similarly, you would never finish design of a new aircraft before this NPR was finished?
GEN. ALSTON: No, sir.
SEN. VITTER: Well, I was just suggesting earlier that logically it seems pretty clear to me we shouldn't finish a new START before the NPR -- (off mike).
SEN. NELSON: General Carpenter, from an operational perspective of the 8th Air Force, what are your plans to balance the conventional and nuclear excellence of -- (off mike)?
GEN. CARPENTER: Well sir, we've been doing that for a long time, ever since we took on the conventional mission in full force, starting around the Desert Storm time frame. But with the recent issues with the nuclear mission, obviously we've put a lot more focus on the nuclear side and we designed the global deterrent force to address that issue.
We've put a wing in the bucket, if you will, for the nuclear mission and they stayed there for a whole year. So while Minot Air Force Base is in Guam, the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale is focusing on the nuclear mission. So we have that balance now. And the 4th Squadron becomes a big issue there. If we can -- when we stand up the 4th Squadron at Minot it fills out that force, so we have enough force structure to separate that mission as we can.
So while neither are always exclusively focused, we always have to keep the nuclear certification, the cruise ready to go in the nuclear and in the conventional side both. But the focus shifts from day to day or from year to year, if you will. So while the global deterrent force 2nd Bomb Wing right now -- or I'm sorry, I got that backwards. The 2nd Bomb Wing is in Guam today and Minot is in the global deterrent force, kind of really focused on the nuclear mission. And that swaps back and forth.
The B-2s don't have the luxury of having two separate wings, but they have two separate squadrons. So those two squadrons rotate back and forth as well, where one is always assigned a global deterrent force mission -- and they focus primarily, at least, on the nuclear mission. When they do the training, they really go out and focus on the nuclear side and the other squadron is kind of the conventional role. So we are able to do that with the force structure we have today.
GEN. ALSTON: Sir, I might -- I just might add that, to the credit of 8th Air Force and General Elder and now General Carpenter, all three of our bomb wings have undergone no-notice nuclear surety inspections and have all passed those inspections. As you know, those are exceptionally rigorous tests of nuclear requirements, and so we are showing some positive results in that regard.
SEN. NELSON: All right. Now, we're expecting B-52s and B-2s to take us all the way through 2030. Are we going to be able to sustain their viability?
GEN. ALSTON: Yes sir, we will. And I would ask General Carpenter to comment on this as well. But first let me just say that the B-52 has a lot of life left in it and we have plans in place to ensure its vitality in both the nuclear and conventional roles into the out years. The B-2 ultimately will be facing threats that will exceed its capability as a penetrating platform. Hence, the reason that we believe we need a penetrating platform to take on that responsibility when the B-2 may no longer be as effective at that role as we believe it is today.
GEN. CARPENTER: I would agree, sir. The great programs we have in place now with the radar programs in all three bomber platforms, B- 2s specifically and the B-52 on the books and the B-1 as well, and the communications upgrades we have planned for all those platforms, it will take them well out into the 2040 time frame. So, yes sir, we can sustain those weapons systems.
SEN. NELSON: General Alston, you've had to work overtime to straighten out the loose nukes and all of that. Have you got it under control?
GEN. ALSTON: Sir, we absolutely have it under control. As you may know, I came into my Pentagon tour about 21 months ago, which happened to coincide within days of the challenge that we had with the unauthorized munitions transfer. So I've been personally focused on this through this entire assignment. My responsibilities have shifted and right now, as a consequence of Secretary Donley and the chief of staff, General Schwartz, a decision last fall, I work directly for the chief of staff now in my responsibilities, on their behalf.
Their personal leadership drove us to prepare a road map that we published last fall to set the course, with six principal strategic objectives to help the institution focus better and achieve the outcomes that we are starting to achieve at this time.
General Carpenter's folks and our other deployed commanders, with a lot of very aggressive personal leadership, are ensuring the success that we have today. But we need to move forward with the personnel development changes that we have under way. We're bringing an additional 2,500 people into the nuclear mission over the course of this next year.
There is a -- as General Chiles (sp) has pointed out, in previous Defense Science Board studies there has been an erosion of nuclear deterrent skills. So the people component of our effort will continue to require the kind of vigilance and focus that we have in motion right now. And I believe it will take a couple of -- several more years before we feel that we have completely overcome some of the skill challenges that we have.
But we have aggressive inspection programs. We have 100 percent oversight of all of our inspections. We've changed the Air Force corporate structure to have a dedicated nuclear operations panel. This is going to ensure a very thorough vetting of nuclear-related requirements so that they compete well for Air Force resources. Air Force leadership intervention has ensured very good resourcing of the nuclear mission at this time.
And so there are -- that's a thumbnail of the number of programs that we have under way that is fulfilling the chief and secretary's establishment of reinvigorating the nuclear enterprise as the Air Force's number one priority in the strategic plan.
SEN. NELSON: Part of our labs need to help out the intelligence community to support the analysis of foreign nuclear capabilities. There's no funding in your budget for 2010 in the NNSA fiscal year 2010 budget request. Are you going to be needing funding for this coming up in the future?
MR. D'AGOSTINO: For intelligence analysis, sir?
SEN. NELSON: For analysis of foreign nuclear capabilities and the proliferation challenges.
MR. D'AGOSTINO: In a way, the intelligence funding request comes through another part of the department, not through the NNSA. But what I would say, with respect to your question, the funding that we do -- the same people that do this intelligence analysis are the same people that are either experienced weapons designers, people that understand the physics behind how to understand timers, special detonator devices. These are the same people that we start off with in the NNSA. And ultimately, as they go through our program they can shift to other divisions in the laboratory.
So Z Division, for example, at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, funded through the intelligence program, essentially contained people that started off in my program, in the National Nuclear Security Administration. So the funding that I have ultimately supports intelligence but in an indirect way, by exercising the capability, by getting these folks exercise not only experiments but having this design experiment.
And that essentially goes to the previous questions that we talked about, is, you know, are we sustainable kind of in the long- term? And that's why I want to get the science and the infrastructure pieces essentially on the right track. We've turned it around in this budget. We've shifted $130 million back into the science area for this very reason. But my view is in the out years we'll ultimately need more. And that will be ultimately my job within the administration, to carry -- you know, to work this problem in the out years.
SEN. NELSON: You're going out to outside financing for a number of the buildings that you need. Why wouldn't you ask for a government line item?
MR. D'AGOSTINO: I'll go for an example. One of the facilities you've -- you probably alluded to, sir, is our Kansas City project that is a GSA project, General Services Administration project. There are a couple of reasons, but let me focus on one that is particularly attractive to me as we look at transforming ourselves from kind of a Cold War nuclear weapons complex into a 21st century nuclear security enterprise and that is, I don't know what the future brings with respect to unclassified parts that the Kansas City plant may need to make.
We may find as a result of our modernization efforts that we can reduce the number and the complexity of these non-nuclear parts and find ourselves much more efficient 20 years from now, if you will, from being able to make those parts at our laboratories.
And such, there's a certain attractiveness that I find in driving efficiency in the program. If I have a 20-year lease that has proved, of course, appropriately -- there's a financial payback in this case of $100 million a year that has been audited, we believe -- but being able to say 20 years from now I'm not building a facility that the nation does not need way out into the future. So, from my standpoint, there's a certain attractiveness in being able to say 20 years from now turning that manufacturing facility back over to the developer and not having to worry about the D&D or maintaining the structure out upon the taxpayer's burdens.
SEN. NELSON: Well, let's talk about Los Alamos and Y12. That's where the problems are. Tell us about that.
MR. D'AGOSTINO: Los Alamos has a proposal that I have not approved yet. I mean, it's a proposal right now for a science complex, if you will. I mean, it's a proposal that we agree that the laboratory -- we need to get people out of trailers. I mean, these are our world-class scientists, and yet, we have them in facilities, frankly, that I'd be embarrassed to have any of these folks go into.
And so there are different -- the laboratory is looking at -- and we agree that there is a need, but now we're in the process of examining should it be a third-party finance facility? Should it be a line-item facility? Do the numbers work? Does the analysis come through?
General Harensack (ph), who is with me, who is running defense programs -- I talked to him this morning, frankly, about where are we on our third-party finance projects? And he is looking at this -- the Defense Department calls it the analysis of alternatives, if you will -- what are options with respect to acquisition, doing what we need for our scientists?
One thing that's clear to me, though, is for facilities that are, you know -- we have to be very careful about employing this technique. For one thing, it has to be done judiciously. Obviously it has to make a lot of sense financially for the taxpayers. And obviously it can't put us in a position where we have to be moving large fences around and having, you know, pockets, if you will, of uncleared spaces, because ultimately if the country decides it doesn't need it anymore, then we turn it back over to the developer and we have an issue of fence lines and the like.
SEN. NELSON: At the least, we'd probably provide that if you can't fill it up with the government activities that they could lease it on their own.
MR. D'AGOSTINO: If the government walks away from the lease, then the develop -- and each arrangement is, in effect, different.
You know, certainly --
SEN. NELSON: But theoretically -- I mean, let's cut to the chase --
MR. D'AGOSTINO: But -- yes.
SEN. NELSON: -- theoretically --
MR. D'AGOSTINO: Theoretically --
SEN. NELSON: -- you wouldn't have the space lease. They could lease the space. You'd be inside the fence.
MR. D'AGOSTINO: If we had -- if we ended up that way, yes, sir, theoretically. Yes, sir.
SEN. NELSON: You've got to watch that.
MR. D'AGOSTINO: Yes, sir. Absolutely.
SEN. NELSON: We've had some very serious problems at Air Force bases on Air Force housing with the result that inside the fence at the Air Force base you could have private housing, because the housing could be rented to non-Air Force personnel. Now, there's a pecking order that they'd have to go through, but theoretically, at the bottom of the pecking order, you could have somebody just off the street renting a house inside an Air Force base. That's what our present condition is. So we don't want that, especially when you start fooling around with facilities in your line of work.
The Los Alamos Neutron Science Center, an accelerator facility that produces protons for a variety of scientific and weapons research, was supposed to have an upgrade beginning in fiscal year 2010, but the upgrade was not funded. Is this upgrade necessary to maintain nuclear weapons?
MR. D'AGOSTINO: Sir, the facility is definitely necessary to maintain our stockpile. The upgrade reduces the risk that the facility will not -- reduces the risk. We want the facility, of course, online to support our deterrent out into the future. So the upgrades approach was to take away a fair amount of risk associated with a facility going down.
You're right sir, the facility -- well, first of all, we continue to operate that facility. Second of all, you're absolutely right, we need it for neutron cross-section measurement for doing materials science, nuclear science.
SEN. NELSON: Okay. So, you're saying you need it, so what happens to the facility without the upgrade?
MR. D'AGOSTINO: Well, what happens without the upgrade is increased risk associated with operations. It's a fairly old facility. It's something that I believe is an important part of maintaining a deterrent and maintaining a laboratory, quite frankly, that can attract scientists that want to work in materials science and in nuclear sciences. So --
SEN. NELSON: How much will the full upgrade cost and how long will it take?
MR. D'AGOSTINO: I'll give you a sense, sir, but I'd like to take that for the record if I could. There's rough numbers of 150 to 200 million dollars or so, is pre-conceptual design activities. But I don't have the particulars. If I could take that for the record, I will provide the --
SEN. NELSON: Do you have a guess on how long?
MR. D'AGOSTINO: Multiple years. It's not a two-year activity. It's probably three to five years, sir.
SEN. NELSON: Let me ask each of you where your top five unfunded priorities, if funds were available, what would your top five be?
ADM. JOHNSON: Sir, I'd like to take that question for the record, if I may.
SEN. NELSON: Okay. So you have to -- you have to counsel up the chain of command?
ADM. JOHNSON: Yes, sir.
SEN. NELSON: Okay.
GEN. ALSTON: Sir, at the Air Force we'd have to do the same. I'd like to take that for the record.
SEN. NELSON: Do you want to take a stab at it? (Laughter.)
MR. D'AGOSTINO: Well, I'd like -- (inaudible) -- the details for the record, but I'd like to reiterate -- I can give you my three broad priorities, if you will --
SEN. NELSON: Modernization.
MR. D'AGOSTINO: Modernization, science and the infrastructure that we need to do that. But I'll take the question for the record, sir.
SEN. NELSON: Okay. Thank you all very much. The meeting's adjourned.