GAO: Nuclear Weapons Lack Stockpile Guidance - PDF

  • GAO: Nuclear Weapons Lack Stockpile Guidance - PDF

    What GAO Found

    For the 52 NNSA identified limitations for all weapons in the U.S. nuclear stockpile, 86 percent fall into six types: detonation safety under abnormal conditions, weapon reliability, weapon delivery, more frequent replacement of limited life components, nuclear yield, and worker safety. Some DOD officials expressed concern over the impact that certain weapon limitations have on weapon operation, maintenance, and war planning. According to DOD officials, current DOD mitigation actions, as well as the successful completion of ongoing and planned NNSA efforts, should address most limitations for which the officials raised concerns. DOD officials stated that the current stockpile allows sufficient flexibility to mitigate limitations. However, they told GAO that there may be less flexibility in the future as the stockpile continues to age and decreases in size. For each weapon system, NNSA provides DOD with guidance containing additional information on nuclear weapon limitations. However, GAO found that this guidance does not cover all limitations and some DOD officials said that it may not provide them with relevant information for some limitations. Specifically, the guidance addresses approximately 60 percent of all limitations but does not include limitations based on certain weapon components. In addition, one senior DOD official stated that the guidance did not help clarify the potential impact that a particular limitation may have on weapon operation and maintenance. The applicable military service is now conducting its own analysis of this limitation’s potential impact. Furthermore, the national laboratories identified four existing weapon limitations (8 percent of all limitations) that are no longer valid because, among other reasons, corrective action to address the limitations is complete. In addition, it is uncertain if an ongoing DOD and NNSA review of nuclear weapon military requirements will be used to eliminate limitations based on potentially outdated military requirements