All Three DOE Nuclear Weapons Labs Win Support of President

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Publication date: 
27 September 1995

"To forswear nuclear testing for the longer term, one has to be in
a position to declare the stockpile safe and reliable."          
    -- Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary

President Clinton announced his support for the Energy Department's
three weapons labs on September 25, stating: "To meet the challenge
of ensuring confidence in the safety and reliability of our
stockpile, I have concluded that the continued vitality of all
three DOE nuclear weapons laboratories will be essential."  He
added, "While it would be easy to destroy premier Federal
laboratories through severe budget cuts or senseless closures, that
is not a path that this Administration will follow."

The President's decision to maintain all three weapons labs -
Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, and Sandia - was based in part upon
a review of the DOE, DOD, and NASA federal laboratory systems,
conducted by the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) in
May.  The NSTC document relies heavily on internal laboratory
reviews performed by the three agencies, including the Foster
Report for NASA (see FYI #51) and the Galvin Report for DOE (see
FYIs #17, 40, 60).  The NSTC, while warning of the need for
downsizing, better management, elimination of duplication, and more
clearly defined missions, found that "each of the laboratory
systems makes important contributions in multiple areas of national
need," such as fundamental science, national security,
environmental protection, and industrial competitiveness.

The NSTC review found that DOE's 10 largest labs were overburdened
with directives and audits, and encouraged the Department to
"vigorously pursue its current activities to improve management of
its labs."  The review also focused explicitly on the three weapons
laboratories, noting contrary opinions among experts over the
optimum number.  It cited a University of California advisory panel
recommendation that three labs be kept in operation for
approximately 10 years in order to provide sufficient redundancy
and oversight of the stockpile stewardship mission.  "The argument
is that the scientific basis for assuring safety and reliability of
the stockpile, without nuclear testing, is not yet well developed,"
NSTC stated.

In a September 25 press conference, Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary
explained that the United States' advocacy of a comprehensive
nuclear test ban would require a strong science-based program for
monitoring the nuclear weapons without testing.  She reported that
"our major customer, the Department of Defense, was not comfortable
unless we could set up an independent review function apart from
Los Alamos," a function that would be performed by Lawrence
Livermore.  She added that the NSTC review provided support for the
10 major DOE laboratories, but remarked that among DOE's 17 smaller
labs, "there do exist opportunities to privatize."  O'Leary also
stated that by the end of the year, DOE will have in place a
strategic plan for its labs.

The NSTC document, "Interagency Federal Laboratory Review," is
available by calling 202-456-6100, or faxing your request to Laurel
Kayse at 202-456-6026.

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