3

Research Base and Evolution of the Mission

EVOLUTION OF THE NNSA NATIONAL SECURITY LABORATORIES’ MISSION

In the early decades of the nuclear weapons program, as the world was moving into the cold war, the basic and applied research activities at LANL, LLNL, and SNL were largely focused on nuclear weapons science and engineering. The pace of weapons development was high, and the resources provided to the program were enough to adequately support all the activity.

By the last quarter of the 20th century, the pace of work slowed to some extent. The resource base was not as robust as it had been, and this was a good reason to look outside the laboratories for opportunities to apply the technology developed at the labs.8 Some areas that were attractive early on were in the areas of electronic design, such as radar and fuses, in energetic materials and high explosives design for non-nuclear applications, and in hydrodynamics code capabilities applied to areas such as armor penetration studies.

These early moves into mission-related “Work for Others” (WFO) proved advantageous to the laboratories on several fronts. They were able to contribute technical advances in areas that were clearly important to national security. And they were able to support a larger staff working in areas that were directly relevant to nuclear weapons, maintaining a larger in-house talent pool than could be supported solely from the nuclear weapons budget.

The 1992 unilateral nuclear testing moratorium and the beginning of the Stockpile Stewardship Program stabilized the laboratory budgets for a few years, but then the gradual budget deterioration began again. The leadership of the laboratories recognized that they would not be able to sustain the S&E staffing levels that they believed were necessary to steward the nation’s nuclear weapon capability in the long term. This was not a sudden discovery, but a growing recognition over some time.

A logical solution was to continue the trend already in place of applying the laboratories’ capabilities to other national security problems in a way that would be supportive of the core mission. SNL took the lead in this move, and it is still ahead of the other two laboratories. This sort of diversification has the combined benefits of providing useful contributions to the nation while supporting staff members who have skills that will likely be needed for the nuclear weapons program in the future. Research projects of this kind were available in the broad areas of defense, intelligence, and what is now known as homeland security. This was the real beginning of the transition of these three laboratories from nuclear weapons laboratories to national security laboratories.

As these activities outside the core program began to grow, there were some unexpected benefits and some problems as well. One of the important benefits was the increased diversity of applied programs, which was helpful in recruiting staff. That is because the absence of nuclear testing means that experimental validation of much of the S&E performed by the laboratories is not possible, and this lessens the intellectual attractiveness of the work for at least some prospective employees. The expansion of the laboratories’ mission into new non-nuclear areas offers the prospect of expanding the laboratories’

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8 For example, the Nunn-Warner Blue Ribbon Group made recommendations for closer ties with the DOD in 1984. The “Joint Munitions Program” with the DOD followed and has continued to be successful. See memorandum of understanding between DOD and DOE, December 21, 1984.



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3 Research Base and Evolution of the Mission EVOLUTION OF THE NNSA NATIONAL SECURITY LABORATORIES’ MISSION In the early decades of the nuclear weapons program, as the world was moving into the cold war, the basic and applied research activities at LANL, LLNL, and SNL were largely focused on nuclear weapons science and engineering. The pace of weapons development was high, and the resources provided to the program were enough to adequately support all the activity. By the last quarter of the 20th century, the pace of work slowed to some extent. The resource base was not as robust as it had been, and this was a good reason to look outside the laboratories for opportunities to apply the technology developed at the labs. 8 Some areas that were attractive early on were in the areas of electronic design, such as radar and fuses, in energetic materials and high explosives design for non-nuclear applications, and in hydrodynamics code capabilities applied to areas such as armor penetration studies. These early moves into mission-related “Work for Others” (WFO) proved advantageous to the laboratories on several fronts. They were able to contribute technical advances in areas that were clearly important to national security. And they were able to support a larger staff working in areas that were directly relevant to nuclear weapons, maintaining a larger in-house talent pool than could be supported solely from the nuclear weapons budget. The 1992 unilateral nuclear testing moratorium and the beginning of the Stockpile Stewardship Program stabilized the laboratory budgets for a few years, but then the gradual budget deterioration began again. The leadership of the laboratories recognized that they would not be able to sustain the S&E staffing levels that they believed were necessary to steward the nation’s nuclear weapon capability in the long term. This was not a sudden discovery, but a growing recognition over some time. A logical solution was to continue the trend already in place of applying the laboratories’ capabilities to other national security problems in a way that would be supportive of the core mission. SNL took the lead in this move, and it is still ahead of the other two laboratories. This sort of diversification has the combined benefits of providing useful contributions to the nation while supporting staff members who have skills that will likely be needed for the nuclear weapons program in the future. Research projects of this kind were available in the broad areas of defense, intelligence, and what is now known as homeland security. This was the real beginning of the transition of these three laboratories from nuclear weapons laboratories to national security laboratories. As these activities outside the core program began to grow, there were some unexpected benefits and some problems as well. One of the important benefits was the increased diversity of applied programs, which was helpful in recruiting staff. That is because the absence of nuclear testing means that experimental validation of much of the S&E performed by the laboratories is not possible, and this lessens the intellectual attractiveness of the work for at least some prospective employees. The expansion of the laboratories’ mission into new non-nuclear areas offers the prospect of expanding the laboratories’ 8 For example, the Nunn-Warner Blue Ribbon Group made recommendations for closer ties with the DOD in 1984. The “Joint Munitions Program” with the DOD followed and has continued to be successful. See memorandum of understanding between DOD and DOE, December 21, 1984. 14

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appeal to top-quality scientists and engineers while also serving important national missions. Thus, the quality of S&E, being preconditioned on attracting high-quality people, depends in the long run on successfully making this transition to national security laboratories. It is for this reason that the study committee was pleased to see that a governance charter was established in June 2010 among the Departments of Energy, Homeland Security, and Defense, plus the Office of the Director of National Intelligence 9. Many of the challenges facing these agencies are synergistic with the capabilities of these NNSA laboratories, and they can, and do, benefit from the large investments that NNSA and its predecessors have made in S&E capabilities. In a time of constrained budgets, broadening the mandate to a national security mission at the NNSA laboratories helps preserve S&E expertise by providing opportunities to work on problems posed by partner agencies. The four- agency charter recognizes the value of the laboratories to broad national security research activities, and that this broader work is synergistic with the laboratories’ core nuclear weapons mission. The transition from nuclear-weapons-only laboratories to national security laboratories is well underway. Finding 3.1. All three laboratories and the NNSA have strongly emphasized that their core mission is to assure a reliable, safe, and secure nuclear weapons stockpile, and that all other research activities contribute to the development and maintenance of the scientific and engineering capabilities required to effectively execute this mission. Finding 3.2. NNSA leadership has expressed a compelling vision for the laboratories as national security labs, maintaining nuclear weapons as the core mission while also contributing importantly to other national security areas. Finding 3.3. Work for Others at the three national security laboratories benefits the nation in two ways. It produces valuable research and technology for the national security efforts of the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, and for the Intelligence Community; and it provides a mechanism to help sustain some of the people and capabilities for the nuclear weapon program. It also strengthens the laboratories’ broad S&E capabilities. Recommendation 3.1. The study committee recommends that Congress recognize that maintenance of the stockpile remains the core mission of the labs, and in that context consider endorsing and supporting in some manner the evolution of the NNSA laboratories to national security laboratories as described in the July 2010 four-agency Governance Charter for an Interagency Council on the Strategic Capability of DOE National Laboratories. Conducting applied program work outside the nuclear weapons program for agencies other than DOE, however, does not encourage those other sponsoring government agencies to contribute to the long- term institutional support needed to maintain the laboratories. Work for agencies other than DOE (which is referred to as Work for Others, or WFO), is conducted under task-order contracts. The contracts specify and fund specific work and deliverables, but rarely contribute to the construction of facilities and purchase of major equipment. These other agencies are exploiting the infrastructure that has resulted from NNSA’s investment, and are by and large not contributing directly to the building and maintenance of that infrastructure. This causes problems not only for NNSA and ultimately for the laboratories, but also for the other agencies, because the NNSA cannot provide long-term institutional support for programmatic work that is not theirs. This situation limits what the laboratories can do for the other agencies, since it limits them to using what they have without acquiring facilities, equipment, and skills specifically to support their work for these other agencies. The four-agency agreement does not solve the 9 See Appendix A, “Governance Charter for an Interagency Council on the Strategic Capability of DOE National Laboratories as National Security Assets.” 15

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long-term problems of resources and institutional support, but it is a good beginning that provides a structure within which a solution may be reached. SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING SUPPORTING THE MISSION The national security laboratories maintain S&E research in diverse areas that are broadly related to their mission areas. Some of this S&E, such as plutonium science, is unique to their core mission of nuclear weapons, and it must be supported in these laboratories in order for them to do their mission. The laboratories also conduct research in areas that, while related to their core mission, are not unique to the core. An example is astrophysics, which is directly applicable to some fundamental parts of nuclear weapon explosion codes, but where research is also done in universities. The principal reason given by the laboratories for conducting research in these areas is that it allows them to attract high quality people who then contribute to the programmatic mission areas during their careers in the laboratory. The quality of the research conducted in the laboratories is clearly an important part of being able to attract good people. Each laboratory maintains post-doctoral research programs that are popular and highly competitive. The laboratories cite their post-doctoral programs as one of the most important sources of permanent S&E staff. The staff recruited into the laboratories because of the S&E research programs have contributed significantly to the core mission. Laboratory leaders told the study committee that essentially all the people recruited into basic research activities have spent time working on core mission projects. Many transfer to full time participation in the applied programs. Others stay in the research organization and spend part of their time contributing to applied programs. An example of the latter can be found in the Hydrodynamics Group in the Theoretical Physics Division at LANL. This is primarily a basic research group, but over many years a former group leader and other staff members have made significant contributions to the hydrodynamics portions of the nuclear weapons codes. There are many examples in each laboratory of staff who were recruited to the laboratory to work in fundamental (basic) research activities, and who have subsequently moved into the core applied programs. In addition, some of these people have taken on major leadership roles in the nuclear weapons program. Specific data on career paths are not available. However, the following examples were provided by senior laboratory management: • LLNL cites transfers from inertial fusion research into nuclear weapon design, and in at least one case a person has taken on a major leadership responsibility in the weapons program. Other transfers are from chemistry research into the design of insensitive explosives for weapons, and from basic materials research into plutonium metallurgy. • LANL cites transfers of people from basic materials research into plutonium science, and points out that one of those people served as the director of the laboratory. Notable among the other transfers are people recruited to do research in theoretical astrophysics moving into nuclear weapon design, one of whom is currently a laboratory research fellow. • Finally, SNL cites transfers from a number of basic research areas. One such transfer is from research and code development in radiation hydrodynamics in to the nuclear weapons program. This individual became vice president and chief engineer. Another started work in chemical kinetics and multiphase fluid dynamics and moved into the weapons program and held several leadership positions including deputy chief engineer. 16

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Finding 3.4. Fundamental S&E activities are critical for the long-term vitality of the weapons laboratories. These activities are also funded from outside the defense community, for example, by the DOE Office of Science, DOE Energy programs, the National Institutes of Health, and NASA. LABORATORY DIRECTED RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT The Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) Program carried out at the various DOE national laboratories, including those today reporting to DOE/NNSA, was originally authorized by Congress in 1991, with the aim of allowing laboratory management to guide the funding of leading-edge research and development central to the national laboratories’ core missions. This program was initiated during the period when DOE’s mission in the nuclear weapons arena was drastically curtailed, with President George H. W. Bush’s 27 September 1991 directive to unilaterally reduce the U.S. stockpile and terminate a number of then ongoing weapons development programs. With this substantial change in mission scope for its defense program laboratories, DOE understood from the outset that the LDRD program could serve as a key strategic element in retaining the ‘best and the brightest’ at the national laboratories during a period of considerable retrenchment in the weapons program. Indeed, the LDRD program was understood to be not only a way of attracting and retaining top researchers from around the world, but also as a way of fostering collaborations with other prominent scientific and technological institutions, leveraging some of the world’s most technologically advanced assets, and cultivating world class laboratory staff and management. Much of the basic research described in the previous section was supported by LDRD. However, the decline in DOE/NNSA funding directed towards the laboratories over the last few years threatened this intended function of the LDRD program. As early as FY2000, DOE recognized a serious problem: The FY 2000 reduction in Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) funds at the Laboratories has reduced the ability of Laboratory personnel to conduct the types of exploratory research that often results in long-term program benefits. This research is also a large contributor to the Laboratories’ scientific vitality and ability to attract and retain personnel. LDRD reductions threaten the funding of post-doctoral scientists who are an important recruiting pipeline for permanent employees. 10 Since the LDRD programs are traditionally funded as a fixed percentage of the overall parent laboratory budget, the decline in weapons laboratory funding (peaking immediately following the re- competition of the LANL and LLNL M&O contracts) meant a concomitant significant decline in LDRD funding. From FY2006 through FY2010, total funding from DOE for the three laboratories declined by over $300 million or about 7.5 percent in current year dollars. 11 This decline may be arrested with the recent stabilization of funding for the laboratories as a result of congressional calls for increased funding for the nuclear weapons program. However, new stresses have arisen at LANL and LLNL because the LDRD program missions have been skewed to fill a gap left by the cancellation of funding for weapons- related research (WSR). That latter program had been funded through a separate budget line in the weapons programs at LLNL and LANL and targeted for research to advance weapons science in general; i.e., weapons science that was not specifically aligned with particular mission programs. That activity supported a good deal of the kind of “blue sky” research that has in the past been so successful in allowing the best of the young researchers at these laboratories to develop their S&E careers and to build their competences. 10 Quoted from the joint DOD/DOE Response to the Chiles Commission document (p. 10). 11 This information is taken from the Laboratory Tables found in the supporting documents for the DOE Budget Justifications for FY2006 to FY2012; at http://www.mbe.doe.gov/crorg/cf30.htm#Justifications. 17

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Until the late 1990s, significant discretionary funding was provided through WSR. For example, WSR at LLNL was more than 8 percent of the budget in 1977, declining more or less steadily to zero in 1997. 12 Similarly, in FY81 WSR accounted for 14 percent of the budget of the LANL Chemistry-Nuclear Chemistry division. 13 When the WSR program was cancelled, the LDRD programs at both LANL and LLNL were partially re-directed to serve this function. As a result, there was a concomitant reduction in LDRD available for projects outside the weapons programs—the traditional focus of LDRD—and an overall reduction in the amount of funding available for “blue sky” research at each laboratory. A high-quality S&E enterprise requires a base of fundamental research. LDRD programs at the three national security laboratories are important for supporting and maintaining this base. However, LDRD alone is not sufficiently robust to maintain this base. Finding 3.5. LDRD is critical for attracting and retaining high quality technical staff and thus for assuring long-term viability of the laboratories and their ability to carry out their mission in the future. Recommendation 3.2. The study committee recommends that Congress and NNSA maintain strong support of the LDRD program as it is an essential component of enabling the long-term viability of the laboratories. Several laboratory staffers told the study committee about the increase in the number of budget reporting categories in the Nuclear Weapons program, which constrain the flexibility of laboratory managers to direct S&E work. They also add to overhead. A senior manager at SNL said his center used to be able to use about 15 percent of its budget for discretionary investments, and now it has none because the money is managed more closely. For example, one $40 million program is broken into 7 “B&R codes,” each of which is tracked by Congress and directed to a particular near-term task. Each of these codes is monitored by a federal program manager who sets specific deliverables and expects quarterly reporting against pre-determined milestones. Another SNL manager is concerned whether the nation is actually getting less value, because there is more overhead work, some taken from the time of the people who could otherwise be producing S&E progress. He estimated that the daily activities of those technical people now include at least twice the overhead burden as in the early 1990s. In addition, more financial managers have been added because of the increased reporting requirements. Additional B&R codes add more control in the governance structure at the expense of moving control away from the technical staff. Whatever advantages may be derived from having multiple B&R codes, it can impede the ability of laboratory management to develop necessary S&E capability. Recommendation 3.3. The study committee recommends that Congress consider reducing the number of restrictive budget reporting categories in the Nuclear Weapons Program and permit the use of such funds to support a robust core weapons research program and further develop necessary S&E capability. 12 See “Review of the Department of Energy’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program,” DOE Laboratory Operations Board, January 27, 2000. 13 See “Progress Report: Chemistry-Nuclear Chemistry Division,” October 1980-September 1981, at .http://www.osti.gov/bridge/servlets/purl/5067196-cgsI2T/5067196.pdf. 18