December 9, 2020
Evaluation of the Aircraft Monitor and Control System’s Nuclear Certification
The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) have a long-standing agreement of joint responsibilities for design and testing requirements of the Aircraft Monitor and Control (AMAC) system. In November 2019, the Department of Energy and DoD Offices of Inspector General announced a joint evaluation of the AMAC system’s nuclear certification. The DoD Office of Inspector General’s objective was to determine whether testing conducted on the AMAC system for DoD nuclear weapon capable delivery aircraft meets the DoD and Department of Energy nuclear certification requirements. Our objective was to determine the extent to which the Department of Energy provided oversight of the AMAC system testing requirements for nuclear weapons delivery.
While NNSA was aware of and engaged in addressing the challenges posed with AMAC system testing requirements for nuclear delivery, we found opportunities to strengthen NNSA’s oversight. Specifically, NNSA’s oversight was impacted by disagreements with the Air Force. There was discord between the two Federal agencies on the number of aircraft to test, as well as changes to the test requirements made by the Air Force outside of the AMAC Project Officers Group. Disagreements between NNSA and the Air Force on AMAC tests to establish compatibility between the delivery aircraft and the nuclear weapon have occurred since at least 2008. These disagreements resulted in NNSA and the Air Force engaging in prolonged exchanges that delayed aircraft tests needed to establish or reaffirm compatibility, weapon reliability, and nuclear safety.
These challenges to NNSA’s oversight of the AMAC system testing requirements for nuclear weapons delivery occurred because NNSA’s process for resolving interagency differences did not have specified timeframes, which resulted in some delays for resolution of issues between the two Federal agencies where agreement could not be reached. In addition, NNSA and Sandia National Laboratories accepted the final versions of the Certification Requirements Plans in good faith and did not always perform follow-up reviews. Finally, there are fundamental inconsistencies between the Memorandum of Understanding between NNSA and the Air Force, the AMAC Project Officers Group Charter, and the DoD/Air Force Manual.
Management generally concurred with the recommendations and provided corrective actions that are responsive to our recommendations; therefore, a management decision is not required.