Good afternoon. It is a pleasure to be speaking with you today and to see so many friends and colleagues online. I’d like to thank the Advanced Nuclear Weapons Alliance Deterrence Center and the Hudson Institute for the invitation and for their work in putting this event together. I’m looking forward to our discussion.

Let me begin with the blunt truth, this is the most demanding moment in the history of our nation’s nuclear enterprise since the Manhattan Project. We are in the early stages of recapitalizing our physical infrastructure to enable the execution of five weapons modernization and life extension programs. Real time infrastructure revitalization is not ideal under any circumstances, but today’s conditions are far from ideal in at least three dimensions. First, the sense of importance and urgency about NNSA missions are heightened, appropriately, by international conditions causing a demand to go faster. Second, the environment for major construction is challenging at best. Supply chain issues, labor shortages, and productivity due to COVID and changing work expectations are all conspiring to delay construction and drive costs up. And third, the labor market is hyper competitive for science and engineering talent, and for specialized trade and craft workers.

However challenging, it is also a time of great opportunity, and we are making progress. Today, I will give you an update on our efforts and then take your questions.

International Environment

Let’s start by talking a bit about international conditions since it frames what we do.

Starting with Russia, the invasion of Ukraine including actions at Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia and the potential for a nuclear power plant accident are nerve wracking and persistent. On top of that, the occasional Russian nuclear saber rattling is deeply concerning. The impact of the conflict, and what does or doesn’t happen on the nuclear front will impact our programs, our allies, and the public for some time to come.

China’s nuclear ambitions and its modernization program are more aggressive than ever before with a report this week suggesting they may have 1500 nuclear weapons by 2035. North Korea is actively testing missiles and has announced the ambition to be the world’s most powerful nuclear state. Finally, Iran is clearly headed in a bad direction as indicated by uranium enrichment to higher levels at a faster pace.

In addition, on completely different fronts a growing interest in nuclear power and nuclear technologies to combat climate change, our trilateral partnership with the United Kingdom and Australia to provide the latter with a nuclear-powered submarine capability, and the rising interest of non-nuclear weapon states to consider having their own arsenals are compounding nuclear issues and international dynamics. As a result of this combination of factors, we are forced to reevaluate how we think about nuclear security, deterrence, nonproliferation, and counterproliferation.

Confronting these myriad crises at a time when we are rebuilding our enterprise means we have the chance to prepare ourselves to meet what might be in front of us. Having to confront and challenge our long-held assumptions about security and deterrence gives us the chance to reimagine nuclear security in the 21st century.

Mission Synergy

In looking at these challenges and opportunities, I would like to briefly reflect on the increasing synergy among NNSA’s missions. NNSA was founded with three core missions:

  • to provide and maintain a safe, secure, reliable, and effective nuclear deterrent;
  • to reduce threats and promote peaceful nuclear use through nonproliferation and counterterrorism programs;
  • and to provide the U.S. Navy with militarily effective propulsion systems that enable them to maintain a qualitative edge in warfighting technology.

There has always been overlap between these core missions. For example, a credible nuclear deterrent coupled with effective verification technologies has allowed us to negotiate arms control agreements that increases stability and predictability.

Today, the synergies are occurring in other dimensions as well. For example, our ongoing trilateral partnership with the United Kingdom and Australia to provide Australia with a nuclear-powered, conventionally armed submarine capability is another area of mission overlap, this time between our naval reactors and nonproliferation teams. Helping Australia develop this capability will promote security and free and open trade in the Indo-Pacific region. At the same time, we are acutely aware of the sensitivities surrounding the proliferation of nuclear technology and remain in active consultations with the UK and Australian governments along with the IAEA on implementing the strictest possible safeguards for the AUKUS program. In doing so, the United States has an opportunity to reinforce the norms on the export of nuclear technology and continue to promote itself and our British and Australian partners as leaders in nonproliferation.

Weapons Activities Updates

Now I’d like to pivot to NNSA updates and accomplishments in our weapons program.

As I previously noted, we are currently in the middle of executing five modernization and life extension programs. In the aftermath of the Cold War, our enterprise shifted from a design, test, and deliver methodology for weapons to a sustainment model centered on science-based stockpile stewardship. It made sense to take that approach during a period of strong nuclear disarmament cooperation, relative geopolitical stability, and because we had a weapons stockpile that was within its design lifetime. Unfortunately, the increasing age our weapon systems makes this approach unsustainable without degrading confidence in our stockpile and it is not considered practical to unilaterally disarm under the current world conditions. Our nuclear weapons and their delivery systems were designed to last for a long time, but not forever.

This new era requires the ability to extend the life of relevant weapons in our stockpile, and to modernize and build new weapons in time frames on par with threat changes. To do this, we must re-build weapon manufacturing capability because some elements, such as pit manufacturing, were closed after the Cold War and other capabilities, such as radiation case manufacturing, simply atrophied. But now we have the unique opportunity to create a manufacturing complex that meets these new demands and takes advantage of advances in technology.

As a result, the NNSA nuclear security enterprise has been aggressively working to identify and obtain support for infrastructure that will meet the weapon program needs in the near-term and provide, over the longer-term, a resilient and responsive new enterprise. To be clear, a responsive enterprise would have the ability to scale up or down capacity without a need to close a facility or build an entirely new facility.

On the weapons modernization front, earlier this year we reached the First Production Unit for both the W88 ALT 370 sea-launched warhead and B61-12 gravity bomb and both programs are now in full-scale production and on track to meet Department of Defense schedules. We are continuing to advance our efforts on the W80-4 cruise missile for the Air Force and remain on track to meet operating schedules. The W87-1 for the Sentinel ICBM has successfully moved from the Feasibility and Design Options Phase to the Development Engineering Phase, and the W93 remains in early design. It is also worth noting that the W93 continues our strong partnership with the United Kingdom. Our efforts in this area constitute a separate but parallel effort to the UK’s replacement warhead project for its submarine-based missiles which provide a critical additional contribution to NATO’s deterrence and defense needs.

Our ability to successfully meet our delivery targets for these programs is dependent on a recapitalized physical infrastructure and the recruitment, training, and retention of a highly skilled workforce. Over the next 20 years NNSA intends to complete two new construction projects for pit manufacturing, multiple projects for secondary production, expand the Kansas City National Security Complex for non-nuclear production, refurbish multiple existing lab and office facilities, and invest in new and updated scientific capabilities. We will also need to recruit in a tight labor market with intense competition for scientific, engineering, trade and craft talent to meet our expanded mission needs and replace the growing percentage of NNSA employees who are retirement eligible.

Making progress on these tasks requires the NNSA enterprise to be highly innovative and productive. That’s why last January I organized a team of DOE and NNSA staff to launch the Enhanced Mission Delivery Initiative, or EMDI. This initiative has led to engagement and discussion with over 250 senior leaders and subject matter experts at both the federal and M&O contractor level on how to get the nuclear security enterprise to be more effective. Those conversations were boiled down to 21 recommendations on how to improve on contract structure, personnel policies, work environment, and restoring trust and innovation. I look forward to continuing to work with our national security enterprise leaders on prioritizing and implementing these recommendations.  

Nuclear Nonproliferation Updates

Finally, I would also like to touch on some recent developments and initiatives in nonproliferation. As the only organization in the U.S. government with broad portfolios and activities in both the weapons and nonproliferation realms, we recognize the need to continually refine and work in both areas to advance the nation’s security interests.

In the area of traditional arms control, for decades NNSA has maintained and advanced the technical capabilities and expertise to assist with monitoring and verification of treaty compliance. For example, while the Iran Nuclear Deal was in force, NNSA provided technologies and support to the IAEA to monitor the Iranian nuclear program.

We recognize that, regrettably, current geopolitical conditions do not lend themselves to the establishment of new arms control agreements in the near-term, either bilaterally or multilaterally. China’s nuclear expansion, Russia’s pursuit of novel nuclear capabilities, North Korea’s ongoing missile tests, and Iran’s willingness to enrich uranium far above levels permitted by the JCPOA all indicate that at this time these nations are not interested in new agreements or even in productive dialog.

However, that is no reason to sit idle and wait for favorable conditions to present themselves. NNSA has established a new Arms Control Advancement Initiative to invest in next generation arms control capabilities. This Initiative will allow for new ideas for warhead monitoring and verification including the establishment of a test bed and purposeful stewardship of expertise within the Complex. As a responsible nuclear power, we intend to be proactive rather than reactive in technology development so when the time is right, we are not held back by verification technology.

Alongside traditional arms control, NNSA remains engaged in the process of encouraging the adoption of nuclear technology as a means of combating climate change and to reach the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. We are working diligently with our colleagues in the Nuclear Energy Office at the Department of Energy to increase the need for inherent safeguards and security as new reactor concepts are developed. As an international community we have a moral imperative to address climate change and secure our planet and its environment for future generations but we must not allow that to create a weapons proliferation risk. 


I know that was a lot to cover. I hope your main takeaway is that we are in a pivotal moment of the nuclear age. The confluence of rapidly changing world events and the need to revitalize our 70+ year old nuclear enterprise will underpin what we do for decades to come. We are and will continue to have our ups and downs, but our intention is to make sure NNSA works proactively across all its missions to meet this moment. With the right tools and resources and with one of the world’s top scientific, engineering, and technical talent I believe we will succeed.

Thank you all and I look forward to your questions.