Nuclear Weapons: Opportunities Exist to Improve the Budgeting, Cost Accounting, and Management Associated with the Stockpile Life Extension Program Page: 4 of 48
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Accountability * Integrity * Reliability
United States General Accounting Office
Washington, D.C. 20548
July 28, 2003
Nuclear weapons have been and continue to be an essential part of the
nation's defense strategy. However, the end of the Cold War has caused a
dramatic shift in how the nation maintains its planning and support for
such weapons. Instead of designing, testing, and producing new nuclear
weapons, the strategy has shifted to maintaining the existing nuclear
weapons stockpile indefinitely. To accomplish this goal, in January 1996,
the Department of Energy (DOE) created the Stockpile Life Extension
Program. Now administered by the National Nuclear Security
Administration (NNSA), which was created in October 1999 as a separately
organized agency within DOE, this program intends to use a standardized
approach for planning and conducting nuclear weapons refurbishment
activities to extend the weapons' operational lives.1 While complete cost
data on the Stockpile Life Extension Program does not exist, NNSA
requested $476 million in fiscal year 2004 for life extension program
Within NNSA, the Office of Defense Programs is responsible for
administering the Stockpile Life Extension Program. For those nuclear
weapons that are refurbished, this office must (1) determine which
components, such as the high explosives package, will need refurbishment
to extend each weapon's life; (2) design and produce the necessary
components; (3) install the components in the weapons; and (4) certify that
the changes do not adversely affect the safety and reliability of the
weapons. Because research and development is needed to refurbish the
nuclear weapons, this program requires a coordinated effort among the
design laboratories and production facilities that comprise the nation's
nuclear weapons complex.
As of May 1, 2003, according to NNSA officials, three nuclear weapons
were undergoing research and development activities prior to the
commencement of refurbishment production-the W-80 warhead, the B-61
bomb, and the W-76 warhead. The W-80 warhead is designed to be carried
on a cruise missile launched from an attack submarine or a B-52 bomber
1Though NNSA is a separately organized agency within DOE, NNSA Policy Letter NAP-1,
dated May 21, 2002, stipulates that DOE directives are applicable to NNSA unless or until a
NNSA policy letter is provided.
GAO-03-583 Improving the Stockpile Life Extension Program
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United States. General Accounting Office. Nuclear Weapons: Opportunities Exist to Improve the Budgeting, Cost Accounting, and Management Associated with the Stockpile Life Extension Program, report, July 28, 2003; Washington D.C.. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc293840/m1/4/: accessed April 19, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.