The DOE Inspector General (IG) Office prepared a September 2000 audit report entitled Management of the Nuclear Weapons Production Infrastructure. This is a rather remarkable document in that it calls into question the adequacy of the Stockpile Stewardship Program and its publicly advertised costs.

Concerning the budget for the program, the IG report says that $5 - 8 billion over 10 years above and beyond what is currently planned is needed to take care of deferred maintenance for facilities directly involved in nuclear weapons production. Moreover, the report states that DOE simply does not have the credible data needed to compile an adequate budget database to begin with. It further states that within existing budget projections that there is no accurate information that links workload with facilities. Finally, the report notes that out of all of the production sites, only the Pantex and the Savannah River Sites fully complied with DOE regulations for Ten Year Site Plans (as a basis for required longer-range budget planning). What is completely missing is any discussion of extravagant and controversial facilities such as the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) that are less than fully relevant to production.

Those of us who are against continuing nuclear weapons production (as we are) might say that all of this good because production is impaired. There is, of course, a catch. Included in production budgets are the surveillance and lab testing of weapons in the existing stockpile. The IG report explicitly states that the lack of lab testing capability and related work backlog will impact the annually required certification of the stockpile, perhaps as soon as in two years. Should the three nuclear weapons lab directors fail to "confidently" certify the stockpile in front of Congress, this will inevitably cause a resumption of full-scale nuclear weapons testing by the US and thus set a horrible international example.

The seriousness of this report is underscored by its inclusion of a letter from the Commander in Chief of the Department of Defense Strategic Command. He says "we are concerned that the nuclear weapons complex infrastructure receives inadequate attention and is not positioned to support the future DSW (Direct Stockpile Work] needs of the stockpile." DSW is essentially the production, testing and certification side of the Stockpile Stewardship Program. The IG report states that future modifications, remanufacturing and lab testing of nuclear weapons are at risk. It repeatedly notes that LANL has yet to produce a plutonium pit to war reserve criteria. It furthermore states that a new $2 billion plutonium pit production facility might be needed (which would probably be located at the Savannah River Site).

The bottom line is that budgets for core US nuclear weapons programs, which at $5 billion a year already receive more annual funding than during the Cold War, will likely see yet another big jump in funding. This will be yet more evidence that the US never intends to genuinely honor the NonProliferation Treaty's mandate that all nuclear weapons states entered into serious negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament.