The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) will create a new risk management strategy with the Pentagon, mandate more regular infusions of new technology into nuclear-weapons design and manufacture and build new science facilities, according to the Nuclear Posture Review the Biden administration released Thursday.

Those are the three pillars of the plan laid out to ready the semi-autonomous Department of Energy nuclear weapons agency to maintain current U.S. nukes and, if necessary, build new ones during the rest of the 21st century.

The long-awaited Biden Nuclear Posture Review, delivered more than a year later than a legal due date, largely stays the course for the NNSA. 

As the Trump administration directed in 2018, the Biden review said ongoing modernization of current nuclear weapons and procurement of new delivery vehicles and carrier craft at the Pentagon will continue as planned.

Among the new things in the Biden review is the “three pillars” plan for the NNSA. Specifically, the pillars are:

  • A joint NNSA-Pentagon Nuclear Deterrent Risk Management Strategy, which will “identify, prioritize, and recommend actions across the portfolio of nuclear programs and monitor the overall health of the nuclear deterrent as we sustain current capabilities and transition to modernized systems,” according to the review. The document did not specify who at the NNSA and the Pentagon would produce the strategy or when and if the strategy will be published.
  • A Production-based Resilience Program that will “complement the science-based stewardship program and ensure that the nuclear security enterprise is capable of full-scope production” in part by enabling “more regular and timely incorporation of advanced technologies to improve safety, security, and reliability; accommodate arms control considerations as design features as weapons and infrastructure are modernized.”
  • A Science and Technology Innovation Initiative that will “more rapidly assimilate findings from academic, commercial, and internal research and thereby reduce the time and cost required to design and produce weapons with the most modern technologies” and also “include new and replacement science facilities.”

As previously reported, the Biden Nuclear Posture Review proposed canceling a sea-launched nuclear cruise missile slated to use a variant of the W80-4 warhead the NNSA is working on for the Air Force. The document also proposed retiring the B83 megaton capable gravity bomb, although Congress this year has rejected those proposals in draft legislation. 

The review also says that “[t]he United States does not envision or desire a return to nuclear explosive testing,” but that it could if there was a technical need to do so.

Finally, the administration pledged to keep the W76-2 low-yield submarine-launched ballistic missile warhead in the field. The Trump administration called for the weapon in the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review and the Biden administration “reassessed the rationale for these capabilities and concluded that the W76-2 currently provides an important means to deter limited nuclear use,” according to the review published Thursday.

However, the Biden administration will “periodically reassess its [W76-2’s] deterrent value,” the review says.