The relationship between the National Nuclear Security Administration and the Department of Defense “has never been stronger,” the head of the semi-autonomous civilian weapons agency said Tuesday at a public meeting in Washington.
U.S. Strategic Command “is our customer. But they don’t think of themselves as our customer, they think of themselves as their partner,” National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty said. “And we think of them as our partner.”
Gordon-Hagerty was one of several high-ranking officials to attend the Tuesday meeting of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board at Department of Energy (DoE) headquarters in Washington. She offered a salute to solidarity with the Pentagon in response to a question from board member Norman Augustine: a retired Lockheed Martin executive often tapped to advise the government on ways to improve massive industrial programs.
Augustine asked Gordon-Hagerty to explain how today’s NNSA was dealing with the “challenges” of “coordinating between DoE and” the Department of Defense.
Gordon-Hagerty, who marked her first year as NNSA administrator in February, kept her replies vague, but told Augustine that one step was for NNSA and the Pentagon to “institutionalize our relationship so those that come after us are able to build on what we’ve put in place.”
To that end, Gordon-Hagerty said she plans to release an NNSA vision statement and a governance and management document for the agency “in the very near future.” An NNSA spokesperson did not immediately reply to a request for comment about when those documents would be finished, and whether they would be released publicly.
Gordon-Hagerty’s self-identified, number-one priority for NNSA is to build a redundant plutonium-pit production complex capable of annually producing 80 of the fissile warhead cores a year by 2030. The Trump administration set that goal in its 2018 Nuclear Posture Review.
“That’s not going to be an easy task,” the NNSA chief acknowledged.
Last year, early in Gordon-Hagerty’s tenure, NNSA decided to split put production between Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Savannah River Site in Aiken, S.C.
Under this plan, Los Alamos will crank out 30 pits a year by 2026 in its soon-to-be-expanded PF-4 Plutonium Facility, while Savannah River would make 50 pits a year by 2030 in a planned pit plant to be made from the remains of the now-canceled Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF): a failed plutonium disposal plant whose prime contract NNSA canceled in October after protracted legal and political battles.
“We also have to build at least 50 pits per year [at MFFF] by 2030,” Gordon-Hagerty said. “That’s a hot start. That doesn’t mean we’re just going to turn on the switch and by 2030 do that. We’re going to have to have cold starts from now until 2030 and be able to maintain that capability.”