The Reliable Replacement Warhead Program: Background and Current Developments
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
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Most current U.S. nuclear warheads were built in the 1970s and 1980s and are being retained longer than was planned. Yet they deteriorate and must be maintained. To correct problems, a Life Extension Program LEP, part of a larger Stockpile Stewardship Program SSP, replaces components. Modifying some components would require a nuclear test, but the United States has observed a test moratorium since 1992 so LEP rebuilds these components as closely as possible to original specifications. With this approach, the Secretaries of Defense and Energy have certified stockpile safety and reliability for the past 11 years without nuclear testing. For FY2005, Congress provided 9 million to start the Reliable Replacement Warhead RRW program, which trades such Cold War features as high yield and low weight to gain features more valuable now, such as lower cost and improved use control. The National Nuclear Security Administration NNSA, which operates the nuclear weapons program, sees RRW as part of a plan that would also modernize the nuclear weapons complex, avoid nuclear testing, and reduce non-deployed weapons. The Nuclear Weapons Council conducted a competition, with the winning RRW design selected in March 2007. The FY2006 RRW appropriation was 24.8 million the FY2007 operating plan has 35.8 million and the FY2008 request lists 88.8 million for NNSA and 30.0 million for the Navy. H.R. 1585, the FY2008 defense authorization bill, as passed by the House reduces the NNSA request by 20 million and the Navy request by 25.0 million. The House Appropriations Committee recommended eliminating FY2008 NNSA RRW funds. The Senate Armed Services Committee recommended reducing the Navy RRW request by 15.0 million. It said NNSA s budget request included 238.1 million for RRW, and recommended reducing that amount by 43.0 million.
- Nuclear Weapons