The US’ nuclear laboratories and production plants are looking ahead to the “most intense activity” level in years, making consistent funding and careful planning essential, said National Nuclear Security Administration Director Frank Klotz. “There is a significant ramp-up in terms of the work activities that are associated with life extension … and we have to work on a warhead for what the Air Force refers to as the Long-Range Standoff Vehicle,” Klotz said at a press roundtable in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 29. NNSA’s facilities are into the engineering and design phase with the B61-12 nuclear free-fall bomb and Navy W-88 warhead and are “halfway into the production” of the Navy’s life-extended W-76, said Klotz. “We have phased these in such a way that we balance the workload across several years,” he said. “What is extraordinarily important is one, that there be consistency of funding to carry this out.” However, Klotz said funding fluctuations play “havoc” with timetables, causing rippling consequences over decades-long modernization programs.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.