Outgoing US nuclear warhead chief says his agency is working 'at full capacity' as Trump plans to expand nuclear options

US Department of DefenceThe Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Pennsylvania (SSBN 735) transits the Hood Canal as the boat returns to its homeport at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, Washington, following a routine strategic deterrent patrol December 27, 2017.
  • The National Nuclear Security Administration is responsible for maintaining and creating the US’ nuclear arsenal.
  • Frank Klotz, the recently-retired head of the NNSA, says that the agency is stretched thin.
  • The statement comes as the Trump administration plans to modernise or increase the number of low-yield nuclear warheads as part of a greater nuclear deterrence.

As President Donald Trump plans to modernise and expand the US’ nuclear program, the outgoing head of the National Nuclear Security Administration said the agency is stretched thin.

“We’re pretty much at capacity in terms of people, although we’re hiring more. We’re pretty much at capacity in terms of the materials that we need to do this work. And pretty much at capacity in terms of hours in the day at our facilities to do this work,” Frank Klotz said in an interview with Defence News.

Klotz retired from the NNSA on January 19.

The NNSA is an agency within the Department of Energy that oversees the US’ nuclear stockpile. While the military is in charge of delivering and ordering the use of nuclear weapons, the NNSA handles storage, development, and maintenance of the warheads.

A leaked draft of the Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review calls for modernising or newly creating low-yield nuclear warheads, specifically for submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

The strategy is part of the US government’s efforts to maintain and show a credible nuclear deterrence, which Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis highlighted as part of the department’s National Defence Strategy that was unveiled earlier in January.

Klotz declined to directly address the leaked NPR while speaking with Defence News. When asked if he had any concerns about the future plans, Klotz pointed to the volume of the agency’s work and limited resources.

“We are working pretty much at full capacity,” he said. “And you can draw your conclusion from that.”

Klotz noted that the NNSA has not taken on more than one extension program since the end of the Cold War. “We’re now doing essentially four,” he said.

The Department of Energy predicts that it will spend more than $US300 billion on the US’ nuclear weapons over the next 25 years.

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