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December 2002

The Laboratory
in the News

Commentary by
Jay Davis

Emerging from the Cold War: Stockpile Stewardship and Beyond

Machines from Interlocking Molecules

Laser Zaps Communication Bottleneck

Patents

Awards

 

Jay Davis
National Security Fellow for the Center for Global Security Research

Doing It All; Sustaining Our Working Solutions, Rising to New Challenges


IN this issue, Science & Technology Review concludes its look back at the Laboratory’s 50th anniversary with a highlight, entitled Emerging from the Cold War: Stockpile Stewardship and Beyond, that reviews Livermore’s work for the nation’s Stockpile Stewardship Program and discusses opportunities and challenges for the future.
During the Cold War, the U.S. relied on its science and technology infrastructure to provide military advantages for national defense. In the process, the U.S. government created both the doctrine and the reality of nuclear deterrence, which in effect forced the nation’s most prominent adversary, the Soviet Union, with its much larger but conventional military forces, to refrain from invading Western Europe or initiating a first strike on the U.S. Outstanding science and technology capabilities allowed the U.S. to gain leverage against an opponent with asymmetric advantages. Having a focused enemy also provided comfortable benchmarks of U.S. military strength and defense investments.
Research and development to support national security is even more crucial in the 21st century. Today, the U.S. maintains a smaller nuclear deterrent and relies on the national laboratories to ensure the reliability of that stockpile in the absence of new weapon development or nuclear testing. Although the nation has an overwhelming advantage in conventional weapons, it faces potential adversaries that are smaller and much more difficult to find. As the events of September 11, 2001, made all too clear, the oceans no longer provide a shield around the continental U.S., and protecting the U.S. homeland poses significant challenges.
The nation’s decision makers are finding that, in countering terrorism, “the event defines the organization chart.” That is, reporting structures must change quickly and efficiently, depending on the response needed. In addition, timely action may not conform to established approval processes for acquisitions, requirements, and funding. National security in the 21st century requires that government agencies and other organizations—whether at the federal, state, or local level—cooperate quickly and efficiently across organizational boundaries.
At Livermore, we, too, are evaluating our roles and responsibilities to ensure that we have the people, resources, and processes needed both to maintain working solutions and to rise to new challenges. As the Laboratory celebrated its 50th anniversary, the Center for Global Security Research sponsored a series of workshops to assess the future environment of science and technology and their roles in national security. In chairing this project, I was as concerned with defining the attributes of successful research organizations as with the specifics of future research and development to solve new national security problems.
Lawrence Livermore has many of the resources and attributes needed to succeed in and contribute to this emerging world. For example, using our expertise in stockpile stewardship and weapon simulations, we can model other countries’ or even terrorists’ inferred weapon designs, determine whether they are credible, and if necessary, devise ways to render them harmless. We also are developing tools for nuclear forensics, which will allow scientists to work backwards to determine the source and type of an explosion by examining its debris—technology that could become an essential component of deterrence in the 21st century. The deployment of biological detectors at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City and other efforts after September 11 provided good tests of the multiorganizational world required for national security.
The successful laboratory of the future must be agile—in how it uses its people, in how it develops its processes, and in how it reacts to changing scenarios. Our staff will need not only technological excellence but also interpersonal and operational excellence, especially in understanding the needs and styles of other organizations.
The more we interact with others, the better we will perform against these standards. Successful laboratories may indeed have to “do it all” in the national security arena, but as the past 50 years have shown, Lawrence Livermore has the people, tools, and experience to meet these challenges.

 

 



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