The United States is quickly losing its leadership position in science and technology (S&T). We are seeing this in our schools, our research institutes, in the intelligence community, and in our National Laboratories. Thus, it is imperative that a set of new and strategic grand challenges be identified and pursued to re-establish and assure the nation’s global S&T leadership in the 21st century. In addition, turning the tide to address this crisis will require formidable leadership in key Cabinet and White House positions and steadfast emphasis on science as a catalyst to the economic recovery, competitiveness, and security. Most importantly, the new administration must devise a national S&T strategy that brings all of the nation’s laboratories together in collaboration with industry and academe to tackle the nation’s dominant challenges, particularly those pertinent to national security.
This report of the Stimson Center’s Task Force on “Leveraging the Nuclear Weapons Laboratories for 21st Century Security” addresses one critical aspect of our nation’s S&T future: transformation of our nuclear weapons Laboratories. In early 2008, the Stimson Center convened a bipartisan Task Force comprised of counterterrorism, nonproliferation, intelligence, military, business, and scientific experts to provide the incoming administration with a roadmap to more effectively leverage the existing capabilities at the nation’s nuclear weapons Laboratories and Nevada Test Site (NTS) to meet an array of emerging vital national security challenges. The strategy has two key purposes: to ensure retention of core nuclear weapons competencies at the weapons Laboratories and NTS, and to expand their S&T capabilities to service a wider array of 21st century national security needs.