Statement of Karen K. Clegg
President, Federal Manufacturing & Technologies,
Subcommittee on Strategic Forces,
Committee on Armed Services
United States Senate
March 19, 1998
Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Weapons Complex. My name is Karen K. Clegg. I am president of AlliedSignal’s Federal Manufacturing & Technologies Division (FM&T), which manages the Department of Energy’s manufacturing plant in Kansas City, Missouri and facilities supporting transportation safeguards activities in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Mr. Chairman, we are at a critical crossroads in our support for the nuclear weapons stockpile. The Department of Energy’s laboratories and production plants that comprise the Nuclear Weapons Complex have an extremely important and challenging mission: to ensure the safety and reliability of the weapons stockpile as long as it is in existence. But our old methods and many of the tools used in the past to perform our mission can no longer be utilized.
We are moving forward with a coordinated comprehensive stockpile stewardship program to meet the challenge of ensuring the safety and reliability of the stockpile in the future. This program will both develop the necessary scientific and technical capabilities to maintain confidence in the stockpile without underground nuclear testing and maintain appropriate and viable production capabilities at the Department’s production plants. To be successful, these two main components of the program – science and production – must be balanced and each supported appropriately.
Last year, I testified about a number of critical requirements at the Department’s production facilities – the difficult challenge of maintaining a skilled and highly motivated workforce as well as the need to improve plant infrastructure and maintenance. Those concerns were addressed by this committee and by the Congress as a whole through the authorization and appropriations process. Specific funding approved by Congress for plant improvements is being used to support high priority requirements that are improving production plant capabilities, equipment, and advanced manufacturing technologies. Additionally, Congress and the administration are gaining an appreciation of production plant concerns and the importance of our role in stockpile stewardship. The leadership of this committee has been a key part of this success.
Assuming we continue to balance plant equipment, facility, and maintenance concerns with scientific requirements, then the most pressing challenge is to ensure that a sufficient level of technically competent and skilled people are retained at the plants. Because of the constrained defense budget and repeated reductions in plant funding, we are approaching a critical drop-off point in plant staffing, experience, and expertise – even with the additional funding provided by Congress over the past two years.
At the Kansas City Plant, we are now down to 480 engineers supporting all of our production activities as well as advanced manufacturing technologies and development projects with the laboratories. A decade ago, we had twice the number of engineers supporting fewer technologies. These engineers are the technical resources necessary to maintain the future viability of the plant and the nuclear weapons stockpile. These are the engineers responsible for the full spectrum of products and technologies that perform weapon functions from access authorization to delivery of energy to the nuclear explosive package. These products include items such as radars, programmers, reservoirs, coded switches, timers, junction boxes, trajectory sensing signal generators, firesets, and mechanical cases.
I am also deeply concerned with our workforce demographics. Reductions over the past eight years have resulted in an older workforce whose skills and experience are being lost to budget-driven plant layoffs and to employers who offer greater job security. At the Kansas City Plant, eight out of 1,200 hourly employees and 53 of 1,800 salaried employees are under the age of 30. Twenty-five percent of the workforce is eligible to retire in the next three years.
Why is this important today? Because our whole science-based stockpile stewardship approach is dependent on having strong, flexible, and viable production facilities. Today, the Kansas City Plant has a vigorous and ongoing production function. We are currently manufacturing products to upgrade three of the seven systems in the stockpile and will enter production of a fourth system upgrade during 1998. Specific plans are also being developed for comprehensive stockpile life extension production programs beginning after the year 2000. In addition, we continually fabricate telemetry systems to evaluate all systems in the stockpile, supply hardware for the Air Force’s ongoing maintenance programs, and produce reservoirs for all weapons in the stockpile.
The Kansas City Plant manufactures products every day to support the safety and reliability of the stockpile. We produce over 85 percent of the nonnuclear components in the weapons stockpile – over 1,000 unique part types and over 40 product families. We ship more than 73,000 product packages annually.
These production activities are just as important as the vital scientific advances at the national laboratories. Our production role has an immediate impact on the stockpile and our products and capabilities are inextricably linked with future efforts to ensure the safety and reliability of the stockpile. The science-based stewardship approach is sound, but only if funding and management attention are balanced between production and science. Additionally, with respect to production plants, a balance is needed between technical capability – which resides in people – and maintenance of infrastructure.
The long-term management concern surrounding the Department’s production plants is that it may not be possible to restore or revive them if allowed to deteriorate further. First, at the Kansas City Plant, we already out-source approximately 40 percent of the piece parts and materials that go into our products; we manufacture only those products that cannot be procured from commercial sources. Our work is capital intensive, usually involves small production runs, and requires quality standards and manufacturing tolerances that are often more demanding than most private companies can meet. For these reasons, the private sector cannot step in and provide this diverse range of nonnuclear components.
Second, moving our function to another DOE facility is neither feasible nor cost effective. Studies conducted by the Department show that such a move would cost American taxpayers over $1.2 billion and involve shutting down all plant production activities for several years. That is neither acceptable nor responsible from a safety and reliability standpoint.
Our production expertise and success at the Kansas City Plant – including our recent success with reservoirs and secure transportation trailers – is because of many years of production experience, intense management attention, relentless emphasis on continuous improvement initiatives, and implementation of commercial best practices. We have performed this mission in a cost effective and highly efficient manner.
We cannot afford to expose our production plants or our employees to further workplace anxiety, layoffs, or budget cuts. But we can make the production plants more efficient and more stable for the future. We can downsize the plants physically to reduce production costs even further through more efficient production processes. Each plant has developed a downsizing plan under the Department’s Stockpile Management Restructuring Initiative (SMRI) which must be funded beginning in FY1999. This program is vitally important and will help ease future budget pressures facing the plants and our employees.
As we embark on that program, we must pay careful attention to maintaining the right skills mix for the future. If we are forced to take deep reductions in our workforce before our plants are restructured, we will lose the talent and expertise needed for the future. While we are physically downsizing, we must maintain facilities and maintenance personnel to excess equipment, reconfigure the plants, and maintain the facilities. Therefore, budget reductions during this period of downsizing will impact engineers and operators who work on production, advanced manufacturing, and development projects with the national laboratories. I see this currently happening at the Kansas City Plant and I hear it from others across the complex.
In my view, as we downsize the stockpile, move farther away from nuclear testing and make adjustments to the complex, all of which involve increased management risks, the key question for the science-based stockpile stewardship approach is: do we have a "safeguard" in place in the form of viable production plants with the right mix of skilled staff, equipment, and capabilities to ensure the safety and reliability of the stockpile in the future? I urge you to continue your efforts to monitor developments and take corrective action in this area.
Mr. Chairman, thank you again for the opportunity to appear before you today. AlliedSignal is committed to keeping the Kansas City Plant a strong member of the Nuclear Weapons Complex. I look forward to continuing to work with you and the members of this committee to ensure the safety and reliability of the stockpile in the future. I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have at this time.