POINT OF VIEW - Mark Domzalski

Deterrent Capabilities in the 21st Century

U.S. policymakers generate the words and prose that our government officials sign, creating declarative policy. It is a community that Los Alamos National Laboratory works in every day, in different ways. At the Laboratory, policy analysis efforts are often translated into commentary at the request of federal officials, and sometimes proffered back to a broader community in the form of discussion or white papers. Some Laboratory staff members are asked to take external assignments, to provide technical support and subject matter expertise to NNSA and other federal departments and agencies. In the external assignments, Laboratory personnel provide essential information, in the form of facts, data, experience, and expert opinion, allowing senior officials to understand opportunities and risks as policy is crafted.

Late in 2006, the Director for the National Security Office asked me to consider taking an Interagency Personnel Act assignment to the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) for Policy, in Strike Policy and Integration.

Some folks may be wondering about the difference between Policy and Nuclear Matters; allow me to explain. The basic difference is that Policy determines what must be done and Nuclear Matters under its parent, Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, determines how to provide the tools to support the policies. So very simply, Policy is the "what" and Nuclear Matters is the "how."

My assignment to Policy was an education and a memorable experience. I was thrown into action immediately upon arrival at the Pentagon. The previous administration, while largely silent on the issue of nuclear weapons, other than regarding the Moscow treaty, was actively working to set the stage for the next Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). In the face of Congressional disinterest and spotty funding for anything related to modernization of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, I was tasked to produce a statement to be signed by the secretaries of state, defense, and energy attesting to the continued need for nuclear deterrence and the need to modernize the nuclear weapons stockpile and infrastructure. The three-page statement, transmitted to Congress in 2007, was followed in late 2008 by a white paper, in both classified and unclassified versions. As a reference for both previous and current administration officials, that previous body of work was the foundation for the 2010 NPR.

Along with working on high-level Policy statements and papers, providing Nuclear Weapons Council read-ahead packages for the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy were my ongoing tasks, in addition to attending weekly Action Officer meetings and staffing Policy coordination or Policy decisions to the Under Secretary or the Secretary of Defense.

While leading a seemingly dry and bureaucratic existence, I was fortunate to have the privilege and responsibility of representing Policy and the U.S. government when we engaged our NATO allies to seek their input for B61 Life Extension Program operational requirements. Since the United States had never before asked for requirements input from NATO allies, new ground was broken, and the positive results from the interactions may have helped some of our allies strengthen their resolve against the anti-nuclear "remove the U.S. weapons from Europe" rhetoric and press. As I worked through the B61 meetings and travel, I was also asked to represent OSD Policy at the NATO School in Oberammergau, Germany, to provide insight for NATO Policy courses and training exercises.

Was it worth it? Absolutely. Was my experience a challenge? Absolutely. Would I do it again if asked? Absolutely. The opportunity to provide critical support to senior governmental officials, through experience and drawing on the collective resources at Los Alamos, has been a broadening, humbling, and proud experience.

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