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Speech

NNSA Administrator Addresses Next Generation of Computational Scientists
Jun 22, 2010

As prepared for delivery at the Department of Energy's Computational Science Graduate Fellowship Conference



The best part of my job is the opportunity to participate in events like this and interact with people like you, the next generation of nuclear security experts and professionals. It is always refreshing to meet with groups like this because you see the world in new ways and bring fresh ideas to the challenges we face in nuclear security. It is people like you who will lead us into a better future.

Since I spoke to this group last summer, a lot has changed. I believe that the long-term opportunities to promote our Nation’s nuclear security are greater today than at any point since the end of the Cold War. And I believe that means even more opportunities for you and your generation of nuclear security professionals to make valuable and rewarding contributions to our nation’s security.

Take, for example, the Nuclear Posture Review released publicly this past April. While it obviously defines the role of nuclear weapons for our future national security, it also recognizes and explicitly mentions a key theme I have been promoting for a number of years: the importance of recruiting and retaining the “human capital” needed in the NNSA for the nuclear security mission.

In order to succeed in our mission, we must have the best and brightest minds working to tackle the toughest challenges. Without question, our highly specialized work force is our greatest asset. This Nuclear Posture Review has helped generate renewed interest in nuclear security by elevating these issues to the very top of our national security agenda.

I want to share with you a statement from the Directors of Los Alamos, Sandia, and Lawrence Livermore that provides their views on the NPR. The Directors universally state that:

“We are reassured that a key component of the NPR is the recognition of the importance of supporting ‘a modern physical infrastructure -comprised of the national security laboratories and a complex of supporting facilities--and a highly capable workforce…..’”

The President has now clearly outlined the importance of nuclear issues for our national security, and of keeping the U.S. nuclear deterrent safe, secure, and effective for the foreseeable future.

The Administration’s commitment to a clear and long-term plan for managing the stockpile and its comprehensive nuclear security agenda, ensures the scientists and engineers of tomorrow like yourselves will have the opportunity to engage in challenging research and development activities.

The mission in NNSA encompasses the nuclear deterrent, nonproliferation, nuclear propulsion, nuclear counterterrorism, emergency management, nuclear forensics and nuclear intelligence analysis.

And, we anticipate that those R&D activities will expand far beyond the classical nuclear weapons mission.

At the Department of Energy, we are expected to deliver for the Nation in science, energy, and security.

The Department will soon issue a new Strategic Plan that reflects an integrated approach to national security activities. We anticipate that our nuclear security facilities will provide significant science, technology, and engineering capabilities that can address non-NNSA issues. Conversely, we anticipate that other DOE programs can provide science, technology, and engineering capabilities to NNSA for our issues.

We are looking at a number of areas to move forward: Exa-scale Computing, Energy Systems Simulation, the behavior of Materials in Extreme Environments, and Inertial Fusion Energy – these are some of the cross cutting areas we are a looking at as we map out the future strategic vision of the Department.

Already, the supercomputing capabilities born of our nation’s investment in nuclear security are providing the tools to tackle global challenges like climate change, the spread of pandemic diseases, and even hurricane modeling.

As we move to the next generation of supercomputers, we will see even more opportunities for the kind of cutting edge science and research that can engage people like you and your colleagues.

Creating computational simulations to provide solutions – in effect, creating a new discipline of predictive sciences – is a technical base we need and is a direction that many of you in this room will help pioneer.

Like generations of scientists and researchers before you, we hope you will find the opportunity we provide to develop novel solutions to critical challenges to be irresistible to your career path decisions.

And I am confident of our future when I look out at audiences like this and see people like you. The work you do, your interests and your choices will form our future. Don’t be bashful about striving for what you want. Your investments now in developing your skills make you best able to contribute towards solving our most complex national problems.

From Oppenheimer during the Manhattan Project, to the men and women serving in our national laboratories today, the people who come before you have included some of the greatest names in science and discovery. You are the inheritors of a proud tradition of achievement and advancement. I am confident that legacy is in good hands.

Secretary Chu recently stated that the Department of Energy “...must discover and deliver the solutions to advance our national priorities.” The NNSA and our Nuclear Security Enterprise are poised to provide those solutions along with the rest of the Department.

I hope many of you in this room will join our team and secure our Nation’s future.

Thank you very much.