WASHINGTON, D.C. - In a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the United States Strategic Command’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) questioned General John Hyten on meeting the nation’s nuclear program needs and the importance of a resilient and responsive space architecture.
During the hearing, Senator Heinrich raised concerns with the flawed analysis by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) on pit production that completely ignored the Nuclear Weapons Council’s previously endorsed plan to meet our nation’s nuclear stockpile requirements at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). In response to Senator Heinrich’s questioning, General Hyten, a member of the Nuclear Weapons Council, voiced frustration with how long the analysis took and expressed concern with any further delay in finalizing the plan for pit production. General Hyten also reinforced the need for capacity to produce 80 plutonium pits per year by 2030, with the first element of that production (30 pits/year) taking place at LANL.
Senator Heinrich also discussed the importance of a more resilient and responsive space architecture and development of the Space Rapid Capabilities Office (S-RCO). Senator Heinrich’s provision in the NDAA renamed the small satellite program Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) as the Space Rapid Capabilities Office (S-RCO) and elevated the program’s command structure so that it will begin reporting directly to the Four-Star leadership at Air Force Space Command. Senator Heinrich previously saved the ORS mission at Kirtland Air Force Base from elimination and has consistently worked to increase funding for the continuation of ORS (now S-RCO). During the hearing, General Hyten emphasized that the S-RCO, which receives significant priority and resources in this year’s budget request, is a key piece to building a resilient warfighting architecture for space. General Hyten and Senator Heinrich agreed that Department of Defense and Congress both recognize the importance and the necessity of having a responsive space architecture.