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NATO Delegation Visits New Mexico Facilities

By Sheryl Hingorani
Sandia National Laboratories

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M., May 9, 2013 – A group of NATO officials are learning about  work being done to support the extended nuclear deterrence mission and broader national security programs, ranging from homeland security to global nonproliferation efforts, during a three-day visit to Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.

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Members of a NATO delegation pose for a photo during a visit tp Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. Sandia National Laboratories photo by Randy Montoya

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The group is touring Sandia National Laboratories and other facilities on the base in a visit that began May 8 and ends tomorrow. It includes more than 50 representatives from 23 European countries, along with officials from the Departments of Defense and State, the National Nuclear Security Administration, and other U.S. government agencies.  The visitors are accompanied by Andrew Weber, assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical, and biological defense programs, and by Elaine Bunn, deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy.

The visit allows the delegation to see  the research and technology required to implement U.S. policies that support the NATO alliance.  The agenda for the visit includes an overview of national security and nuclear weapons programs at Sandia, Los Alamos, and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories and the National Nuclear Security Administration’s nuclear weapons enterprise, as well as mission briefings by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center. 

Sandia President and Laboratories Director Paul Hommert presented an overview of the laboratories’ history from their beginnings in the Manhattan Project, which built the first atomic bombs during World War II, to the nuclear weapons manufacturing focus of the Z Division that gave birth to Sandia as a separate laboratory in 1949. Hommert outlined Sandia’s sole focus on nuclear weapons through the 1950s and its subsequent evolution into broader national security research, including energy and Department of Defense work outside the sphere of weapons.   He emphasized, however, that Sandia is focused on its core responsibility—nuclear weapons life extension programs. 

“We are in full gear to execute this mission” with the NATO alliance in mind, Hommert said.

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry welcomed the group May 8 at a working lunch at Sandia National Laboratories' International Programs Building. Berry told the delegates he considers the city “the cradle of defense” and cited Sandia’s “profound importance for our world and security for our all citizens.”

Sandia officials, supported by the National Nuclear Security Administration and the Air Force, also demonstrated various capabilities associated with the labs' pivotal role in supporting the nation's nuclear deterrence and non-proliferation efforts. The delegates took a windshield tour of Sandia's large-scale experimental test areas, saw demonstrations of nuclear accident response equipment, and viewed exhibits related to both homeland and global security programs.  The Defense Threat Reduction Agency provided briefings on how they support nuclear surety and inspections, as well as the on-site inspection program activities which support treaty verification activities.

Five members of the delegation will participate in a national security speakers series panel tomorrow, which will be moderated by Bunn and will address U.S. allies' views of extended deterrence, the role of NATO member states in the nuclear deterrent, and arms control negotiations.

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Related Sites:
Sandia National Laboratories
Kirtland Air Force Base

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