US national laboratories and nuclear weapons facilities use or store nuclear material for scientific research as well as weapons production and upgrading and should therefore be protected by the best security systems available. But a decades-long series of accidents, failures, and embarrassments shows that weapons-complex security has been astonishingly lax. One long-overdue solution to these security problems involves the reassessment and consolidation of facilities in the complex. Consolidation would reduce the number of terrorist targets, cut the costs of maintaining numerous facilities, and decrease security costs and vulnerabilities at the national labs and other nuclear weapons facilities, creating a smaller, smarter weapons complex to support a post-Cold War nuclear mission. An independent realignment commission for national labs—patterned after the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission used to close unneeded military bases after the Cold War—would offer a real opportunity for much-needed downsizing, consolidation, and security improvements in the nuclear weapons complex.
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