The Nuclear Weapons Council

Nuclear Weapons Council members and affiliates visit Los Alamos.

By Whitney Spivey | April 28, 2023

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Lieutenant General James Dawkins, deputy chief of staff for Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration, and Austin Long, vice deputy director at The Joint Staff, arrive at the Laboratory via helicopter on August 17 as part of the NWC’s visit to Los Alamos. Los Alamos National Laboratory

The Nuclear Weapons Council (NWC) is the ruling body that, since 1987, has directed interagency activities to maintain the safety, security, reliability, and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. The NWC meets regularly to discuss status, paths forward, and resolve issues between the Department of Defense (DOD) and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) regarding strategies for stockpile sustainment and modernization.

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Los Alamos Director Thom Mason (right) speaks to NWC visitors at the Dual-Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test (DARHT) facilit

“The NWC is charged with cradle-to-grave management of the existing nuclear weapons stockpile and for planning for the future nuclear deterrent,” according to the Nuclear Matters Handbook. “The NWC develops and promulgates a number of important policy documents and provides significant information on nuclear weapons safety, security, and effectiveness to the President and Congress.”

The NWC is comprised of six voting members:

  • Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment (currently William LaPlante)
  • Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (currently Admiral Christopher Grady)
  • Under Secretary for Nuclear Security of the DOE and NNSA Administrator (currently Jill Hruby)
  • Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (currently Colin Kahl)
  • Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (currently Heidi Shyu)
  • Commander, U.S. Strategic Command (currently General Anthony Cotton)

These six voting members are supported by staff and committee members, many of whom visited Los Alamos National Laboratory on August 17, 2022. “I was honored to host two dozen visitors with various ties to the Nuclear Weapons Council for a visit that really highlighted the importance of our work to national security,” says Laboratory Director Thom Mason. “I’m hopeful that after touring our various facilities, our visitors from NNSA and DOD came away with a better understanding of the world-class science, technology, and engineering required to maintain America’s nuclear weapons.” ★