Jeffrey LewisT-D'ag Misrepresents JASON Report

So, the one time I met Tom D’Agostino, he called me “Jerry.”

It was interesting moment, because I couldn’t decide whether he just suffered from some mild aphasia or was trying to be insulting. (Though, you know, Jerry Lewis is big in France.)

I’ve since seem him speak a couple of times, and still can’t decide if this is just an act or he really is just in way over that shiny pate of his. But, the endless speculation entertains me in a cruel way — and I do love new data points.

Enter Nick Roth, of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, who went to watch T-D’Ag testify before the Senate Appropriations Committee (Subcommitte on Energy and Water Development). Nick observes that T-D’Ag wildly misrepresented the recent JASON report on Lifetime Extension Programs, and got thumped pretty hard by Dianne Feinstein:

Tom D’agostino was explaining the findings about LEPs in the latest JASON report. Tom D’awg’s interpretation was if we don’t want to improve safety, security, and reliability, we continue doing what we do now. Senator Feinstein instantly interrupted explaining that was NOT what the JASONs said. Tom D’awg responded that he did not have the report in front of him.

Later in the hearing Senator Feinstein submitted the declassified JASON study for the record and acknowledged that the original rationale for new pits has been refuted. She also said that she is going to arrange a meeting for the JASONs to sit down with Tom D’awg.

You can listen to the whole thing as a webcast. T-D’ag draws Senator Feinstein’s ire at 29:24-30:04 and then later, at 51:30 she has the unclassified executive summary submitted for the record.

The report said, as Senator Feinstein noted correctly, something very different. Regular readers will remember that Arms Control Wonk acquired an early copy of the unclassified executive summary, titled Lifetime Extension Program (LEP), JSR-09-334E.

The study plainly states that refurbishment and component reuse will allow improvement of safety, surety and reliability (to be precise, “margins”). Replacement would be necessary only in one, extreme instance — an effort to add “intrinsic” surety features (ie those inside the nuclear explosive package) to some reentry vehicle warheads. (Elaine Grossman had a nice story before I had a copy of the document.)

Either T-D’ag has limited reading comprehension, or he was foolish enough to think he could get one past Senator Feinstein. I don’t know which is worse.

I think that sometimes, because she is such an effective politician in terms of speaking plainly, that wonks underestimate Senator Feinstein. That is, as T-D’ag has no doubt noticed, a big mistake. I had the pleasure of hosting Senator Feinstein at one of my nuclear strategy dinners, watching her talk to Mort Halperin and Arnie Kanter all evening. She’s impressive, and not just “for a politician.”

At any rate she’s certainly a lot smarter than Tom D’Agostino.


  1. dallas

    Ashley Tellis did, too: “A week later, when an American scholar, Jerry Lewis, and Aviation Week & Space Technology finally broke the story almost simultaneously, the Chinese government responded with a mixture of confusion and denial.”

  2. FSB

    Why is Mr. T Dwag still around? Did we not have a change of admin?

    BTW, read T dwag’s bio: he knows v. little about nuclear weapons. All I can gather is that he got where he is since he was in the Navy and may have had some kind of role in cleaning the equipment panels for one of the reactors. Anyone know what qualifies him for his job?

  3. Josh (History)

    Consider the possibility that they were thinking of Jerry Lee Lewis.

  4. acuvue oasys (History)

    No, it’s not an act jeffrey, he just has no idea what he’s on about.

  5. ws73 (History)

    The unclassified executive summary does not reflect the content of the classified JASONS report; D’Agostino’s response relies on the latter, the Senator’s on the former.

  6. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    Having attended multiple unclassified briefings on the report, I am confident the unclassified summary accurately reflects the contents of the report.

  7. not a wonk (History)

    How can you be so sure of what a classified report says unless you have actually read it? Your response smacks of a sense of intellectual superiority that is slightly concerning.

  8. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    There is no intellectual superiority involved with sitting through a briefing.

    Indeed, doing so largely involves the other end of the wonk.

  9. not a wonk (History)

    Jeffrey – Copied below are the 4th and 5th findings from the Unclassified Executive Summary:

    • Implementation of intrinsic surety features in today’s re-entry systems, using the
    technologies proposed to date, would require reuse or replacement LEP options.
    • All proposed surety features for today’s air-carried systems could be implemented
    through reuse LEP options.

    The findings are clear that to add additional surety features would require at least a re-use LEP option and maybe a replacement LEP option. The current LEP practice is limited to refurbishment of individual components. Please refer to the NNSA provided definitions in the Unclassified Executive Summary. Using these definitions, as the JASON study did, and with an understanding of the current program, D’Agostino’s response was substantially correct, and your seventh paragraph above is in error.

  10. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    Nice try. But not even close.

    Here is what T-D’ag said: “if we don’t want to improve the safety, if we don’t want to improve the security, if we don’t want to improve the reliability, just keep things the way they are ….”

    T-D’ag didn’t say there were some things we couldn’t improve (which is what JASON said); he said there were none that we could. That’s why Feinstein tore him to shreds.

    So, you’ve begun your defense by conceding that his statement is fundamentally incorrect. Now you are just hoping to show that he is not a complete fool (which, he’s not); and that there might be some things we can’t do with with existing approaches, such as add surety features to improve safety, security or control.

    You note two exceptions: (1) we need either reuse or replacement for intrinsic surety features on re-entry vehicles and (2) we need reuse (but not replacement) for proposed surety features on air-delivered weapons.

    I don’t think you read my post. I clearly stated the bulk of first exception: “Replacement would be necessary only in one, extreme instance — an effort to add “intrinsic” surety features (ie those inside the nuclear explosive package) to some reentry vehicle warheads.”

    Now I happen think think “reuse” (as opposed to replacement) falls within “things the way they are” (with “refusbishment”); you believe “current LEP practice is limited to refurbishment of individual components.”

    Fair enough. As you note, the JASON report uses the phrase “LEP approaches similar to those employed to date” to mean refurbishment. I can understand a narrow reading.

    But the range of planned LEPs, as opposed to those executed to date, incorporates some reuse options. For example — to the point about gravity weapons — as you know, NNSA also looked at W84 pit reuse in the B61-12 LEP, in a manner similar to how the W85 was converted to the B61-10.

    I gather that is now off the table (no one tells me anything), but I did look at the range of LEP options to include reuse, rather than a more narrow reading. (As it turns out, I happen to support a pit reuse option for the B61-12.)

    Either way, it doesn’t make T-D’ag’s statement correct. We can improve the safety, security and reliability with planned life extension programs.

    What I find most telling is that, when pushed on the issue, T-D’ag rehashed his RRW talking points about manufacturing — which has nothing to do with surety. He even moaned about acetonitrile, which was a FOGBANK/W76 argument.) After more than a minute on manufacturing, he added 20 seconds of thoughts on surety. It was clearly a secondary concern in his mind.

    It seems clear he doesn’t have the slightest idea what the report says. In fact, I would be willing to be he’s never read it.