Researchers to support $25M contract for strategic deterrence, nuclear threat reduction

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Researchers to support $25M contract for strategic deterrence, nuclear threat reduction

Two military men work in a hallway of server racks.
Military members work in an open server rack. The university has earned a $25 million contract with the National Nuclear Security Administration. The work will support strategic deterrence and nuclear threat reduction efforts.

Husker expertise is expected to help support a new $25 million contract between the University of Nebraska’s National Strategic Research Institute and the National Nuclear Security Administration.

Announced Oct. 19, the five-year, indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity agreement is intended to support strategic deterrence and nuclear threat reduction efforts.

“This is an exciting new partnership for NSRI and the University of Nebraska that will open even more doors for our researchers to do cutting-edge work to keep our nation safe,” said Ted Carter, NU system president. “Today’s national security needs are urgent and complex, especially when it comes to nuclear threats and other weapons of mass destruction. I am so proud that the University of Nebraska can help lead the way in supporting our country’s defense efforts.”

The National Nuclear Security Administration, a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy, maintains and enhances the safety, security and effectiveness of the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile while working to reduce the global danger from weapons of mass destruction. The agency is a principal partner of U.S. Strategic Command, which sponsors NSRI as a university-affiliated research center of the Department of Defense.

“It is a natural fit for NSRI to collaborate very closely with NNSA given our laser focus on USSTRATCOM’s primary mission of strategic deterrence — the two entities are remaining absolutely aligned, especially as the nation executes the warhead modernization programs,” said Christopher Yeaw, NSRI research director for nuclear programs. “We are proud to have established this enduring relationship with the administration.”

This is the first indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract NSRI has received outside of the three totaling $298 million with U.S. Strategic Command, which are tied to the institute’s UARC designation.

Through the new contract, NSRI will provide nuclear weapon mission space and design parameters, iterative wargaming, warhead technical verification, policy research, wargaming knowledge management and more.

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln is expected to help support the contract’s mission objectives. From the standpoint of technical verification, Wei Qiao and Mark Bauer, researchers in electrical and computer engineering, have already offered technical support to future warhead verification research. Other campus programs being considered include the Nebraska Intelligent MoBile Unmanned Systems Lab and the Department of Political Science.

The first $1.1 million task order under the contract has already been awarded. The Nebraska-based program will lead a series of workshops for federal personnel, as well as researchers from across three of the Department of Energy’s national laboratories.

As the U.S. federal government launches into modernizing all elements of the nuclear triad over the next decade, there are several important questions that must be answered. The workshops will aim to explore the design space for U.S. nuclear weapons in the 21st century.

“What should the missions of our next generation of nuclear weapons be? What should those designs be? What advances in manufacturing could lead to innovation approaches? These are all incredibly complex and critical questions NNSA and others are debating, and our intention, in collaboration with the national labs in this space, is to help all of us wrestle to conclusions,” Yeaw said.

NSRI will also bring forward a recent deliverable from University of Nebraska students to NNSA — the institute’s limited nuclear conflict wargame that was updated and transformed this past summer into an online experience.

Through the game, participants develop a deeper understanding of nuclear warfare demanded by the challenges emerging in the global competition environment. Originally created as an in-person experience for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the exercise re-introduces participants to nuclear strategy concepts, operational planning processes and tactical nuclear capabilities.

“This contract provides NSRI another mechanism to work with federal government partners in pursuit of our mission in alignment with STRATCOM’s No. 1 mission — strategic deterrence — and the command’s No. 1 priority — modernizing the triad,” said Maj. Gen., USAF (Ret.) Rick Evans, NSRI executive director. “Given our team’s decades of experience in nuclear safeguards and security, providing foresight and leadership in this space is not only our mission, but our responsibility.”

Learn more about the work of the University of Nebraska-based National Strategic Research Institute.

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