Personnel Reliability Program

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Within the U.S. nuclear weapons surety system, the Personnel Reliability Program (PRP) does not focus on tamperproofing weapons and ensuring they can withstand airplane crashes, but on threats from inattentive or deliberately disobedient yet trusted personnel. It covers persons both with access to the weapons themselves, and critical support functions such as launch control communications.[1]

Sometimes called a Special Access Program (SAP), but not an information security program as is typical for SAPs, the PRP complements the security clearance process. PRP is focused not on the information, but on the people. If, for example, a person in a PRP-designated position is receiving prescription medication that might cloud judgment, his or her PRP status is temporarily suspended and the person is assigned to a non-PRP job, or put on medical leave. In like manner, severe life stresses, such as divorce, bereavement, etc., can result in temporary suspension of PRP status. Suspension of PRP status is not a reflection on one's trustworthiness, but on one's decisionmaking under stress. In many respects, it is a generalization of rules already applied to aircrews; a pilot is not allowed to fly when taking a prescribed but sedating medication for allergy.

The program defines two sensitivity levels, controlled and critical.

Critical position

In this role, one or more of the following apply:

  • Access to nuclear weapons or nuclear launch control, with substantive technical knowledge of the system. *
  • Ability either directly or indirectly cause the launch or use of a nuclearweapon;
  • Controls access to or uses positive control materials or devices such as sealed authentication systems, Permissive Action Link (PAL) materials and related codes, strategic and tactical nuclear certified computer data (NCCD), Emergency Action Messages, or release procedures for nuclear weapons
  • Has been designated as a "certifying official" at operational unit or

staff activities with designated "critical PRP" positions.

Controlled Position

People in thes positions may:

  • Have access, but no technical knowledge;
  • Control entry into areas containing nuclear weapons, but doe not have access or technical knowledge; or
  • Is armed and/or assigned duty for nuclear weapon security that would afford the-opportunity to inflict damage on the weapon or, when joined, to its delivery system
  • Havr been designated as a "certifying official" at operational unit or staff activities with only designated controlled PRP positions.


  1. Dale Klein, Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Chemical and Biological Defense Programs (30 June 2006), Nuclear Weapon Personnel Reliability Program (PRP), Department of Defense Directive DODD 5210.42