House Rejects Funding for Change in Nuclear Weapons Testing Posture

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Publication date: 
28 July 2003

As explained in FYI #99 on the House-passed FY 2004 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill, two Bush Administration requestsregarding the nuclear weapons program were either curtailed or
rejected. This FYI provides report language explaining the denial of
funding to reduce the current 24-36 month test readiness posture at
the Nevada test site to the proposed 18 months. See FYI #99 for
report language on the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator and other
advanced concepts.

The House Appropriators Committee report language in FYI #99 provides important insights about the Defense Department. Selections from
House Report 108-212 on testing follow. The House and Senate
disagree on nuclear testing and new weapons, and a conference will be
held to resolve their differences in September.


"Program Readiness.--The Committee recommends $106,202,000, a
reduction of $24,891,000 from the budget request for Program
Readiness. The budget request proposes $24,891,000 for enhanced test
readiness activities. The increase over the base program for Nevada
site readiness is proposed to fund the transition from the current 24
to 36 month time-to-test requirement to an 18-month test readiness
posture at the Nevada Test Site. The Committee is concerned with the
open-ended commitment to increase significantly funding for the
purpose of Enhanced Test Readiness without any budget analysis or
program plan to evaluate the efficiency or effectiveness of this
funding increase. Recent reports done by the DOE Inspector General
and two NNSA management studies done at the Committee's request all
identified significant problems with the current test readiness
program, but the Department's proposal does not address the
fundamental difficulties in maintaining test readiness during a
testing moratorium.

"The September 2002 Office of Inspector General audit (DOE/IG-0566)
identified several problem areas impacting the ability to resume
testing within the existing 24 to 36 month requirement: decline in
the number of employees with testing experience; the deterioration of
necessary systems and equipment; the inability to keep pace with new
technology; and a delay in conducting required safety studies. The
Committee notes that the IG identified these problems assuming the
current 24 to 36 month test readiness posture rather than the
proposed test readiness time frame of 18 months. As the IG audit
noted, if the current testing infrastructure and personnel resources
are moribund due to eleven years of inactivity, the Committee fails
to see how the NNSA's enhanced test readiness proposal puts in place
a program that precludes a similar state of disarray ten years into
the future. Neither past performance nor any program or planning
documentation provided to the Committee supports the Department's
contention that an additional $100 million over three years and a $45
million increment every year thereafter is likely to result in a
consistent 6 to 12 month improvement in test readiness posture when
the current requirement has not been successfully maintained.

"The Department's rationale for the change to an 18-month posture was
included in the April 2003 Report to Congress on Nuclear Test
Readiness, 'An 18 month posture is appropriate because this is the
minimum time we would expect it would take, once a problem was
identified, to assess the problem, develop and implement a solution,
and plan and execute a test that would provide the information needed
to certify the fix.' The NNSA's July 2002 Enhanced Test Readiness
Cost Study stated that even during the Cold War era of routine
testing, the national labs required 18-24 months to design and field
a nuclear test with full diagnostics. The Committee questions a
proposal to move to and attempt to indefinitely maintain a test
readiness state that is the absolute minimum amount of time necessary
to conduct a test designed to produce meaningful diagnostic results.
The proposal reflects a disturbing 'cost is no object' perspective in
the Department's decision making process.

"The Committee supports the continued maintenance of the Nevada Test
Site as a valuable resource for the NNSA nuclear weapons complex.
Indeed, the Committee provides significant resources every year to
fund a wide variety of activities at NTS that support the overall
Stockpile Stewardship program. However, the Committee will not spend
money on a perceived problem when the Department has not provided a
rationale or a plan that addresses the underlying problems inherent
in maintaining a testing capability during a testing moratorium. The
Department's report states, 'The NNSA has made a deliberate decision,
in consultation with DOD and other agencies with the Administration,
to move to an 18-month nuclear test readiness posture by the end of
fiscal year 2005.' The Committee does not recognize the NNSA
declaring a revised test readiness posture as a new requirement nor
is it convinced that the decision can be successfully implemented
based on the planning information provided to date. The Committee
challenges the NNSA to work within the significant funding provided
each year for its site readiness activities to demonstrate the
ability to meet its current requirements before additional funds are
added to meet a more problematic goal."

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