House Votes to Curb New Nuclear Weapons Funding

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Publication date: 
28 July 2003

Two controversial requests by the Bush Administration regarding the nuclear weapons programs were significantly constrained by the House when it passed H.R. 2754, the Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill for FY 2004. The Administration's request of $15.0 million for a new type of weapon, the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, was reduced to $5.0 million. The House did not provide the requested $6.0 million for other advanced concepts definition studies. In addition, the House did not provide funding to reduce the current 24-36 month test readiness posture at the Nevada test site to 18 months. See FYI #100 for information on testing readiness.

Both of these positions conflict with the Senate's version of this legislation, and will have to be resolved in a conference committee later this year (assuming that the Senate does not amend its own Appropriations Committee bill on the floor.)

Relevant selections from House Report 108-212 follow. The first section is critical of the relationship between the Defense Department and Energy Department, and provides context for the appropriators' decisions on the new nuclear weapons program and testing.


"Nuclear weapons budget requirements- This Committee continues to believe that our nation's nuclear arsenal provides a vital deterrent to potential aggressors. In order to maintain a modern nuclear stockpile, the Nation needs to have a modern, efficient, and flexible nuclear weapons complex with the necessary design, production, testing, refurbishment, and dismantlement capabilities. Unfortunately, the country possesses neither a modern stockpile nor a modern nuclear weapons complex. Instead, both are largely carryovers from the Cold War era. After careful consideration, the Committee has concluded that much of the current situation results from a flawed budget process. Under the current process, the Department of Defense (DoD) establishes the military requirements for Nation's nuclear weapons stockpile (i.e., numbers and types of warheads), which in turn dictates the requirements that DOE must meet to ensure the safety, security, and reliability of those weapons. The size, capability and cost of DOE's weapons complex is a direct result of the specific requirements established by DoD for warhead refurbishments, design modifications, testing, and dismantlement. However, when DoD develops their requirements their decision process is not constrained by the normal types of budget trade-offs that an agency confronts in the process of formulating a budget request. In effect, DoD sets the requirements and leaves it up to DOE to come up with the budget to support the nuclear weapons complex each year. If these costs were funded directly by DoD, the nuclear weapons activities would be considered against other national defense priorities, such as developing improved conventional weapons, procuring more of existing weapon systems, paying ever-increasing operational and training costs, and providing a better quality of life for our soldiers, sailors, and airmen. Similarly, if the costs of the nuclear weapons complex were solely determined by the DOE, they would be balanced against other DOE priorities, such as nonproliferation, science research, improving the Nation's energy supply, or accelerating the cleanup of contaminated sites. Instead, the weapons activities portion of the NNSA budget is effectively insulated from any such tradeoffs - DoD sets requirements that another agency has to fund, and DOE treats the weapons activities budget as untouchable because DoD set the requirements.

"There needs to be a serious debate about whether the approximately $6 billion spent annually on DOE's nuclear weapons complex is a sound national security investment. Until that debate occurs and the DOE weapons budget request is subject to meaningful budget trade-offs, this Committee will not assume that all of the proposed nuclear weapons requests are legitimate requirements."


"The Committee notes that the National Nuclear Security Administration has requested $21,000,000 in DSW Stockpile R&D to explore advanced weapons concepts, including $15,000,000 to continue feasibility and cost studies for the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP) and $6,000,000 for other advanced concepts definition studies. The Committee provides $5,000,000 for RNEP and eliminates funding for additional advanced concepts research in favor of higher priority current mission requirements. The Committee is concerned the NNSA is being tasked to start new activities with significant outyear budget impacts before the Administration has articulated the specific requirements to support the President's announced stockpile modifications. Under current plans, the NNSA is attempting to modernize the industrial infrastructure of the weapons complex and restore production plant capability in order to refurbish the entire START I stockpile, reengineer the federal management structure of the complex and downsize the workforce by 20 percent by the end of fiscal year 2004, while struggling to successfully demonstrate its core mission of maintaining the existing stockpile through the Stockpile Stewardship Program. Before any of the existing program goals have been successfully demonstrated, the Administration is now proposing to spend millions on enhanced test readiness while maintaining the moratorium on nuclear testing, aggressively pursue a multi-billion dollar Modern Pit Facility before the first production pit has even been successfully certified for use in the stockpile, develop a robust nuclear earth penetrator weapon and begin additional advanced concepts research on new nuclear weapons. It appears to the Committee the Department is proposing to rebuild, restart, and redo and otherwise exercise every capability that was used over the past forty years of the Cold War and at the same time prepare for a future with an expanded mission for nuclear weapons. Nothing in the past performance of the NNSA convinces this Committee that the successful implementation of Stockpile Stewardship program is a foregone conclusion, which makes the pursuit of a broad range of new initiatives premature. Until the NNSA has demonstrated to the Congress that it can successfully meet its primary mission of maintaining the safety, security, and viability of the existing stockpile by executing the Stockpile Life Extension Program and Science-based Stewardship activities on time and within budget, this Committee will not support redirecting the management resources and attention to a series of new initiatives.

"The Committee directs that funding provided for the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP) be used for research on the problem of deep earth penetration through hard or hardened surfaces, including modeling and simulation of the use of advanced materials, and varied trajectories and speeds. The Committee further directs that the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) coordinate the RNEP research program with ongoing programs at the Department of Defense relating to research on earth penetration to maximize the dual-use applicability for both conventional and nuclear weapons.

"The fiscal year 2004 budget request identified specific funding amounts by weapons system in the Selected Acquisition Reports that accompanied the submission of the President's budget request. The Committee is to be notified in advance if the proposed funding levels for any weapons system change from the estimate provided in the Selected Acquisition Reports submitted with the fiscal year budget justification. Congressional approval will be required before any actual RNEP modifications are initiated."

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