Amendment on Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Account Funding Defeated

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Publication date: 
14 June 2012

During  House consideration of H.R. 5325, the Energy and Water Development  Appropriations Act for FY 2013, an amendment was offered to increase the appropriation  for the Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation account.  This account provides funding for Nonproliferation  and Verification Research and Development, Nonproliferation and International  Security, International Nuclear Material Protection and Cooperation, Fissile  Materials Disposition, and the Global Threat Reduction Initiative.  The current budget is $2,295.9 million.  The Administration requested $2,458.6  million. 

H.R.  5325 provides $2,276.0 million, a decline of $19.9 million from this year.  Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) offered an  amendment to shift $16.0 million from the Department of Energy’s departmental  administration account to the Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation account, with  the funding being allocated to the Global Threat Reduction Initiative.  This amendment was defeated by a vote of  182-237, largely along party lines.  Debate on this amendment follows:           Rep. Sanchez:

“Mr.  Chairman, I offer an amendment to increase funding for the National Nuclear  Security Administration’s defense nonproliferation program by $16 million. This  is a small restoration of funds, and it would restore the Global Threat  Reduction Initiative to our fiscal year ’12 levels.

“It’s  really just a small increase in funds, but it will go a long way, in particular  for the President’s top national security priorities. The $16 million would come  from the Department’s administration account. Specifically, this $16 million  transfer would restore half of the funds that had been cut from the Global  Threat Reduction Initiative to counter the risk of nuclear terrorism. The  danger that nuclear weapons and materials might spread to countries that are  hostile to us or to terrorists who want to use these against us is one of the  gravest dangers that we have to the United States.

“Nonproliferation  programs are one of the least expensive ways, and they’re critical for U.S.  national security, and they must be a top priority. It’s our line of first  defense. It is the most cost-effective way to achieve the most urgent of goals,  which is securing and reducing the amount of vulnerable bomb-grade material.

“The  funding for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative specifically supports securing  vulnerable nuclear material around the world in 4 years, in order to prevent  this deadly material from falling into the hands of terrorists who are intent  on doing us harm.  And let me give you a  specific example of why this is so important. Increasing the funds would help  accelerate the conversion of research reactors and the removal of vulnerable highly  enriched uranium. The need to accelerate those important efforts can be seen,  for example, in the example of Belarus, which had enough HEU for several  nuclear weapons, and agreed, in 2010, to give up this material.

“Now,  the NNSA cleaned out a portion of that material; but in 2011, Belarus reneged  on its agreement because it was angry at the imposition of U.S. sanctions on  that regime. There is still       a  significant amount of highly enriched uranium that sits there in Belarus. It could  have been cleaned out by the NNSA if it had had 5 more months before Belarus  said no. This illustrates       why  it’s so important for us to put the money in to go and clean these places up  before people decide or new regimes come in and all of a sudden we can’t get to  what is very dangerous materials for us.

“We  can’t squander the opportunities to move forward on this urgent priority.  The 9/11 Commission and the Nuclear Posture  Commission noted that the addressing of this issue is important.  This is a grave danger, with the Nuclear  Posture Commission warning that ‘the urgency arises from the imminent danger of  nuclear terrorism if we pass a tipping point in nuclear proliferation.’  I urge support for a very modest increase of  $16 million that will significantly help us reduce the dangerous delays to  these very important nonproliferation       programs.”

House  Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Rodney  Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) opposed the amendment:

”Mr.  Chairman, I rise in opposition to the gentlewoman’s amendment. Though less than       last  year’s level, the $2.3 billion provided for defense nuclear nonproliferation already  shows very strong support of our committee for nonproliferation.  Our bill fully funds the core  nonproliferation programs to secure vulnerable nuclear materials around the world  in 4 years. In fact, it goes further and provides an additional $28 million above  the request for the international       programs  under what’s called the Global Threat Reduction Initiative.

“While  I appreciate our colleague’s support for these activities, there’s simply no  reason to provide even more funding. The international activities have been  clearly laid out in the 4-year       plan,  which peaked in 2011. These activities are supposed to ramp down as we  accomplish more and more projects abroad. The President’s budget reflects that  planned ramp-down.  This additional  funding would just likely sit there unexpended. The National Nuclear Security  Agency already has considerable problems getting other countries to follow  through with agreements. The Government Accountability Office has confirmed  that half of all the funding we provide each year is not spent. To use the  words I heard a few minutes ago: the money is sitting there. This  additional funding is simply not needed, and I ask the Members to reject this  amendment.”

House  Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member Peter  Visclosky (D-IN) supported the amendment:

“Mr.  Chairman, I rise in strong support of the gentlewoman’s amendment and commend  her for crafting it. As I pointed out in earlier remarks, I do appreciate the  chairman’s efforts, as well as the members of the subcommittee and full  committee, to increase money set aside for the Global       Threat  Reduction Initiative. In fact, the chairman was responsible for adding $17 million  above the administration’s current request.

“However,  I do believe that more can be done and that the Sanchez amendment, by adding  $16 million to the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, would get us very close  to our current year appropriated level.  I  believe, as a Nation, our greatest security threat is not a launched attack       by  another nation-state, but the use of nuclear weapons or materials in an act of  terror. And given that particular threat, I do believe every dollar counts and  every dollar of these $16 million count. I would ask my colleagues to support  the gentlewoman’s amendment.”