House Votes Against Proposed Cut in FY 2013 Nuclear Weapons Technology Funding

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Publication date: 
15 June 2012

During  the House of Representative’s consideration of H.R. 5325, the FY 2013 Energy  and Water Development Appropriations Bill, an amendment was offered to reduce  the budget for the nuclear weapons technology account by $298.0 million.  This amendment was defeated by a vote of 138  to 281. The amendment was sponsored by Rep. Jared  Polis (D-CO) and Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA). 

Polis  opened debate on this amendment:

“The  Polis-Markey amendment would reduce the funding for unneeded nuclear weapons  programs by $298 million in order to reduce the budget deficit.  At a time of decisions, at a time of choices,  we need to ask ourselves: How much is enough with regard to nuclear defense?

“These  programs included in this amendment have consistently been over budget and  ineffectual. We simply shouldn’t be increasing funding for them -- yes,  actually increasing funding for them. This amendment simply eliminates the  increase at a time when we should be focused on deficit reduction.

“We  all agree that we need to stop wasteful government spending. Congress has to  justify every penny it spends to the taxpayers, the American people, the global  markets. There just isn’t any justification for spending an additional $300  million, on top of prior year appropriations, on weapons programs that aren’t  needed and aren’t suited to our current conflicts in the war on terror.

“This  account funds programs like the B61 Life Extension Program. This program to  modify nuclear bombs was originally set to cost $32.5 million and be completed  in 2012. Since then, it has ballooned to $4 billion and won’t be completed  until 2022. At the time that this nuclear warhead is finished, if it’s even  finished by 2022, it might not even have a mission or a delivery vehicle.  Then there is the W78 Life Extension Program,  which would create yet another nuclear warhead. This boondoggle was originally  set to cost $26 million, and now it has cost over $5 billion.  Why would this Congress approve yet another  taxpayer bailout of failed nuclear weapons technology?  Finally, there is a uranium processing facility  which was supposed to manufacture components for nuclear warheads. This project  was supposed to cost $1.5 billion. Now it has cost over $6.5 billion, and it is  4 years behind schedule.

“Frankly,  American taxpayers can’t afford a Congress that keeps throwing good money after  bad on these unnecessary nuclear weapons programs. Now, I’m sure the other side  will talk about       how  we need to maintain our nuclear arsenal. This amendment isn’t about that. If  this amendment passes, the bill still appropriates over $7 billion for nuclear weapon  activities. In reality, it makes no sense to increase spending on nuclear  weapons when we’ve agreed to responsibly reduce our nuclear stockpile.

“This  is no longer the era of the Cold War where we have another nation state gearing  a large percentage of their GNP toward competing with us on the nuclear weapons  front. We are and will remain, even with the passage of this amendment, the  global leader on both developing and deploying nuclear weapons technology. This  simply isn’t a responsible way to govern, and it reduces our national security  to spend more money than we can afford on national security. To borrow it from countries  like China makes our Nation less secure, not more secure.

“I  would urge the House to listen to the experts, who are telling us not to throw  good money after bad. Let’s get our budget under control. Let’s get our budget  on the right track by spending money on programs that are proven to protect our  country, not on boondoggles that continue to cost taxpayers year after year  after year without increasing our security. We need to make hard choices to get  our country back on the path to fiscal sanity.

“Well,  this Polis-Markey amendment is an easy choice.   Vote for the Polis-Markey amendment and against spending hundreds of millions  of additional dollars on redundant and unneeded nuclear weapons technology on  top of the $7 billion base included in this bill, which already allows us to be  the unchallenged global leader in developing and deploying nuclear weapons. I  urge a ‘yes’ vote on the Polis-Markey amendment.”

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

“Mr.  Chairman, I rise in strong opposition to this amendment.  Assuring funding for the modernization of our  nuclear weapons stockpile is the most critical national security issue in our  Energy and Water bill. The Secretary of Energy must certify to the President  that our nuclear stockpile is reliable. It’s absolutely essential that these  funds be put in the bill and kept in the bill.

“With  years of level funding, we have put off for too long the type of investments that  are needed to sustain our nuclear capability as our stockpile ages. That’s why  the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review concluded that additional funding was essential  to ensure that our infrastructure is adequately maintained and that our  warheads receive the refurbishments they need to remain reliable and effective.  There has also been strong bipartisan support for carrying out the recommended  increases in modernization funding.

“This  amendment unacceptably strikes funding for these priority investments, which  are both urgent and long overdue. I strongly urge my colleagues to make defense  a priority and to vote ‘no’ on this amendment.”

Rep.  Markey spoke in favor of the funding reduction:

“I  rise in support of the Polis amendment. He and I are introducing this amendment  so that we can, once again, demonstrate the lack of compatibility of the  priorities of this budget to the overall well-being of our country.

“The  Cold War ended 20 years ago. We won. Since that time, there has been a dramatic  reduction in the number of nuclear weapons that both the United States and the  former Soviet Union deploy.  That number  continues to drop.  Yet, here in this  budget, there is additional profligate spending on new nuclear weapons  programs, on weapons modernization. Well, let me just say this, ladies and  gentlemen: Each nuclear submarine that the United States has has 96  independently targetable nuclear warheads. That means that every single nuclear  commander       of  a submarine in the United States can destroy the entire country of Russia, can  destroy the entire country of China - each American nuclear submarine commander  - and neither Russia nor China knows where those submarines are. We should be  proud of ourselves. We are 10-feet tall compared to the Russians, compared to  the Chinese.

“By  the way, any problems that we have with Iran or with Syria in terms of Russian support  for them or Chinese support for them have nothing to do with our nuclear  weapons capability.  That’s not  influencing them one way or the other. If we needed to ever drop a nuclear bomb  on any one of our enemies - let’s just say we had a war with Iran - and after  the nuclear sub commanders in the United States Navy were to send one nuclear  weapon towards Tehran, what would the next target be?

“What  are we doing out here? Why are we talking about additional nuclear weapons in  the 21st century? Why are we talking about cutting Medicare, cutting Medicaid,  cutting programs for poor children, cutting nutrition programs for poor  children, and at the same time saying that we need more nuclear weapons?  This is a wayback machine. It’s a Cold War  time machine that basically says that the inexorable investment of political  capital already made continues to drive the investments of the future; that we  aren’t going to step back and reevaluate that we won the Cold War; that we’re  not going to have a nuclear war with Russia; that we’re not going to have a  nuclear war with China; that we are 10 feet tall.

“Even  if all there is parity, each country understands that it’s a total annihilation  to use these weapons.  Let’s save this  money. Vote ‘aye’ on the Polis amendment. Send a signal to the world. Send a  signal to our own people that at least we can find some expenditure in the  defense budget which we can cut and which is not related to our national  security. That’s all that we ask from you: that please, on one vote, on the  nuclear weapons issue, where we don’t need new weapons, that there is a vote  for sanity, that there is a vote that we send as a signal to the rest of the  world and to our own people that we understand that that nuclear arms race is  over.  Vote ‘aye’ on the Polis amendment.”

House  Energy and Water Development Subcommittee Ranking Member Peter Visclosky (D-IN)  was the last to speak on this amendment:

“Mr.  Chairman, I rise in reluctant opposition to the amendment offered by the  gentlemen from Colorado and Massachusetts.   I do believe, given the work of the subcommittee, that the dollars that are  contained in it represent an attempt to ensure that, looking down the road with  the hopeful ratification of the New START Treaty, we will be consistent with  those funding levels that  will be required.

“While  a world without nuclear weapons would be my preference and while the U.S. must  maintain its deterrent capability today, we should also maintain the  capabilities necessary to ensure that they are safe and effective.  The gentleman from Massachusetts rightfully  asked are there any savings that we can see under the defense accounts, whether  at the Department of Defense or the Department of Energy.  And I would point out one of the eliminations  in this year’s budget are moneys for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research  Replacement Nuclear Facility.  So I would  again emphasize to my colleagues that the subcommittee try to look at this  account with great specificity to remove those items that were not necessary and  to spend our tax dollars wisely.”

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