Bill Would Provide Full Funding for NNSA Nuke Work

A Los Alamos National Laboratory worker conducts nuclear-weapon core work. New House appropriations legislation would meet the full funding request for weapons activities conducted by the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (Los Alamos National Laboratory photo).
A Los Alamos National Laboratory worker conducts nuclear-weapon core work. New House appropriations legislation would meet the full funding request for weapons activities conducted by the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (Los Alamos National Laboratory photo).

WASHINGTON – A House spending bill introduced on Monday would meet the fiscal 2013 funding request for sustaining the U.S. nuclear arsenal even while restricting spending across most of the federal government.

Even if approved, the appropriations amounts would remain vulnerable to reductions due to the federal budget sequester that took effect on Friday, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) acknowledged. The measure requires $85 billion in across-the-board funding reductions through the end of this fiscal year on Sept. 30.

The federal government has been operating since Oct. 1, 2012 under a continuing resolution that keeps spending at levels from the previous budget. The resolution is due to expire on March 27.

Rogers said his bill incorporates a new $982 billion continuing resolution that would maintain the curb on spending to fiscal 2012 figures. It includes full-year funding of $605 billion for the Pentagon and nearly $72 billion for the Veterans Affairs Department and military construction.

“This legislation will avoid a government shutdown on March 27, prioritize DOD and Veterans programs, and allow the Pentagon some leeway to do its best with the funding it has,” the lawmaker said in prepared comments.

The National Nuclear Security Administration would receive $7.6 billion for “weapons activities” intended to ensure the United States maintains a safe, secure and reliable nuclear deterrent. Along with its headquarters office in Washington, the semiautonomous Energy Department branch oversees national laboratories and other plants across the United States that conduct stockpile research, production and associated operations.

The administration had sought that amount for the nuclear agency’s arsenal work in its request for fiscal 2013. If approved, spending would be $363 million more than provided in the previous budget year.

Republican lawmakers have in recent years focused on ensuring funding for modernization of nation’s nuclear complex and weapons as President Obama has pressed to reduce the size of the stockpile.

Rogers’ bill also includes $150 million in new money for domestic uranium enrichment research, development and demonstration under the NNSA defense nuclear nonproliferation program. In its fiscal 2013 budget request filed more than one year ago, the agency said the "one-time addition" for the project would be aimed at “discouraging the unnecessary spread of enrichment technology by contributing directly to sustained confidence in the international commercial enrichment market” and “improving the ability to detect proliferant programs," according to the Arms Control Association.

Uranium enrichment can be used both to produce reactor fuel as well as nuclear-weapon material.

In total, the nuclear agency had sought $11.5 billion for this budget, including $2.5 billion for nonproliferation operations. An NNSA spokesman said on Tuesday that organization could not comment on pending legislation.

“These provisions do not add to the top line, they are funded by reductions elsewhere,” committee spokeswoman Jennifer Hing stated by e-mail on Tuesday. “These items were included in the CR to prevent catastrophic, irreversible, or detrimental changes to government programs, or to ensure good government and program oversight.”

The legislation would provide $519 million through the end of fiscal 2015 for Cooperative Threat Reduction programs to secure or eliminate unconventional weapons and related materials in former Soviet states and beyond.

Another $1.3 billion would be directed to the Pentagon’s chemical weapons disposal operations, with $636 million for operations and maintenance and $628 million for “research, development, test and evaluation” of chemical arms disposal technologies by the Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives program.

The Army program is preparing demilitarization plants at the two last U.S. chemical stockpiles in Colorado and Kentucky. It expects to finish off the nation’s holding of chemical warfare materials by 2023.

March 5, 2013
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WASHINGTON – A House spending bill introduced on Monday would meet the fiscal 2013 funding request for sustaining the U.S. nuclear arsenal even while restricting spending across most of the federal government.

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