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Lawmakers Support Full NNSA Funding in Any Continuing Resolution

By Martin Matishak

Global Security Newswire

(Sep. 12) -Russian-origin highly enriched uranium spent fuel is loaded onto a shipping vessel as part of an effort, supported by the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration, to repatriate more than 1,000 pounds of the material from Poland. Two lawmakers on the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee on Monday urged President Obama to seek full funding of NNSA programs in any short-term budget measure for fiscal 2012 (U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration photo). (Sep. 12) -Russian-origin highly enriched uranium spent fuel is loaded onto a shipping vessel as part of an effort, supported by the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration, to repatriate more than 1,000 pounds of the material from Poland. Two lawmakers on the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee on Monday urged President Obama to seek full funding of NNSA programs in any short-term budget measure for fiscal 2012 (U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration photo).

WASHINGTON -- Members of a key congressional panel on Monday urged the Obama administration to seek in any short-term continuing resolution for the next fiscal year the preservation of robust funding for nuclear weapons and nonproliferation programs (see GSN, Sept. 8).

The goal would be to reverse deep funding cuts approved by the House in July.

"We write to you to request your support for an 'anomaly' for the National Nuclear Security Administration for any continuing resolution for fiscal year 2012," according to a Sept. 12 letter signed by House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairman Michael Turner (R-Ohio) and panel member Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and addressed to President Obama.

The White House in February requested $11.7 billion for the semiautonomous branch of the Energy Department (see GSN, Feb. 15). That plea included nearly $7.6 billion for NNSA "weapons activities," which ensure the safety and performance of the country's atomic arsenal, for the budget period that begins on Oct. 1. It also asked for about $2.5 billion for nonproliferation activities and $1.1 billion for the agency's naval nuclear reactor program.

In July the full House of Representatives approved a budget blueprint that cut the administration's request by roughly $1.1 billion (see GSN, July 15). Most of the reductions would affect the nuclear agency's nonproliferation and weapons accounts, with respective cuts of $428 million and $498 million.

The plan provided a $195 million boost for weapons work over the amount lawmakers appropriated for the present fiscal year but included a decrease of $181 million for nonproliferation efforts from the 2011 level.

The nuclear agency's naval nuclear reactor effort would receive roughly $1 billion, a reduction of about $123 million, or 11 percent, from the requested level.

The full chamber in May approved a fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill that would provide the full funding request for the nuclear agency.

Last week the full Senate Appropriations Committee approved almost $7.2 billion for NNSA weapons activities and $2.4 billion for nonproliferation accounts. It fully funded the administration's $1.1 billion request for the naval nuclear reactor effort.

The anomaly sought by Turner and Heinrich would fund NNSA programs at the requested fiscal 2012 level for the duration of any short-term continuing resolution.

"We urge the administration to request an anomaly for the NNSA for as long as continuing resolutions for FY12 are necessary," Turner and Heinrich said in the letter, obtained by Global Security Newswire. "We believe such a step by your administration is consistent with the consensus support for the modernization of the U.S. nuclear deterrent established during ratification of the New START treaty and support for the important nonproliferation programs administered by the NNSA."

The White House sought, and Congress approved, an anomaly for the nuclear agency's weapons activities in the string of continuing resolutions that marked the fiscal 2011 budget process, the pair of lawmakers noted in the two-page message. The letter was copied to Management and Budget head Jacob Lew and NNSA chief Thomas D'Agostino.

An OMB spokesman did not respond by deadline to questions about whether the administration is working with Congress on a continuing budget resolution or if Lew would support such an anomaly. An NNSA spokesman declined comment.

Last year's request was "consistent" with the administration's support for modernization of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, as laid out during the ratification of the New START agreement last year and "vital to keeping on track the tight schedule for infrastructure modernization and life extensions of our current warhead types," according to Turner and Heinrich.

The White House, in negotiations last year with Republicans during a debate over ratifying the arms control treaty, agreed to pursue $85 billion in new spending over the next decade on modernizing the nation's nuclear enterprise and arsenal. The Senate ratified the treaty last December and the pact entered into force early this year.

While the administration did not request in the 2011 budget a similar status for NNSA nonproliferation efforts or its naval reactor program, "we fully support a broader anomaly this year and will work with your administration to see that it is provided by the Congress," the missive states.

"The administration's goal of securing all vulnerable material within four years, and the vital naval reactor development activities to support the Ohio ballistic missile submarine replacement program" all require the "stability" provided by an anomaly, the two lawmakers argued.

The pair also asked the White House for clarification regarding the potential impact on NNSA nuclear modernization operations of an Aug. 17 memo sent by Lew to all federal agencies that instructed their overall fiscal 2013 budget requests be "at least" 5 percent below enacted 2011 levels.

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