Legislation Would Formalize Obama Nuke Modernization Pledge

A key U.S. lawmaker on Thursday submitted a bill aimed at committing President Obama to fulfill nuclear weapons spending commitments while implementing a strategic arms control deal with Russia (see GSN, Feb. 9).

House Armed Forces Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairman Michael Turner (R-Ohio) said his proposal would specifically connect U.S. nuclear arsenal cuts to the fulfillment of Obama's nuclear arms complex modernization pledge. The administration in 2010 announced a decade-long, $85 billion nuclear weapons spending plan amid efforts to secure Senate ratification of the New START treaty.

The pact, which entered into force on Feb. 5, 2011, requires the United States and Russia by 2018 to each reduce deployment of strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550, down from a cap of 2,200 mandated by this year under an older treaty. It also limits the number of fielded strategic warhead delivery platforms to 700, with an additional 100 systems permitted in reserve. The treaty calls for the nations to regularly share quantities, siting and schematics of armament equipment and sites.

“The long-term health and credibility of our nuclear deterrent depends on this bill, as does our national security. During the Senate’s consideration of the New START treaty, the president made many promises to achieve support for Senate ratification. With the president’s [fiscal 2013] budget request, it is now apparent that those promises have been broken. This bill will correct that and ensure the promises are kept,” Turner said in a press release.

“This legislation is important not only to modernize our nuclear force, but also the infrastructure that supports it. But Congress must also fix the agency responsible for that infrastructure; the National Nuclear Security Administration," he added.

"It is clear that NNSA is broken and unable to carry out its mission. It appears to be unable to provide the warheads and infrastructure the military needs, despite receiving billions of dollars from the budget of the Department of Defense. One of the key reasons the administration is failing to meet its promises is that our nuclear weapons enterprise is broken,” Turner stated.

The release says the nuclear agency has wasted billions of dollars in Pentagon funding and curbed work on extending the service life of certain nuclear-warhead types. It notes the delay in work on the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) facility at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Turner plans to deal with those matters through the fiscal 2013 defense authorization act, according to the release.

In addition, the lawmaker's bill would defer funding for carrying out the directives of a forthcoming nuclear war strategy to better enable review of the plan by lawmakers, he said (see GSN, Feb. 21; U.S. Representative Michael Turner release, March 8).

U.S. Representative Edward Markey (D-Mass) in a statement to Turner on Thursday advocated against plans to construct two new nuclear weapons sustainment sites (see GSN, Feb. 21). The two lawmakers are locked in a public debate over U.S. nuclear weapons spending levels.

Funding constraints prompted the Obama administration to delay for five years work on the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement facility, according to a previous report  (see GSN, Feb. 14). A bill introduced last month by Markey recommends scrapping plans for completing both the Los Alamos plutonium site and the Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee (see GSN, Feb. 8).

“At a time when the Senate and president have formally committed to reducing our nuclear stockpile, it makes no sense to spend up to $5 billion to expand our capacity to produce components of nuclear weapons,” Markey said in a statement. “Given the budget constraints we currently face as a nation, we do not need to spend up to $7.5 billion to build a brand new facility at the Y-12 Security Complex" (U.S. Representative Edward Markey release, March 8).

March 9, 2012

A key U.S. lawmaker on Thursday submitted a bill aimed at committing President Obama to fulfill nuclear weapons spending commitments while implementing a strategic arms control deal with Russia.