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FYI Number 147: November 13, 2003

Final Funding Legislation on Administration's Nuclear Weapons Initiatives

Final legislation has been developed in the House and Senate that responds to the Bush Administration's nuclear weapons initiatives. The FY 2004 Energy and Water Development appropriations bill contains language and funding supportive of the Administrations's requests regarding the development of the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, Advanced Concepts, and the readiness posture of the Nevada test site.

The House and Senate versions of the Energy and Water Development appropriations bill were very different in their treatment of the Administration's requests. Republican Chairman David Hobson (Ohio) and his fellow House appropriators' committee report criticized congressional policymaking procedures, stating, "...this Committee will not assume that all of the proposed nuclear weapons requests are legitimate requirements." The House bill provided only one-third of the Administration's funding request for the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, and no money for Advanced Concepts definition studies or funding to shorten test readiness posture at the Nevada site. The House approved this bill, setting it on an eventual collision with the Senate bill, crafted by Senator Pete Domenici (R-New Mexico). Press accounts reported that one of the major points of contention in this bill's conference committee was the language on the Administration's nuclear weapons initiatives.

The final conference report language has been completed. In regard to the Administration's $15.0 million request for the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, House Report 108-357 states:

"The conferees provide $7,500,000 for the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator study, instead of $5,000,000 as proposed by the House and $15,000,000 as proposed by the Senate. The conferees remind the Administration that none of the funds provided may be used for activities at the engineering development phases, phase 3 or 6.3, or beyond, in support of advanced nuclear weapons concepts, including the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator."

Concerning the Administration's request of $6.0 million for Advanced Concepts Definition Studies, such as low-yield nuclear weapons, the report states:

"The conferees provide $6,000,000 for Advanced Concepts, as proposed by the Senate, of which $4,000,000 is available for obligation only after the official delivery of a revised Nuclear Weapons Stockpile plan to Congress and a 90-day review period by the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations and the Committees on Armed Services. The revised Nuclear Weapons Stockpile plan should detail the Department of Defense and Department of Energy's program plan and detailed schedule to achieve the President's proposed inventory adjustments to the Total Strategic Stockpile, including the Strategic Active Stockpile and Inactive Stockpile, by weapon systems and warhead type."

Responding to the Administration's request to reduce the current 24- 36 month test readiness posture at the Nevada test site, the report states:

"Within funds provided for program readiness activities the conference agreement provides $24,891,000 for test readiness in Nevada, the same as the [Bush Administration's] budget request. The conferees recognize that test readiness activities in Nevada were allowed to atrophy during the last decade under the current nuclear test moratorium as documented by the DOE Inspector General and the NNSA's [National Nuclear Security Administration] internal assessments. However, the conferees expect the NNSA to focus on restoring a rigorous test readiness program that is capable of meeting the current 24-month requirement before requesting significant additional funds to pursue a more aggressive goal of an 18-month readiness posture. The conferees expect the House and Senate Appropriations Committees be kept informed on the progress of restoring the current test readiness program. The conferees remind the Administration that Congressional authorization must be obtained before proceeding with specific activities that support the resumption of testing."

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
fyi@aip.org
(301) 209-3095

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