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FYI Number 82: June 21, 2004

FY 2005 House Appropriations Committee Report: Nuclear Weapons Initiatives

House appropriators are on a collision course with the Bush Administration and their Senate counterpart committee in their recommendations concerning several nuclear weapons initiatives in the FY 2005 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill. As detailed in committee report 108-554, subcommittee chairman David Hobson (R-Ohio) and his colleagues did not provide funding for several Administration nuclear weapons programs initiatives: RNEP, Advanced Concepts Research, Enhanced Test Site Readiness, and Modern Pit Facility. Selections from this House committee report follow:

ROBUST NUCLEAR EARTH PENETRATOR AND ADVANCED CONCEPTS RESEARCH:

"The Committee provides no funds for the Advanced Concept Initiative and the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP) feasibility study. The National Nuclear Security Administration requested $36,557,000 in Directed Stockpile Work to explore advanced weapons concepts, including $27,557,000 to continue feasibility and cost studies for the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP) and $9,000,000 for other advanced concepts definition studies. The Committee eliminates funding for RNEP and additional advanced concepts research in favor of higher priority current mission requirements. The Committee continues to oppose the diversion of resources and intellectual capital away from the most serious issues that confront the management of the nation's nuclear deterrent. The NNSA Future Years Nuclear Security Plan includes a funding profile with $484.7 million for the RNEP over the next five years and indicates plans to move the program all the way to Phase 6.4, one step short of production. The Department has not provided the Committee with any budget justification describing how a study to modify an existing nuclear weapon could conceivably cost half a billion dollars.

"Given the FYNSP [Future Years Nuclear Security Plan] funding profile, the Committee remains unconvinced by the Department's superficial assurances that the RNEP activity is only a study and that advanced concepts is only a skills exercise for weapons designers. The Committee notes that the management direction for fiscal year 2004 sent to the directors of the weapons design laboratories left little doubt that the objective of the program was to advance the most extreme new nuclear weapon goals irrespective of any reservations expressed by Congress. The Committee cautions the Department to be more consistent in the tone and content of its communication exchanges with the Congress and subsequent Departmental policy direction sent to its employees and contractors. The use of artful language to communicate one message with Congress and another with its employees on issues of special interest erodes the credibility of the NNSA and destroys the trust necessary for a useful dialogue in setting public policy.

"The Committee recognizes the dilemma the NNSA's nuclear weapon design laboratories find themselves in after the Cold War. In the absence of a Cold War between nuclear-armed superpowers, the importance of nuclear weapons to the war fighters in the Pentagon has steadily diminished. The pressure on the nuclear weapon design laboratories to maintain the canonical role for their weapons in order to justify increasing budgets becomes very difficult. By contrast, the Committee's priorities are maintaining our Nation's nuclear deterrent in a safe and secure condition and maintaining our Nation's integrity in the international effort to halt the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The Department's obsession with launching a new round of nuclear weapons development runs counter to those priorities. The Committee directs the NNSA to focus wholly on its primary mission of maintaining the safety, security, and viability of the existing stockpile by executing the Stockpile Life Extension Program and Science-based Stewardship activities on time and within budget."

SCIENCE CAMPAIGNS, INCLUDING TEST SITE READINESS:

"The Committee recommendation for science campaigns is $256,962,000, a reduction of $44,000,000 from the budget request. The primary assessment technology campaign was reduced $15,000,000 to limit the enhanced test readiness initiative to the goal of achieving a 24-month test readiness posture. The Committee continues to oppose the 18-month test readiness posture and refers the Department to the unambiguous Congressional language provided in the fiscal year 2004 Conference Report requiring the Department to achieve and maintain a 24-month test readiness posture. The Committee has not been kept informed, as requested in the fiscal year 2004 Conference Report, on the progress of the Department's efforts to restore the current 24-month test readiness requirement and, therefore, continues to have unanswered questions on the efficacy of the overall test readiness initiative. The Committee recommendation includes $81,521,000 for dynamic materials properties campaign, a reduction of $10,000,000 from the budget request. The Committee recommendation includes $48,371,000 for the advanced radiography campaign, a reduction of $14,000,000 from the budget request. The Committee is disappointed with the continued delay in the commissioning of the Dual-Axis Radiographic Hydrotest facility (DARHT), which is significantly over budget and behind schedule. The secondary assessment technologies campaign recommendation is $60,597,000, a reduction of $5,000,000 to the significant increase proposed over the current year funding level pending the outcome of the Secretary's review of the weapons complex."

PIT MANUFACTURING AND PIT CERTIFICATION:

"The Committee recommendation for the pit manufacturing and certification campaign is $295,681,000, a reduction of $40,792,000 from the budget request. The Committee's recommendation maintains the current year funding level. The Committee commends the Los Alamos National Laboratory for its work restoring the pit production capability to the nuclear weapons production complex. The Committee continues to oppose the Department's accelerated efforts to site and begin construction activities on a modern pit facility and urges the Department to continue to concentrate its management attention on meeting the fiscal year 2007 schedule for a certified pit ready for the stockpile. The Committee provides $142,005,000, a $10,000,000 increase to the budget request, for W88 Pit Manufacturing and $101,470,000 for W88 Certification, the same as the budget request. The Committee provides the additional $10,000,000 in pit manufacturing to accelerate the ongoing work to expand the capacity of TA-55 at Los Alamos National Laboratory to address near-term pit manufacturing requirements as a production hedge while the Department completes the accelerated plutonium aging experiments.

"The Committee provides no funds for pit manufacturing capability, a reduction of $20,992,000 to the budget request. The Committee continues to believe that work on pit manufacturing should be focused on expansion of the pit production capability of TA-55 at Los Alamos National Laboratory and notes that the sooner an expanded capability comes on line, the smaller its capacity needs to be to meet future stockpile requirements. Accordingly, the Committee provides no funds for the modern pit facility (MPF) pending the outcome of the Secretary's review of the weapons complex and the accelerated pit aging experiments. The current suite of DOE facilities (e.g. NIF, Hanford vitrification plant, DARHT) that were proposed with great promise only to experience extended schedule delays and enormous cost overruns leads this Committee to take a very cautious approach with the taxpayers' money when considering another major infrastructure investment. The Committee will consider a modern pit facility design only when the pit aging experiments are completed and the future MPF capacity requirements as a function of the 2012 stockpile and the expanded TA-55 production capability are determined.

"The Committee provides the budget request for Pit Campaign Support Activities at the Nevada Test Site."

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

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