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FYI Number 99: June 27, 2005

Senate Appropriators Favorable to Administration's Nuclear Weapons Initiatives

While the FY 2006 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bills in the House and in the Senate share the same number (H.R. 2419), the approach that each Appropriations Committee has taken to the Bush Administration's request for funding for various nuclear weapons initiatives differs, at times, markedly. There is extensive language in the recently-released Senate Appropriations Committee report on these initiatives, selections which appear below. Readers should consult Senate Report 109-084 under "Campaigns" for recommendations regarding Advanced Scientific Computing, and Inertial Confinement Fusion and High Yield (see http://thomas.loc.gov/ under "Committee Information.")

Readers are urged to compare the below language with excerpts from the House Appropriations report on these initiatives which can be read at http://www.aip.org/fyi/2005/073.html.

ROBUST NUCLEAR EARTH PENETRATOR (RNEP):

The House provided no funding for RNEP, and acknowledged a non nuclear penetrator study as described in the House Defense Authorization Act (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2005/078.html.) House Appropriators stated that the test should be conducted at a Department of Defense facility. The below Senate language cites the study that would be led by the Air Force, but wants it to be conducted at Sandia National Laboratory, an NNSA facility. The Senate language states:

"Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator - The Committee recommends $4,000,000 to support the funding of the Air Force led study. The NNSA-DOD teams will conduct B83 impact studies and analyze test data. Sandia National Laboratory is the site of the RNEP tests and the Laboratory possesses a unique set of capabilities to conduct the test on a qualified test track where they are able to design and produce necessary instrumentation. Sandia is also able to maintain a Secret/Restricted Data Protected Environment in which to conduct the test and disassemble test materials that include hazardous material such as depleted uranium and insensitive high explosives. There are no other facilities aside from Sandia and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory where the test data can be readily used to validate computer models that require terra-scale computers to model the data. If this test were moved to another site, it would cost at least 100 percent more than the existing budget request in order to replicate the test facility, prepare the test in a Secret/Restricted Data environment and handle the appropriate material. Any alternative site would need to conduct the appropriate environmental impact statement to ensure full compliance with environmental statutes. The Committee urges the Department to quickly complete the testing and opposes the Department moving this test to any other facility, as it would be a waste of taxpayer resources. The Committee reminds 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 the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator."

TEST SITE READINESS:

The House language was explicit in its opposition to the Administration's request for an 18-month test readiness posture, and reduced the Administration's $25.0 million request for this line item to $15.0 million. The Senate report recommends "$25,000,000, the same as the budget request."

MODERN PIT FACILITY:

Again, the House and Senate committee's disagree. The House report has extensive language on the Administration's request for $7,686,000 for work on the Modern Pit Facility, and did not provide funding for it. The Senate report states: "The Committee recommendation includes a total of $7,686,000, the same as the budget request."

NUCLEAR WEAPONS COMPLEX WIDE REVIEW:

The House Appropriations Committee stated that it "is encouraged" by the work for a study to be completed later this summer. The Senate report language stated:

"NNSA Complex Review - Initiated under former Secretary Abraham, a task force was commissioned to study potential reforms to the nuclear weapons complex. This is the ninth such study commissioned since 1988. Previous studies have proposed a multitude of wide-ranging proposals, of which many were justifiably ignored. The challenge for the latest study panel will be to develop a modest package of reforms that identify cost savings and improvement to the complex without undermining the safety and security of our nuclear deterrent. It is the hope of this Committee that the study group will support the ongoing reforms to modernize the stockpile, through the Reliable Replacement Warhead program. This initiative, which was first proposed in the fiscal year 2005 Consolidated Appropriations Conference Report (H. Rept. 108-447) by the Energy and Water subcommittee, is a means to assure continued certification of the existing stockpile and to make it more affordable to manufacture, maintain and secure weapons. Such a plan will challenge weapons designers, manufacturing experts, computer scientists and experimentalists at our national labs to modernize the stockpile and will require sufficient funding in Science and Engineering Campaigns. The RRW program is not a new weapon, and this fact should be clear to the study panel members.

"The Committee recognizes the temptation for panel members to recommend comprehensive changes to shake up the complex and set it on a new direction. However, the Committee disagrees with the purported proposal to consolidate all of the nuclear material and the entire weapons manufacturing capability, including the construction of a Modern Pit Facility, at a single location. There are very strong opinions in Congress regarding the siting of a new pit facility or changing the military capability of the existing weapons. As such, the Committee believes it is unlikely that Congress would support such comprehensive reforms as currently proposed by the NNSA Complex study panel.

"It would be premature for this study to recommend significant changes to the complex until it is clear to both the Department of Defense and the Department of the Energy agree on what the stockpile will look like in the future and has the concurrence of the Congress before policy makers are likely to support the deployment of a brand new weapon into the stockpile, even if the military requirements remain the same. Those who support broad complex-wide reforms to the complex must be realistic in their expectations in reinventing the complex. Such a task will take time to ensure that the necessary improvement adequately supports science based stockpile stewardship.

"To protect the interests of the Committee and to ensure that this report and it proposed recommendations are carefully considered, no funds shall be used to implement any of the panel's recommendations in fiscal year 2006. This delay will provide Congress the opportunity to fully review the impact of the proposed recommendations. Since this report was not contemplated in President's fiscal year 2006 request, Congress will consider the implementation of any reforms as part the President's fiscal year 2007 budget request."

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

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