FYI: The AIP Bulletin of Science Policy News

House FY 2009 Funding Bill: DOE Nuclear Weapons Program

Richard M. Jones
Number 81 - July 23, 2008  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

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As explained in FYI #80, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have approved their versions of the FY 2009 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill. The House committee has not officially filed its report.

The National Nuclear Security Administration, an independent agency within the Department of Energy, designs, produces, and tests nuclear weapons, and provides the Navy's nuclear propulsion plants. NNSA also has jurisdiction over the nation's nonproliferation program. The total FY 2009 Department of Energy request was $25 billion, of which $9.1 billion was for NNSA programs. Within this budget, $6.6 billion was requested for the weapons program.

The following are selections from the as yet unfiled House Appropriations Committee report. (Until it is filed, it will not be available on the Library of Congress legislative information site.) See FYI #80 for selections from the Senate Appropriations Committee report.

NATIONAL NUCLEAR SECURITY ADMINISTRATION:

The House report stated:

"NNSA's request for the Weapons Activities and Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation accounts is, in the view of the [House Appropriations] Committee, disproportionate and divergent. The request for Weapons Activities is approximately five times that of the Nuclear Nonproliferation request. The two are diverging with near symmetry as the Weapons Activities request is more than five percent above that of the previous year, while the Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation request is more than six percent under that of the previous year.

"The Committee takes a dim view of these priorities. The quantity, destructive power, and variety of the U.S. weapons stockpile far exceeds any requirement for deterrence of any deterrable adversary in the post Cold War world. The U.S. nuclear stockpile is remarkably diverse, resilient, and hypersufficient, and can provide much more than a valid deterrent despite any conceivable single point failure. In contrast, a single failure of nuclear nonproliferation could have an impact on U.S. national security that would be almost immeasurably large. The Committee urges DOE to take a more focused approach to this grave challenge in the future.

"The Committee recommends $8,823,243,000 for the NNSA, a reduction of $274,019,000 below the budget request and a reduction of $12,958,000 below the fiscal year 2008 level."

WEAPONS ACTIVITIES:

The House committee report states:

"The Committee's recommendation provides $6,201,860,000 for Weapons Activities, a reduction of $416,219,000 below the budget request and a reduction of $95,606,000 below the fiscal year 2008 level. [The Senate bill provides $6,524.6 million.]

"Within this amount, the Committee recommends the rescission of $165,300,000 in prior year balances.

"U.S. Strategic Nuclear Weapons Strategy for the 21st century and the Future Nuclear Weapons Stockpile: In fiscal year 2008 the Congress rejected funding of the proposed Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW). The President's budget request for fiscal year 2009 nonetheless included $10,000,000 for RRW. The Committee once again denies this funding.

"The Committee is aware of the advantages of a modern warhead design and strongly supports improved surety. The Committee also understands that high margin provides protection against failure due to compound unknowns. The Committee supports trading off Cold War high yield for improved reliability, in order to move to a smaller stockpile requiring a smaller and cheaper weapons complex with no need for nuclear testing.

"That said, the Committee remains to be convinced that a new warhead design will lead to these benefits. The Committee will not spend the taxpayers' money for a new generation of warheads promoted as leading to nuclear reductions absent a specified glide path to a specified, much smaller force of nuclear weapons. Similarly, the Committee finds no logic in spending the taxpayers' money on a new generation of warheads promoted as avoiding the need for nuclear testing, while the Secretary of State insists that 'the Administration does not support the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.'

"The Committee also finds no validity in arguments that we should (1) first build a new nuclear weapons complex and later decide what to do with it, (2) produce a new nuclear warhead and later contemplate how to arrive at a contemporary, coherent, and durable strategy for it, or (3) design a new high-margin warhead first and consider the question of nuclear testing afterward.

"Before the Committee will consider funding for most new programs, substantial changes to the existing nuclear weapons complex, or funding for the RRW, the Committee insists that the following sequence be completed:

"(1) replacement of Cold War strategies with a 21st Century nuclear deterrent strategy sharply focused on today's and tomorrow's threats, and capable of serving the national security needs of future Administrations and future Congresses without need for nuclear testing;
(2) determination of the size and nature of the nuclear stockpile sufficient to serve that strategy;
(3) determination of the size and nature of the nuclear weapons complex needed to support that future stockpile.

"While all three plans can be explored in parallel, the Committee will not support a program that skips any of these essential steps or seeks to execute them out of sequence. Plans to execute these three steps were specified in the report accompanying the fiscal year 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Act as requirements for further consideration of RRW. While the Committee has received preliminary papers on strategy and on the nuclear complex, none of the required plans have been submitted. The Committee fully affirms its fiscal year 2008 position, and in most cases will not approve new starts in Weapons Activities until this deficiency has been corrected.

"The Committee urges augmented integration between the Departments of Defense and Energy in developing nuclear weapons policy. The Department of Energy builds and maintains the nuclear stockpile, but stockpile size and composition are determined by the Department of Defense and various interagency bodies. The Committee was dismayed at a recent hearing to find that the Deputy Secretary of Defense was unaware that the cost of the nuclear stockpile is the responsibility of the Department of Energy.

"Annual report: The Secretary of Energy shall, not later than December 1 of each year, submit a report to Congress specifying, for the due date of the report and projected for 5, 10, 15, and 20 years after that date, (1) the number of nuclear weapons of each type in the active and reserve stockpiles (2) the strategic rationale for each type, and (3) the past and projected future total direct lifecycle cost of each type."

CAMPAIGNS:

"Campaigns are focused on efforts involving the three weapons laboratories, the Nevada Test Site, the weapons production plants, and selected external organizations to address critical capabilities needed to achieve program objectives. For Campaigns the Committee recommends $1,658,301,000, which is $26,468,000 above the request and $215,533,000 below the fiscal year 2008 appropriation.

"From within funds provided for the various campaigns, the Committee recommends $4,237,000, $2,137,000 above the budget request and the same as the fiscal year 2008 funding, for the university research program in robotics (VRPR) for the development of advanced robotic technologies for strategic national applications.

"Science Campaign: The Committee recommends $307,662,000, which is $15,408,000 less than the request. The Committee recommends $20,000,000 for Advanced Certification Non-RRW, the same as the request for Advanced Certification, which Advanced Certification Non-RRW replaces, while specifying that no funding herein provided is available for RRW. The Committee recommends $74,413,000 for Primary Assessment Technologies, the same as the request. The Committee recommends $23,734,000 for Dynamic Plutonium Experiments, the same as the request. The Committee recommends $79,292,000 for Secondary Assessment Technologies, the same as the request. The Committee recommends $80,805,000 for Dynamic Materials Properties, which is $5,000,000 below the request.

"The Committee commends NNSA for its outstanding Stockpile Stewardship program, which has performed better than expected and has created a technically superior alternative to nuclear testing. Stockpile Stewardship has enabled us to observe nuclear weapons phenomena more directly, in far more detail, and using statistically more significant samples, than could ever be possible with nuclear testing. Because of current progress in Stockpile Stewardship, in particular the recent results from the Dual-Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test Facility (DAHRT), the Committee finds no evidence that nuclear testing would add a useful increment to the immense and expanding body of weapons knowledge arising from Stockpile Stewardship. This is doubly fortuitous in that nuclear testing has become a non-executable mission, because of probable diplomatic and nuclear proliferation reactions as well as probable local opposition to nuclear testing. For all these reasons, the Committee recommends no funding for nuclear test readiness, a decrease of $10,048,000 below the request."

Also under Campaigns, the House Appropriations Committee, reduced the Administration's request for the Advanced Simulation and Computing Campaign by $66.2 million, and increased the Administration's request by $86.8 million for the Inertial Confinement Fusion and High Yield Campaign.

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