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Amendment on Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Account Funding Defeated

Richard M. Jones
Number 84 - June 14, 2012  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

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During House consideration of H.R. 5325, the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act for FY 2013, an amendment was offered to increase the appropriation for the Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation account.  This account provides funding for Nonproliferation and Verification Research and Development, Nonproliferation and International Security, International Nuclear Material Protection and Cooperation, Fissile Materials Disposition, and the Global Threat Reduction Initiative.  The current budget is $2,295.9 million.  The Administration requested $2,458.6 million. 

H.R. 5325 provides $2,276.0 million, a decline of $19.9 million from this year.  Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) offered an amendment to shift $16.0 million from the Department of Energy’s departmental administration account to the Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation account, with the funding being allocated to the Global Threat Reduction Initiative.  This amendment was defeated by a vote of 182-237, largely along party lines.  Debate on this amendment follows:
Rep. Sanchez:

“Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment to increase funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s defense nonproliferation program by $16 million. This is a small restoration of funds, and it would restore the Global Threat Reduction Initiative to our fiscal year ’12 levels.

“It’s really just a small increase in funds, but it will go a long way, in particular for the President’s top national security priorities. The $16 million would come from the Department’s administration account. Specifically, this $16 million transfer would restore half of the funds that had been cut from the Global Threat Reduction Initiative to counter the risk of nuclear terrorism. The danger that nuclear weapons and materials might spread to countries that are hostile to us or to terrorists who want to use these against us is one of the gravest dangers that we have to the United States.

“Nonproliferation programs are one of the least expensive ways, and they’re critical for U.S. national security, and they must be a top priority. It’s our line of first defense. It is the most cost-effective way to achieve the most urgent of goals, which is securing and reducing the amount of vulnerable bomb-grade material.

“The funding for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative specifically supports securing vulnerable nuclear material around the world in 4 years, in order to prevent this deadly material from falling into the hands of terrorists who are intent on doing us harm.  And let me give you a specific example of why this is so important. Increasing the funds would help accelerate the conversion of research reactors and the removal of vulnerable highly enriched uranium. The need to accelerate those important efforts can be seen, for example, in the example of Belarus, which had enough HEU for several nuclear weapons, and agreed, in 2010, to give up this material.

“Now, the NNSA cleaned out a portion of that material; but in 2011, Belarus reneged on its agreement because it was angry at the imposition of U.S. sanctions on that regime. There is still a significant amount of highly enriched uranium that sits there in Belarus. It could have been cleaned out by the NNSA if it had had 5 more months before Belarus said no. This illustrates why it’s so important for us to put the money in to go and clean these places up before people decide or new regimes come in and all of a sudden we can’t get to what is very dangerous materials for us.

“We can’t squander the opportunities to move forward on this urgent priority.  The 9/11 Commission and the Nuclear Posture Commission noted that the addressing of this issue is important.  This is a grave danger, with the Nuclear Posture Commission warning that ‘the urgency arises from the imminent danger of nuclear terrorism if we pass a tipping point in nuclear proliferation.’  I urge support for a very modest increase of $16 million that will significantly help us reduce the dangerous delays to these very important nonproliferation programs.”

House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) opposed the amendment:

”Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the gentlewoman’s amendment. Though less than last year’s level, the $2.3 billion provided for defense nuclear nonproliferation already shows very strong support of our committee for nonproliferation.  Our bill fully funds the core nonproliferation programs to secure vulnerable nuclear materials around the world in 4 years. In fact, it goes further and provides an additional $28 million above the request for the international programs under what’s called the Global Threat Reduction Initiative.

“While I appreciate our colleague’s support for these activities, there’s simply no reason to provide even more funding. The international activities have been clearly laid out in the 4-year plan, which peaked in 2011. These activities are supposed to ramp down as we accomplish more and more projects abroad. The President’s budget reflects that planned ramp-down.  This additional funding would just likely sit there unexpended. The National Nuclear Security Agency already has considerable problems getting other countries to follow through with agreements. The Government Accountability Office has confirmed that half of all the funding we provide each year is not spent. To use the words I heard a few minutes ago: the money is sitting there. This additional funding is simply not needed, and I ask the Members to reject this amendment.”

House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member Peter Visclosky (D-IN) supported the amendment:

“Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of the gentlewoman’s amendment and commend her for crafting it. As I pointed out in earlier remarks, I do appreciate the chairman’s efforts, as well as the members of the subcommittee and full committee, to increase money set aside for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative. In fact, the chairman was responsible for adding $17 million above the administration’s current request.

“However, I do believe that more can be done and that the Sanchez amendment, by adding $16 million to the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, would get us very close to our current year appropriated level.  I believe, as a Nation, our greatest security threat is not a launched attack by another nation-state, but the use of nuclear weapons or materials in an act of terror. And given that particular threat, I do believe every dollar counts and every dollar of these $16 million count. I would ask my colleagues to support the gentlewoman’s amendment.”

Richard M. Jones
Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics