Jun 10, 2007

House Panel Cuts Warhead Funds

Appropriators Ax Bush’s $88.8 Billion Request for RRW

By WILLIAM MATTHEWS

Exercising “power of the purse,” the U.S. House committee that controls spending voted not to fund any efforts in 2008 to develop a new nuclear warhead.

The House Appropriations Committee cut all of the $88.8 billion President George W. Bush requested for building a Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW).

In a vote June 6, the committee also cut $25 million sought to begin work on a new nuclear weapon production complex — Complex 2030 — which is expected to cost at least $150 billion over the next two decades.

The appropriators withheld funding from the two programs, declaring them, “poorly thought out,” and “premature.” Before building new warheads and a new nuclear weapon complex, the administration must develop a post-Cold War strategic weapon plan, said Rep. Peter Visclosky, D-Ind.

Visclosky is chairman of the Appropriations energy and water subcommittee, which oversees U.S. nuclear weapon programs.

The Appropriations cut follows a less drastic cut by the House Armed Services Committee, which lopped $20 million off the RRW program in May. The Senate Armed Services Committee also cut RRW funding.

In all, the Appropriations Committee cut $632 million — nearly 10 percent — from Bush’s nuclear weapon budget request of $6.5 billion for 2008.

The money cut from nuclear weapon programs, which are managed by the Energy Department, was distributed to a variety of other energy programs, including programs to reduce dependence on foreign oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The shift prompted Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., to call for nuclear weapon labs in his state to be allowed to branch out into other energy research. Work on energy efficiency and renewable forms of energy “is a direction the nation needs to move in,” he said.

Los Alamos National Laboratory, which manages the nation’s nuclear weapon stockpile, is the largest employer in Udall’s congressional district. A second national nuclear lab, Sandia, is in southern New Mexico.

Udall predicted the committee’s cuts would lead to job losses. The labs should be allowed to compete for government-funded energy research, he said. “They’re not just weapon labs” and should be permitted to diversify. “I want to make sure the scientists can stay employed,” he said.

However, Rep. David Hobson, R-Ohio, said for the nuclear labs to become energy science labs would require substantial reorganization.

Committee members made it clear they are unhappy with the Bush administration’s determination to move ahead with the RRW and Complex 2030.

In a strongly-worded rebuke, the committee wrote that “these multibillion dollar initiatives are being proposed in a policy vacuum without any administration statement on the national security environment that the future nuclear deterrent is designed to address.”

“Currently, there exists no convincing rationale for maintaining the large number of existing Cold War nuclear weapons, much less producing additional warheads.”

The committee directed the Energy Department, Pentagon and intelligence community to write “a comprehensive nuclear security plan.”

The plan is to cover future weapon requirements, production of new weapons and dismantlement plans for old ones. It is also to include estimates of the global threat, an unclassified summary of the current stockpile quantity, year-by-year changes planned for the size of the stockpile, and analysis comparing the cost of existing facilities and the current stockpile with the cost of a new weapon complex.

Committee members accused the Energy Department of seeking new weapons chiefly to bolster its budget. In a bill report the committee wrote: “The committee notes that maintaining the legacy stockpile was acceptable to the Defense Department and the Energy Department while large funding allocations were flowing for the Science-Based Stockpile Stewardship facilities and programs.

“Now that the Stockpile Stewardship facilities are nearing completion and the funding curve is flattening out, NNSA (the National Nuclear Security Administration within the Energy Department) is raising concerns with the reliability of the existing stockpile and wants Congress to embark on a new multibillion, multidecade initiative that will ensure an expanding funding curve.”

It is also “particularly troubling,” the committee wrote, that the RRW puts the United States in the position of demanding other nations give up their nuclear ambitions while Washington attempts to build new nuclear warheads.

Amid the cutting, the committee approved a whopping increase for nonproliferation efforts.
Members added $11 million to the president’s request for $1.7 billion. On top of that, nonproliferation efforts are to receive $387 million available from prior years and $491 million that is to be transferred from other accounts. In all, that means a 74 percent increase in nonproliferation spending over the current year.

E-mail: bmatthews@defensenews.com.

7 comments:

BuckyTurge said...

Oh, my! Whatever shall LANL do now that RRW and Pu production (which would have been LANL's share of RRW) have been zero'd out?

Energy? I think not. See

http://dontworrygonuclear.blogspot.com/2007/06/thanks-for-nice-introduction-dr.html

for some thoughts on this.

-Buck

Anonymous said...

"Udall predicted the committee’s cuts would lead to job losses."

No, Mike promised us no RIF and no plans for a RIF. Besides, a RIF would be very expensive due to the generous severence pay at LANL. So instead of a RIF, get ready to see plenty of terminations (for various causes of one sort or another) and lots of contracting out of the workforce. In the future, the number of employees working directly for LANS is going to be much smaller. This will also help eliminate some of the future costs associated with retirement medical and TCP1, plus reduce the current liabilities associated with matching funds for TCP2. It's all part of the plan DOE had in mind when the started the RFP process (i.e., reduce the cost of running the labs by removing employee benefits).

Anonymous said...

Let us do some math here. If there were budget reduction that would necessitate a RIF of 2000 of the 12000 total persons (LANS, contractors, students, etc) that presently receive paychecks at LANL, that would be 17% of the people. So, if everybody takes a 17% cut in pay, then there would be no need for a RIF and Mikey would be correct. And, as a reward for avoiding a RIF in climate of severe financial exigency, Mikey would deserve a huge bonus.

OOPS, one more thing. There is also need for the TCP1 people to start contributing 5% to UCRS. SO, those fontunate individuals would see a reduction of 22%.

Anonymous said...

TCP1 people contributing 5% to UCRS? Maybe 5% to LANS TCP1, but not to UCRS.

Anonymous said...

Let's see, you need to do away with about 1000-1200 employee's hmmm, so how do you go about this? RIF'S ? Mikey said no RIF's, ???I am sure Mikey and his bunch will figure this out and be very creative about how they go about this.....all I can say is watch your hind-end...it won't be pretty.

Anonymous said...

Hey 8:04 PM - I guess we will all find out tomorrow at 1:30 pm!

Anonymous said...

No, you won't find out much of anything of importance in Mike's All-Hands presentation on Wed. Expect nothing more than some back-slapping congratulations and empty platitudes.

In a messy situation like this, learn to trust your gut instincts and your own eyes and ears. Stop listening to what the LANS executives are saying to you. When the shortfalls finally hit, these guys aren't the ones who will be hurt by the fallout. By late next year, Mike will be singing "Whoops, we were wrong", rather than his current tune of "No RIF and no plans for a RIF".