ROGER SNODGRASS Monitor Assistant Editor
Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., proposed an amendment to an appropriation bill under debate in the House this morning. His amendment, proposing to restore about $190 million of project and program cuts, mostly at Los Alamos National Laboratory was rejected after a brief debate.
Udall proposed restoring funds requested by the administration in three specific areas. These included core mission and transitional support for the laboratory, specifically restoring the administration requests for upgrades to the Roadrunner supercomputer, safety improvements and science campaigns.
Speaking against the amendment were the chairman and ranking member of the appropriation panel that authored the bill.
Rep. Peter Visclosky, D-Ind., and Rep. David Hobson, R-Ohio, cited security and other problems at Los Alamos to support the bill in its current form.
"I wish our national labs, who are treasures and who do great work - I would ask that they be as concerned about their security as they are about their budget line," Visclosky said.
"NNSA is the problem, not the scientists, that's why I take the money away from NNSA," Udall responded.
The amendment was rejected by a voice vote, and a formal vote was postponed until later in the day.
First day of debate
The House of Representatives Tuesday largely endorsed the overall plan to cut nuclear weapons programs by $632 million, while adding $491 million to nonproliferation programs.
Under a provisional arrangement, a final vote will be postponed until July, while the House reviews flood-control projects apportioned for the Army Corps of Engineers.
As it stands now, the energy and water appropriation bill will eliminate funding for the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) and construction and programs at Los Alamos National Laboratory, while reducing a number of other projects and programs.
Speaking during debate on the House floor, Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., said the bill represented "the most radical shift in U.S. policy on nuclear weapons that I've seen at least since the mid-1990s, that will lead us either to be forced to a return to nuclear testing, or to abandon nuclear deterrence because we stopped maintaining the stockpile."
Speaking in the Senate, meanwhile, Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., criticized the bill and what he considers the harm it could have on decades of work managing the U.S. nuclear stockpile and nuclear deterrence efforts.
"That bill, if enacted without substantial change, would send American nuclear deterrence strategy in a new and absolutely unknown direction," Domenici said.
Wilson said the bill would cause a 40-percent reduction in the LANL weapons program and a 20-percent reduction at Sandia National Laboratories, the nuclear engineering lab in her congressional district in Albuquerque.
In a speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars on Friday, Thomas D'Agostino advanced the case for the RRW by suggesting doubts about the reliability of the W-76 missile, the first class of warheads that was scheduled to be replaced under the RRW project.
"Although we have not uncovered any problems with the W-76, it is prudent to hedge against a catastrophic failure of that system by introducing a diverse warhead design into the submarine launched ballistic missile force," he said, according to the text of his remarks. D'Agostino has been nominated to become the Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration. NNSA supervises the nuclear weapons complex for the Department of Energy.
Udall announced Tuesday that he would conduct a telephone town hall with the Los Alamos and northern New Mexico community tonight at 6 p.m. on the subject of the future of the lab.
Marissa Padilla, Udall's press secretary, said the teleconference was an experiment.
"This is brand new to us," she said. Calls went out to constituents last night and another round of calls will go out tonight, asking people to join the teleconference. For more information, Padilla referred community members to the congressman's website.
For more information on Udall's teleconference, visit www.tomudall.house.gov. A video of Wilson's speech is at www.youtube.com/watch?v=NuqPKLPPADU. A link to the text of D'Agostino's talk can be found under "News" at www.nnsa.doe.gov.