Jun 21, 2007

Udall’s push for LANL funding falters

By ANDY LENDERMAN | The New Mexican
June 20, 2007

Editor's Note: Audio excerpts of Rep. Udall's electronic town hall meeting on LANL's future, held Wednesday evening, are available for download by clicking on the links attached to this story. The congressman's office had technical difficulties administering parts of the telephone conference causing the sound to drop out intermittently during his introductory remarks.
[Four portions of Udall's conference call can be downloaded, but some may need the extension .mp3 added to their file names to be played on your computer. Clip1, Clip2, Clip3, Clip4]

N.M. labs would lose $400 million if spending bill passes

U.S. Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., was defeated Wednesday in an effort to include $192 million for Los Alamos National Laboratory in a spending bill.

Udall’s amendment was defeated 121-312, and shows the House of Representatives wants to spend less on nuclear weapons programs and more on energy research in the 2008 fiscal year.

The passage of the 2008 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill would cut a combined $400 million at Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos compared to the 2007 fiscal year, Udall’s office reported. Los Alamos bears much of the cuts, but no specific number was immediately provided by several New Mexico lawmakers or the lab.

However, the Senate still has to release its own version of the bill and reach a compromise with the House before the measure becomes law over the next few months.

“In recent years, there have been administrative and managerial difficulties, which we all agree are unacceptable,” Udall said in defense of his amendment. “Nevertheless, the mission of the lab and the workers are two things I will always fiercely defend.”

But a longtime Republican critic of Los Alamos again questioned the need to spend more money there.

“Given this track record, do we really believe adding another $192 million will improve security?” Rep. David Hobson, R-Ohio, said. “I would argue our national security would be improved by cutting 1,800 jobs from a facility that can’t seem to manage sensitive information.”

Udall’s amendment would have placed $50 million into the Road Runner Supercomputing Project, $70 million into an infrastructure-maintenance account primarily for weapons programs and $70 million into the science campaign, which helps scientists understand the country’s nuclear weapons stockpile, officials from Udall’s office and the lab explained.

“I disagree with arguments in the House that portrayed efforts by Representative Udall and the delegation to restore weapons funding as a New Mexico jobs protection exercise,” U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said in a statement. “The fact is that the House plan represents a seismic shift in American nuclear weapons policy with national and international implications.”

U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said Udall is doing everything he can to increase funding at the labs. “Soon the Senate will begin writing our own version of this spending measure, and that process will be independent of the House action,” Bingaman said in a statement. “I am working both with the New Mexico delegation and with my Senate colleagues to ensure both New Mexico laboratories have funding needed to carry out the labs’ important missions.”

Udall was again criticized by Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group, who said he’s sorry to see Udall work to restore money to nuclear weapons programs. Mello’s group opposes nuclear weapons.

Hobson, the ranking member of the committee, and its chairman Rep. Peter Visclosky, D-Ind., authored the energy and water bill, which spends $31 billion nationwide.

Visclosky said the U.S. Department of Energy needs to come up with a post-Cold War strategy for new weapons before it gets money for new warheads.

“I wish our national labs, who are treasures and do great work, would also be as adamant and as concerned about security as they are about their budget line,” Visclosky said.

The Senate is scheduled to release its version of a bill that pays for energy and water projects next week.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact Andy Lenderman at 995-3827 or alenderman@sfnewmexican.com.


Anonymous said...

Udall, Richardson, et. al.

I vote. I'm keeping score. You're up to bat.

Anonymous said...

Just wait till we get a Democrat for President in 2008 to add to a Democrat-controlled Congress. Then you'll probably begin to see some serious cuts to the weapon lab budgets. Heck, they might even question the need for having two weapon labs and decide to completely shut down LANL, as Cali is a much more Democrat-friendly state.

Anonymous said...

Los Alamos has the distinct possibility of being turned into a ghost town much sooner than most people realize. If/When it happens, most of those who live here will be financially wiped out and Northern New Mexico will begin to take on the look a a Depression-era community. If you had told me this would be possible 4 years ago, I wouldn't believe it. Today, I think it's not so far fetched.