On March 26, the House Armed Services Committee is scheduled to have a hearing to receive words of wisdom from a Congressionally-mandated “Congressional Advisory Panel on the Governance of the Nuclear Security Enterprise,” which is government-speak for trying to fix the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). Read More
March 24th, 2014
February 28th, 2014
With the FY14 Omnibus Appropriations bill finally passed in January, and a new budget proposal for FY15 coming up next week, now is a good time to take a look at where the FY14 chips have fallen, and what the approaching budget cycle may hold for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). Our previous post covered weapons programs, while this installment will look at the agency’s funding for nonproliferation programs.
February 27th, 2014
On January 16th, two weeks after the second quarter of Fiscal Year 2014 began, Congress passed the FY 2014 Omnibus Appropriations Act that will fund government operations through September 30, 2014. That action finally freed the government from a series of short-term funding measures and, it is hoped, will pave the way for a more normal budget process for FY 2015. This massive bill lumps together all eleven annual appropriations bills to cover funding for every federal agency, including the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). With the administration scheduled to put out its budget proposal for FY 2015 next week, we can now see where the FY 2014 chips have fallen, and get some idea of what the future may hold. Read More
February 19th, 2014
In January of 2013, the Air Force announced that it was conducting a “ground-based strategic deterrent analysis of alternatives,” which is military-speak for looking at options to replace the current silo-based, long-range Minuteman III missiles, which are armed with one to three nuclear warheads and deployed across the central plains of the United States. Read More
November 18th, 2013
Congressional Response to the NNSA’s Budget: Part 2
The second in a two-part series on the nuclear weapons budget. Click here for Part 1.
The Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel project at the Savannah River site—part of an agreement with Russia to dispose of excess plutonium extracted from dismantled nuclear weapons—saw a significant drop in funding in the NNSA’s FY14 budget request. The $503 million request for fissile materials disposition, of which MOX is a part, was down $219 million, about 30 percent, from FY13. Within this, funding for construction of a MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF) dropped from $438 million to $320 million. The NNSA says this is because it wants to slow the MOX program while the administration conducts an assessment of alternative plutonium disposition strategies. We understand that the assessment has been completed and is in the hands of DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz, but it is unclear if they will announce the results soon or wait until the release of the FY15 budget before they reveal any conclusions.
The program is certainly ripe for reevaluation. Read More
October 18th, 2013
The U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories have a program that allows their scientists and other researchers to conduct independent research and development (R&D) on subjects unrelated to the primary missions of the labs. This program—the Laboratory-Directed Research and Development (LDRD) Program—allows the labs to set aside up to 8% of their budgets each year for such R&D. Grants are awarded competitively, and funded by overhead charged by each laboratory to both its DOE and non-DOE sponsors. Read More
October 17th, 2013
Today we released our report Making Smart Security Choices, which takes a broad look at the U.S. nuclear weapons complex and assesses what is going well and what needs improving, what there is too much and too little of, and how to make its work consistent with the U.S. commitment to further reducing its arsenal.
In part, the report looks at current plans for building new facilities and argues for cancelling or postponing some of them. Read More
October 3rd, 2013
Back in the spring, we posted our analysis of the NNSA’s FY 2014 budget request, which sought to reduce funding for nonproliferation programs while increasing funding for nuclear weapons activities. Since then, much has happened, but not much has been finalized. While the House has passed both authorizing and appropriations bills, the Senate still has not passed either, and with the ongoing battles over government shutdowns and debt ceilings, it doesn’t look like an agreed budget bill will happen any time soon. Read More
September 26th, 2013
At the request of Congress, in 2012 the independent science advisory group JASON reviewed the planned life extension program (LEP) for the B61 nuclear bomb—the so-called 3B option. This option includes modest changes to the nuclear explosive package (NEP).
September 16th, 2013
In its FY14 budget request, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) asked for increased funding for nuclear weapons activities and decreased funding for nonproliferation programs. One of the biggest requested increases was for the B61 Life Extension Program (LEP), which we discussed in a previous blog. The NNSA requested $537 million in funding for the B61 LEP for FY14—a 45% increase over FY13. In committee consideration of the appropriations bill, the Senate cut $168 million from the request (with the possibility of restoring this amount if the program stays on deadline and on budget), while the full House increased funding by $24 million. These very different numbers, however, obscure the fundamental underlying agreement on the need for the NNSA to better justify its plans for an elaborate and expensive LEP for the B61, rather than a more modest option. Read More