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.
NNSA FY14 Funding, USD, in billions
Amounts are not exact due to rounding.
*includes rescission of $64 million from prior year balances
The final overall FY14 appropriation for the NNSA came in at $11.2 billion, a modest decrease from the Obama administration’s request of $11.7 billion, and also slightly under the agency’s FY13 funding. Of this, $7.8 billion (about 70 percent) is for Weapons Activities and $2 billion for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation, with the remaining amount going to Naval Reactors ($1.1 billion) and the NNSA Office of the Administrator. While the overall trend was down—understandable in a year when the entire government is facing cuts—some programs fared better than others. In the Weapons Activities category, for example, Appropriators allocated $7.8 billion—virtually level with last year and slightly more than in FY12—while Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation fared worse, with a 7.1% cut from the FY14 request, but a nearly 19% decline from FY13. Below we look more closely at a few key weapons programs; a follow-up post will look at the nonproliferation programs.
Weapons Activities: Still a Winner
Appropriators provided only slightly less funding overall than requested for Weapons Activities, but some individual programs within this category did not do as well. The biggest cut was to the W78 life extension program (LEP), which received only about half of requested funding, while the B61 LEP was a notable winner.
FY14 Life Extension Program Funding, USD, in millions
*Funds authorized for “W78/88-1 Life Extension Program”
B61 Life Extension Program: Most Funding Intact, Despite Reservations
Despite Senate appropriators’ efforts to substantially cut funding for the update to the B61 gravity bomb—to $369 million from a requested $537 million—the final appropriation for the DOE portion of the program matched the NNSA request. That gives the program a hefty 45% increase over FY13 funding. However, noting that the overall life extension program may cost up to $10 billion total, both houses of Congress raised questions about the NNSA’s selection of such a costly and extensive alternative and the agency’s ability to successfully manage the program. While providing the requested funding, the appropriations bill requires DOE to submit a report to Congress including a description of all alternatives considered for the B61 LEP, along with “a comparison of the costs and benefits of each…to include an analysis of trade-offs among cost, schedule and performance objectives against each alternative considered.” This requirement hints that Congress is still concerned about the B61 update and, because they are concerned about the process, hopes to learn enough to avoid something similar in the future.
On the DOD side, appropriators cut funding for the proposed new tail kit for the B61 nearly in half. DOD requested $67 million for this work, which would increase the bomb’s accuracy, an improvement that DOD argues would allow a reduction in the bomb’s yield. Appropriators also rejected a $10 million DOD request to assess using the new fighter plane, the F-35, to drop the life-extended B61 bombs.
W78/W88-1 and Interoperable Warheads: On the Chopping Block
The appropriators’ position on the proposed first interoperable warhead (IW-1) evolved as news reports emerged suggesting that the Obama administration was changing its own plans. The “interoperable warhead” was to replace the W78 and W88 warheads, and used on both land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles and sea-based submarine-launched ballistic missiles. In its FY14 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan, released in July 2013, the NNSA laid out an aggressive plan for life extension programs over the next 25 years that included an additional two interoperable warheads to follow. The overall cost of its plans was projected to be $60 billion, with $14.5 of this for the IW-1.
In December 2013, however, reports surfaced that plans for IW-1 were in jeopardy, and that the administration’s upcoming FY15 budget would indefinitely defer work on the program. Cost was initially cited as a major factor in this decision.
In light of these reports, House and Senate appropriators, who had both fully funded the $73 million request for work on the W78/W88-1 IW-1 in their initial bills, essentially killed the interoperable warhead in the final omnibus bill. That bill provided only $38 million, a cut of almost half of the request. The accompanying report states that the provided funding is to be used “to continue to study options to extend the life of the W78,” and leaves out the W88 entirely, meaning no funding is available to work on that warhead in FY14.
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