Thursday, June 14, 2007

House Appropriations Bill Delayed, Bush Threatens Veto

Word from the Hill is that the House Energy and Water Appropriations bill, which includes nonproliferation and nuclear programs, may not go to the House floor until after the Independence Day recess, or at the earliest next week. The House was previously expected to take action on the bill this week. Info on the Energy and Water Subcommittee markup and House Appropriations Committee markup is here, here, and here.

The Bush administration released a Statement of Administration Policy today with regards to H.R. 2641, the House Energy and Water Appropriations bill. According to the letter, Bush would veto the bill as it stands:

H.R. 2641 exceeds the President’s requests for programs funded in this bill by $1.1 billion... [If H.R. 2641 were presented to the President, he would veto the bill. (emphasis in original statement)

As it stands, the bill cuts funding for the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program and reduces Weapons Activities by approximately $600 million from the President’s request. The veto threat is not related to these actions, although the President expressed disappointment that his push to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons is opposed by Congress:

The Administration understands the need to work with the Committee on a plan for transforming the nuclear weapons stockpile and complex that is aimed at assuring bipartisan support. However, the Administration strongly opposes the Committee’s decision to eliminate funding for the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW). Congress has consistently supported this vital effort to modernize the nuclear weapons stockpile. Failure to continue the program will contribute to increasing concern about weapon performance/reliability and may in turn require the maintenance of a larger size stockpile than was contemplated with RRWs.

For Bush to say Congress has “consistently supported this vital effort to modernize the nuclear weapons stockpile” is a bit of a stretch. While the RRW program has received funding the past three years from a Republican dominated Congress, the funding has been limited to research activities with Congress repeatedly expressing strong hesitation to move into the production phase for new nuclear weapons. Both the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee and House Appropriations Committee have zeroed out funding for RRW in the past month, sending the President a clear signal that Congress is not ready to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons. More analysis on current RRW funding here.

Overall, Congress has been at odds with the administration about the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security. The administration’s push to develop new tactical delivery systems through the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (“bunker buster”) program was rebuked two years in a row by Congress, and has now been dropped from the President’s budget request completely. This was a clear indication that Congress is nervous about the administration's view on the utility of nuclear weapons.

The letter also said:

The Administration strongly opposes the reduction for Weapons Activities of approximately $600 million from the President’s request. At the lower funding level, activities and programs critical to transform the nuclear weapons complex and allow it to become more cost-effective and responsive to rapidly changing requirements will be severely curtailed.

Feeling like Congress may be undercutting the administration? Then consider this: on average, the administration is putting more money into our nuclear arsenal today (about $6 billion in 2007) than went in during the Cold War. It would like to increase that spending to $7.4 billion by 2012.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I need to offer a factual correction. In your post you say that "The administration’s push to develop new tactical “mini-nukes” through the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (“bunker buster”) program was rebuked two years in a row by Congress, and has now been dropped from the President’s budget request completely." The RNEP program and the "push" for mini-nukes are two separate issues. Just think about it. RNEP stands for ROBUST nuclear earth penetrator. Common English will tell you that "robust" and "mini" cannot be the same thing. The RNEP was never intended to be a small nuclear warhead. It was a program to develop a new casing for an existing (and relatively large) nuclear explosive device, so that the weapon could penetrate hardened or buried targets before exploding. The "mini-nuke" issue was entirely separate. Completely separate from the RNEP program, the Admin proposed setting up advanced concepts teams at the labs that could possibly study new types of nukes. At the same time, the Admin sought repeal of language that prohibited research on small nuclear weapons. Although they claimed no plans to develop small nukes, and that they just wanted unfettered research, critics put 2 and 2 together and got 4. The advanced concepts teams were also cancelled, and Rep Hobson transferred their funding to RRW, when he created RRW a few years ago. This funding shift was completely unrelated to the cancellation of RNEP.

These facts are readily available. They don't change the substance of your post about RRW funding this year, but they do show a bit of a lack of understanding about the Bush Admin's nuclear weapons program.s

Kyle Atwell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jay Denari said...

Hi, Kyle & Jeff,

It's always good to see more people blogging about nukes and related issues, since there's so little public discussion of it overall. I wish I had time to do it more than I do!

I'm not sure if you've seen it, but here's the link for the
Union of Concerned Scientists' video on RNEP
. They say RNEP is designed to use 1 MT warheads, but note that even without it, we already have 400+ kt "bunker busters."

Kyle Atwell said...

The reader’s comments are noted. Mini-nukes are not the same as RNEP. Sorry about the confusion… I guess it could be my vacation to sunny California this afternoon that is keeping me unfocused! I revised the post to reflect this correction, and to better clarify my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Certain minority members on the Appropriations Subcommittee have celebrations planned for Wednesday.