Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Senate Approves Markup on Energy and Water Appropriations

The Senate approved its markup of the FY2008 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill today. Overall the bill is good, but not great for the non-proliferation agenda, as it leaves a lot of work to be done for arms control advocates as we move into the next stages of the budget process.


The Senate Energy and Water bill provides a total of $32.27 billion, which is $1.8 billion over President Bush’s request and $2 billion over funding for FY2007. As I mentioned earlier, Bush has threatened to veto the energy bill unless spending is lowered significantly. The House version of the bill also came out of its Appropriations Committee at about $1.1 billion over the president’s request.

Between President Bush’s veto threat and calls from the political right within the committees for increased fiscal responsibility, we can expect a lot of cuts across the board in the Joint Conference Committee once the House and Senate finalize their appropriations numbers.


$6.49 billion is allotted for weapons activities, which is $22 million less than the budget request, but $231 million over current levels. This is much more than the $5.879 billion for weapons activities currently allotted by the House.

Here are some current House Appropriations and the Senate Appropriations numbers side by side, followed by a bit of analysis on each line:



Total Nuclear Weapons

$5.88 bil.

$6.49 bil.

Reliable Replacement Warhead


$66 mil.

Plutonium Pit Manufacturing

$150 mil.

$256.3 mil.

Consolidated Plutonium Center




$1.809 bil.

$1.87 bil.


Perhaps the biggest disappointment for non-proliferation advocates is the Senate committee’s decision to provide funds for the development of a new generation of nuclear weapons through a program called the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW). While $22.7 million was cut from the program, the Senate decided to maintain $66 million for “stage 2a” activities (stage 2a means the funding can only be used for research and design, but not for the actual production of new nuclear weapons, yet).

While a cut is good, it is not enough. The remaining $66 million for RRW is a lot more money than the ZERO dollars allotted by the House. According to the Committee Report that accompanied the House’s version of the bill, it zeroed out funds for RRW because:

… it is premature to continue design activities for a new nuclear warhead until a revised U.S. nuclear weapons strategy is developed that describes the long term nuclear stockpile requirements and demonstrates how a new nuclear warhead is necessary to address specific U.S. national security requirements and nuclear nonproliferation requirements.

In other words, the House decided that it will no longer throw money blindly toward misguided nuclear programs until there is a serious debate about the U.S. nuclear posture and the role of nuclear weapons in the 21st century.

At this point it is likely that RRW funding will stay at $66 million in the Senate, ZERO for the House, and there will be a fight in the Joint Conference Committee to come up with a final number. While the high Senate number makes it less likely, the ultimate funding for RRW may yet end up at zero if the looming presidential veto threat creates pressure to cut spending across all government programs.


The Senate allotted $256.4 million for plutonium pit manufacturing, 171% of the funding provided by the House. The Los Alamos National Laboratories are throwing a party to celebrate the first plutonium pit certified for the nuclear stockpile since the prior plutonium pit facility at Rocky Flats in Colorado was closed in 1989 -- this and the dangers associated with pit production are discussed in an excellent article you can find at Nukes on a Blog.


Good news came as the Senate chose to completely zero out funding to build a Consolidated Plutonium Center. All four committees, the Senate and House Authorization and the Senate and House Appropriation Committees, have zeroed funding for the new “bomplex”, indicating a strong resistance to the administration’s vision of building a new nuclear weapons complex under the so-called Complex 2030 Program.


The Senate markup offers $1.87 billion for nonproliferation activities, which is $200 million more than the presidential request and $54 million over current year levels. It is also about $69 million more than offered by the House

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