Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Senate Committee Boosts R&D of New Nukes, No Production

The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) released its markup of the Defense Authorization Bill yesterday. I spent the morning pouring over the nonproliferation related-language of the bill and found the numbers for the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) to be disappointing.

The SASC allotted just over $195 million for the RRW program. This is a big difference from the House Appropriations Committee, which, as Jeff reported earlier, put the brakes on RRW by eliminating all funding for the program.

The Senate did thankfully include a provision that these funds can only be used for “2A activities,” meaning that the funds are only for research and design and cannot move into the production stage.

Adding nearly $200 million more than doubles the combined spending on RRW programs since FY'05, and is a dangerous and slippery proliferation slope: while funding may be limited to 2A activities now, scientists will want to build their new designs and then they are going to want to test their new toys.

A quick funding history of RRW shows the mercury rising…

FY’05: $9 million
FY'06: $25 million
FY'07: $52 million
FY'08: bill in progress, with Senate markup of $195 million

RRW legislation will next hit the House floor this week where it will be considered as part of the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill. On the Senate side, we can expect to see the Senate Armed Services Bill next at the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration. My guess is that the House will keep funding low, the Senate will keep funding high, and a middle ground will be hashed out in the joint committee.

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