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"Forget the Rest" blog

September 6, 2011


Bulletin #127: PLEASE ACT NOW, as the Senate moves toward cutting Obama’s proposed increases in warhead spending

Dear Study Group friends and colleagues –

I wanted to tell you some important and encouraging news, because I want you to ACT NOW – please. 

I have to hold back some of the news so as not to scoop the print journalists who have been kind enough to share information with us.  I will send that Thursday, after they have published. 

Background (or skip to ACTION below and return to this part as needed)

Today the Senate Energy and Water Development (SEWD) Appropriations Subcommittee unanimously approved its proposed markup of the Energy and Water Appropriations bill for the fiscal year that starts October 1 (FY2012).

The SEWD proposes to cut away more than half of the increase proposed by the White House for nuclear warhead spending (called “Weapons Activities” in the budget of the National Nuclear Security Administration, NNSA). 

While the proposed cuts are not as great as those already passed by the House, they are quite significant and taken as a whole they send a bipartisan (and bicameral) signal to the Administration that the huge increases proposed last year for nuclear warhead spending will not come to pass any time soon

The details will be published tomorrow, when the full Senate Appropriations Committee takes up this proposed bill and any amendments. 

There is some encouraging news regarding the Los Alamos plutonium megaproject (the “Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility,” CMRR-NF), which we will provide on Thursday.  Last May I briefed a bipartisan group of staff members in this committee on why the CMRR should not be built, or delayed (pdf). 

The bad news is the fact that the SEWD proposes to cut $584 million (M) from programs which are not “national security” in the overall bill, and would increase the programs which are “national security” by $528 M. 

So, more or less, the Subcommittee raided renewable energy, low-income home energy assistance, water projects and flood control, science, and so on to pay for an increase in nuclear weapons spending and other Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear programs.   Chairwoman Feinstein called nuclear weapons the “800 pound gorilla” in the bill, and so they are. 

As Eisenhower put it in 1953,

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

Today it is not just these precious resources which are being spent.  Our bizarre and self-destructive preoccupation with nuclear weapons is a direct theft from solar energy, wind energy, home weatherization, climate protections, and the jobs that would come from those priorities.  This committee was given $31.625 billion to spend and today’s markup is the way they propose to do it. 

To get an idea of the trade-offs involved in today’s proposed legislation, see Senator Feinstein’s press release

The following table summarizes the nuclear weapons portion of the markup in comparison to this year’s enacted funding level, the Administration’s request, and the House proposal (discussed further at Bulletin #118).  The shaded portion must wait for later.

Nuclear “Weapons Activities” markups (in millions of dollars, as of 9/6/11)

FY2011 Enacted

FY2012 Request

FY2012 House (approved by House)

FY2012 SEWD (not yet approved by Senate)





Change from FY2011


+195.26 (+3%)

+293.60 (+4%)

Change from FY 2012 Request

-497.72 (-7%)

-399.38 (-5%)

CMRR (includes RLUOB + NF, both buildings)





Change from FY 2012 Request

-100.00 in early construction funds; no FY2012 CMRR-NF construction allowed


I think Weapons Activities is overfunded for its mission by approximately a factor of two.  It might also be that few would work in the warhead complex if salaries were not egregiously high. 

Over the weekend we sent an informal but somewhat detailed update to the press with ten main headings, which you may also wish to at least skim as you prepare to act.  It contains an update on our legal appeal, discussion of CMRR-NF as a job creator (it is not), and several other topics along with a recent op-ed by Willem Malten. 

If you check our CMRR web page weekly you can keep up with the news fairly well.  Since the last Bulletin we have posted the following:

Trish has added a new feature to our web site, which allows you to be notified as new material is added


The seemingly-immovable boulder is moving and we hope you will put your shoulders into the effort now.

What we want you to do is simple enough, in principle, though it is as rich and full as you want to make it in practice.  Wherever you are, in whatever state of the union, please do whatever you can, in public and in private, to get your senators to cut the nuclear weapons budget – and especially the CMRR-NF part of it, which has no other purpose than the continued evolution and production of nuclear warheads. 

CMRR-NF is not needed and will never be needed to maintain any existing U.S. warhead. 

Ask your senators to move that money – and it’s big money – into actual productive government programs, such as programs that really serve national security, like flood control in flood-prone areas.  Or distributed solar energy, or wind power in our desiccating plains, where cattle ranchers are sort of twisting in the wind and drought-related population decreases are already underway in some areas. 

We can’t afford a $6 billion concrete bunker and plutonium processing plant that makes no permanent jobs, builds nothing we need, trains nobody in anything but plutonium, attracts no private capital, makes no energy (indeed, it will be the largest energy user in Los Alamos, requiring a new transmission line or reconductoring the old ones), uses a vast amount of resources (now up to 400,000 cubic yards of concrete), fills our highways with unnecessary shipments of plutonium and warheads in obnoxious convoys that are literally above all local law, and uses (but provides no) services (except subordination of our liberal institutions and civil government). 

This whole disaster (as Naomi Klein put it) is being led by Bechtel (pdf), which was singled out for some special words in a recent speech by Arundhati Roy.  (It would not be a disaster for Bechtel, of course – far from it – just us.) 

There’s nothing you can do before tomorrow’s vote, but this bill must now go to the Senate floor for approval, and then – possibly – to a conference committee.  Senator Kyl may try to add back in nuclear warhead spending on the Senate floor.  Other senators can propose amendments, such as cutting weapons and CMRR funds further. 

You might try asking for engineering studies of CMRR-NF alternatives.

Here in New Mexico, our senators have been four-square behind this project.  They should be made to feel some heat over this.  Some of you are in a position to do this effectively, so please do stand and deliver.  Now is your time.  Find a way to be heard.  Don’t wait, please.

Thank you,

Greg Mello, for the Study Group

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