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"Forget the Rest" blog

For immediate release 6/26/07 3:40 pm

Senate subcommittee proposes robust nuclear spending plan

Funds Los Alamos plutonium factory, halts “Complex 2030”

Contact: Greg Mello, 505-265-1200

Today the Senate appropriations energy and water subcommittee proposed its nuclear warhead spending plan, which will now compete with a prior and quite different House proposal during deliberations prior to final passage later this year.

Overall, the plan would keep nuclear weapons spending in FY 2008 about constant in inflation-corrected dollars from the current year (FY 2007), as opposed to the House version, which would decrease spending about 10% in inflation-corrected dollars over the current year.  The Weapons Activities (WA) budget line proposed is $6.48 billion (B).

The Senate plan, which is currently available only as summarized in press releases issued by Senator Domenici’s office, emphasizes spending at the nuclear weapons labs.

It would also select Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) as the nation's de facto plutonium warhead core ("pit") manufacturing site.  It would do this by fully funding the construction of new manufacturing infrastructure at LANL, funding the entire pit production budget request, and halting competing planning efforts, called “Complex 2030.”  The House plan halts three plutonium pit manufacturing construction projects at LANL and slashes pit production operating funds in half.

While some liberal influence on the subcommittee can be traced in the $22 million (M) nick given the proposed "Reliable Replacement Warhead" program, and in boosts proposed for renewable energy (primarily for research), Study Group Director Greg Mello believes “The plan is very close to the Bush Administration's overall.  What is "liberal" in this markup is primarily the emphasis given to spending in

New Mexico.  Its basic organizing principle seems to be that the New Mexico nuclear labs should have as much work as possible.”

Overall energy and water spending in the plan is higher than that in the House of Representatives (by $670 M) and much higher than that proposed by the White House (by $1.8 B), which has said it will veto the smaller House markup because it is too large. 

Mello again: “Suggesting increases in so many different programs creates a lot of room for horse trading.  This will take place behind closed doors later this summer in a House-Senate conference.  The outcome of this three-way process (between the House, Senate, and the White House) cannot be easily predicted.”

The markup adds a brand new project at LANL not requested in the President’s budget, providing $45 million for "classified vault consolidation activities."  It is unclear what this means.  Mello: “This may be an operating subsidy, or it could be a euphemism for a new construction project.”  Funds are largely fungible at the weapons laboratories, and especially if this project is composed of operating funds these funds may actually be replacing operating funds lost to other costs, such as new corporate fees, retirement fund expenses, or gross receipts tax increases.

The subcommittee, no doubt heavily influenced by Senator Domenici, has added millions of dollars in many lab-related budget lines.  Taken together, hundreds of millions of dollars are involved.  Mello: “It almost looks like the committee is blurring the line between appropriations and earmarks.  Perhaps, at these labs and in these programs, that line was always illusory.  Some of the proposed multi-million-dollar "pork pockets" are really ‘jackalopes’ -- whimsical policy chimeras 10 times normal earmark size whose logic strains belief.  If history is a guide in five years the work product of the latest pork-barrel lab projects, should they be funded, will be already forgotten.”

Greg Mello * Los Alamos Study Group *
2901 Summit Place NE * Albuquerque, NM 87106
505-265-1200 voice * 505-577-8563 cell * 505-265-1207 fax

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2901 Summit Place NE Albuquerque, NM 87106, Phone: 505-265-1200

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