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"Forget the Rest" blog


For immediate release March 16, 2017

Trump DOE Budget Outline Accelerates Warhead Spending

Contact: Greg Mello, 505-265-1200 (office), 505-577-8563 (cell)

Permanent link to this press release (available later this afternoon)  •   Previous press releases

Albuquerque – This morning the Trump Administration released its so-called “skinny” budget outline for fiscal year 2018 (FY18), containing top-line budget request figures for each agency of government.

The proposed Department of Energy (DOE) budget (pp. 19-20), which like the rest of the request will be modified to some extent by congressional action, would increase the budget of DOE’s semi-autonomous sub-agency the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) by $1.4 billion (B) or 11% over the current (FY17) spending level.

Today’s budget outline provides no detail as to how the proposed increase will be apportioned but it is safe to say that the lion’s share will appear in NNSA’s nuclear “Weapons Activities,” boosting FY18 warhead spending to what will be near all-time record levels, with further increases in following years.

These warhead activities are part of an estimated $400 B in DoD and DOE nuclear weapons expenses over the FY17-FY26 decade, which in turn are part of an estimated trillion-dollar nuclear weapons tab over a three-decade period.

Currently NNSA spending is constrained to FY16 levels by a government-wide Continuing Resolution (CR), which expires on April 28, 2017, requiring some further congressional action by that date. (Today’s budget outline has been produced under the working assumption that the CR will be extended by Congress through the end of the fiscal year, a reasonable guess in our view.)

The NNSA has four budget lines:

  • Weapons Activities (WA), the DOE and NNSA program to design, produce, test, and maintain nuclear warheads and bombs. In FY16, spending on Weapons Activities was $8.85 B or 71% of NNSA’s total budget of $12.53 B.

  • Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation (DNN), in FY16 this was $1.94 B or 15% of NNSA’s budget.

  • Naval Reactors (NR), in FY16 this was $1.38 B or 11% of NNSA’s budget.

  • Federal salaries and expenses, the federal, non-privatized part of NNSA, which in FY16 comprised 3% of NNSA’s budget. DOE warhead activities are thus 97% privatized.

Total NNSA spending was $11.40 B in FY15, $12.53 B in FY16, and continue at about the same this year. Today’s request would raise NNSA FY18 spending to roughly $13.9 B.

Today’s FY18 NNSA request turns out to be a little less than what President Obama requested for the following year (FY19), but meanwhile the NNSA budget Obama requested for this year ($12.9 B) has not been appropriated by Congress. If the CR continues through the end of this fiscal year the Trump warhead budget, assuming it was fully funded, would provide only a little ($33 M) more than Obama had requested for this year and next combined.

Study Group director Greg Mello: “NNSA already has a lot more money than it needs. We believe the two nuclear physics labs are oversized by about factor of about two. There is no need (and classified studies reportedly agree) and there is not much (if any) military “customer” desire, for a new, “interoperable” ballistic missile warhead. And yet NNSA soldiers on, inflating its workload for no reason.

“Dozens of unnecessary near-future projects and facilities are on NNSA’s books. There is certainly no need for a new factory complex costing billions of dollars for plutonium warhead cores, called “pits.” The US has thousands of pits in reserve. All US deployed and reserve pits will last for decades longer.

“Do we need the thousands of warheads now deployed and in reserve? Absolutely not. In 2013, all agencies of government agreed that one-third of them were excess to deterrence requirements.

“There is a great need to tear down excess facilities, to maintain important existing facilities better and more safely, to consolidate within sites, and to clean up contaminated land and buildings to the extent possible.

“These priorities are not what is being emphasized. Although the President proposed today to increase DOE environmental cleanup slightly – by about 4%, to $6.5 B – this can hardly be enough to stem the growth in DOE’s environmental liabilities, let alone complete DOE’s major cleanup projects in an expeditious manner.”


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