Morning Briefing - May 16, 2019
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May 16, 2019

House Appropriations Committee to Take Up DOE Funding Bill Next Week

By ExchangeMonitor

WASHINGTON — The House Appropriations energy and water development subcommittee on Wednesday sent the first draft of the Department of Energy’s fiscal 2020 budget bill to the full Appropriations Committee for consideration next week.

The subcommittee will reveal its preferred spending levels for key programs in a detailed bill report to be published Monday, a committee aide said here. Committee Chair Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said the $46.4 billion energy and water bill could reach the House floor by June.

The subcommittee bill passed by voice vote. The measure would raise the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) budget by about 4.5% year over year to $15.9 billion — a figure some 3.6%, or $600 million, lower than the White House requested.

At the same time, the bill would provide $700 million more than requested for the department’s cleanup of its nuclear-weapon sites. That would bring total funding to about $7.2 billion, even with the current appropriation.

After the markup, subcommittee Chair Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) declined to say which proposed NNSA increases she preferred not to fund in the budget year beginning Oct. 1. In her opening statement, Kaptur said only the bill would not fund “costly, poorly defined recommendations from the President’s [2018] Nuclear Posture Review.”

Among other things, the Donald Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review called for: a low-yield, submarine-launched ballistic-missile warhead; studying the viability of a new low-yield, sea-launched cruise missile; and maintaining, rather than retiring, megaton-class B83 nuclear gravity bomb.

Last year, before the GOP lost control of the House, Congress funded the low-yield ballistic missile warhead to the tune of $65 million for 2019. The NNSA plans to ship the first of these weapons — a modified version of the existing high-yield W76-1, dubbed W76-2 — to the Navy by Sept. 30.

However, Congress has yet to fund the sea-launched cruise missile study or B83 sustainment. The NNSA sought funding for both efforts for the 2020 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

One big ticket item for 2020 is the $410 million the NNSA requested to begin development of a plutonium pit-production plant at the Savannah River Site in Aiken, S.C. A committee aide called that “a huge number. Doesn’t mean it’s not needed, but there’s only so much money to go around.”