Morning Briefing - April 15, 2019
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April 15, 2019

House Panel to Unveil Nuke Parts of 2020 NDAA June 4

By ExchangeMonitor

The House Armed Services panel that writes nuclear weapons law will reveal its plans for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s future plutonium-pit production complex, low-yield, submarine-launched ballistic-missile warhead and more on June 4, when it marks up part of the lower chamber’s 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.

The annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) sets policy and spending limits for national defense programs, including the nuclear weapons and nonproliferation programs managed by the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

The House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee handles NNSA’s part of the bill and is slated for a 3:30 p.m. ET markup in Washington. The markup is the official unveiling of the first-draft legislative text that sets nuclear weapons policy for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. Members can introduce amendments to the bill text, though Democrats have a majority and can defeat or approve any amendment by voting en bloc.

The Senate Armed Services Committee will mark up its version of the NDAA in late May, but those sessions are closed to the public.

Last week, Rep. Jim Cooper (R-Tenn.), chair of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, did not buy into the NNSA’s plan to produce plutonium pits at both the Los Alamos National Laboratory in northern New Mexico, and the Savannah River Site in Aiken, S.C.

Cooper told NNSA Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty that he was not yet ready to accept the two-state pit complex as a “fait accompli,” and that he wanted more information about the planned South Carolina facility before authorizing the $410 million in NNSA seeks to design and develop the plant in fiscal year 2020.

The legislative text Cooper rolls out June 4 will reveal whether NNSA was able to sway him to the agency’s point of view.

The full House Armed Services Committee is scheduled to mark up the complete 2020 NDAA on June 12. The chair of the Committee, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) has vowed to kill the W76-2 low-yield warhead NNSA says it will start shipping to the Navy by Sept. 30.

Smith has also said he wants to trim the U.S. fleet of intercontinental ballistic missiles, possibly by slowing, stopping, or shrinking procurement of next-generation silo-based nuclear missiles known as the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent.