Morning Briefing - March 27, 2019
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March 27, 2019

NNSA Budget Request Lacks ‘Clear Priorities,’ House Approps Cardinal Says

By ExchangeMonitor

A day after the Department of Energy released some 650 pages of details on its $16.5-billion nuclear-weapon budget request for 2020, the chair of the House Appropriations panel that funds the agency demanded more information on proposed weapons spending from Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

“With respect to nuclear weapons, this is not a budget that establishes clear priorities with a responsible plan to fund and execute those priorities,” Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), chair of the House Appropriations energy and water development subcommittee, told Perry on Tuesday during a hearing on the agency’s 2020 budget request.

Kaptur asked whether Perry could provide any “ follow-on materials” about the proposed fiscal 2020 nuclear weapons and nonproliferation spending overseen by DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). Perry said the department would “work with” Kaptur’s office to provide “additional documentation” about the semiautonomous agency’s request.

Kaptur did not say during the hearing exactly what information she wanted that DOE not include in the detailed NNSA budget request released late Monday. The lawmaker did say that she was concerned about the NNSA cutting “key nonproliferation programs,” although she did not identify any by name.

The NNSA requested some $16.5 billion in total for weapons, nonproliferation, and nuclear-Navy propulsion work for the budget year that begins Oct. 1. Weapons activities would get the biggest increase, if the budget request becomes law: nearly 12 percent to almost $12.5 billion, compared with the 2019 budget.

Total nonproliferation spending would actually rise about 3 percent to almost $2 billion, if approved by Congress. Within the nonproliferation account, the NNSA plans to continue converting the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF) at the Savannah River Site in Aiken, S.C., designed as a plutonium disposal facility, into a factory to annually produce 50 fissile warhead cores by 2030.

Perry and NNSA Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty are slated to testify about the NNSA’s budget request Thursday before the full Senate Armed Services Committee. Gordon-Hagerty and senior NNSA officials are scheduled to appear April 2 before the subcommittee Kaptur chairs.