Morning Briefing - June 12, 2019
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June 12, 2019

Proposed Amendments to House’s 2020 DOE Spending Bill Would Restore W76-2, Trim W80-4

By Dan Leone

Nuclear hawks and doves had varying success this week in attaching amendments to a minibus spending bill in the House of Representatives that would fund the Department of Energy in fiscal 2020. The bill was slated for debate on the House floor today.

That debate begins even as the House Armed Services Committee is scheduled this morning to consider its version of the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that authorizes defense policy and spending limits for appropriations bills.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) submitted an amendment to the spending bill that would restore about $19.5 million in funding for the Navy to deploy the W76-2 low-yield, submarine-launched ballistic missile warhead. The Democratic majority on the House Appropriations Committee denied that funding, which the Navy wants to put the warhead above Trident II-D5 missiles carried by Ohio-class submarines. That amendment was made in order and is headed to the House floor.

Cheney’s minibus amendment is similar to a separate measure she introduced last week during the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee’s markup of the 2020 NDAA. That amendment failed along party lines in the subcommittee. The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is building the low-yield W76-2, with the first warhead to be delivered to the Navy by Sept. 30.

Cheney also submitted an amendment to increase funding for the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent to match the White House’s request of $570 million, but that amendment was not made in order to appear on the floor. The House Appropriations Committee approved $462 million for procurement of the next-generation intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Meanwhile, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and John Garamendi (D-Calif.) submitted an amendment to the spending bill that would trim funding the NNSA sought to refurbish the W80 nuclear warhead. That amendment, though, did not make the cut for debate by the full House.

The NNSA requested nearly $900 million in fiscal 2020 for the W80-4 program, which both the minibus and the NDAA would provide. That was a substantial increase from the $714 million the NNSA last year said it would need for W80-4 in fiscal 2020. The Blumenauer-Garamendi amendment would have knocked W80-4 back to $714 million, rerouting roughly $185 million to the NNSA’s Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation account.