Executive Session

Floor Speech

By:  Byron Dorgan
Date: Dec. 22, 2010
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. DORGAN. Mr. President, there has been a great deal of discussion about modernization this morning. I have listened to much of it and was not going to come to the floor, but I do want the record to show clearly what the numbers are on modernization. It is important to the future for us to understand what has been done and what is being done and what will be done.

I chair the Appropriations Subcommittee that funds nuclear weapons activities. I have spoken about this previously. It is very important going forward that we all understand what not only this administration but the previous administration has proposed with respect to modernization. I agree with my colleague from Kentucky. It is encouraging, at the end of this debate, that two bipartisan amendments represent the conclusion of this very important debate. We often debate things that are of lesser importance or of greater importance and sometimes don't always see the difference between the two. But this is one of those cases where if we ratify the START agreement today, when all is said and done, more will have been done than said. That is very unusual in a political body.

When I say ``more will have been done than said,'' it is so unbelievably important to try to reduce the number of nuclear weapons and to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. But there is a subtext to all the other things we have discussed, which is why I want to put in the record the funding for the nuclear weapons issues. That subtext is money, money related to national security. We are a country with a $13 trillion debt. Modernization is expensive. Yet it relates to our national security. National missile defense, which we have heard a lot about, is very expensive. I understand that also relates to national security. But this issue of getting our debt under control and our fiscal policy under control is just as much a part of the national security interests of this country.

The subtext to these discussions--modernization, missile defense--is about funding as well and getting this country's economic house in order.

Let me mention the issue of nuclear weapons modernization. In fiscal year 2010, we were spending $6.3 billion on the modernization program on nuclear weapons activities. In fiscal year 2011, it went to $7 billion, up 10 percent--so a 10-percent increase for the nuclear weapons activities in President Obama's budget request. That 10-percent increase was unusual because most accounts were flat or some had cuts. But nuclear weapons got a 10-percent increase. The proposal for 2011, a $600 million increase but $7 billion total, was actually short-circuited and put in the continuing resolution. All the other funding in the CR is flat funding from the previous year. But the funding for the nuclear weapons programs at 10 percent higher was put into the CR. Those programs and those programs alone get the higher funding. That $7 billion was not all that was to be spent. Another $4 billion emerged. I heard about that on the radio while driving in North Dakota, that another $4 billion had been put into this pot for modernization. The additional funding from the 1251 report, which was produced in the fall, means 2012 funding would go from $6.3 billion in 2010, $7 billion in 2011, to $7.6 billion in 2012. That is a $1.2 billion increase in 2 years.

Linton Brooks, the fellow who ran the National Nuclear Security Administration and who did a good job in that role, said:

I would've killed for this kind of budget.

He is referring to $1.12 billion increase and two 10 percent increases, while much of the other budget was flat. We are talking about $85 billion for the next decade on these weapons activities, an increase of $8.5 billion in the next 5 years over what was portrayed in the 2010 budget. We are talking about a lot of additional money that has been committed. It shows a commitment to build two nuclear facilities that were discussed earlier. I want to mention them because it is important to understand what we are doing, the uranium processing facility at the Y-12 production complex and the chemistry and metallurgy research replacement facility at Los Alamos. There were moneys in the 2012 budget in construction funds for these two facilities, not as much as some would want in the Senate. But the fact is, the design of these two facilities is only 45 percent complete. We don't fund things that are 45 percent designed. To come out here and say we ought to be providing robust funding for buildings that are not even designed just makes no sense. Why, NNSA can't have confidence in its funding needs until it reaches about a 90-percent design point and that will be in 2013.

I listened this morning to this discussion and I think what the chairman has done and what Senator Kyl has done in reaching an agreement is fine. But I want the record to show that this administration has proposed robust increases in 2010, 2011, 2012, and for a 5-year period in these modernization accounts, life extension programs--robust increases. Even that is not enough for some. They want to put money into buildings that are not yet designed. That doesn't make much sense to me.

My point is, when we add up all of this, the subtext is how are we going to pay for it. Because it is easy to talk about authorizing, to talk about appropriating. The question is, Where does the money come from at a time when we are borrowing 40 cents of everything we spend in this government? The subtext of money and debt is also a significant part of this country's national security. If we don't get our fiscal house in order, all these debates will pale by comparison. We can't lose our economy and have a future collapse of the economy because the rest of the world has very little confidence in our ability to make smart decisions. We can't risk all that and believe we are going to be a world economic power moving forward. If we are going to remain a world economic power--and we can, and I believe we will--it will be because we start making some smart, tough, courageous decisions. That is more than just calling for more money, more spending, which was most of this morning's discussion.

I don't object to the amendment. My colleagues have raised important issues. But it is important to understand we have made great progress on the modernization funding programs in the past months, and this administration has moved very aggressively to meet those needs and meet those concerns. That is important with respect to the public record.

I yield the floor.

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