Serving as Ranking Member during a Senate Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee hearing, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) yesterday expressed his concerns to the U.S. Nuclear Lab Directors about nuclear modernization managed by the National Nuclear Security Administration. This was the third Senate hearing this year to address nuclear modernization, following the release of President Obama's Fiscal Year 2013 (FY13) budget that backpedals on his previous commitment to modernize our nation's nuclear arsenal in exchange for Senate passage of the new START Treaty nearly two years ago.
The President's FY13 budget proposal cuts $4.3B from the previously projected Future Years Defense Program for our nuclear programs and delays many essential items including the B-61 extension program, W-76 deliveries to the Navy, construction of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Processing Facility (CMRR), design of the OHIO replacement reactor plant and the Spent Fuel Handling Recapitalization Project.
"This week, I returned from Afghanistan where I met with our nation's troops and discussed the need to further modernize our nation's weapon systems," said Inhofe. "It is clear that under President Obama's FY13 budget, our men and women in uniform will not receive the resources they need to be successful. To no fault of our troops, President Obama continues to neglect the needs of our nation's military. The neglect extends beyond Afghanistan to our nuclear arsenal."
Inhofe continued, "The modernization and maintenance of our nuclear weapons, and investment in our nuclear complex is necessary to ensure the reliability and safety of our nuclear arsenal, and provide a strong nuclear deterrent for our nation and allies. However, President Obama continues to shortchange the modernization of our nuclear weapons, ignoring his commitment made in exchange for Senate passage of the new START Treaty. If more than 30 nations that fall under the U.S. nuclear umbrella can no longer rely on the integrity of the U.S. arsenal; nuclear weapons may proliferate. The end result would be more countries with nuclear weapons.
"Modernization of our nuclear complex and our nuclear weapons is not about increasing thermonuclear yield. Modernization is about safety and reliability. Continued delays in our nuclear programs will decrease safety and reliability, and will increase costs."
During a SASC hearing last month, U.S. Gen. Robert Kehler, Commander of U.S. Strategic Command, echoed Inhofe's concerns. Kehler said of Obama's FY13 budget proposal, "The thing that concerns me the most is our continued investment in the (nuclear) weapons complex."
Yesterday the National Nuclear Lab Directors affirmed Kehler's and Inhofe's concerns regarding the nuclear complex and confirmed the need for modernization.