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Mrs. FEINSTEIN. I thank the Senator for her leadership on bringing much needed attention to the arbitrary and damaging cuts of sequestration on important government programs.
I would like to start by highlighting the impact of sequestration on national security activities. A semi-autonomous agency within the Department of Energy, known as the National Nuclear Security Administration, or NNSA, is responsible for safeguarding the country's nuclear weapons stockpile.
NNSA has recently embarked on a major modernization effort. The purpose is to upgrade aging infrastructure and replace aging components in nuclear weapons. These investments are being made so that NNSA can reduce the size of the stockpile, consistent with New START Treaty obligations, and certify each year that nuclear weapons remain safe, secure, and effective without underground nuclear testing.
Sequestration would cut close to $600 million from the nuclear weapons program, essentially freezing and reversing modernization efforts. Specifically, cuts in funding would put at risk NNSA's ability to refurbish nuclear weapons that are needed by the Air Force and Navy to meet nuclear deterrence missions, delay construction of facilities needed to replace old facilities that do not meet modern health and safety standards but are necessary to manufacture critical nuclear weapons components, result in furloughs and/or lay-offs of up to 5,000 contractors at the eight NNSA sites across the country, and reduce oversight of NNSA nuclear facilities resulting in less frequent and thorough audits and evaluations of security at the sites. This would come at a time when security lapses have occurred at a major site storing nuclear weapons materials.
Ms. MIKULSKI. It is my understanding that NNSA also funds nonproliferation activities. Would sequestration undermine the 4 year goal of securing all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world by the end of December 2013?
Mrs. FEINSTEIN. NNSA has sufficient funding to meet the 4 year goal, but securing materials is not the same as permanently removing and disposing of them. Even with the 4 year goal nearly complete, thousands of kilograms of highly enriched uranium and plutonium enough materials for dozens of nuclear weapons still present a terrorism risk. Terrorists are indifferent to sequestration.
The sequester would impose cuts of nearly $200 million from the nonproliferation program. Efforts to remove additional nuclear materials would be delayed In addition, NNSA would not be able to deploy additional radiation detection equipment at border crossings that are most vulnerable to nuclear and radiological smuggling. Of particular concern is NNSA missing the deadline to build and deploy new, more accurate sensors that can detect other countries' nuclear weapons tests. NNSA would not be able to build the sensors before the Air Force is scheduled to launch its satellites.
Ms. MIKULSKI. Equally important to our national security are efforts to reduce U.S. dependency on foreign oil and mitigating the effects of global warming. What impact will sequestration have on basic research needed to accelerate future energy technologies?
Mrs. FEINSTEIN. The Department of Energy maintains U.S. leadership in scientific and technological innovation by supporting basic research through its Office of Science. The goal is to advance energy technologies and operate world-leading facilities to accelerate scientific discoveries.
Sequestration would cut about $250 million from the Office of Science. Specifically, these cuts would result in hundreds of layoffs at national labs, universities, research facilities, and private sector companies that rely on Office of Science funding grants for energy research, reduce operations of major scientific facilities, meaning less research and development in one of the highest priority research areas designing novel materials which is critical to advancing energy technologies, stop almost all construction projects that are replacing aging infrastructure at the national labs that are needed to support science missions and attract the best scientists from around the country and the world, and allow no, or very few, new awards to advance high performance computing to stay ahead of Chinese competition and develop the next generation system, known as exascale, before the U.S. reaches the limits of current technology.
These cuts would come at a time when many other countries are making significant investments in energy research and development. Many experts are already warning that current investments are not sufficient to maintain U.S. competitiveness in energy technologies.
Ms. MIKULSKI. Before our time is up, let's also discuss the impact of sequestration on water infrastructure. What will be the impact on the Civil Corps of Engineers?
Mrs. FEINSTEIN. With sequestration, the Corps would likely have to close 57 recreation areas and partially close 186 recreation sites. There would also be no funding for 52 ongoing studies that were funded in FY 2012, 65 construction projects that were funded in FY 2012, and 43 dredging projects that were funded in FY 2012.
As the studies and construction projects are cost shared with non-Federal sponsors, over 115 local sponsors would be left with no Federal share to match their contributions for these studies and projects, further delaying completion of these studies and projects. In addition, only the bare minimum funding for dredging of ports and harbors will be available. This will lead to inefficiencies in transportation due to required light-loading which will ultimately lead to increases in consumer costs.
The long term effect of these delays is increasing the costs of construction projects. More money needed to complete current construction projects means less or no funding for future projects already planned.
I thank Senator Mikulski for the colloquy today on this issue.
Ms. MIKULSKI. I thank Senator Feinstein for her sobering assessment of the impacts of sequestration.
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