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Hearing of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee - Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Budget Request for Atomic Energy Defense Activities and Nuclear Forces Programs


Location: Washington, DC

The Strategic Forces Subcommittee met today for a hearing on the the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Budget Request for Atomic Energy Defense Activities and Nuclear Forces Programs. Chairman Michael Turner gave the following opening statement as prepared for delivery:

Good afternoon. The Strategic Forces subcommittee hearing on the President's FY13 budget request for DOD and DOE nuclear forces, U.S. nuclear weapons posture, and the FY13 budget request for environmental management will come to order.

I want to thank our witnesses for being here today. For those who follow the sometimes arcane world of nuclear weapons budgeting and policy, the witnesses on our two panels are familiar faces.

On December 1, 2010, prior to the ratification of the New START treaty, the then-Directors of Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, and Sandia National Laboratories wrote to Senators Kerry and Lugar and stated:

"[W]e believe that the proposed budgets [referring to the November 2010 update to the section 1251 plan] provide adequate support to sustain the safety, security, reliability and effectiveness of America's nuclear deterrent within the limit of 1550 deployed strategic warheads established by the New START Treaty with adequate confidence and acceptable risk."

That plan appears to have been abandoned in the President's FY13 budget request, calling into question whether there is still "adequate support" for the nation's nuclear deterrent to permit the reductions called for by the New START treaty.

There have been those inside and outside of government who have challenged the linkage of the New START treaty and the modernization plan. There are those who make the argument that because President Obama has requested more funds than his predecessor, though not the funds that he's promised, he's done all he needed to do. Neither of these positions represents serious thinking that befits our national security.

There can be no doubt that reductions proposed by the New START treaty are only in our national interest if we complete the modernization of our nuclear deterrent--warheads, delivery systems, and infrastructure.

I want to remind those who have forgotten--this was the President's modernization plan. It was his nuclear posture review, issued in April 2010 before there was a New START treaty, and his 1251 plan. Here are some highlights:

* From the President's 2010 NPR: "Funding the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project at Los Alamos National Laboratory to replace the existing 50-year old Chemistry and Metallurgy Research facility in 2021."

* Also from the President's 2010 NPR: "Developing a new Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 Plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee to come on line for production operations in 2021."

* Also from the President's 2010 NPR: "The Administration will fully fund the ongoing LEP for the W-76 submarine-based warhead for a fiscal year 2017 completion, and the full scope LEP study and follow-on activities for the B-61 bomb to ensure first production begins in FY 2017.

* The President's 1251 plan states that CMRR and UPF will complete construction by 2021 and will achieve full operational functionality by 2024.

Further, the inextricable linkage of modernization and the New START reductions was the basis of Condition Nine of the New START treaty. This linkage was the legal basis on which the Senate ratified the treaty. Let me remind everyone what Condition Nine stated:

"[T]he United States is committed to proceeding with a robust stockpile stewardship program, and to maintaining and modernizing the nuclear weapons production capabilities and capacities, that will ensure the safety, reliability, and performance of the United States nuclear arsenal at the New START Treaty levels…the United States is committed to providing the resources needed to achieve these objectives, at a minimum at the levels set forth in the President's 10-year plan provided to the Congress pursuant to section 1251."

Not only do I believe is it fair to inquire whether the President's commitment to modernization is lacking now that he has his treaty, but I base that belief on the budget submissions and the Condition Nine report that has not been submitted to the Congress, nor the companion section 1045 report from last year's NDAA.

Let me remind the subcommittee what Dr. James Miller, the President's nominee to be the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, told us last November:

"The first is that we understand the requirement to report [per Condition Nine] if we have less funding than in the Section 1251 as requested in Section 1251 Report. Our interpretation of that has been substantially less. In fiscal year 2011 actually slightly less was appropriated than requested. Our judgment was that a one percent or less change didn't require us to submit the report. The difference we are looking at now [in the FY12 appropriations bills] in both the House and the Senate appropriations bill, I think, would trigger that, and we would have to examine that question... If there is substantially less funding than requested, we will, of course, provide the report to Congress."

Yet we have no report for either FY12 or the President's own budget request for FY13, which underfunds the 1251 plan.

So what's changed? Is it solely the budget picture? I don't mean to dismiss the budget situation and the cuts the DOD has had to make, especially as it has made those cuts while transferring large sums of its own budget to fund the modernization activities at the NNSA.

Again, the question here is whether U.S. nuclear force reductions make sense without modernization. The President's Nuclear Posture Review makes the case for this linkage when it stated:

"[I]mplementation of the Stockpile Stewardship Program and the nuclear infrastructure investments recommended in the NPR will allow the United States to shift away from retaining large numbers of non-deployed warheads as a hedge against technical or geopolitical surprise, allowing major reductions in the nuclear stockpile."

In the absence of these investments, will the forthcoming NPR Implementation Study continue to hurtle towards what seems to be a pre-judged outcome that the U.S. should further reduce its nuclear deterrent? I see no other way to understand the President's recent comment at Hankuk University in Seoul:

"[L]ast summer, I directed my national security team to conduct a comprehensive study of our nuclear forces. That study is still underway. But even as we have more work to do, we can already say with confidence that we have more nuclear weapons than we need."

So the study isn't done, but we already know the answer supports the President's goal of a world without nuclear weapons? Either the President already knows the answer to the question, in which case the Congress must be informed, or, the President wrote the question to ensure an answer he'd want.

Hopefully our witnesses today will shed some light on this important area. Either way, I assure you, this year's National Defense Authorization Act will ensure Congress' oversight of these issues.
I also want to highlight some of the discussion at this subcommittee's February hearing on governance and management of the nuclear security enterprise. At that hearing, we heard from the National Academies of Science about a "broken" and "dysfunctional" relationship between NNSA and its laboratories. We also heard about a system of micromanagement that is costing taxpayers untold millions. The National Academies study and nearly a dozen others have identified and documented the problems and suggested possible solutions. I hope our witnesses, on both panels, will help us understand what actions should be taken and when.

Finally, we welcome the opportunity to review the budget and priorities of DOE's Defense Environmental Cleanup efforts. DOE continues to do good work in nuclear cleanup, but also continues to struggle with technical and management issues at its largest project. I look forward to hearing about how DOE intends to address these concerns.

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