FY 2017 Budget: Nuclear Non-Proliferation

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President Obama’s budget request for the 2017 Fiscal year, the last of his presidency, is a further disappointment to advocates of nuclear non-proliferation programs.

This year’s request, $1.8 billion, is a $118 million decrease from last year’s appropriation and a $760 million reduction when compared to the funding of core programs just five years ago and adjusted for inflation.

The lack of urgency in addressing these issues is concerning, especially when President Obama is set to host the last scheduled Nuclear Security Summit in less than two months.

What are Nuclear Non-Proliferation Programs?

Since 2004, the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) nuclear non-proliferation programs have been designed to reduce the risk of nuclear terrorism by securing and removing nuclear material around the world. These programs have facilitated the removal of all weapons-grade highly enriched uranium (HEU) from 28 countries and Taiwan and have down-blended 150 metric tons of the U.S. excess stockpile of HEU, enough for around 6,000 nuclear weapons.

Nevertheless, according to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, “nearly 2,000 metric tons of weapons-usable nuclear materials remain stored around the world,” and some of it is poorly secured and at risk of theft. So how did these critical programs fare in the president’s Feb. 9 budget request?

The Administration has asked for $1.8 billion to go towards these Defense Nuclear Non-Proliferation (DNN) programs tasked with preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and materials. On the other hand, the Administration requested $9.2 billion in Nuclear weapons activities, a substantial increase of nearly $400 million.

While the $1.8 billion request is a $118 million decrease from the previous year’s appropriation, that number is even further reduced from the total planned just a few years ago. This is partly because cooperation with Russia on non-proliferation efforts has come to a halt and partly because some programs have been completed. However, there are still nuclear security priorities that need attention.

To repeat, there are nearly 2,000 metric tons of weapons-usable nuclear materials around the world.

Some Specifics about the Non-Proliferation Budget:

Additionally, the FY17 request includes $272 million for “Nuclear Counterterrorism and Incident Response” in the DNN budget. This program was transferred into DNN from Weapons Activities for the second year. Therefore, while funding for Nuclear Counterterrorism provides a nominal increase in DNN funding, and is a worthy program, it is unrelated to nuclear non-proliferation capabilities from years past.

Another part of the budget, $270 million for terminating the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility project (MOX), also has nothing to do with securing non-proliferation activities globally.

To represent core non-proliferation programs, the below displays include the DNN account without funding for MOX or the Nuclear Counterterrorism programs.

Defense Nuclear Non-Proliferation Funding 2013-2017

 FY 2013 EnactedFY 2014 EnactedFY 2015 EnactedFY 2016 EnactedFY 2017 RequestedFY 2017 vs. FY 2016
Defense Nuclear Non-Proliferation (DNN)$2.4 billion$1.95 billion$1.62 billion$1.94 billion$1.81 billion- $130 million
Defense Nuclear Non-Proliferation (excluding MOX and Nuclear Counterterrorism)$1.97 billion$1.51 billion$1.27 billion$1.36 billion$1.27 billion- $90 million