Earlier today (August 18) Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Feinstein (D-CA) released a bipartisan letter calling on the Obama administration to support increased funding for vital programs at the Department of Energy to keep nuclear and radiological materials out of the hands of terrorists. The full text of the letter is pasted below the jump. You can read the Merkley and Feinstein press release announcing the letter here.
26 Senators signed the letter, including 22 Democrats, 2 Independents, and 2 Republicans.
The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation and Council for a Livable World strongly support the letter’s message and urge the White House to act on this bipartisan call for increased funding to prevent nuclear and radiological terrorism.
The Obama administration’s recent budget requests have not reflected the rhetorical emphasis it has rightly placed on combatting nuclear terrorism. The FY 2015 budget request for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) reduces funding for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) and the International Nuclear Materials Protection Program (IMPC) by 25% and 27%, respectively, signaling a major retreat in the Obama administration’s effort to secure nuclear and radiological materials at an accelerated rate. This is the third year in a row of budget cuts to these core nonproliferation programs. The proposed budget cuts to these programs are difficult to understand since the danger of nuclear and radiological materials falling into the hands of terrorists remains a serious threat.
Reducing funding for these programs increases the amount of time it will take to secure or eliminate dangerous materials that could be used by terrorists in an improvised nuclear explosive device or a dirty bomb. This is an unacceptable risk to U.S. national security. Important nuclear security efforts should not be slowed by lack of funds.
Fortunately, both the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee significantly increased funding above the budget request for NNSA’s core material security and nonproliferation programs. However, it remains to be seen if these higher funding levels will survive and whatever final authorization and appropriations bill is passed by Congress for FY 2015.
For more information on the budget cuts, see our handy fact sheet. For a more detailed discussion of the Obama administration’s nuclear security request and the harmful impacts of budget cuts, see this excellent recent report by Harvard’s Managing the Atom Project co-authored by Nukes of Hazard alum Nickolas Roth.
Mr. Shaun Donovan
Oftice of Management and Budget
725 I th St NW
Washington, DC 20503
Dear Director Donovan,
We write to request the Administration, in its next budget request, seek increased funding for vital nuclear material security and nonproliferation programs. We have been concerned that the President has proposed cuts to these programs over the last several years. We believe that unsecured nuclear material poses an unacceptable risk to U.S. national security and hope future budgets will reflect the importance of nuclear security efforts.
The President has said that nuclear terrorism is the most immediate and extreme threat to global security.” He followed these words by hosting the first Nuclear Security Summit in 2010. While we applaud the President’s leadership in spearheading an accelerated international effort to enhance the security of nuclear and radiological materials, we remain concerned about what the future would look like if we slow these programs. For example, through programs such as the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), thirteen countries eliminated all the highly enriched uranium (HEU) or separated plutonium on their soil since 2009, including all HEU from Ukraine. I applaud those efforts been slowed by anemic funding, it is possible that the United States would face the threat of weapons-grade nuclear material in the hands of Ukrainian separatists.
Despite these noteworthy achievements, significant work remains to be done. There are still
hundreds of sites spread across 30 countries that have weapons-usable nuclear material. Many of these locations have very modest or insufficient security measures. For these reasons and others. the FY 201 5 Senate Energy and Water bill increased funding for these programs above the President’s budget request by $136 million for the GTRI, $33 million for research and development, and $50 million for the International Nuclear Materials Protection and Cooperation program.
Reducing budgets for agencies and programs that help keep nuclear and radiological materials out of the hands of terrorists is out of sync with the high priority that President has rightly placed on nuclear and radiological material security and signals a major retreat in the effort to lock down these materials at an accelerated rate. The recent spate of terrorism in Iraq, Pakistan, and Kenya is a harrowing reminder of the importance of ensuring that terrorist groups and rogue states cannot get their hands on the world’s most dangerous weapons and materials.
Given current world events, now is not the time to pull back on nonproliferation, a major U.S.
policy objective. Going forward, we urge you to work with us to ensure that critical nuclear
material security and nonproliferation programs have the resources they need. We seek your
support for a FY 2016 budget that builds on the Senate Energy and Water proposed FY 2015 funding levels to further accelerate the pace at which nuclear and radio logical materials are secured and permanently disposed.