The drama and uncertainty surrounding the Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 budget is finally over. Late last week, the administration and Democrats and Republicans in Congress reached an 11th hour agreement on funding levels for the last six months of the fiscal year. The agreement calls for $38 billion in cuts (many of which are phantom cuts) from the FY 2010 spending level and $78.5 billion from the Obama administration’s FY 2011 request. The Senate and the House approved the compromise on April 14.
Funding levels for nuclear material security programs are allocated as follows…
Department of Energy (National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA))
Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation
Final FY2011 CR (last six months of the year at annualized rate): $2.321 billion (Note: This figure does not include an additional $45 million rescission of prior fiscal year 2010 unobligated balances. It does include an additional 0.2% rescission leveled against all discretionary accounts. For Defense Nuclear Non-Proliferation this amounts to a $4.6 million cut.)
Short Term CRs (first six months of the year at annualized rate): $2.136 million
HR 1: $2.085 billion (Note: This figure does not include an additional $45 million rescission of prior year unobligated balances.)
FY2010 Appropriation: $2.131 billion
FY2011 Request: $2.687 billion
Department of State
Nonproliferation, Anti-Terrorism, Demining, and Related Programs
Final FY2011 CR (last six months of the year at annualized rate): $738.5 million (Note: This figure includes an additional 0.2% rescission leveled against all discretionary accounts. For the Nonproliferation, Anti-Terrorism, Demining, and Related Programs, this amounts to a $1.52 million cut.)
Short Term CRs (first six months of the year at annualized rate): $754 million
HR 1: $740 million
FY2010 Appropriation: $754 million
FY2011 Request: $757.6 million
Department of Defense
Cooperative Threat Reduction (aka Nunn-Lugar) Program
Final FY2011 CR (last six months of the year at annualized rate): $522.5 million
Short Term CRs (first six months of the year at annualized rate): $423.56
HR 1: $522.5 million
FY2010 Appropriation: $423.56 million
FY2011 Request: $522.5 million
The good news is that Congress rejected the House Republican leadership’s proposal to cut over $600 million from the President’s FY 2011 request for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation account. Congressional conferees agreed on a final number of $2.321 billion for this account, a 9% increase over the FY2010 appropriated level and $236 million above the House proposal in H.R. 1. This number mirrors the funding level included in the Senate Appropriations Committee’s year-long continuing resolution proposed in early March, which was $2.327 billion. Only four accounts in the entire Energy and Water portfolio received an increase over FY 2010, one of which was the Defense Nuclear Non-Proliferation account.
Congress also fully funded the Department of Defense’s Cooperative Threat Reduction program.
Given the current budget environment, these are important achievements.
In testimony to the House Strategic Forces Subcommittee earlier this month, Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Anne Harrington expressed deep concern about the impact of funding nuclear security programs at or below FY 2010 appropriated levels:
We have tried our best to maintain an aggressive schedule for removing and protecting the vulnerable materials that have been identified around the world, but we are rapidly approaching the point where the tradeoffs for continuing that very forward-looking schedule will become more and more difficult to maintain.
Recall that as part of and in the aftermath of last year’s Nuclear Security Summit, the U.S. secured commitments from Mexico, the Ukraine, and Belarus to remove all of their highly enriched uranium in time for the next Nuclear Security Summit in 2012 in Seoul. These commitments were made in support of the goal to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials within four years. For example, Belarus still possesses more than 280 kilograms of highly enriched uranium, enough material to make 11 nuclear bombs. NNSA also plans to assist other countries with the removal of their highly enriched uranium, including Poland and Vietnam. These removal activities are being carried out by the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, the Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation account’s signature nuclear material security program.
It’s not entirely clear yet how NNSA plans to allocate the $2.321 billion across the Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation account’s different programs. According to the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, this increase allows NNSA “to continue efforts to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials within 4 years.” Keeping the commitments outlined above on track is vital to reducing the threat of nuclear terrorism and ensuring a successful Summit in the Republic of Korea next year.
And now the bad news.
First, the fact that an account containing vital nuclear material security programs was cut by more than $600 million relative to the FY 2011 request in the first place (and subject to a cut of $366 million in the end) is difficult to comprehend. These programs counter the most serious threat confronting our national security – the threat of nuclear terrorism – but were viewed as discretionary programs by Republican leaders (and thus subject to major cuts).
Second, a 9% increase over the FY 2010 level for the last six months of the year is less impressive given that the FY 2010 level was actually less than the amount Congress appropriated in FY 2009. Moreover, some experts argued after the release of the FY 2011 budget that the increases for certain programs such as the Global Threat Reduction Initiative should have been even larger.
Third, depending on how scarce resources are allocated within the Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation account, the prioritization of highly enriched uranium removal programs could delay NNSA’s substantial domestic and international radiological protection and removal efforts.
A fourth concern is the pressure exerted on vital nonproliferation programs by nuclear modernization activities and the MOX program. In the final continuing resolution, NNSA’s Weapons Activities account was funded at nearly the full FY 2011 request, whereas it had been subjected to a cut of $312 million by H.R. 1 and $185 million by the March Senate Appropriations Committee continuing resolution. In addition, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) FY 2012 budget resolution proposes to fully fund the FY 2012 request for Weapons Activities, which is $600 million more than the FY 2011 request. If NNSA’s nuclear material security programs are not similarly viewed as defense spending, the big increases for nuclear modernization will eat into the budgets of other programs at NNSA, including Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation.
The MOX program accounted for a third of the FY 2011 request for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation. The program is plagued by cost overruns and schedule delays, and NNSA has yet to receive a commitment from any utility to use the fuel. The reduced funding level for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation in the final continuing resolution is likely to set back aspects of the MOX program. In the fight for scarce dollars within the Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation account, effective first line of defense programs such as the Global Threat Reduction Initiative should take precedent over ineffective programs such as MOX.
Now that the FY 2011 budget is settled, the fight over the FY 2012 budget is already underway. An adequately funded FY 2012 budget is necessary to see vital nuclear material removal commitments through to completion and keep others on schedule. But Republican leaders in Congress are aiming for far greater budget cuts to non-defense programs than those they achieved in FY 2011, and its not clear that they have internalized the fact that nuclear material security programs are defense programs. For its part the Obama administration needs to play a much more vocal and proactive role in making the case for why these programs are so vital.
Moreover, the nuclear material security effort will not end when all of the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit commitments are met and the four year goal reaches its endpoint. With the 2012 Summit in Seoul rapidly approaching, the U.S. and its international partners should be looking to stand up new initiatives and programs to strengthen the global nuclear security architecture and secure nuclear materials wherever they exist. These efforts will cost money (as U.S. leadership so often does), and it’s essential that Congress be willing to foot America’s share of the bill.