As many of you are aware, the administration’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget request for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) weapons activities account and strategic delivery vehicle modernization at the Pentagon does not keep pace with the ten-year funding plan authored two years ago when the Senate was debating the New START treaty. This has been the source of great consternation for many Republicans in the House and Senate, who allege the administration has broken a sacred commitment. The House version of the FY 2013 defense bill goes so far as to delay, and perhaps even block, implementation of the treaty unless every penny outlined in the ten-year plan is requested and appropriated.
We’ve argued that these complaints and constraints are extremely tenuous and entirely devoid of context. (Don’t forget it was the GOP-controlled House that drew first blood on the weapons budget). Junking New START because of a 5% INCREASE for NNSA weapons activities relative to last year’s appropriation in a very tough budget environment would be irrationally irresponsible. Of course, many of the Republicans currently calling for New START’s head would be doing so regardless of whether the nuclear weapons complex is funded according to their wishes.
At the request of Republican Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA), both of whom supported New START, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is holding a hearing on Thursday to examine the status of the treaty’s implementation and related budget matters. One issue likely to surface in the context of the spending discussion is the administration’s June 5th report to Congress on its commitment to ensuring the safety, reliability, and performance of US nuclear forces. The report is required by subparagraph (B) of Condition (9) of the New START resolution of ratification and Section 1045 of the FY 2012 defense bill if the resource levels outlined in the ten-year plan are not enacted. This was the case in FY 2012 and will be the case for FY 2013 and likely every year for the remainder of the decade.
In the cover letter to the 1.5 page report, Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta write:
The Administration remains committed to the safety, security, and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear arsenal as long as nuclear weapons exist. As the President stated in 2010, nuclear modernization requires investment for the long-term. Even in light of the new fiscal realities of the Budget Control Act of 2011…the Administration continues to pursue these programs and capabilities. We fully support the FY 2013 budget request for NNSA, which is reasonable, responsible, meets military requirements, and maintains funding for the most critical programs and capabilities.
While many Republicans remain fixated on the predetermined nuclear weapons spending levels outlined nearly two years ago in 2010, what matters is whether the United States is funding the capabilities necessary to maintain the health of the nuclear stockpile. As Chu and Panetta point out, by this standard the administration has not broken it’s commitment. Most importantly, their report reaffirms that “It continues to be in the U.S. national interest to remain a Party to the New START Treaty.”
For more information on the report, see below.
Condition (9) (B) of the New START resolution of ratification states: “If appropriations are enacted that fail to meet the resource requirements set forth in the President’s 10-year plan, or if at any time more resources are required than estimated in the President’s 10-year plan, the President shall submit to Congress, within 60 days of such enactment or the identification of the requirement for such additional resources, as appropriate, a report detailing-
(i) how the President proposes to remedy the resource shortfall;
(ii) if additional resources are required, the proposed level of funding required and an identification of the stockpile work, campaign, facility, site, asset, program, operation, activity, construction, or project for which additional funds are required;
(iii) the impact of the resource shortfall on the safety, reliability, and performance of United States nuclear forces; and
(iv) whether and why, in the changed circumstances brought about by the resource shortfall, it remains in the national interest of the United States to remain a Party to the New START Treaty.”
The above language was also included in Section 1045 of the FY 2012 defense bill
The most recent public disclosure of the ten-year plan (first required by Section 1251 of the FY 2010 defense bill) outlined $88 billion in projected spending on the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) weapons activities account and $125 billion for strategic delivery vehicle modernization at the Pentagon.
The administration was required to submit the two reports given that Congress cut NNSA’s FY 2012 request of $7.6 billion for weapons activities (which matched the 1251 report level) by $416 million. By law the report was supposed to be submitted within 60 days of the enactment of the defense and energy and water appropriations bills for Fiscal Year (FY) 2012; the administration missed this deadline by almost four months.
Though the 1.5 page report is very bare bones (presumably the administration witnesses at Thursday’s hearing will go into much greater detail?), it directly addresses the four requirements of Condition (9) (B). It is also a clear reminder that continued efforts to link New START to nuclear spending are redundant, since the issue is already addressed in the treaty resolution of ratification and the FY 2012 defense bill.
The report states that as a result of the FY 2012 shortfall “and the constraints of the Budget Control Act of 2011, enacted in August 2011, the Administration is adjusting the ten-year nuclear weapons program….The Departments [of Defense and Energy] are conducting a thorough analysis to ensure that critical capabilities are available when needed, that programs are affordable, and that tradeoffs within programs are rigorously analyzed.”
It goes on to note that “At this time no additional resources are requested, beyond those outlined in the President’s budget request for FY 2013….To date, there has been no adverse impact on the safe, security, reliability, and credibility of the U.S. nuclear deterrent and the Administration is committed to ensuring that this remains the case in the future.”
The report concludes by stating that “It continues to be in the U.S. national interest to remain a Party to the New START Treaty. The Treaty makes the U.S. more secure by stabilizing the strategic balance between the U.S. and Russian Federation at lower levels of nuclear forces; enhancing predictability and transparency for the United States and the Russian Federation; and reinforcing the U.S. ability to lead and revitalize global efforts to prevent proliferation.”