In recent weeks NNSA has hinted at how it plans to allocate the $2.321 billion appropriated by Congress in the final FY 2011 continuing resolution for the Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation account. Recall that the final number for this account is over $360 million less than the President’s FY 2011 request. The bottom line seems to be that NNSA is keeping the high-level commitments to remove highly enriched uranium from countries such as Ukraine and Belarus on track, but other programs, including domestic and international radiological material protection, will be delayed.
In response to a question from Senator Feinstein on the status of the four year goal to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials at a Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on May 4, NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation stated:
I have to admit the CR situation that we’ve been in up until recently this year has presented some real challenges in terms of maintaining our schedule.
We have deferred some other activities in order to keep these removals on schedule. We will have, perhaps, a little slippage but not out of calendar years. We certainly are on track right now with Ukraine and Mexico and Belarus to meet those high-level nuclear security summit commitments to remove all materials by the time we hit the 2012 summit.
At a May 10 hearing of the Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Harrington added some additional detail on the trade offs NNSA is making as a result of not receiving its full FY 2011 budget request:
Fiscal year 2011 has been a management challenge. I will not mince words about that. The successive continuing resolutions have caused us to rebalance our programming on a very regular basis throughout the year so far. We’re very pleased and grateful that we’re now on solid footing for the remainder of the year. Through good management and creative distribution of available funds, we have preserved all of the critical activities that are scheduled under the four-year lockdown effort. We feel confident right now that we will be able to meet all of the high-level presidential commitments that were made.
So in that regard, we have been able to successfully preserve that piece of our programming. That is not to say that none of our programming was affected. Certainly, when you simply don’t have the money, certain things will suffer. So the radiological source recovery and security activities that we typically undertake in the United States have been cut back. And we have also eliminated some of the funding for the Russia piece of the Fissile Material Disposition Program, but we have done that without sacrifice to those programs. We will see some of those funds come back in future years. So it’s not that those weren’t important items to fund. It’s just that we had to postpone certain things because of budget realities this year.
We won’t know exactly how NNSA plans to allocate the $2.321 billion until it releases a detailed spending plan for the rest of the year. Word is that that plan will be released soon. Stay tuned.