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For Immediate Release October 12, 2012

House Armed Services Committee Rejects Administration's Request To Use Leftover Plutonium Facility Funds To Implement New Plan

Contact: Greg Mello, 505-265-1200

Albuquerque -- The Nuclear Weapons and Materials Monitorreports today that the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) has rejected the Administration's request (pdf) to use unspent funds from the indefinitely-deferred Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF) project to implement its new "plutonium sustainment" plan. 

The request would remove all remaining funds from the CMRR-NF project.  The HASC joins the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) in rejecting the request to reprogram these funds (pdf). 

The Los Alamos Study Group (Study Group), which has successfully opposed efforts to build CMRR-NF since the project's inception in 1999, also opposed this reprogramming request -- ironically, for a few of the reasons it is opposed by the HASC and SASC, whose chairs still believe constructing CMRR-NF in the present decade is desirable and feasible.  The Study Group's opposition to the proposed reprogramming request was explained in a September 28 letter to congressional committee staff and other governmental analysts.  Sixteen reasons were given.  Summing up, the Study Group's letter said: 

We do not favor granting this request at this time.  Neither do we favor any precipitous secret negotiations over a so-far unwritten and unvetted new plan with a few members of Congress during a congressional recess and just prior to a presidential and congressional election in the complete absence of any programmatic need to do so.  Especially in light of NNSA's poor management record and lack of underlying budget and planning documents, we favor a much more measured approach that uses the normal appropriations process and rests upon a more mature planning and budgeting process.  This request appears to provide congressional endorsement for what look very much like new line items, but without line item responsibilities, management requirements, and without sufficient preliminary planning.

Study Group Executive Director Greg Mello: "There is no legal barrier that bars NNSA from spending FY2013 funds as it chooses over the next six months under the Continuing Resolution (CR) without any further congressional action, assuming it does so in compliance with other laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  Leftover CMRR-NF funds, which apparently total about $120 million, can be reclaimed in FY2014 appropriations.  We advocate returning those funds to the Treasury.  Construction of CMRR-NF is not necessary, feasible, or appropriate.  NNSA's Weapons Activities account is bloated with wasteful programs, and the country has far more urgent needs." 

Some further discussion of why the Study Group believes CMRR-NF is no longer feasible was given in a letter to Study Group supporters of October 1, 2012

The HASC letter made approval of the reprogramming request contingent on a long list of submittals.  Many of the proposed submittals were inappropriate, unprecedented, premature, or even impossible, but a few were not, and echoed prior concerns expressed by the Study Group.  These included requests for detailed cost estimates for the alternative strategy, details of how the $120 million reprogramming request would be spent, a FY 2013 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan, and a FY 2013-2017 Future Years Nuclear Security Program.  These latter two are unfulfilled statutory legal requirements, the absence of which augurs poorly for the timely and cost-effective success of NNSA's many projects and programs. 

"For the most part the HASC letter, like the SASC letter which preceded it, appears to be premised on obsolete or mistaken ideas," continued Mello.  "As is typical of the majority in this committee, the letter gratuitously politicizes what should be non-partisan.  The House Armed Services Committee disagrees with the Administration about a few areas of nuclear policy, but this letter, like the Committee's markup of this year's Defense Authorization Act, goes far beyond differing policy into the terrain of partisan posturing.  When you do that, all claims to be representing 'national security' ring hollow." 

***ENDS, with background following***

Indefinite deferral of CMRR-NF and the outline of a different plutonium sustainment strategy are announced
Interagency and military support for the new approach, in place since 2011, is formalized and recorded.
LANS, LLC, the management and operating contractor at LANL, responds to NNSA request for a draft "Plan B" (the official "Plan B" is not available and may not yet exist)
NNSA and DOE request reprogramming authority for the new plutonium sustainment program; responses
Background: recent GAO concerns about NNSA planning and budgeting

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