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HOUSE REPUBLICANS SEEK TO SPEED UP SOME NNSA MODERNIZATION EFFORTS HASC-Strategic Forces Markup Would Accelerate Cruise Missile Warhead, Creation of Pu Capabilities

Republicans on the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee are objecting to Administration plans to delay the refurbishment of the cruise missile warhead, and they are moving to authorize additional funding to accelerate the program in Fiscal Year 2015. The subcommittee cleared its portion of the FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act this week, and while the markup documents do not include funding tables, NS&D Monitor has learned that additional funding will be authorized for the cruise missile warhead. The Administration requested $9.1 million in FY 2015 for a study on refurbishing the warhead while acknowledging the program’s First Production Unit would be delayed by three years until 2027. “The committee believes the proposed 3-year deferral of this cruise missile is contrary to the interests of national security,” the subcommittee said in a report accompanying its version of the bill. “Therefore, the committee recommends this provision to ensure warhead production for this cruise missile is deferred only one year.”

The subcommittee also objected to the Administration’s plans to delay establishing the capability at Los Alamos National Laboratory to build 30 plutonium pits, pushing up the deadline for producing 30 pits per year from 2026 to 2023. The legislation would require the production of 50 pits per year by 2026, and the demonstration of the capability to produce pits at a rate of 80 per year during a 90-day period in 2027. “The committee is concerned that, despite the President’s policy to create a responsive nuclear infrastructure to enable nuclear stockpile reductions without undue risk, the Department of Energy continues to slip schedules and programs needed to achieve this critical national security goal,” the subcommittee said, adding: “As a key component of a responsive nuclear infrastructure, continued delay in achieving this pit production capacity is unacceptable. The committee believes that waiting over 15 years to achieve a responsive nuclear infrastructure is too great a risk to national security.”

In a statement, House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee chairman Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) said the markup would “ensure robust oversight of major nuclear weapons modernization programs and arrest the chronic slips to the schedules for life extension programs and nuclear weapons infrastructure projects.” Rogers added: “We haven’t agreed on everything in this mark today, but we have run a transparent process that all the members of the panel should be proud of.”

Bill Provides More Transfer Authority to DoD

The subcommittee also provided transfer authority to the Pentagon that would allow it to move up to $150 million to the NNSA’s weapons or naval reactor programs if less than $8.7 billion is appropriated for NNSA weapons activities in FY 2015. The Administration requested $8.3 billion for the program in FY 2015. Other language in the bill requires that all transfers from the Pentagon to DOE must be accompanied by a “memorandum of agreement” detailing how the funds will be spent in the NNSA’s weapons budget. “The committee believes that these are Department of Defense funds and it must be assured as to how they will be used by the Department of Energy if the transfers are to continue,” the subcommittee said.

The bill also takes aim at the Nuclear Weapons Council, requiring a Government Accountability Office review of the NWC’s “role, responsibilities, and effectiveness in coordinating Department of Defense and Department of Energy policies, programs, schedules, and budgets for developing, sustaining, and modernizing nuclear delivery systems, nuclear weapons, and their supporting infrastructure.” The NWC coordinates decisions between DOE and DoD on nuclear weapons policies. “Recent defense authorization bills have sought to provide the NWC greater insight into Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration budget and budgeting process, but coordination and transparency problems remain apparent,” the subcommittee wrote.

UPF Cost Cap Requirement Loosened

The bill would also allow the Congressionally created cost cap for the Uranium Capabilities Replacement Project (also known as the Uranium Processing Facility) to be changed as long as the Secretary of Energy submits a detailed justification for the change. Other language in the bill would require DOE to certify every year that the project is on track to replace uranium processing capabilities in Y-12’s aged 9212 complex by 2025.

The bill also requires a report on the “rationale and assumptions” that drive the current requirement to produce 50 to 80 uranium secondaries a year. The subcommittee said the report should include the factors in determining the requirement and an “analysis of whether there are any changes to the 50-to-80 per year secondary production requirement, including the reasons for any such changes.”

Bill Questions Planned Efficiencies

The subcommittee questioned an NNSA plan to generate $320 million in cost savings and efficiencies in FY 2014, suggesting that only $80 million of the efficiencies will be realized during the fiscal year. “The committee believes NNSA’s inability or unwillingness to aggressively pursue savings through efficiencies it agreed to in 2012 have directly contributed to forcing schedule slips in critical programs due to insufficient funding,” the subcommittee wrote, adding that it expects the NNSA and Nuclear Weapons Council to “aggressively seek efficiencies in fiscal year 2015 and fiscal year 2016 to ensure high priority defense programs stay on track.”

Insider Threat Programs to Get Review

Reflecting concerns about programs that mitigate threats from insiders and address problems with nuclear workers, DOE and DoD would also be required to contract with a federally funded research and development center to conduct an independent review of its Personnel Reliability Programs. “Reviewing the results of investigations initiated by the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy in the wake of security and personal integrity failures in their respective nuclear enterprises, the committee believes that the programs administered by each department to ensure the reliability and fitness of personnel for nuclear-related duties must be modernized to be more effective and more efficient,” the subcommittee wrote.

NIF, Z-Machine Subject of Language

The NNSA would be required to recover the full costs of experiments conducted by non-NNSA users of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility and Sandia National Laboratories’ Z-Machine, reinstating an NNSA policy proposal that was rescinded in August 2013. The change was recommended by DoD’s Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation as a way to save costs and “focus scarce NNSA resources on direct NNSA mission needs.” The subcommittee called the reversal “premature and unjustified” and said the language would “ensure the steps identified by CAPE to achieve cost savings and program focus are implemented.”

Dems Grumble About Markup Process

While the subcommittee cleared its portion of the bill in a tidy 8 minutes and 45 seconds April 30, it didn’t come without objections from several Democrats on the panel. Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) was the lone “no” vote against the markup as he questioned why the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility wasn’t in the subcommittee’s jurisdiction—it and other NNSA nonproliferation work is handled at the full committee level—and he suggested there should be more debate on various issues at the subcommittee level. “To my knowledge this isn’t the railroad committee, and we really ought to be dealing with these issues,” Garamendi said, later adding: “There are issues about the NNSA plutonium stockpile, there are issues about whether we ought to be rebuilding, maintaining or building new facilities for the production of plutonium pits when we have some 43 tons of them lying around. I don’t know. It seems to me these are things we ought to be discussing.”

Garamendi was only following the lead of Ranking Member Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), who derided the “amendment- fest” that is likely to occur when the full committee marks up the bill May 7. “I hope that next year perhaps we can stop the practice of really having no substantive discussion at the subcommittee mark level,” Cooper said. “We kick all our problems upstairs to the full committee and that makes that process a horrendous one-day ordeal with often times very little expertise.” Cooper said because the strategic forces expertise resides on the subcommittee, the subcommittee should be the venue for amendments. “I think we can do a lot better in this vitally important area if we reserved more of the real decision-making for this level and then we present to the HASC a more completed, consensus product instead of the usual amendment-fest. … This is important work for Congress to do. We’ve got to get it right.” —Todd Jacobson


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