By MIA STEINLE
With the House Armed Services Committee scheduled to mark up the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this Wednesday, committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) has just released his markup of the bill. Alarmingly, McKeon's NDAA markup includes an unjustified $100 million increase in funding to a proposed boondoggle of a nuclear weapons facility, the funding for which the House Appropriations Committee zeroed out last month. The Obama Administration had earlier requested that construction for the project be delayed by at least five years.
McKeon’s suggestion to authorize funding for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF) flies in the face of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) itself (the agency that would oversee the construction of CMRR-NF), which told the Obama Administration this February that “the nuclear complex has the inherent capacity” to fulfill its missions without CMRR-NF.
The proposed facility would enable the U.S. to increase its production of plutonium pits, a primary component of nuclear weapons. However, as POGO wrote in a report this January, there are more than enough good reasons not to build CMRR-NF, not the least of which is the facility’s estimated cost of $3.7 to $5.9 billion. That’s a hefty price tag for a facility that the NNSA says it doesn’t need, that nuclear weapons experts agree doesn’t serve a vital purpose, and that our research shows is not needed in light of the existing U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.
But increased funding for CMRR-NF isn’t the only way McKeon’s NDAA mark-up gets it wrong. McKeon’s suggestion would increase the Administration’s request to modernize B61 nuclear bombs by $66 million, to a total of $435 million. Nearly 200 American B61s are stored at bases in five European countries as part of NATO’s defense. However, the cost to modernize these European-based B61s (in a process known as a life extension program, or LEP) would fall squarely on the shoulders of American taxpayers. McKeon’s suggested increase means that Americans would pay even more for these bombs on behalf of NATO.
At Wednesday’s full committee markup, other representatives will have the opportunity to offer up amendments to the NDAA. Hopefully, they’ll do the right thing and decrease wasteful nuclear weapons spending.
Mia Steinle is a POGO investigator.
Image via Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus.