Budget and Economic Information

Recent Nuclear Budget & Economic News

No Growth, No Big Cuts Likely For First Biden Defense Budget

The full budget, set to be released on May 3, should spark heated debate in Congress between an emboldened progressive wing of the Democratic party looking to cut defense budgets, and Republicans and conservative Democrats who say spending must increase to stay ahead of the Chinese military buildup.

“You can’t obtain serious and durable cuts in Pentagon spending without an equally serious rethinking of our strategic objectives…Resources constraints should cause us to rethink our strategic objectives, but the Biden team seems unwilling to do that.” – Christopher Preble, co-director of the New American Engagement Initiative at the Atlantic Council.

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President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris at the Pentagon, with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley

WASHINGTON: Early planning indicates that the Biden administration’s first defense budget might only match last year’s request, marking the second year in a row that the budget request will not keep up with inflation according to several sources familiar with the guidance.

If that planning holds up, the top line for the Pentagon’s 2022 budget will likely come in around the $696 billion the department received in it’s base funding 2021, which was itself just $2.6 billion more than the enacted 2020 budget.

The full budget is now scheduled to be released on May 3. The Biden administration’s first DoD funding request will be delivered to a Congress already split between an emboldened progressive wing of the Democratic party looking to cut defense budgets, and Republicans and conservative Democrats who say spending must rise significantly in order to stay ahead of the Chinese military buildup.

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Rising Resistance to Supporting the US War Budget: The House and Senate Leaders Who Voted Against War

December 14th, 2020 – by Gar Smith / Environmentalists Against War

(December 13, 2020) — On December 8, Congress voted on H.R. 6395, the House version of National Defense Authorization Act. This year’s NDAA — approaching three-quarters of $1 trillion — consumes more than half of the nation’s entire discretionary budget. The NDAA included a 3 percent increase in military pay. That is more than double the 1.3 percent Cost of Living Increase granted to retired civilians.

Typically, a vote on funding the Pentagon passes with near-unanimity. Not so this year. According to House Roll Call 238, 78 Representatives cast a “Nay” vote for passing the Pentagon’s $740 billion budget. The bill was supported by 140 Republicans and 195 Democrats. More Republicans (40) voted against the massive spending bill than Democrats (37)

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Defying Trump, House Approves Defense Bill with Veto-Proof Majority

Cheney touted the bill’s support for nuclear triad modernization and its inclusion of a new a new fund to deter China in the Pacific, adding that it “builds on the Trump administration’s successful efforts to counter the Chinese Communist Party.”

BY:  | defensenews.com

WASHINGTON ― The House adopted a compromise $740.5 billion defense policy bill by a veto-proof majority Tuesday, rebuking President Donald Trump, who threatened to send back the bill because it doesn’t repeal a prized liability shield for social media firms.

Republican and Democratic supporters hoped for a strong vote in hopes it would back Trump down, and they got it. The vote was 355-78 for the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, a blueprint for next year’s spending on military and other national security programs.

While Democrats voted overwhelmingly for the bill, 40 Republicans disregarded Trump’s objections and joined Democratic lawmakers in passing the legislation. Another 37 Democrats voted against it.

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Lawmakers Decide Against Nuclear Weapons Test Funding in Annual Defense Bill

Nuclear Watch New Mexico echoes the words from The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) in “applauding lawmakers for deciding not to authorize funds to prepare for the first U.S. nuclear weapons test in nearly three decades, an outcome UCS experts worked diligently to ensure because any move to resume explosive, underground nuclear weapons testing would undermine U.S. security.”

BY: Union of Concerned Scientists | ucsusa.org

Today, Congress released the conference report on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The Senate version had contained $10 million to lay the groundwork for a nuclear weapons test if the White House chose to move forward with one. The House took the opposite course, voting to prohibit funding for a nuclear test explosion in fiscal year 2021. The conference report includes neither provision.

“By refusing to give the test a green light, lawmakers are wisely avoiding the risk of an explosive nuclear test setting off a new round in the nuclear arms race,” said Dr. Laura Grego, senior scientist in the UCS Global Security Program.

A dozen premier American scientists with expertise on nuclear weapons issues sent a letter to Congress strongly opposing the resumption of explosive testing of U.S. nuclear weapons, saying it was unnecessary for technical or military reasons and that doing so would have negative security consequences for the United States.

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NNSA Head Props Up Nuclear Weapons Modernization…Again

In her September 17, 2020 testimony before before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty, Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, restated the ongoing company line that more money must be spent on the US nuclear weapons stockpile, or the whole enterprise might fall over.

She stated, “The need to now modernize our nuclear weapons stockpile and recapitalize the supporting infrastructure needed to produce and maintain that stockpile has reached a tipping point.”

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Inhofe, Reed Praise Senate Passage of National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021

The United States Senate today passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021, 86-14.

Thursday, July 23, 2020 PRESS RELEASE: https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/press-releases/inhofe-reed-praise-senate-passage-of-national-defense-authorization-act-of-fiscal-year-2021

Excerpt below from pages 416-417 includes review of transferring plutonium oxide production from Los Alamos to SRS, despite the fact that SRS already stores 11.5 MT of plutonium that South Carolina wants out of the state, and no more plutonium to come in until the current stockpile is gone.

Responsibility for Los Alamos Plutonium Facility 4 and Technical Area 55
Plutonium Facility 4 (PF–4) at Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Technical Area 55 is the primary plutonium handling facility within the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). PF–4 is currently undergoing major modifications to produce war reserve plutonium pits, with a production goal of 30 pits per year by 2026.Continue reading

PENTAGON ASKS TO KEEP FUTURE SPENDING SECRET

PENTAGON ASKS TO KEEP FUTURE SPENDING SECRET
“At a time when it is clear to everyone that US national security spending is poorly aligned with actual threats to the nation, the DoD proposal would make it even harder for Congress and the public to refocus and reconstruct the defense budget.”

The Department of Defense is quietly asking Congress to rescind the requirement to produce an unclassified version of the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP) database.

Preparation of the unclassified FYDP, which provides estimates of defense spending for the next five years, has been required by law since 1989 (10 USC 221) and has become an integral part of the defense budget process.

But the Pentagon said that it should no longer have to offer such information in an unclassified format, according to a DoD legislative proposal for the pending FY 2021 national defense authorization act.

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Energy Dept. Nearly Triples Funding for Plutonium Pit Production, Cuts Cleanup in Half – But Refuses to Complete New Env. Impact Statement for Los Alamos Lab

The 2011 Las Conchas fire threatened the Los Alamos National Laboratory. CREDIT: Brian Klieson.

Santa Fe, NM – Today the Department of Energy’s semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), announced that it will not complete a new site-wide environmental impact statement for the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The last site-wide environmental impact statement was in 2008.

Since that time a catastrophic wildfire burned to the western boundary of the Lab (likely to occur more frequently with climate change); an exploding radioactive waste drum improperly prepared by LANL shut down the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant for three years, costing taxpayers ~$3 billion to reopen; the full extent and depth of a hexavalent chromium plume contaminating the regional groundwater is still not fully determined; and LANL’s long track record of chronic nuclear safety incidences remain unresolved.

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As the NonProliferation Treaty’s 50th Anniversary Approaches U.S. to Soon Fund New Nuclear Warhead at $1 Billion Per Year

As the NonProliferation Treaty’s 50th Anniversary Approaches U.S. to Soon Fund New Nuclear Warhead at $1 Billion Per Year

Santa Fe, NM – This March 5, 2020, marks the 50th anniversary of the NonProliferation Treaty, whose central bargain was that non-nuclear weapons states forswore acquiring them in exchange for which nuclear weapons states promised to enter into serious negotiations leading to their elimination. Those negotiations have never happened.

The Trump Administration has marked the occasion by finally releasing the detailed fiscal year 2021 Congressional Budget Request for the Department of Energy’s semi- autonomous nuclear weapons agency, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). The NNSA’s program for new and upgraded nuclear weapons gets a 3 billion dollar-plus mark up to $15.6 billion, slated to jump to $17 billion annually by 2025. This includes a new nuclear warhead, the submarine launched W93, initially funded at $53 million in FY 2021, but slated to climb to $1.1 billion annually by 2025. New warhead design and production typically take around 15 years or more.

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The White House gave this nuclear agency a giant funding increase. Can it spend it all?

“The proposed $3.1 billion increase for weapons is simply sprinting toward failure, and Congress should right-size NNSA’s workload to match what the complex can realistically do,” – Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio

ARTICLE BY: AARON MEHTA | defensenews.com

WASHINGTON — Members of Congress used a hearing Tuesday to question whether the National Nuclear Security Administration, a semiautonomous arm of the Department of Energy that handles development of nuclear warheads, can spend an almost 20 percent funding increase requested by the Trump administration.

FY 2014 Budget Table

FY 2014

Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s compilation of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s FY 2014 budget request which in real terms includes a 16.7% increase for nuclear weapons programs over FY 2013 sequester levels, while funding for non-proliferation efforts is cut. Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, at an April 24, 2013, Senate hearing, said: “The nonproliferation program has become the payer for the nuclear weapons program.”

View/download FY 2014 Budget Highlights and NWNM’s Recommendations 


NWNM’s budget breakdown charts for

DOE spends 10 times more on military nuclear activities than for energy conservation. See Robert Alvarez’s Breakdown of the DOE’s FY 2014 Budget Request

Don Hancock of the Southwest Research and Information Center has produced a tabulation by DOE Environmental Management of FY 2013 and 2014 funding levels showing the effects of sequestration in FY 2013. See here.

Past News & Press Releases

Trump’s 2020 Nuclear Weapons Budget Escalates New Arms Race

DOE logo
DOE logo

Posted By Scott Kovac

Santa Fe, NM – Today the Trump Administration released more budget details for the Department of Energy and its semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration’s nuclear weapons programs for fiscal year 2020. This same fiscal year will also mark the 75th anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Global Nuclear Weapons Threats Are Rising

More than 25 years after the end of the Cold War, all eight established nuclear weapons powers are “modernizing” their stockpiles. Talks have broken down with North Korea, the new nuclear weapons power. Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan narrowly averted war last month. Russian President Vladmir Putin made new nuclear threats in response to Trump’s announced withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. This could lead to hair-trigger missile emplacements in the heart of Europe and block extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia. If so, the world will be without any nuclear arms control at all for the first time since 1972.
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Sandia National Laboratories Annual Budget is 81% Military Work

Posted by Scott Kovac – Sandia National Laboratories, has one of the Department Of Energy’s (DOE’s) largest annual budgets and the fiscal year 2020 (FY20) Congressional Budget Request shows continued military priorities for the Lab. There are two components of Sandia’s annual budget – work for DOE (with a $2.4 billion request for FY20) and ‘Work For Others’ (with an annual request of $1.2 billion). Sandia’s work for DOE centers around nuclear weapons engineering. ‘Work for Others’ (WFO) is work done for federal agencies other than the DOE and for non-federal entities. An annual total budget of $3.6 billion puts Sandia’s budget second only behind Washington Headquarters among DOE sites.

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Nuclear Weapons Spending at Los Alamos Is 71% of Annual Budget

By Scott Kovac  Los Alamos National Laboratory is first and foremost a nuclear weapons laboratory. The Department of Energy’s annual Congressional Budget Request for fiscal year 2020 shows that 71% of the Lab’s budget will go to nuclear weapons work if Mr. Trump has his way. While cleanup of Cold War wastes would be 7%. And electrical transmission research along with renewable energy and energy efficiency research were slashed to a mere 0.36% of the request for the Lab. As the country goes deeper in debt, we must let go of the old Cold War mentality and invest in our future.

The full Budget Laboratory Tables are Here
Or see our condensed version Here

 

Trump Budget Would Continue Nuclear Weapons Buildup and Bring More Nuclear Waste to NM

Otherwords national-security-cartoon1
Otherwords – A missile in every pot

By Scott Kovac, Operations and Research Director

The White House released the top line numbers of its fiscal year 2020 Congressional budget request and, although there are some increases heading to New Mexico, they are not the increases that we’d like to see. It’s called – A Budget For a Better America,  Promises Kept. Taxpayers First. but only Defense and Department of Energy (DOE) weapons contractors are going to think that anything is better. Meanwhile the rest of us taxpayers will, first and foremost, be looking at cuts to programs that affect us daily.

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NNSA’s pet ‘Interoperable Warhead’ is DEAD

W78 warheads
U.S. W78 warheads inside MK12A re-entry vehicles on a LGM-30 Minuteman III bus next to the shroud.

The study in question came about because Marylia Kelley, of Tri-Valley CARES, and NukeWatch’s Director, Jay Coghlan, suggested to congressional staff that it be done. But they wanted to ask independent scientists (the JASONs) to do it – instead just NNSA did it. And NNSA dodged the central congressional requirement to compare the benefits and costs of the Interoperable Warhead  vs a “conventional” life extension program for the Air Force’s W78 ICBM warhead. NNSA simply said a conventional life extension program would not meet military requirements and therefore summarily dismissed it (no further explanation). Marylia and Jay had the opportunity to discuss this with the relevant congressional staffer who said this ain’t over.

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LANL 2018-salary by county

“Preliminary” Research Pushes Economic Impact Boundaries for LANL

While Sandia, LANL, and Journal Statements Leave Many Questions

A January 15 Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) press release reviewed preliminary research from the University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER). The research claimed that the “average annual total impact on economic output across New Mexico from 2015 to 2017 was $3.1 billion.” This implies that BBER estimates that LANL contributes an average of  $3.1 billion a year to the state’s economy annually.

This $3.1B conclusion is based on unreleased data and pushes the boundaries of accepted economic theory. The authors or the title of the research are not given. No estimate of when the final report of this will be released is given. Is the research even complete? Will the results change? Has it been reviewed?

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NNSA Plans to Replace the W78 Warhead

W78 Silo GAO-19-84

NUCLEAR WEAPONS:
NNSA Has Taken Steps to Prepare to Restart a Program to Replace the W78 Warhead Capability
GAO-19-84: Published: Nov 30, 2018. Publicly Released: Nov 30, 2018.

The National Nuclear Security Administration is preparing to restart a program to replace the W78 nuclear warhead, which is used in Air Force intercontinental ballistic missiles. The goal is to produce the first W78 replacement warhead in fiscal year 2030. Pending further study, this replacement warhead may also be used in Navy submarine launched ballistic missiles.

Read the report

SUMMER NUCLEAR GENERATING STATION

A Nuclear Energy Meltdown Scrambles Southern Politics

A Nuclear Energy Meltdown Scrambles Southern Politics
South Carolinians have some of the highest electricity bills in the country, thanks in part to nuclear energy

BY ANDREA COOPER | AUG 30 2018
REVEREND LEO WOODBERRY CLUTCHED the pulpit, his voice rumbling toward the people gathered in the basement theater at Little Rock AME Zion church. Around 75 men and women wearing everything from stylish dresses to blue jeans and T-shirts sat in rapt attention.

“Talk to your friends,” Woodberry implored, wearing a “Justice First” T-shirt and a baseball hat. “Your neighbors, your commissioners, your mayors. Tell them we are ready right now to move away from fossil fuels. We’re ready to make our cities 100 percent renewable!”

People clapped, whistled, and cheered “Yes!” and “Amen!”

Woodberry was on his Justice First Tour in Charlotte, North Carolina, 100 miles from his home in Florence, South Carolina. The environmental activist had come here to proclaim that the moment had arrived for the climate change, women’s rights, immigrants’ rights, criminal justice reform, and marriage equality movements to unite for a common cause: opposing an extractive economy “based on death and destruction and sickness.”

That same economy is responsible for an unprecedented energy and financial disaster in Woodberry’s home state: A $9 billion nuclear project—once heralded as part of a U.S. nuclear revival—has been abandoned after years of delays and mismanagement. One of the South Carolina utilities responsible for the colossal failure has billed its customers $37 million each month to recoup costs.

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Los Alamos National Laboratory

New Los Alamos lab manager Triad will pay Gross Receipts Tax

New Los Alamos lab manager Triad will pay GRT, official says
By Andy Stiny | astiny@sfnewmexican.com
Aug 22, 2018 Updated 16 hrs ago

A representative of Triad National Security LLC, which takes over management of Los Alamos National Laboratory in November, said Wednesday the consortium will pay gross receipts taxes, easing concerns of local officials about losing millions of dollars in revenue.
Scott Sudduth, assistant vice chancellor with the Office of Federal Relations for the Texas A&M University system, told an audience of about 50 community members during a meeting in Los Alamos that the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department responded to a recent inquiry from Triad by saying that “it is their view that the gross receipts tax does apply to Triad.”
Los Alamos County officials had said previously that if Triad were deemed to have nonprofit status, the county estimated it could lose $21 million annually and the state $23 million in gross receipts tax revenues, according to published reports.

Read More in the SF New Mexican here.

What’s Not in NNSA’s Plutonium Pit Production Decision

 Today the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced:

To achieve DoD’s [the Defense Department] 80 pits per year requirement by 2030, NNSA’s recommended alternative repurposes the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina to produce plutonium pits while also maximizing pit production activities at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.  This two-prong approach – with at least 50 pits per year produced at Savannah River and at least 30 pits per year at Los Alamos – is the best way to manage the cost, schedule, and risk of such a vital undertaking.

First, in Nuclear Watch’s view, this decision is in large part a political decision, designed to keep the congressional delegations of both New Mexico and South Carolina happy. New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich are adamantly against relocating plutonium pit production to South Carolina. On the other hand, South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham was keeping the boondoggle Mixed Oxide (MOX) program on life support, and this pit production decision may help to mollify him. This could also perhaps help assuage the State of South Carolina, which is suing the Department of Energy for failing to remove plutonium from the Savannah River Site as promised.

But as important is what is NOT in NNSA’s plutonium pit production decision:

  There is no explanation why the Department of Defense requires at least 80 pits per year, and no justification to the American taxpayer why the enormous expense of expanded production is necessary.

•  NNSA avoided pointing out that expanded plutonium pit production is NOT needed to maintain the safety and reliability of the existing nuclear weapons stockpile. In fact, no production of plutonium pits for the existing stockpile has been scheduled since 2011, and none is scheduled for the future.

•  NNSA did not mention that in 2006 independent experts found that pits last a least a century. Plutonium pits in the existing stockpile now average around 40 years old. The independent expert study did not find any end date for reliable pit lifetimes, indicating that plutonium pits could last far beyond just a century.

• NNSA did not mention that up to 15,000 “excess” pits are already stored at the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, TX, with up to another 5,000 in “strategic reserve.” The agency did not explain why new production is needed given that immense inventory of already existing plutonium pits.

•  Related, NNSA did not explain how to dispose of all of that plutonium, given that the MOX program is an abysmal failure. Nor is it made clear where future plutonium wastes from expanded pit production will go since operations at the troubled Waste Isolation Pilot Plant are already constrained from a ruptured radioactive waste barrel, and its capacity is already overcommitted to existing radioactive wastes.

•  NNSA did not make clear that expanded plutonium pit production is for a series of speculative future “Interoperable Warheads.” The first IW is meant to replace nuclear warheads for both the Air Force’s land-based and the Navy’s sub-launched ballistic missiles. The Obama Administration delayed “IW-1” because the Navy does not support it. However, the Trump Administration is restarting it, with annual funding ballooning to $448 million by 2023, and “IW-2” starting in that same year. Altogether the three planned Interoperable Warheads will cost at least $40 billion, despite the fact that the Navy doesn’t support them.[1]

•  NNSA’s expanded plutonium pit production decision did not mention that exact replicas of existing pits will NOT be produced. The agency has selected the W87 pit for the Interoperable Warhead, but its FY 2019 budget request repeatedly states that the pits will actually be “W87-like.” This could have serious potential consequences because any major modifications to plutonium pits cannot be full-scale tested, or alternatively could prompt the U.S. to return to nuclear weapons testing, which would have severe international proliferation consequences.

•  The State of South Carolina is already suing the Department of Energy for its failure to begin removing the many tons of plutonium at the Savannah River Site (SRS). NNSA’s pit production decision will not solve that problem, even as it will likely bring more plutonium to SRS.

•  The independent Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board has expressed strong concerns about the safety of plutonium operations at both the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) LANL and SRS, particularly regarding potential nuclear criticality incidents.[2] NNSA did not address those safety concerns in its plutonium pit production decision.

•  Politicians in both New Mexico and South Carolina trumpet how many jobs expanded plutonium pit production will create. Yet NNSA’s expanded plutonium pit production decision does not have any solid data on jobs produced. One indicator that job creation will be limited is that the environmental impact statement for a canceled $6 billion plutonium facility at LANL stated that it would not produce a single new Lab job because it would merely relocate existing jobs. Concerning SRS, it is doubtful that pit production could fully replace the jobs lost as the MOX program dies a slow death. In any event, there certainly won’t be any data on the greater job creation that cleanup and renewable energy programs would create. Funding for those programs is being cut or held flat, in part to help pay for nuclear weapons programs.

•  Finally, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires that major federal proposals be subject to public review and comment before a formal decision is made. NNSA’s decision does not mention its NEPA obligations at all. In 1996 plutonium pit production was capped at 20 pits per year in a nation-wide Stockpile Stewardship and Management Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS). NNSA failed to raise that production limit in any subsequent NEPA process, despite repeated attempts. Arguably a decision to produce 80 pits or more per year requires a new or supplemental nation-wide programmatic environmental impact statement to raise the production limit, which the new dual-site decision would strongly augment. This then should be followed by whatever site-specific NEPA documents might be necessary.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch Director, commented, “NNSA has already tried four times to expand plutonium pit production, only to be defeated by citizen opposition and its own cost overruns and incompetence. But we realize that this fifth attempt is the most serious. However, we remain confident it too will fall apart, because of its enormous financial and environmental costs and the fact that expanded plutonium pit production is simply not needed for the existing nuclear weapons stockpile. We think the American public will reject new-design nuclear weapons, which is what this expanded pit production decision is really all about.”

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[1]     See 2012 Navy memo demonstrating its lack of support for the Interoperable Warhead at https://www.nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/Navy-Memo-W87W88.

[2]     For example, see Safety concerns plague key sites proposed for nuclear bomb production, Patrick Malone, Center for Public Integrity, May 2, 2108, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2018/05/02/safety-concerns-nuclear-bomb-manufacture-sites/572697002/