Friday, October 01, 2010
GOP, Dems Agree To Boost Nuclear Budget
Copyright © 2010 Albuquerque Journal
By 2010 John Fleck
Journal Staff Writer
Republicans and Democrats in Congress converged on a rare point of agreement this week — the need to spend substantially more money on the U.S. nuclear weapons complex in the coming year.
In a largely unadorned bill to keep government funded for the next two months, the House and Senate on Wednesday night singled out the National Nuclear Security Administration for a massive budget hike.
Speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill on Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised the spending, saying it is needed to modernize the U.S. nuclear weapons complex as the Senate prepares to debate a new arms control treaty with Russia.
The budget hike amounts to $624 million, a 10 percent increase over Fiscal Year 2010 for the National Nuclear Security Administration's nuclear weapons work, the primary budget account that funds operations at Sandia and Los Alamos labs in New Mexico.
The money was included in a "continuing resolution," a stop-gap spending measure approved to keep government running for two months after Congress failed to complete work on a Fiscal Year 2011 budget in time for today's start of the fiscal year.
The continuing resolution largely calls for federal agencies to keep spending at 2010 levels until Congress can return during a post-election session to finalize 2011 spending plans. But the bill includes a handful of exceptions, the largest of which was to grant the Obama administration's request for a substantial increase in nuclear weapons spending.
The money is part of a political bargain being struck in an attempt to win Republican support for a new nuclear arms control treaty with the Russians, said Jeffrey Lewis, head of the Nuclear Strategy and Nonproliferation Initiative at the New America Foundation.
In a news briefing, Secretary of State Clinton tied the funding to administration efforts to get the Senate to consider the Russian arms control deal during a post-election "lame duck session."
"I look forward to the vote in the lame duck session that will once again demonstrate the Senate joining all of its predecessors in years past to continue to support arms control treaty," Clinton said.
The continuing resolution will allow a substantial increase in spending at Los Alamos in the new fiscal year on a replacement for Los Alamos National Laboratory's aging Chemistry and Metallurgy Research building. While uncertainty remains about how much the building will cost, the latest government figures estimate it will be at least $4 billion.