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Checkpoint Washington
Posted at 07:50 AM ET, 06/16/2011

House panel whacks funding for nuclear complex


(Hyungwon Kang/REUTERS)

Promises, promises.

Remember the ones demanded by Republican senators as the price for passage of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) last December? Back then, senators succeeded in getting the Obama administration to pledge to spend billions more to upgrade the U.S. nuclear weapons complex and modernize the country’s stockpile of deployed weapons.

Problem is, members of the House weren’t involved in the discussions.

Now, led by Republicans, lawmakers are cutting into the funds that the Obama administration had pledged for upgrades and modernization.

The House Appropriations subcommittee that approves funding of the weapons complex, run by the National Nuclear Security Agency (NNSA), just whacked almost $500 million from the weapons program.

A slice of $100 million came out of a $200 million pot that is supposed to finance early steps in the coming year to build a new facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) had pushed for funding for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement facility — expected to cost $5 billion or more — as one of his demands of the Obama administration. But the House Republican-led subcommittee that cut the funds says NNSA is not ready to support spending for early construction because seismic issues are not resolved in the design. Plus, the subcommittee says, there is a need to revalidate what capabilities are to be needed in the plutonium area.

Meantime, the subcommittee has cut $94 million that was to be used to finance an advanced reliable warhead program, which has since been canceled.

Word of the subcommittee’s action drifted across the Capitol on Wednesday. At a Senate Appropriations hearing, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) asked Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates if he had heard what the House had done.

“What are the implication to failing to fund the modernization program?” Shelby wanted to know.

The secretary responded that the modernization program had been “carefully worked out” and “played a fairly significant role in the willingness of the Senate to ratify the new START agreement.”

Let’s see what happens when the bill gets to the Senate.

By  |  07:50 AM ET, 06/16/2011

 
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