WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2012 — The Defense Department’s strategy-based budget proposal sent to Congress earlier this week would strengthen the nation’s nuclear weapons enterprise and modernization, a senior Pentagon official said here yesterday.
“We’ve come a long way in the past three years in establishing the context and the programs for nuclear modernization, but significant challenges remain,” John Harvey, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs, said during remarks at the fourth annual Nuclear Deterrence Summit.
“On the plus side, the nuclear posture review has defined an integrated, balanced and comprehensive strategy for reducing nuclear dangers,” he said. “The strategy strongly couples our nuclear deterrent to other elements of our nuclear security, including strategic arms control, nonproliferation, threat reduction and [weapons of mass destruction] counterterrorism.”
Harvey said recent budgets have provided more funding toward modernization.
“After more than a decade of serious underfunding the nuclear weapons enterprise, the president put forward budget requests in [fiscal 2011] and [fiscal 2012] that included substantial new investments for this mission,” he said. “We’ve had a very high level of support within the administration for getting these investments funded and sustained by Congress.”
To demonstrate the department’s commitment to these programs, he said, officials agreed to transfer $5.7 billion in top-line authority for fiscal 2011 to fiscal 2015. Later, he added, this was augmented by an addition $2.2 billion to be allocated in annual increments in fiscal 2012 through fiscal 2016.
Harvey also credited Congress for its approval of funding to continue modernization.
“The final funding levels appropriated by Congress for [fiscal 2011] were huge boosts to the enterprise and reflected some of the DOD contribution,” he said. “The recent congressional appropriation for [fiscal 2012], while it did not go as far as we had hoped on the [National Nuclear Security Administration] side, provides a basis for continued progress.”
Harvey touched on some of the challenges facing nuclear weapons enterprise as the nation is “embedded in an increasingly austere budget environment” and warned of serious problems if a “sequestration” mechanism in the budget law adds another $500 billion in defense spending cuts over the next decade if Congress fails to override the provision.
“The Budget Control Act, passed earlier this year, coupled with fact-of-life growth in key programs, has forced us to tighten our belts,” he noted. “The implications of the [sequestration] under the Budget Control Act are so dire that we, in the department, are unwilling to consider it a plausible prospect,” he said.
Protracted government funding delays in recent years have taken a toll, Harvey told the audience.
“The financial gridlock characteristic of recent budget exercises and continuing resolutions has had an impact on all federal agencies, including the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy,” Harvey said. In the current fiscal environment, he added, DOD still may receive what it is seeking in modernization, but perhaps not on the intended timeline.
“Our best strategy is solid, cost-effective implementation of high-priority programs that address the long-term state of the nuclear enterprise,” he said.
Harvey said the president’s budget proposal for fiscal 2013 increases NNSA funds for weapons by 5 percent more than last year’s appropriated funds to “maintain our commitment to the programs and capabilities to essential DOD’s strategic deterrence mission.” He cited the president’s last budget proposal as an increase in funding that demonstrates further commitment to revitalizing the nuclear weapons enterprise.
“The president’s [fiscal 2013] request for NNSA basically increases funds for weapons by 5 percent above the amount that was appropriated in [fiscal 2012],” he said. “[It] maintains our commitment to the programs and capabilities essential to DOD’s strategic deterrence mission.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)