Budget Proposal Strengthens Nuclear Modernization, Official Says

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) 

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