New Spending Law Raises Nuclear Funding

Marcus Taylor

Funding for the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons programs received a boost in a bill that Congress approved March 21 to cover the remainder of fiscal year 2013.

The increase for those programs, which are overseen by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semiautonomous agency within the Energy Department, is an exception in legislation that generally kept funding for federal agencies at fiscal year 2012 levels. President Barack Obama signed the bill into law March 26.

The spending measure provides $7.6 billion for NNSA weapons programs. That figure, which is $363 million more than Congress appropriated in its legislation for fiscal year 2012, is what the Obama administration sought in its fiscal year 2013 budget request for those programs.

Fiscal year 2013 began last Oct. 1. Until now, Congress has funded federal agencies through an interim measure that expired March 27.

The NNSA programs are subject to the automatic spending cuts, known as sequestration, imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011. Those cuts would reduce funding for NNSA weapons activities by 7.8 percent—$600 million of the $7.6 billion—for fiscal year 2013.

In Feb. 14 testimony to the House Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee, acting NNSA Administrator Neile Miller said the largest impacts of the automatic cuts could be in the spending category called Directed Stockpile Work, which includes projects to extend the functional life of nuclear warheads placed on submarine-launched ballistic missiles, intercontinental ballistic missiles, heavy bombers, and fighter jets. One likely impact of the sequestration is a delay in the life extension program for the B61, a nuclear bomb, Miller said.