White House estimates $1 billion cut to nuclear security in looming ‘sequester’

Melissa Quinn Contributor
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According to a report released by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Obama administration has recommended cutting more than $1 billion from the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) — an agency designed to protect against the spread of nuclear weapons — in the event the congressional budget stalemate results in so-called “sequestration” of a large portion of federal budget dollars planned for 2013 spending.

The report, unveiled last week, came in response to the Sequestration Transparency Act. In 2011 Congress passed the Budget Control Act, planning additional budget cuts if lawmakers failed to strike a budget deal through the “super committee.”

According to the estimates that the OBM called “preliminary,” the NNSA faces more than $1 billion in cuts, the most of any program in the Department of Energy. The White House estimates a $678 million cut from weapons programs, $216 million from defense nuclear nonproliferation, $102 million from naval reactors and $39 million from administrative costs.

The proposed cuts to America’s nuclear security program come on the heels of reports that a radioactive fuel rod went missing from a Halliburton facility in Texas, a loss that has the company asking the National Guard for help in retrieving it.

Halliburton learned the rod was gone on Sept. 11 when workers discovered a missing lock from the container used to transport it. The rod is used in the drilling of natural gas wells, the Christian Science Monitor reported.

The NNSA is responsible for the “management and security of the nation’s nuclear weapons, nuclear nonproliferation, and naval reactor programs,” its website states.

The agency faces cuts in programs responsible for dismantling nuclear weapons deemed excessive by the START Treaty, and protecting America’s nuclear weapons at its facilities.

In his 2013 budget request, President Obama proposed an increase of $536 million to the NNSA budget. That increase would be negated — and an additional $500 million cut — under the administration’s sequestration plans.

A portion of NNSA funding also comes from the Department of Defense, which faces more than $1 trillion in its own spending cuts as a result of the sequester.

In March, agency administrator Tom D’Agostino told National Journal he was unsure if the NNSA would be affected by the sequestration.

“If there is a reduction in this area, the thing we are going to focus on first and foremost is doing the surveillance work … on our existing stockpile [and ensuring] that today’s deterrent is taken care of,” he said. “Then we will work with the Defense Department to understand their priorities.”

“The sequestration itself was never intended to be imple­mented,” the OMB wrote in the report. “The Administration strongly believes that sequestration is bad policy, and that Con­gress can and should take action to avoid it by passing a comprehensive and balanced deficit reduction package.”

“The report leaves no question that the sequestration would be deeply destructive to national security, domestic investments, and core government func­tions.”

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