Senate Democrats

The President’s Budget Makes Vital Investments for Maintaining Our Robust Nuclear Stockpile, Minimizing Proliferation Risks, and Halting the Spread of Nuclear Weapons

In April, President Obama outlined a bold agenda to combat the global threat of nuclear weapons proliferation and advance along the path toward a nuclear-free world.  The latter goal, which was first articulated by President Reagan in 1984, has gained widespread bipartisan support, notably under the leadership of four U.S. national security officials: Henry Kissinger, William Perry, Sam Nunn, and George Schultz.  Recognizing that nuclear weapons pose the most dangerous threat to our national and global security, the President declared that “the United States has a moral responsibility to act.  We cannot succeed in this endeavor alone, but we can lead it; we can start it.”[1] 

President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2011 budget proposal provides significant new investments to restore U.S. leadership on global non-proliferation, while also elevating spending necessary to ensure a safe, effective nuclear deterrent until we reach that goal.  The budget provides increased funding to support our nuclear stockpile and infrastructure; strengthen the international nonproliferation regime; ensure a robust missile defense; and expand initiatives to keep nuclear materials and technologies out of terrorist hands.

Strengthening the safety, security, and reliability of our nuclear stockpile.  Several government-commissioned and independent reports have certified the effectiveness of the Stockpile Stewardship Program in ensuring the reliability of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.  Since the mid-1990s, the program has used computer simulations, experiments, inspections, monitoring, and other measures to maintain a safe, secure, and reliable arsenal.  As the September report from the independent scientific advisory group, JASON, concluded, “lifetimes of today’s nuclear warheads could be extended for decades with no anticipated loss in confidence.”  At the same time, however, the report raised concerns about the health of the infrastructure, citing a decline in U.S. nuclear weapons expertise, inadequate support for the Stockpile Stewardship Program, and the need for increased investments in the nuclear laboratories and facilities responsible for maintaining, monitoring, and storing nuclear warheads.  These concerns track closely with the assessment made by the Strategic Posture Commission last year, which called for significantly increasing investments in the nuclear complex – to address nearly a decade of inadequate funding and attention.[2]

President Obama’s budget would provide the funds necessary to address these challenges and ensure we have the programs and resources in place to maintain a strong nuclear arsenal.  The President’s budget request includes $8.1 billion, more than a $750 million above the Fiscal Year 2010 funding level for the Department of Energy (DOE), to expand life extension programs (LEPs); provide for upgrades to the infrastructure supporting LEPs; and to fund new initiatives in naval reactors work.  The budget would also provide $2 billion for critical facility upgrades, including a new plutonium facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory and a new uranium production facility at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, which will facilitate world-class nuclear science and help attract top young scientists to the nuclear workforce.  As Vice President Biden underscored in an op-ed last week, “The same skilled nuclear experts who maintain our arsenal play a key role in guaranteeing our country’s security now and for the future.  State-of-the art facilities, and highly trained and motivated people, allow us to maintain our arsenal without testing.  They will help meet the president’s goal of securing vulnerable nuclear materials world-wide in the coming years, and enable us to track and thwart nuclear trafficking, verify weapons reductions, and to develop tomorrow’s cutting-edge technologies for our security and prosperity.”[3]

Bolstered efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.  The President’s budget proposal includes $2.7 billion, an increase of $550 million over last year’s appropriation, to significantly reduce global proliferation risks.  It fully funds DOE efforts to secure nuclear material; develop technology to detect and deter nuclear testing and counter smuggling; and provide essential support for international nonproliferation treaties, regulatory controls, and safeguards.[4]

Strengthening the global nonproliferation regime.  By promoting U.S. leadership in global nonproliferation, risk reduction, and arms control, the budget request gives support to related efforts for finalizing a new START agreement with Russia; completing the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) on March 1; and advancing the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).  These initiatives work to strengthen the global nonproliferation regime, which is considered essential to reining in the nuclear ambitions of nations like North Korea and Iran.[5]

Ensuring a robust missile defense.  The budget proposal would fully fund the new Phased Adaptive Approach to ballistic missile defense in Europe beginning in 2011 – the policy outlined by the President in September that provides a comprehensive and adaptable framework to better address current and emerging threats.  It will support the deployment of proven, cost-effective, and adaptable technologies that will “offer more effective defenses against near-term ballistic missile threats and augment the current defense of the U.S. homeland against long-range ballistic missile threats.  It will provide for the defense of U.S. deployed forces, their families, and our allies in Europe sooner and more comprehensively than the previous program, while reaffirming the U.S. commitment to strengthening NATO and integrating U.S. systems with Allied capabilities and networks.”[6]

[1] President Obama, 4/5/09.

[2] Vice President Joe Biden, Wall Street Journal op-ed, 1/29/10; JASON, Lifetime Extension Program, 9/09; McClatchy, 2/1/10; Office of Management and Budget, Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2011, Department of Energy.

[3] Vice President Joe Biden, Wall Street Journal op-ed, 1/29/10.

[4] Office of Management and Budget, Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2011, Department of Energy.

[5] Vice President Joe Biden, Wall Street Journal op-ed, 1/29/10.

[6] Office of Management and Budget, Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2011, Department of Defense.