Citing a national security memorandum that describes a reduced need for the B83 thermonuclear gravity bomb, the National Nuclear Administration (NNSA) proposed cutting funding for the weapon in its 2024 budget request. 

The NNSA proposed trimming $28 million from funding for management of the B83 in its fiscal 2024 budget request, owing to “updated program requirements reflected in the NSM-9,” according to a national security memorandum issued by the administration that had not been published as of Wednesday.

The memo is mentioned a single time in the NNSA’s budget justification documents and was not available online from either the White House or Defense Department. 

It meanwhile remained unclear whether NNSA had retired any B83s as of Wednesday. The Biden administration said in the 2022 Nuclear Posture Review that it wants to retire the weapon completely. 

But until that can happen, and Congress in the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act specified that it cannot, yet, work must continue to keep the megaton-capable bombs ready for use in war.

Work to disassemble and inspect B83s continues at the Pantex Plant in Panhandle, Texas, “in support of safety and surveillance activities,” an NNSA spokesperson told sister publication the Exchange Monitor. The NNSA regularly performs disassembly and inspection for all weapons in the nuclear stockpile as they return from military custody, according to the spokesperson. 

Those operations are necessary to ensure the weapons are ready for use in a potential conflict and will continue until the entire stockpile of that particular bomb is completed, the spokesperson said. 

Congress attached some major strings to retiring the B83. In the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, lawmakers limited NNSA from dismantling more than 25 percent of B83-1 stockpile active on Sept. 30, 2022 until the Energy and Defense departments submit a study of how the nuclear enterprise intends to destroy an adversary’s hardened and deeply buried targets. 

Air Force officers have testified in Congress that the B61-12, which will homogenize four existing versions of the oldest deployed U.S. nuclear weapon, will include a modest earth-penetrating capability, similar to what the B61-11 has.

B83 nuclear explosive operations at Pantex were restarted in fiscal 2022, according to the NNSA’s fiscal 2024 budget request. The NNSA requested $30.8 million to maintain the B83 stockpile for the upcoming fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. That’s down about $28 million from the enacted fiscal 2023 budget of $58.9 million.

A version of this story first appeared in Defense Daily affiliate publication Weapons Complex Morning Briefing.