As part of a roughly $20 billion 2022 budget request for the National Nuclear Security Administration, the Biden administration last Friday sought about 12 percent less for civilian nuclear weapons programs than the former Trump administration forecast would be necessary for the coming fiscal year.
Overall, the 2022 spending request for the semiautonomous Department of Energy agency for the budget year that begins October 1 is about flat with the final projection the Trump administration made in 2021, according to a Friday document from the White House Office of Management and Budget.
In the Biden administration’s 2022 request, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Weapons Activities budget would rise to roughly $15.5 billion, which is about 1 percent higher than the 2021 appropriation of $15.3 billion, but roughly 12 percent less than the $15.9 billion the Trump administration thought the account would need in 2022, according to the Future-Years Nuclear Security Program published in NNSA’s 2021 budget request.
After an internal NNSA study in 2020, the agency significantly upped its spending forecast for the early 2020s, claiming that the old future-years spending estimates would, if enacted, prevent the agency from delivering nuclear warheads needed to deploy the planned Ground Based Strategic Deterrent intercontinental ballistic missile and the air-launched Long Range Standoff weapon cruise around 2030.
With the Memorial Day holiday weekend looming at deadline Friday for Defense Daily, the Department of Energy had not yet released its detailed 2022 budget justification documents, including the NNSA’s.
However, according to the White House document that was live at deadline, NNSA’s Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation budget, with its programs to prevent the spread and weaponization of special nuclear and radiological materials, would remain flat at about $2.3 billion, if the Biden administration’s request became law.
The NNSA Naval Reactors budget, meanwhile, would rise to just under $2 billion in 2022, under the Biden request. That’s up less than half a percent compared with the 2021 appropriation of $1.7 billion, and about flat compared with the Trump administration’s forecast. Naval Reactors provides reactor components and fuel for Navy submarines and warships and its budget will rise and fall depending on how far along shipbuilding programs managed by the Pentagon are.
The 2022 NNSA request “provides the tools and resources necessary to ensure the United States meets its nuclear national security requirements and supports the Nation’s nuclear deterrent,” acting NNSA Administrator Charles Verdon wrote in a prepared statement emailed to the press. “The funding enables NNSA to execute its long-standing nuclear modernization efforts begun under the Obama-Biden Administration, advances global nonproliferation efforts, ensures the Office of Naval Reactors remains at the forefront of technological developments, and supports United States leadership in science and technology.”
Both Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm and NNSA Administrator-designate Jill Hruby have testified before Congress that they support the NNSA’s plan, written up in the Trump administration, to build two plutonium pit factories to produce nuclear warhead cores: one a the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and one at the Savannah River Site in Aiken, S.C.
The Biden administration plans to publish its own nuclear posture review sometime this fall or later, a Pentagon official said in May. The review could change plans for procurement of the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent intercontinental ballistic missiles, which in turn could ease the pressure on the NNSA to produce new pits in New Mexico and South Carolina, all of which would initially be for these new silo-based weapons.