With the Senate set to debate its version of the National Defense Authorization Act this week in Washington — the measure would authorize $20 billion for the National Nuclear Security Administration compared with $19.7 billion requested — here’s a look at some of the defense-nuclear amendments proposed for the bill.
One the Senate passes its NDAA, it will have to reconcile the measure with the House’s version. The lower chamber’s NDAA, approved in late August, would also authorize about $20 billion for the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), while cutting modernization of the B83 nuclear gravity bomb and requiring the NNSA to justify competitively awarded management and operations contracts for its nuclear-weapon sites.
On to the Senate bill’s proposed amendments:
- Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), possibly the Senate’s arch-disarmament advocate, proposed an independent study of the NNSA’s W80-4 life extension program, the results of which would have to be turned into Congress in an unclassified report 210 days after the latest National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is signed.
W80-4 would be the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s first major life-extension program of the decade, with a notional first production unit in fiscal year 2025 for the warhead slated to tip the air-launched Long Range Standoff Weapon cruise missile.
Under Markey’s amendment, a Federally Funded Research and Development Corporation would perform the W80-4 study under contract to the NNSA. Markey wants the study to include what he called “an explanation of the unexpected increase in cost of the W80-4 nuclear warhead life extension program,” plus a rundown of the weapon’s cost and schedule and how the program would affect other life extensions, infrastructure programs and research and development at the NNSA.
- A group of 17 GOP senators submitted an amendment including largely boilerplate language used nearly every year to prohibit any reduction in U.S. nuclear forces below the levels prescribed by the New START nuclear arms control treaty between Washington and Moscow.
- Sen. Jim Risch(R-Idaho) proposed an amendment that would require the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State to brief Congress about how the U.S. is socializing its next nuclear posture review with allies. Among other things, the cabinet officials would have to disclose “A listing of all countries consulted with respect to the 2021 Nuclear Posture Review, including the dates and circumstances of each such consultation and the countries present.”
- Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) submitted an amendment to require the NNSA administrator to start reporting on plant-directed research and development at Kansas City National Security Campus in Missouri, the Nevada National Security Site, the Savannah River Site in Aiken, S.C., the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, and the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The report would be due by March 15 and include among other things a “list of research, development, and demonstration activities by each such facility in order to maintain and enhance the engineering and manufacturing capabilities at the facility and a brief scope of work for each such activity.”
- Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WVa.) proposed creating a consortium of universities and nonprofits to conduct nuclear nonproliferation research and create open-source databases about nonproliferation, arms control and nuclear security. The consortium would steer nongovernmental fellowships, scholarships, internships and courses to “graduate students, academics, and policy specialists,” according to the amendment.
- Sens. Rod Portman (R-Ohio) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) proposed an amendment that would order the NNSA to turn over the Advanced Technical Intelligence Center for Human Capital Development in Springfield, Ohio, to the Community Improvement Corporation of Clark County and the Chamber of Commerce. The building hosted a nonprofit focused on workforce development for the intelligence and defense industries.
- Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) submitted an amendment that, as part of a broader proposal about molten salt reactors, would require the NNSA to consider the long-term storage of a stockpile of Uranium 233 at the Y-12 National Security Complex.
- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) proposed that the NNSA administrator help prepare a report about unidentified aerial phenomenon — which are not UFOs, per se — “associated with facilities or assets associated with the production, transportation, or storage of nuclear weapons or components thereof.”