The White House is seeking $16.5 billion for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) for fiscal 2020: a roughly 8-percent increase from just over $15 billion in 2019 that, a senior Department of Energy official said Monday, includes more funding for a controversial low-yield nuclear warhead.
The NNSA completed the first of these modified submarine-launched ballistic missile warheads in February and plans to begin deliveries to the Navy by Sept. 30.
On a conference call with the media Monday, the DoE official declined to say how much funding the NNSA wants for the budget year beginning Oct. 1. Last year, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations panel that writes DoE budget bills, said the NNSA would need $60 million for W76-2 in 2020: a little less than the $65 million Congress provided for 2019.
Whatever the 2020 request, it “completes development and production of the W76-2 warhead,” the White House wrote in a budget summary released Monday.
The NNSA has said it plans to convert “a small number” of W76-1 high-yield warheads into low-yield W76-2s at the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas. The Trump administration says the U.S. needs the weapon to deter Russia from using similarly powerful weapons to win a war it starts, but cannot finish, with conventional weapons.
The DoE official declined to say how much the semiautonomous stockpile steward wants to spend on any one program. The department plans to release its detailed budget justification documents — which run hundreds of pages and include detailed spending breakdowns — next week, a second DoE official said on the call.
But the agency plans to trickle out more specifics between now and then, beginning with the annual budget-in-brief on Wednesday. The document will include some details about planned spending at the NNSA’s three nuclear weapons labs and production facilities across the nuclear security enterprise, the second DoE official said.
In a Monday press release issued after the call, theNNSA identified the target 2020 budget levels for its three main spending accounts:
- $12.4 billion for Weapons Activities, which funds life extension and modification programs for weapons — five for 2020, including the W76-2. That is nearly 12 percent, or roughly $1.3 billion, above the 2019 appropriation of $11 billion or so.
- About $2 billion for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation: a little more than 3 percent, or about $60 million, over the 2019 appropriation of $1.9 billion. The account handles worldwide elimination of dangerous fissile material, and pays for the ongoing wind-down of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site in Aiken, S.C. The NNSA canceled the plutonium disposal plant in October.
- $1.6 billion for Naval Reactors, down about 8 percent, or more than $150 million, from almost $1.8 billion for 2019. The decrease for the account responsible for building nuclear reactors for naval warships reflects the comparatively smaller amount of work the NNSA expects to do in 2020, relative to 2019, the agency wrote in its press release.