Senate appropriators favor continuing sustaining an Obama-era program to create a so-called interoperable nuclear warhead that could fly on future Air Force and Navy missiles — a program their House counterparts have proposed canceling.
That is according to the detailed bill report accompanying the fiscal 2019 energy and water bill the Senate Appropriations Committee approved late last week.
The panel proposed $53 million in the budget year starting Oct. 1 for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to continue its work on the interoperable warhead. That is exactly what NNSA requested for the weapon, which is also known as IW-1. It would be the first of three such warheads to be developed under the 30-year nuclear modernization and maintenance program the Barack Obama administration set in place.
In the 2019 NNSA budget bill it approved earlier this month, the House Appropriations Committee said the agency should instead spend the $53 million to study a life-extension program for the W78 warhead that now tips the Air Force’s intercontinental ballistic missiles, and which the interoperable warhead would replace.
The House’s version of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, a policy bill that sets priorities for appropriators, also proposed scrapping the interoperable warhead. The full Senate has yet to vote on the National Defense Authorization Act approved last week by the Senate Armed Services Committee, which beyond a summary has not been made public. The Senate could vote on the bill as soon as next week, according to Politico. The Senate Armed Services Committee’s bill summary did not mention the interoperable warhead.
Overall, Senate appropriators recommended some $14.8 billion for the NNSA in 2019: 3.5 percent less than their House colleagues and about 2 percent less than the agency requested.