“As I look at this year’s Atomic Energy Defense Activities budget request, I can’t help but think we’re in a state of treading water. The science and engineering campaigns are stagnated, key decisions on warhead refurbishment are avoided, and a significant number of construction projects are halted. We understand that many NNSA program decisions are on hold pending the completion of the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). This Review, and the stockpile and infrastructure decisions that follow, cannot happen soon enough.
“Earlier this year, the Commander of U.S. Strategic Command testified, ‘The most urgent concerns for today’s nuclear enterprise lie with our aging stockpile, infrastructure and human capital.’ The Chairman of the bipartisan Strategic Posture Commission, Dr. William Perry, who appeared before our committee last week, stated that the key to maintaining a credible, safe, secure, and reliable nuclear deterrent rests with ‘robust healthy, vigorous weapons laboratories,’ a ‘strong stockpile stewardship program,’ and an ‘effective life extension program.’ However, the Commission observed two worrisome trends: the intellectual infrastructure is in serious trouble and lab funding is likely to be reduced by 20 to 30-percent in the outyears.
“The Fiscal Year 2010 budget request substantiates these concerns. There is a net decrease in NNSA’s science and engineering campaigns. Four of the five campaigns experience zero growth. The fifth campaign—Readiness—decreas
“Furthermore, there is a serious need to transform the physical infrastructure. The Commission recognized this, and recommended that Congress fund NNSA’s complex transformation plan. However, this year’s budget request halts a significant amount of construction activities, accounting for a $111 million decrease in Readiness in Technical Base and Facilities. And, top Commission priorities—the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) facility at Los Alamos and Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) at Y-12—are only modestly funded.
“On the part of some, there appears to be a perception that if the stockpile goes down, we don’t need these facilities and, perhaps, the NNSA budget can go down as well. Mr. D’Agostino, I’d like to ask your thoughts on this.
“In addition, though the Fiscal Year 2010 budget request terminates the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) and avoids making substantial decisions on the stockpile, I would like to solicit your thoughts on how NNSA is approaching its modernization. Or, as Dr. Schlesinger prefers to call it, ‘refurbishment.’ The Commission concluded that the current warhead Life Extension Programs could not be counted on indefinitely. They recommended that decisions about weapon modernization or refurbishment be made on a case-by-case basis that included consideration of a spectrum of options from component replacement to new design.
“Lastly, it strikes me that ‘balance’ is the major challenge for NNSA in the years ahead—balancing recapitalization and modernization of the infrastructure, human capital, and weapons systems—all within an assumed flat or declining budget scenario.
“Shifting to other areas of the Department of Energy, Dr. Triay, I am concerned about the Department’s nuclear material consolidation and storage plans. Can you update us on these plans and also discuss the implications of the President’s decision to terminate the Yucca Mountain repository.
“Finally, Mr. Podonsky, physical security and the safe transport of our nuclear weapons and materials are top priorities for me. There is no margin for error. In the past year, the Department has replaced its Design Basis Threat security policy with the Graded Security Protection policy. What drove this change in policy and what is the status of its implementation?
“The budget and budget strategy presented before us today may work for a single year, but it is not sustainable. Unless the ‘placeholders’ we see in outyear funding are significantly changed, based on the outcome of the Nuclear Posture Review, we risk losing our world-class intellectual talent and endangering our ability to successfully maintain and certify the stockpile.
“I would like to thank the Chairman for calling this important hearing and thank you for your leadership and service. I look forward to your testimony.”