FY 2012 Budget Hearing Testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Strategic Forces

Congressional Testimony
Mar 30, 2011

Thank you, Chairman Nelson and Ranking Member Sessions for the opportunity to address this committee today.  While I look forward to discussing the investments the President has proposed in the future for our nation’s nuclear security enterprise, I’d like to begin by thanking the two of you for your continued support of the Department of Energy, of my organization – the National Nuclear Security Administration – and of the 35,000 men and women working across the enterprise to keep our country safe, protect our allies, and enhance global security.   We could not do the work we do without strong, bipartisan support and engaged leadership from the Congress.

I would also like to take a few minutes to discuss the role our Department and the NNSA have played in response to the tragic events in Japan.

Mr. Chairman, as you know, the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, 2011 caused significant damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Some radioactive materials have been released as a result of the damage. 

First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Japan during this very difficult time.

To assist in the response, we have deployed 45 people and more than 17,200 pounds of equipment, including NNSA’s Aerial Measuring System and Consequence Management Response Teams.  Our response teams on the ground are utilizing their unique skills, expertise and equipment to help our partners in Japan. 

Since arriving in Japan, NNSA teams have collected and analyzed data gathered from more than 130 hours of flights aboard Department of Defense aircraft and thousands of ground monitoring points.

This data has been provided to our partners in the Government of Japan and other U.S. Government agencies, and posted online at www.Energy.gov so members of the public can see an evaluate it for themselves.  We will continue to monitor this situation, and will provide updated information as we continue to assist the Government of Japan.

The Department is also monitoring activities through the DOE Nuclear Incident Team and the Nevada National Security Site and is employing assets at its National Laboratories to provide ongoing predictive atmospheric modeling capabilities based on a variety of scenarios. 

It is important to note that all of the data we have seen to this point reaffirms what the President has said from the beginning: we do not expect any harmful levels of radiation from Japan to reach the United States.

Mr. Chairman, as I come before you today to discuss the President’s FY 2012 budget request, I do so at a time when the capabilities NNSA offers the nation – and indeed the world – are on display in real time.  The resources President Obama is requesting for FY 2012 make a critical investment in the future of the nuclear security enterprise, which will allow us to continue to implement his nuclear security agenda and respond to crises like the one in Japan.

Despite the challenging economic times facing our country, President Obama has requested $11.8 billion for NNSA, up from $11.2 billion in the 2011 budget request. As I see it, this budget request can be broken down into three key themes.

First, we are investing in the future.   This budget request reflects the commitment President Obama made last November to invest more than $85 billion over the next decade to assure the safety, security and effectiveness of our nuclear stockpile and to modernize the nuclear security infrastructure and revitalize the science and technology base that supports our full range of nuclear security missions.

It provides $7.6 billion for our Weapons Activities account to support our efforts to leverage the best science and research in the world to maintain our nuclear deterrent and modernize the infrastructure that supports it.  This will enable us to enhance our surveillance of the stockpile, proceed with key life extension programs for the B61 and the W78 weapon systems, and continue to design the Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 National Security Complex and the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory.   These two facilities will provide the capabilities are critical to maintaining the nation’s expertise in uranium processing and plutonium research.

Investing in a modern nuclear security enterprise is critical to our stockpile stewardship program, but it also supports the full range of NNSA’s nuclear security missions, which brings me to the second key theme in this budget request; implementing the President’s nuclear security agenda.

President Obama has made strengthening nuclear security and the nuclear nonproliferation regime one of his top priorities.  As he said in his speech in Prague in April 2009, the threat of a terrorist acquiring and using a nuclear weapon is the most immediate and extreme threat we face. This budget makes the investments needed to continue to implement the President’s nuclear security agenda.

To power the nuclear Navy, President Obama has requested $1.1 billion for NNSA’s naval reactors program. 

The NPR highlighted the need to build a replacement for the OHIO-class submarine, which will start to be retired from service in 2027.  Our FY12 request continues the design work on the propulsion unit for that OHIO-class replacement submarine in order to meet the Navy’s required procurement date of 2019.  

This budget request also includes critical investments in a modern and sustainable spent nuclear fuel infrastructure at the naval reactors site at Idaho National Laboratory.  This will allow us to move fuel from wet to dry storage, and ultimately to dispose of it, while we maintain the capacity necessary to receive spent fuel generated during a sustained, intense period of fuel handling in our shipyards.

Finally, the budget request also seeks the resources to refuel the land-based prototype reactor in Upstate New York.

These are all critical elements of the President’s nuclear security agenda defined in the National Security Strategy and in the Nuclear Posture Review.

Mr. Chairman, we recognize that this request for increased investments in the nuclear security enterprise comes at a time of acute financial challenges for our nation, and we recognize the need to be effective stewards of the taxpayer’s money.

That brings me to the third key theme outlined in this budget request, and that is our commitment to improving the way we do business and manage our resources, including budget resources, our people, our projects, and our infrastructure. 

Mr. Chairman, I realize that you, the ranking member and all of the members of the committee have many competing requirements.  And while I believe that nothing is more important than our shared responsibility to ensure our nation’s security, I also recognize that it is my responsibility to assure you that we can manage those resources wisely. 

This is why we are working with our M&O partners to streamline our governance model to devote more resources to critical mission work and maximize our ability to complete our mission safely and securely, and to do that more cost effectively.

We are making sure we have the right contracting strategy in place.

We are improving our project management by ensuring we have qualified project managers leading our major projects, setting cost and schedule performance baselines on construction projects when design work is 90 percent complete, subjecting those estimates to rigorous independent reviews, and placing a renewed focus across our organization on sound project management. 

That is why we recently created a new policy and oversight office for managing major projects that reports directly to me. This will help ensure that project management gets the high level focus it deserves.

We are continuing to find innovative ways to save money across the enterprise. Take, for example, our Supply Chain Management Center.  Since 2007, it has used new technologies and pooled purchasing power to drive efficiencies across the enterprise.  The result has been more than $213 million in auditable cost savings.

All of this is part of our effort to create “One NNSA,” a true partnership between all of our programs and all of our partners to fulfill our common mission. We must break down stovepipes; work collaboratively across our programs and organizations; make sure our headquarters, site office and M&O partners are coordinated; and leverage all of our resources to meet our common objective – making the world a safer place.

Taken together, these steps will ensure we have a modern, 21st century nuclear security enterprise that is safer, more secure, more efficient, and organized to succeed, and an Enterprise that can address broader national security needs. 

We are already realizing positive results. Last year, our Kansas City Plant won the Malcolm Baldrige Award.  Since October, two NNSA projects have won separate Project Management Institute Awards, including our Global Threat Reduction Initiative that became the first Federal project ever to win PMI’s Distinguished Project Award.

That is the vision outlined in this budget request.  It supports the full range of NNSA missions.

More importantly, it invests in the infrastructure, the people, and the science, technology and engineering required to fulfill these missions. I look forward to working with the members of this Committee.  With that I would be happy to take any questions you have.