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Congressional Testimony

Testimony on the Fiscal Year 2011 President’s Budget Request Before the Senate Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities
Apr 21, 2010
Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Kenneth E. Baker

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I’m Ken Baker, Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for NNSA’s Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation. It is always a great privilege to come before this Committee to tell you about the NNSA’s nuclear nonproliferation program. I prepared a formal, written statement, Mr. Chairman, and with your permission, I would like to submit that for the record and make just a few opening remarks.

As you know, the President is requesting $2.7 billion for this nonproliferation program, an increase of 26% over last year’s funding levels. We are trying to prevent a nuclear weapon from falling into the hands of terrorists, and to stem further proliferation of nuclear weapons and the materials, technology, and expertise required to build them.

I’m not one to hype the threat. It’s not easy to build a nuclear weapon, but the consequences of any nuclear attack or nuclear incident would be so dire that it would greatly affect all of our citizens. We must do everything we can, as quickly as possible to ensure that this does not happen.

The President has challenged the United States and the international community, to accelerate our material security efforts over the next four years. The Fiscal Year 2011 budget request reflects the initial investment necessary to meet this challenge. Our fundamental priority is the security of nuclear materials, because if terrorists are unable to acquire fissile material, a weapon cannot be fashioned. In fact, the largest portion of our budget is aimed at making sure that vulnerable nuclear material is protected, removed or disposed of. These “first line of defense” programs are at the heart of the President’s Four Year effort, and drive the increases requested for the Global Threat Reduction and Material Protection, Control & Accounting programs. For example, the budget increase requested will allow the Global Threat Reduction to remove an additional 530 kilograms of excess highly enriched uranium from countries such as South Africa, Mexico, Serbia, Ukraine, and Belarus, as well as convert an additional seven research reactors from highly enriched uranium fuel to low enriched uranium fuel.

The Fissile Materials Disposition program, or FMD, is also essential in our efforts toward nuclear disarmament and a world free of nuclear danger. This program works to dispose of surplus U.S. highly enriched uranium and U.S. and Russian surplus weapon-grade plutonium. Of the funds requested for FMD, 87 percent is for efforts to irreversibly dispose of surplus U.S. weapons-grade plutonium. The largest part of this involves the construction of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility in Aiken, South Carolina, which has been underway for over two years and is on schedule and within budget. FMD has also made much progress on disposition of Russian surplus weapon-grade plutonium, and just last week at the Nuclear Security Summit, Secretary of State Clinton and Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Lavrov signed a protocol to amend the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement. This Agreement commits both countries to dispose of no less than 34 metric tons each of surplus weapon-grade plutonium, which combined, represents enough material for approximately 17,000 nuclear weapons.

Our security work in Russia has been going on for many years, and the results are tangible. Thousands of nuclear warheads and hundreds of tons of weapons-grade material are better secured due to our efforts. But we have additional work-scope to complete, and we have identified some new areas that need to be addressed before we conclude our efforts.

We’re concerned about two things. The first is sustainability. It will do us little good to have spent years working to improve security in Russia if we fail to help our partners create a sustainable system of security. The second thing we must do is to look beyond Russia to create multiple sustainable layers of defense, such as providing radiation detection monitors and related response training around the world and securing sea ports away from our borders through our Second Line of Defense Program. No security system is perfect, and any system can break down due to human error, equipment malfunction, or an overwhelming attack. Multiple layers of defense help mitigate these issues.

Our Elimination of Weapons-Grade Plutonium Production program has completed its mission to shut down the last three weapons-grade plutonium producing reactors in Russia. Both reactors in Seversk shut down two years ago, and the last reactor in Zheleznogorsk was permanently shut down on April 15.

This budget request will allow us to continue to provide vital support to the International Atomic Energy Agency and to the Nuclear Suppliers Group. We want to continue revitalizing the U.S. nuclear safeguards technology and human capital base – which has suffered attrition over the years – through our Next Generation Safeguards Initiative. Last, we want to continue using and investing in the world-class capabilities of the Department’s national laboratory complex to conduct research and development of new technological capabilities to support the nation’s arms control and nonproliferation efforts.

In summary, Mr. Chairman, I thank this Committee for your continued support of our longstanding and newly-ambitious efforts. We are equipped to play a critical role in preventing terrorists, rogue states and proliferators from acquiring nuclear weapons or their components. Again, I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today and look forward to taking your questions.