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Oral Testimony on "NNSA's Fiscal Year 2010 President’s Budget Request" before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies

May 21, 2009

Chairman Visclosky, Ranking Member Frelinghuysen and Members of the Subcommittee, I am Tom D"Agostino, the Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).  I am accompanied today by General Garrett Harencak, USAF, Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for Military Application, and Kenneth Baker, Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation.  We appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today, and we sincerely thank you for your support for the NNSA’s programs and our people. 

The NNSA is critical to ensuring the security of the U.S. and its allies.  The President’s FY 2010 Budget Request for NNSA is $9.9 billion; an increase of 8.9 percent over the FY 2009 appropriated level.  This Budget Request provides funding to enable NNSA to leverage science to promote U.S. national security objectives.  NNSA programs are on the front lines of the following national security endeavors: 

  • maintaining a safe, secure, and reliable stockpile and capabilities;
  • accelerating and expanding our efforts here and around the world to reduce the global threat posed by nuclear terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and unsecured nuclear materials; 
  • providing the U.S. Navy with safe, militarily effective nuclear propulsion systems; and,
  • supporting U.S. leadership in science and technology.

The President has initiated bold steps to put an end to Cold War thinking to lead a new international effort to enhance global security.  The FY 2010 President's Budget Request for NNSA is the first step towards our implementation of this new strategy.  For the Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation programs, funding increases are requested to expand and respond quickly to opportunities to reduce global nuclear threats.  Increases are also requested in the Naval Reactors Program to begin development of the reactor and propulsion system for the next generation submarine among other activities.  For programs in the Weapons Activities Appropriation, the budget strategy is to maintain capabilities and activities at the current level until the strategic direction is established in the upcoming Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). 
In President Obama’s speech in Prague, he indicated his commitment to maintaining a safe, secure, and reliable stockpile while pursuing the vision of a world free from the threat of nuclear weapons.  The NNSA maintains the unique knowledge and technical capabilities that are critical to achieving both objectives.

Our nonproliferation programs are focused on securing the key ingredients of nuclear weapons: weapons usable nuclear materials, and related equipment and technologies.   Supporting NNSA efforts include the Elimination of Weapons Grade Plutonium Production Program, which has been working in Russia to shut down Russia’s plutonium-production reactors, and the Fissile Materials Disposition Program, which will provide a disposition path for at least 34 metric tons each of U.S. and Russian excess plutonium.

The NNSA is a recognized leader on these and other nonproliferation initiatives, to prevent proliferators or terrorists from acquiring a nuclear weapon.  This includes our activities to secure and reduce weapons-grade nuclear materials at sites worldwide, but also NNSA’s efforts to detect and intercept WMD-related materials in transit.  In addition, we will also work in FY 2010 to support the President’s call to strengthen the Nonproliferation Treaty, support the International Atomic Energy Agency, and strengthen international safeguards inspections.  To implement this comprehensive nonproliferation strategy, we will expand our cooperation with Russia, pursue new partnerships, and work to secure vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years.  NNSA’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative and International Materials Protection and Cooperation Programs will have a major role in the four-year plan.

The NNSA is actively participating in the national debate over our Nation’s nuclear security and nonproliferation strategic framework.  This debate is not just about warheads and the size of the stockpile.  It includes an inescapable obligation to transform our current Cold War-era nuclear weapons complex into a 21st Century Nuclear Security Enterprise that retains the capabilities necessary to meet emerging national security requirements.   In a future with fewer warheads, no nuclear tests, tighter controls on weapons material world-wide and effective counteraction of nuclear terrorist threats, the NNSA’s science and technology capabilities will play an increased role in addressing these challenges.  We must ensure that our evolving strategic posture and our nuclear stockpile, nonproliferation, arms control and counterterrorism programs are melded into one comprehensive strategy that protects America and its allies.

The DoD has initiated the NPR, which is scheduled to culminate in a report to the Congress in early 2010.  We are actively participating in the NPR in all of its aspects relating to our nuclear security.

As you are well aware, the Commission on the Strategic Posture of the U.S. was established by the Congress to identify the basic principles for reestablishing a national consensus on strategic policy.  The Commission has examined the role of deterrence in the 21st Century, and assessed the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security strategy.  A final report was issued earlier this month and includes a variety of recommendations as to the most appropriate strategic posture for the U.S.  I am familiar with the Commission’s report.  Given the breadth and scope of the Commission’s recommendations, the Secretary and I are evaluating these recommendations.  This work will help to inform the Administration’s NPR.

As you know, we have made tremendous progress in reducing the size of the stockpile.  The stockpile will be less than one-quarter of what it was at the end of the Cold War—the smallest stockpile in more than 50 years.  These stockpile reductions send the right message to the rest of the world that the U.S. is committed to Article VI of the NPT, which will help create a positive momentum heading into the 2010 NPT Review Conference.

Each year, since the Stockpile Stewardship Program was developed, we have been able to certify the safety, security, and reliability of the stockpile with no need to conduct an underground nuclear test.  Since 1993, we have acquired a suite of capabilities determined necessary to maintain an effective stockpile.  Most recently, the National Ignition Facility has come on line.  We are applying these tools to help solve current stockpile reliability issues.

The challenge for the Stockpile Stewardship Program for the future will be to make effective use of the full suite of tools and capabilities.  Following the completion of the NPR, we will prepare a five-year plan which recapitalizes our infrastructure, retains our scientific, technical, and engineering expertise, and makes full use of our experimental and supercomputing capabilities.

Chairman Visclosky, numerous external reviews have identified the fragile state of our technical expertise and capabilities that reside in our people.  It is clear that people are our most important resource.  We need to retain those skills and capabilities and develop the next generation of scientists, engineers, and technicians needed to perform work in nonproliferation, nuclear counterterrorism, and forensics.  We also need the skilled personnel to maintain the stockpile for the foreseeable future without the benefit of underground nuclear testing.

Mr. Chairman, that concludes my statement and I would be pleased to take your questions.

Washington, D.C.