Cantwell, Alexander Lead Bipartisan Letter to Senate Leadership Calling to Remove Controversial, Far-Reaching NDAA Provisions That Could Undermine Department of Energy Budget Priorities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, as the Senate continues to debate the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), both senior members of the Senate energy committee, led a bipartisan group of colleagues in sending a letter to Senate leadership and the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee calling for the removal of provisions that would further erode civilian control of the nation’s nuclear arsenal and fundamentally alter the Department of Energy’s (DOE) budgeting process. The provisions, inserted into this year’s NDAA behind closed doors, would give the Department of Defense (DOD) an unprecedented say in the DOE budget and could mean that increased spending on nuclear weapons could come at the expense of other critical DOE programs, including nuclear waste cleanup and research and development.

Joining Cantwell and Alexander on the letter are U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), John Barrasso (R-WY), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Jim Risch (R-ID), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) – all members of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

“As currently written, the Senate NDAA bill would strip the Secretary of Energy of the ability to manage some of the most sensitive national security programs that account for almost half of the Department’s budget,” the senators wrote in their letter to Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Schumer, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, and Ranking Member Jack Reed. “Such changes could impede accountability and Congressional oversight, as well as imperil future funding for other critical DOE responsibilities such as promoting scientific and technological innovation, managing our National Laboratories, sponsoring basic research in the physical sciences, and ensuring cleanup of the nation’s nuclear weapons complex.”

The provisions would effectively transfer the Department of Energy’s civilian control of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and its budget to the Nuclear Weapons Council, which is overwhelmingly controlled by DOD leadership. If enacted into law, this provision could allow the Nuclear Weapons Council to insist on more spending for nuclear weapons, funding that could come at the expense of the Energy Department’s other programs. This could imperil future funding for other DOE priorities including nuclear waste cleanup, research, and funding for the National Laboratories.

Previous efforts to make such sweeping changes to civilian control of our nation’s nuclear weapons programs have been met with opposition ranging from the Trump administration to former Secretaries of Energy to recent NNSA Administrators to the Congressional Advisory Panel on the Governance of the Nuclear Security Enterprise. Earlier this week, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette sent a letter to Senate Armed Services Chairman Inhofe opposing the proposed changes.

“Sweeping changes impacting civilian control of our nation’s nuclear weapons programs should only be made in consultation and coordination with the committee of jurisdiction in an open and transparent manner,” the senators concluded in their letter. “We therefore request that the provisions be removed from the pending bill or that the Senate be allowed to vote on the relevant amendments filed by Ranking Member Manchin.”

The full text of the senators’ letter is available HERE and below.

Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Schumer, Chairman Inhofe, and Ranking Member Reed:

As the Senate considers the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), we write to express our opposition to the inclusion of controversial and far reaching provisions that would fundamentally alter the Department of Energy’s (DOE) responsibilities for the nuclear weapons budget.

As members of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, we write in support of Secretary Brouillette’s June 29, 2020 letter to Chairman Inhofe and share his concerns that provisions in the Senate NDAA bill undermine DOE’s ability to meet its mission goals and responsibility for maintaining the viability of the nation’s nuclear deterrent.

As currently written, the Senate NDAA bill would strip the Secretary of Energy of the ability to manage some of the most sensitive national security programs that account for almost half of the Department’s budget. Such changes could impede accountability and Congressional oversight, as well as imperil future funding for other critical DOE responsibilities such as promoting scientific and technological innovation, managing our National Laboratories, sponsoring basic research in the physical sciences, and ensuring cleanup of the nation’s nuclear weapons complex.

Sweeping changes impacting civilian control of our nation’s nuclear weapons programs should only be made in consultation and coordination with the committee of jurisdiction in an open and transparent manner. The changes included in the Senate NDAA bill have been met with opposition from the Trump Administration, former Secretaries of Energy, recent NNSA Administrators, and the Congressional Advisory Panel on the Governance of the Nuclear Security Enterprise.

We therefore request that the provisions be removed from the pending bill or that the Senate be allowed to vote on the relevant amendments filed by Ranking Member Manchin.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*