Summary of FY2016 Senate Appropriations Committee’s Energy & Water Bill

By: Greg Terryn

On May 21, the Senate Appropriations Committee completed its work on the energy and water spending bill which includes nuclear weapons and non-proliferation programs. If this bill becomes law, it will determine how the U.S. will fund critical nuclear security activities, as well as how much we will spend in Fiscal Year 2016 (FY16) on the modernization of U.S. nuclear warheads.

Specifically, the bill provides funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which manages both the U.S. nuclear stockpile (referred to in the budget as ‘Weapons Activities’) and the U.S. nuclear nonproliferation program (referred to in the budget as ‘Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation’).

The energy and water appropriation is next headed to the Senate floor, though there is no date set for its consideration in the full Senate.

What follows is a deeper dive into the nuclear weapons and non-proliferation spending in the bill.

Topline:

At first glance, it would appear that the Senate Appropriation Committee’s Energy & Water Appropriations Act (H.R. 2028) appropriates an increase of $35 million in nuclear weapons spending and a decrease in non-proliferation spending by $234 million under the President’s request. But the optics here are deceiving, because the Senate Appropriations Committee is accounting for one program differently than the president’s budget request and the House version of the bill.

The $234 million dollar ‘Nuclear Counterterrorism and Incident Response’ subprogram exists as a ‘Weapons Activities’ program in the Senate’s bill, but as a ‘Defense Nuclear Non-Proliferation’ program in the President’s budget and the House bill. Ultimately, all three budgets recommend the same funding amount for this subprogram, but the difference in accounting makes a topline comparison difficult.

For a clearer picture, look at the ‘comparable’ version of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s recommendation, which accounts for the nuclear counterterrorism program in the non-proliferation category (like the House bill and President’s request). When structuring the budget comparably, the Senate Appropriation Committee recommends a decrease of $199 million to the president’s request for nuclear weapons spending and to fund nonproliferation programs at the requested level.

Nuclear Weapons Activities:

(In Millions)

President’s Budget Request
FY 2016

Senate Approps. Comm. E&W
FY 2016

Senate Approps. Comm.
E&W
FY 2016 (Comparable)*

House E&W
FY 2016

Enacted
FY 2015

Funding Level

$8,847

$8,882

$8,648

$8,713

$8,187

Difference
(Category compared to FY16 Request)

N/A

+$35

-$199

-$134

-$660

*Comparable: Transfers $234 million for counter terrorism from the nuclear weapons account to the non-proliferation account, as done in the president’s budget request and House bill.

 

  • When structured comparably to the administration’s request and House Energy and Water bill, the Senate Appropriations Committee recommends that the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) receive $8.648 billion for nuclear weapons activities, which is an increase of $461 million from FY15, a decrease of $199 million from the president’s budget request, and $65 million less than the House’s appropriation.
  • In addition, the Senate Appropriations Committee fully funds the nuclear warhead life-extension and alteration programs for the B-61, W76, and W88 nuclear warheads at the $1,303 million request level.
  • Defense Nuclear Security: According the committee report on the bill, the committee is concerned that the protective forces and security infrastructure at nuclear facilities, particularly Y-12 and Pantex, are inadequate. The committee recommends $658 million, an increase of $25 million over the request, to fund security improvements to these facilities.

Defense Nuclear Non-Proliferation

(In Millions)

President’s Budget Request
FY 2016

Senate Approps. Comm. E&W
FY 2016

Senate Approps. Comm.
E&W
FY 2016 (Comparable)*

House E&W
FY 2016

Enacted
FY 2015

Funding Level

$1,940

$1,706

$1,940

$1,908

$1,617

Difference
( Category compared to FY16 Request)

N/A

-$234

0

-$32

-$323

*Comparable: Transfers $234 million for nuclear counter terrorism from the nuclear weapons account to the non-proliferation account, as done in the president’s budget request and House bill.

 

  • When structured comparably to the president’s budget request and House Energy and Water bill, the Senate Appropriations Committee’s bill provides that the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) receive the requested $1.94 billion for its Defense Nuclear Non-proliferation (DNN) programs tasked with preventing nuclear terrorism and the illicit spread of nuclear materials. This is $323 million above the FY15 appropriation and $32 million above the House version of the bill.
  • Appropriates $120 million for Highly Enriched Uranium Reactor Conversion ($5 million above the budget request)
    • $5 million is allocated to start a technical program to develop and qualify a low enriched uranium fuel system for naval reactors.
  • Appropriates $109 million for Nuclear Material Removal ($5 million below the budget request).
  • Includes $1 million for Russian Surplus Fissile Material Disposition
    • This line item was removed in the House Energy and Water bill
  • Directs the Secretary of Energy to form an independent review board for the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility to review the project and make recommendations. This is in response to the delays, excess spending, and lack of consumer interest for the program. The review should be completed in time to inform the FY 2017 budget request.

 

Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Appropriations By Program

(In Millions)

President’s Budget Request
FY 2016

Senate Approps. Comm. E&W
FY 2016

Senate Approps. Comm.
E&W
FY 2016 (Comparable)*

House E&W
FY 2016

Enacted FY 2015

Global Material Security

$426.75

$426.75

$426.75

$422.95

$424.24

Material Management and Minimization

$311.58

$311.58

$311.58

$310.58

$272.92

Non-Proliferation and Arms Control

$126.70

$126.70

$126.70

$130.20

$125.85

Research and Development

$419.33

$419.33

$419.33

$419.33

$393.40

Non-Proliferation Construction
(MOX program)

$345.00

$345.00

$345.00

$345.00

$345.00

Nuclear Counterterrorism and Incident Response

$234.39

***

$234.39

$234.39

$224.03

Legacy Contract Pensions

$94.62

$94.62

$94.62

$94.62

$102.91

*** The Senate appropriations committee recommended that $234.39 million for Nuclear Counterterrorism and Incident Response be categorized in the Nuclear Weapons Activity Account.

 

Weapons Activity & Non-Proliferation Comparison:

Comparing Nuclear Weapons Spending to Nonproliferation Spending in the NNSA

(In Billions)

President’s Budget Request
FY 2016

Senate E&W
FY 2016

Senate E&W FY 2016 (Comparable)*

House E&W
FY 2016

Enacted
FY 2015

Nuclear Weapons Activity

$8.85

$8.88

$8.65

$8.71

$8.19

Defense Nuclear Non-Proliferation

$1.94

$1.71

$1.94

$1.91

$1.62

*Comparable: Transfers $234 million for nuclear counter terrorism from the nuclear weapons account to the non-proliferation account, as done in the president’s budget request and House bill.

 

Miscellaneous:

Use of Low-Enriched Uranium in Naval Reactors: Directs the National Nuclear Security Administration to develop a cost estimate, budget profile, and schedule for the potential use of low-enriched uranium in naval reactors. This information is due within 120 days of the bill’s enactment. The development of a low-enriched uranium reactor would permit the United States and the United Kingdom (which relies on U.S. reactor technology) to reduce their highly-enriched uranium stockpiles and mitigate the nuclear proliferation and security risks posed by this material.

Cost Estimating: Due to a record of poor cost estimations, particularly in the National Nuclear Security Administration, a 2014 Government Accountability Office report provided guidance on improving the accuracy of the budgeting and evaluation process. The Secretary of Energy is required to provide a detailed report on how it will implement the report recommendations within 90 days of enactment of this bill.