CMRR funding fight heads to Senate

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Politics: House passes $642 billion defense bill

By The Staff

Ignoring a White House veto threat, the Republican-controlled House approved a $642 billion defense budget Friday that breaks a deficit-cutting deal with President Barack Obama and restricts his authority in an election-year challenge to the Democratic commander in chief.

The House voted 299-120 for the fiscal 2013 spending blueprint that authorizes money for weapons, aircraft, ships and the war in Afghanistan — $8 billion more than Obama and congressional Republicans agreed to last summer in the clamor for fiscal austerity.

The bill also restores $160 million in funding to the Chemistry Metallurgy Research Replacement facility at Los Alamos, thanks to two amendments from Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), who pleaded his case to the House Armed Services Committee.

Turner’s first amendment that would require that two defense nuclear facilities currently being designed by DOE/NNSA (including CMRR), and any future similar facilities, be transferred to the Department of Defense and that the Secretary of Defense utilize military construction authorities to build these facilities.

The second amendment from Turner would require the construction of the CMRR nuclear facility so that it achieves full operational capability by FY24 and limit any funds from being spent on an alternative plan that does not include CMRR.

Now, it’s on to the U.S. Senate.

And Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) will be front and center in the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“Clearly, there are many different opinions in Washington about how to move ahead with a replacement building for the CMR,” Bingaman said. “In the coming days the Senate Armed Services Committee will be writing its own defense policy bill, and I will be working with them on this issue, as well as continuing to work with the NNSA to find the best solution.”

Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), actually was in Los Alamos for a groundbreaking ceremony for the New Mexico Consortium (NMC) Biological Research Laboratory in Los Alamos

Udall spokesperson Marissa Padilla said, “Sen. Udall is glad the House has shown an interest in restoring funding to CMRR and looks forward to working through the process in the Senate.”

Critics, not surprisingly, were quick to pounce on the House vote and the decision to restore funding for the CMRR-NF project.

The Project on Government Oversight continued to weigh in on the CMRR project.

According to a release, the Project on Government Oversight asked the House of Representatives to support a proposed amendment to the NDAA by Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) and Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) to restore cuts ordered for the federal government’s $6 billion CMRR-NF.

“But we’re definitely not the only ones who want to end funding for CMRR-NF. There has been a flood of testimony and articles from experts who think it’s time to zero out funding for this proposed money pit once and for all. President Obama has already proposed holding funding for CMRR-NF for the next five years ,” the release stated.

“Importantly, both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees provided zero funding for CMRR-NF in their FY 2013 bills. So why are we even still talking about this issue? Recently, the House Armed Services Committee defied logic by approving an amendment by Rep. Turner that would appropriate $160 million back to the facility.”

“If the DOD believed it essential to spend $6 billion on the CMRR-NF, it would have already allocated money for the project. In fact, the DOD, since 2011, has been transferring money to NNSA for projects it deemed essential. It is clear that the Pentagon, in conjunction with NNSA, had already decided that it could not afford to build the CMRR and adequately fund or manage other high priority nuclear modernization activities, as well.”

Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group, who filed two lawsuits against the Department of Energy and NNSA and still was awaiting one of the appeals, also jumped into the fray.

“This situation, where the administration’s credibility is very low with respect to nuclear weapons management, is not entirely partisan or ideological,” Mello said. There has been a long, bipartisan lapse of effective oversight not just by this Administration but by others before it as well as by Congress and its analytical research arms.  There have been a few bright spots, but not many and none have been truly trenchant.  

“…  In the case of CMRR-NF the administration is not saying it does not have the money to build it. They say they don’t need it (the earliest needed operational date is now 2028, as Sen. Sessions pried from NNSA Administrator D’Agostino in questioning).  

I think more such dominoes will fall in future years.  Very often, physical and managerial realities intrude on expensive technical fantasies."

Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico added, “The Senate Armed Services Committee and the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittees of both chambers should oppose the House Armed Services Committee’s proposals and continue to provide no funding for the CMRR-Nuclear Facility.”