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Luján warns of fiscal cliff impact on labs

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Politics: Congressman submits letter to D.C. leader

By The Staff

Congressman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico’s Third District sent a letter to Congressional leaders Wednesday, urging them to resolve the fiscal cliff in a manner that prevents damaging funding cuts to the national laboratories, including Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories.

In the letter, Luján highlights the important role these labs have played in providing cutting-edge research and innovation for applications ranging from national security to the Mars rover and renewable energy.  

He expresses his concerns that deep budget cuts due to sequestration will threaten the vitality of the labs and their capability to fulfill their scientific and security missions.

In addition, Luján announced that he has joined the new House Science and National Labs Caucus as a co-chair, partnering with Reps. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.), Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) and Alan Nunnelle (R-Miss.), who will also co-chair the bipartisan group.  

“The national labs contribute to our economy in so many ways.  The work that occurs at the labs as well as the local businesses its innovations support is a critical source of jobs in New Mexico and in communities across the country,” Luján said.  “By bringing members of Congress together who understand the vital contributions the labs make, we can enhance the awareness of the labs’ work and amplify our advocacy efforts.”

Luján said sequestration would be disastrous for the labs.

“The extent of the budget cuts imposed by a sequester would decimate many of the facility’s capabilities and prevent them from fulfilling the scientific and security missions charged to them by Congress,” he said. “Ultimately, these short-sighted sequestration cuts would result in a diminished scientific research base, stalled technological innovation, and a more vulnerable nation.  Moreover, the cost to the nation to reconstitute these capabilities at a future time would be much larger and would likely negate any short-term savings from initial budget cuts.”

How bad would the DOE labs be decimated by falling off the fiscal cliff?

The sequestration process would involve $1.2 trillion in funding cuts, equally divided between defense and non-defense funding, over 10 years.

According to the September Office of Management and Budget report, defense environmental cleanup funding would be cut by 9.4 percent, or $472 million at DOE cleanup sites including Los Alamos.

According to Nuclear Materials Monitor trade publication, non-defense environmental cleanup funding and uranium enrichment  and D funding would each be cut by 8.2 percent, or $19 million and $39 million, respectively.

The National Nuclear Security Administration’s weapons and nonproliferation programs would each be cut by 9.4 percent, with the weapons program facing a $678 million hit based largely on current funding levels.

Other Democrats in the House, though, are in favor of cutting funding for nuclear weapons.

According to the Global Security Newswire, Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Wednesday was joined by 44 other House Democrats (Luján did not sign) in a letter to Senate and House leadership calling for $100 billion in cuts to the nuclear weapons budget to be considered during fiscal cliff negotiations.

With $640 billion estimated to be spent on nuclear weapons and related programs over the next decade, the lawmakers call for restructuring the U.S. nuclear weapons program for the 21st century rather than forcing cuts to programs that fund life-saving medical research, train teachers, and ensure seniors and the most vulnerable receive essential healthcare.

“Cut Minuteman missiles. Do not cut Medicare and Medicaid.  Cut nuclear-armed B-52 and B-2 bombers. Do not cut Social Security,” lawmakers wrote in the letter to Congressional Leaders John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell. “Invest in the research and education that will drive our future prosperity, not in weapons for a war we already won.”