Obama's budget plans hefty hike for infrastructure at LANL, other labs

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  WASHINGTON, -- In a video message (included with this report) to the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) workforce, NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino said Monday that President Obama's Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Request for NNSA represents a critical investment in building the nuclear security enterprise required to enhance the security of the United States and its allies.

The request includes an increase of 3.1 percent over the FY 2011 level to protect and advance the scientific capabilities at the U.S. national security laboratories and a 21 percent increase for infrastructure improvements, including continuing work on the Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 National Security Complex and Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory. 

In all, the Obama administration wants to pump an additional $666 million into New Mexico's national laboratories' budgets in 2012, a 20 percent increase over 2010 levels. 

These projects will replace facilities that date back to the dawn of the Cold War with modern facilities that can support the full range of nuclear security missions – including maintaining the nuclear deterrent, preventing proliferation, securing vulnerable nuclear material, powering the nuclear Navy and providing the nation with the best emergency response and counterterrorism capabilities possible, D'Agostino noted.   They will also ensure that NNSA can continue to work with the Department of Defense and other interagency partners to keep the nation safe. 

President Barack Obama sent Congress a $3.73 trillion budget Monday that holds out the prospect of eventually bringing deficits under control through spending cuts and tax increases. But the fiscal blueprint largely ignores his own deficit commission's view that the nation is imperiled unless huge entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare are slashed.

The budget relies heavily on the recovering economy, tax increases and rosy economic assumptions to estimate that the federal deficit would drop from this year's record $1.6 trillion — an astronomical figure that requires the government to borrow 43 cents out of every dollar it spends — to about $600 billion after five years.

Obama's 2012 budget would actually add $8 billion to the projected deficit for that year because the bulk of the savings he would achieve through a freeze in many domestic programs would be devoted to increased spending in areas Obama considers priorities, such as education, clean energy and high-speed rail.

Republicans, who took control of the House in the November elections and picked up seats in the Senate in part because of voter anger over the soaring deficits, called Obama's efforts too timid. Lawmakers are set to begin debating on Tuesday $61 billion in cuts for the remaining seven months of fiscal 2011.

"Presidents are elected to lead and address big challenges," said Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. "The big challenge facing our economy today and our country tomorrow is the debt crisis. He's making it worse, not better."

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said the president's investment plans missed the simple point that "we don't have the money" to finance Obama's vision of "trains and windmills" in the future.

"After two years of failed stimulus programs and Democrats in Washington competing to outspend each other, we just can't afford to do all the things the administration wants," McConnell said.

Even some Democrats complained that Obama needed a more vigorous attack on future budget deficits.

"We need a much more robust package of deficit and debt reduction over the medium- and long-term. It is not enough to focus primarily on cutting the non-security discretionary part of the budget," said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., who called for a budget presentation matching the ambition of Obama's deficit commission.

The budget request, which was delivered to Congress Monday morning, provides $11.78 billion to invest in a modern, 21st century national security enterprise, implement the President’s nuclear security agenda, and improve the way the NNSA does business and manages its resources, D'Agostino told NNSA workers. It represents an increase of 5.1 percent from the $11.2 billion requested for FY 2011.

“The President’s FY 2012 budget request reflects his commitment to investing in a modern enterprise that can support the full range of nuclear security missions, and highlights the vital role NNSA plays in implementing his nuclear security agenda,” said D'Agostino. “Over the past year, we have seen the development of a broad, bipartisan consensus on the role we play in enhancing our nation’s security and the resources we need to get the job done.  I appreciate the President’s strong leadership on nuclear security and I look forward to working with Congress to get this budget passed.”

To invest in the future of the nuclear security enterprise, the President’s request includes $7.6 billion for the Weapons Activities appropriation, an 8.9 percent ($621 million) increase over the President’s FY 2011 request, D'Agostino pointed out. These resources will support, among other things, the operation and construction of the modern research facilities needed to do cutting edge science and attract the next generation of nuclear security experts.  It is the first step in implementing President Obama’s commitment to invest $85 billion over the next decade to sustain the nuclear deterrent and to modernize the infrastructure that supports it.  

The FY 2012 budget request also provides the resources required to implement the President’s commitment to secure vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years.  It requests $2.5 billion in FY 2012 and $14.2 billion over the next five years to reduce the global nuclear threat by detecting, securing, safeguarding, disposing and controlling nuclear and radiological material, as well as promoting the responsible application of nuclear technology and science. This budget request provides the resources required to meet commitments secured during the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit, including removing all remaining highly enriched uranium (HEU) from Belarus, Ukraine, and Mexico and working with the Defense Department to implement nuclear security Centers of Excellence in China and India.

To power the nuclear navy, the budget request includes $1.1 billion for the NNSA’s Naval Reactors program, an increase of 7.8 percent over the FY 2011 President’s Request. This will continue design work on the OHIO class submarine replacement, support the effort to modernize key elements of the infrastructure that supports Naval Reactors program, and refuel the land-based prototype reactor in Upstate New York. 

Obama's deficit commission made a host of painful recommendations including raising the Social Security retirement age and curbing benefit increases, eliminating or sharply scaling back popular tax breaks, reforming a financially unsound Medicare program and almost doubling the federal tax on gasoline. Obama included none of these proposals in his new budget. The deficit panel called for savings by making these politically tough choices of $4 trillion over a decade, four-times the savings that Obama is projecting.

The Obama budget plan, which is certain to be changed by Congress, would spend $3.73 trillion in the 2012 budget year, which begins Oct. 1, a reduction of 2.4 percent from what Obama projects will be spent in the current budget year.

Of the $1.1 trillion in deficit savings that Obama is projecting over the next 10 years, two-thirds would come from spending cuts, including $400 billion in savings from a five-year freeze on domestic programs that account for one-tenth of the budget. The other one-third of deficit savings would come from tax increases such as limiting the tax deductions taken by high income taxpayers, a proposal that Obama put forward last year only to have it rejected by Congress. Obama also proposes raising taxes on energy companies.

The president's projected $1.65 trillion deficit for the current year would be the highest dollar amount ever, surpassing the $1.41 trillion deficit hit in 2009. It would also represent 10.8 percent of the total economy, the highest level since the deficit stood at 21.5 percent of gross domestic product in 1945, reflecting heavy borrowing to fight World War II.

The president's 2012 budget projects that the deficits will total $7.21 trillion over the next decade with the imbalances never falling below $607 billion. Even then that would exceed the deficit record before Obama took office of $458.6 billion in 2008, President George W. Bush's last year in office.

Administration officials project that the deficits will be trimmed to 3.2 percent of GDP by 2015 — one-third of the projected 2011 imbalance and a level they said would not harm the economy.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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