Our View: Early budget work needs work

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By Ralph Damiani

The proposals coming from the House Appropriators Committee were a mixed bag and a bit hard to understand.

While adding millions to energy and water work, it cut out work on the lab’s Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement facility. This is hard to understand.

You can argue that we don’t need a huge new stockpile of nuclear weapons, that is fine. But to say we need no work, no production, no research seems foolish to us.

We agree that more work needs to be done on energy research, including efforts to make better batteries. But that is being done at LANL. Fund it better.

But why does such necessary work have to be done at the expense of other important actions? And like it or not, being prepared for nuclear deterrent is necessary work. Why cannot members of Congress take off their blinders and see that?

Yes, yes, we get it when you talk about nuclear bombs and all that. But the CMR facility is more than that. To scrap it seems like throwing the baby out with the bath water.

There is more to the facility than just work on the Reliable Replacement Warhead – which is not a primary Los Alamos project anyway – or on other missiles.

Instead of funding a continuation of the LANL pit production program, the committee recommended an amount to continue the capability, “in order to maintain future options.”

But the NNSA sees it differently. Viewing the situation across the nuclear weapons complex, a spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration said the cuts were a matter of concern.

The House-spending bill was criticized by Sen. Pete Domenici and Rep. Tom Udall was also the only member of the committee to vote against it.

We have to say that Udall’s comments were positive for Los Alamos, unlike last year’s fiasco. We only hope this time it is real and not just election year politicking.

Domenici is right when he says the measure would leave the nation without capacity to respond to evolving security and technical challenges.

And we hope Udall will work for changes in the final budget and that when he says the bill “does not provide a path to the future for our national laboratories.”

Both men say the CMRR facility is necessary. Even Udall stated that, “the lab cannot be left with inadequate facilities.”

We pray that this is worked out but we fear it will not be any time soon. With national elections looming, we think that all this will be on hold for some time to come.

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