Reactions are swift to CMRR proposed cut

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By The Staff

The fight is on in Washington after the House Appropriations Committee recommended a $100 million cut to the Chemistry Metallurgy Research Replacement facility at Los Alamos, and the committee also recommended a $175 million cut to the lab’s cleanup efforts.

In all, the committee cut close to $500 million from the administration’s $7.6 billion weapons program request.

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), the chairman of the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, told the Nuclear Weapons and Materials Monitor: “Only in Washington could an increase of this magnitude be seen as a cut,” he said, noting that the funding provided represented a $195.3 million increase from FY2011 funding levels. “Yes, weapons activities is below the President’s request, but his request included hundreds of millions of dollars for construction projects that are not ready to move forward, capabilities that are secondary to the primary mission of keeping our stockpile ready, and yes, slush funds the administration has historically used to address its needs.”

Retiring Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the publication that he was “very concerned” by the proposed cuts.

“This modernization program was very carefully worked out between ourselves and the Department of Energy. And frankly, where we came out on that also, I think, played a fairly significant role in the willingness of the Senate to ratify the New START agreement.”

Gates told the publication if the modernization effort was disrupted, there would be a trickle-down effect to the Department of Defense.

 “The risks are to our own program in terms of being able to extend the life our weapons systems, to modernize them not in the sense of capability, but in terms of security and reliability,” Gates said in an interview with the NWMM. “And this requires new construction. We have a lot of buildings at Los Alamos that date from the Manhattan Project. And so this modernization project is, in my view, both from a security and a political standpoint, is really important.”

NNSA weapons chief Don Cook told NWMM that the funding provided by the committee would not adequately support modernization efforts. “We require the President’s budget to carry out the modernization program that the President laid out,” Cook said in the publication. “This was the President’s budget. We agreed between the departments of Energy and Defense. We have agreements on the warhead deliveries with the armed services, and nothing has changed. The President’s budget will be required to do the scope of modernization. It’s that simple.”

The House is expected to vote on the bill around July 4 and then if it is passed, it will be on to the Senate where its appropriation committee will take a look at it and perhaps come up with its own bill.

Scott Kovac, of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said, “Requesting to cut the CMRR construction is a great step, but the environmental impact statement process must also be put on hold until the seismic issues are thoroughly understood.  What must not be put on hold is LANL cleanup.  Northern New Mexico is still waiting for the Lab to step up for cleanup.”