Administration vows to veto CMRR funding

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Lab: President remains firm on project’s continued deferment

By John Severance

The White House released a statement of administrative policy regarding the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2013.

The administration made 18 objections to the defense bill proposed by the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Chemistry Metallurgy Research Replacement facility project is listed seventh on the list.

The SASC, despite the administration decision to defer the LANL project for five years, put in $150 million in funding.

The administration said it agrees with numerous provisions of the act, but if it makes its way to the president in its present form, the bill would get vetoed.

The statement read: “the Administration strongly objects to section 3111, which would require construction of the CMRR facility to begin in 2013. The Departments of Defense and Energy agree that, in light of today’s fiscal environment, CMRR can be deferred for at least five years, and funds reallocated to support higher priority nuclear weapons goals.

“An interim strategy will be implemented to provide adequate support to plutonium pit manufacturing and storage needs until a long-term solution can be implemented. Further, Senate bill 3254 would require funding for the CMRR in FY 2013 to be taken from other National Nuclear Security Administration priorities, creating undue risks for other parts of the program, including delays to critical infrastructure modernization, underfunding operations of the nuclear complex, and curtailing science, engineering and key nonproliferation initiatives.

“Finally, section 3111 specifies an operational date but caps total funding at the low end of the agency estimate, which may not be achievable.”

Former NNSA Administrator Linton Brooks, meanwhile, has an interesting take on the deferment of the CMRR facility.

Earlier this month, Brooks, a senior adviser for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, spoke at a security forum on Capitol Hill.

“I’m extremely disturbed by the delay in the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research and Replacement Facility in Los Alamos, but not for the reason most people are. I’m disturbed because the political class, including those who work within a few blocks of where we’re standing, keeps telling the executive branch you need to make hard decisions.

“So my successor (Thom D’Agostino) made a hard decision. He didn’t do what we have historically done, stretch out every program a little bit and assume we’re going to get more money in the out-year. He essentially moved one of the major facilities far into the future. He did it after devising a strategy that shows you can meet DoD requirements.

“I think, frankly, if you don’t want administration officials to make tough decisions, you probably ought to think about how inherent supporters react when they do. I think this is the right decision. Ideas of reversing it are not strategically necessary and they’re almost certainly not politically and fiscally possible.”