Congress tries CPR on CMRR

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Politics: Project in Obama’s veto crosshairs

By The Staff

The Chemistry Metallurgy Research Replacement facility may be alive after all, but then again, maybe not.

Legislators are almost finished debating the defense authorization bill for FY 2013 and the language in the bill would mandate that the federal government construct the controversial facility by 2026.

The Obama administration and the National Nuclear Security Administration have deferred the project for five years.

According to Global Security News Wire, the administration has argued that delaying construction of the new CMRR facility by five years would save money without harming nuclear-weapon readiness, but the plan has received mixed reviews on Capitol Hill.

Some lawmakers sought to proceed on a schedule that would have construction completed by 2024, though a budget resolution Congress approved for the first half of the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1 included no funds for the project.

On Tuesday, however, a conference committee established to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of the fiscal 2013 defense authorization legislation released a bill that would establish a legal mandate that the CMRR building be up and running within 14 years.

The bill, which is expected to go to the House floor on Thursday, would also mandate that $120 million in fiscal 2012 funds that Congress had appropriated for the CMRR project be used for the originally-intended purpose.

In September, the Energy Department informed lawmakers it was looking to “reprogram” the money to alternative nuclear weapons complex projects.

The defense authorization bill also would legislatively cap the total cost of the CMRR building at $3.7 billion.

The White House released a statement of administrative policy regarding the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2013. President Obama has vowed to veto any appropriations bill that funds the CMRR project.

The administration made 18 objections to the defense bill proposed by the Senate Armed Services Committee and the CMRR facility is seventh on the list.

“The present legislation is just the latest response to a broad failure of leadership that extends across the entire national security establishment with respect to nuclear weapons. If you keep kicking the can down the road, eventually you will lose it. This administration talks in large, vague terms, but that’s all it does. It does not walk. It does not produce program plans or budgets. It does not manage projects effectively. It does not make enough hard choices,” said Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group.

“The main question this bill does not answer is: where will the money come from? If new funds are forthcoming, they must come from other security programs, non-military discretionary spending, mandatory spending, new taxes, or new debt. Will they be available? The nuclear contractors, whose lobbyists have played an outsized role in drafting this bill, certainly hope so.”