Senior nuclear security officials have expressed concern over the Biden administration’s proposed budget, saying the funding puts nuclear modernization initiatives at risk.
Members of the Nuclear Weapons Council (NWC), which is comprised of senior Department of Defense and Department of Energy officials, said in a letter to members of the House and Senate Armed Services committees Monday that the administration’s budget request “injects risk” into the long term efforts to upgrade the country’s “Manhattan Project-era” facilities supporting a “Cold War-era nuclear stockpile.”
“The Nation cannot afford to lose the momentum that our two Departments have gained to ensure a credible nuclear deterrent into the 2030s and beyond,” the letter states.
Members of the NWC are required to certify before Congress whether the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) budget request “meets nuclear stockpile and stockpile stewardship program requirements.”
Ranking Republicans on the House and Senate Armed Service committees, Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama and Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, respectively, said the flat topline budget request “is insufficient to safeguard this nation.”
“For the first time in our nation’s history, we face the prospect of having to deter two near-peer nuclear competitors in Russia and China — both of which are massively expanding their nuclear arsenals. It’s irresponsible that this White House doesn’t seem to realize that, and put forward a budget that puts our nation in such a dangerous position, while at the same time considering policy changes that will make the U.S. and its allies less safe and give our adversaries even more freedom to intimidate their neighbors,” the lawmakers said Tuesday in a statement.
The lawmakers said they will work to ensure the Defense Department and NNSA are adequately funded to mitigate the risk.
The Biden administration’s proposed NNSA budget of $19.7 billion for fiscal 2022 matches the enacted budget for fiscal 2021, plateauing after a five-year run of increases totaling more than 50%.
Mr. Inhofe and Mr. Rogers have both argued that the administration’s proposed total defense budget of $715 billion, which reflects an inflation-trailing 1.6% increase over last year, is insufficient for ensuring the U.S. military is ready to respond to potential threats posed by well-armed adversaries.
In last week’s closed Senate Armed Services Committee markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Mr. Inhofe offered, and the full committee passed, an amendment to raise defense funding by $25 billion, a 3% increase above the administration’s proposal.
The House Armed Services Committee begins subcommittee markups of the House version of the NDAA on Wednesday.