Bush’s record-breaking war budget

 In Iraq, Nuclear Weapons

The Bush administration released its Fiscal Year 2009 budget request today, requesting a record-breaking $515.4 billion for baseline Defense spending, reaching the highest level of Defense spending since World War II. Pentagon spending has increased every year for the past eleven years, and it has gone up 30% since President Bush came into office.

These numbers do not include the $600 billion that has already been appropriated for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As we’ve been hearing for the past couple of weeks, the budget does not include anticipated funding for the wars, and at this point the Bush administration is proposing $70 billion dollars to fund the effort from the beginning of the fiscal year in October through the beginning of a new administration. Because Congress only gave President Bush part of the money he asked for in late 2007, they will have to take up another spending request sometime after March to fund operations through the current year.  As always, Peace Action West will oppose any funding that is not tied to a plan to withdraw US troops from Iraq, and we will urge members of Congress to vote against it if such a plan is not in place.

The Defense spending total does not include money for nuclear weapons programs, another $6.6 billion, which falls under the Department of Energy. The good news is that after Congress wiped out all funding for the RRW in late 2007, the DOE made drastic cuts in its requests for the Reliable Replacement Warhead. They allocated only $10 million to follow up on concerns raised by the JASON Defense Advisory Group (which earlier this year undermined the main rationale for RRW by saying that plutonium pits can last 85 to 100 years). This is a clear victory based on the efforts of Peace Action West and other organizations around the country who mobilized the grassroots in opposition to this program.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t have to worry about the DOE budget.  They are still pursuing Complex Transformation, a plan to revamp our nuclear arsenal that is estimated to cost $150 billion over the next 25 years. There also may be efforts under the radar to keep RRW going with limited amounts of money that are buried in the budget.  Representatives from the NNSA indicated earlier this year that they still support RRW and may continue some work in 2008:

While expressing disappointment, NNSA officials have argued that some groundwork for the new warhead can continue in the face of the eliminated funding.

“We continue to believe an RRW-type of program is the right one for ensuring the future of our nation’s nuclear deterrent,” NNSA spokesman Bryan Wilkes said in a statement released earlier this month.  “Over the next year we will be working to refine our RRW certification plan and the approach to RRW security and safety, in line with congressional authorization and funding.”

The agency argues that there is still an opportunity to explore concepts relevant to the new warhead design, noting that the fiscal 2008 omnibus appropriations bill includes $15 million for an “advanced certification” campaign to ensure that any new warhead would not require explosive testing to be “certified” for the stockpile.

The JASON group, an elite scientific advisory board that advises government officials on nuclear weapon-related issues, suggested last year that more work was needed to ensure such testing would be unnecessary (see GSN, Oct. 1, 2007).

NNSA officials also point out that the omnibus funding bill includes $10 million for an “enhanced surety campaign” to develop new technologies to increase the safety and security of possible future weapons systems.  Such an effort is consistent with the National Nuclear Security Administration’s effort within the RRW program to enhance security of U.S. nuclear weapons and prevent their use by terrorists or rogue nations, they say.

We must be vigilant in monitoring these requests, and we will continue to pressure Congress and the DOE to eliminate funds and cease all work on Complex Transformation and RRW.

There will be more information and in-depth analysis as people outside the government have time to pick apart the budget numbers.  We will keep you posted, and will keep up our efforts to cut unnecessary and dangerous military spending from the FY 09 budget.


Our colleagues at Tri-Valley CARES have been picking apart the budget, and so far they have discovered $40 million for RRW-related programs:

In Volume 1 of the DOE Fiscal Year 2009 Budget Request, NNSA Overview, page
17, under the heading "Key Changes Within the FY 2009 Request" are the
following 3 bullet points —

* Within Directed Stockpile Work, $10 million is requested to enable
maturation of the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) design…

* In the Science Campaign, $20 million is requested for the Advanced
Certification Program [for RRW]… evaluate and implement key
recommendations of the JASON’s RRW study regarding approaches to
establishing an accredited warhead certification plan…

* Within Enhanced Surety, $10 million is included in the request for
evaluation of surety options for possible future systems, whether LEPs or
RRW systems.

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