Unfortunately, on nuclear weapons spending in particular, the House version of the defense bill is a roadmap to the status quo, not a smart plan to meet the security challenges of the 21st century.
Take, for example, the Cold War era plutonium production facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory, known as the CMRR. Good-government watchdog groups consistently identify this facility as the poster child for waste in the nuclear weapons complex. The facility is simply not needed to maintain an effective and safe nuclear arsenal. The nuclear labs can efficiently meet the program’s essential missions with current facilities – sparing CMRR’s lifetime $6 billion expense.
The fiscal and security arguments behind stopping the CMRR should make the HASC pause on the issue. But they haven’t. Instead, the committee has added $100 million back into the defense bill to attempt to force a wasteful and unnecessary program to be funded.
Paradoxically, the appropriators disagree. In a stunning clash over nuclear spending, while the HASC is poised to fund the CMRR, bipartisan appropriators in both the House and Senate have already found that the project was not worth funding, essentially zeroing out the program from the Energy and Water Development appropriations bill.
Despite this, the HASC is poised to put $100 million on our country’s collective credit card when fiscal discipline is most needed. And when the budget axe finally does come – and it will -- the HASC appears willing to prioritize unnecessary nuclear projects over other, more vital defense programs.
Every dollar spent on outdated and unnecessary programs is a dollar not spent on programs that our troops need.
Cutting CMRR would be a good first step to remedying this imbalance. Let’s hope that common sense enters the debate in committee on Wednesday and on the floor next week, so that the House can begin to help our country resolve its fiscal and security woes, rather than compound them.
Rubin is the Director of Policy and Government Affairs at Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation.