Republican tells fiscal hawks: Hands off nuclear arms funding

Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio) is warning members of his party to keep their budget-cutting axes away from America's nuclear arms.

The Obama administration's 2012 spending plan, unveiled on Monday, requests $11.8 billion for the U.S. National Nuclear Security Agency (NNSA), about a $2 billion increase over the funding level enacted in 2010.  

But with conservative GOP members pushing for even more funding cuts, Turner said, "we have to make sure NNSA is not lost in the shuffle." 

"The only debate [should be] whether there is adequate funding," Turner told reporters Tuesday morning.

Turner is the new chairman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee.

It remains unclear whether the agency's budget will grow as large as the administration desires in the next few years. The continuing resolution being considered by the House this week contains about $300 million less than the agency received in 2010, Turner said.

NNSA is part of the Department of Energy. It supplies components, like propulsion systems, to the military, and is in charge of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.

The administration's budget plan includes billions to support its pledge of devoting over $80 billion to nuclear weapons research and modernization work over the next decade. White House officials made that vow late last year as they rounded up support from GOP senators for a new nuclear arms-reduction treaty with Russia.

Meantime, Turner was mostly upbeat during the session with reporters about the Obama administration's plans for nuclear weapons modernization programs, a new Air Force bomber and even missile defense. 

All fall under his subcommittee's jurisdiction, and the third issue, missile defense, typically divides Democrats and Republicans. He sees a new tone on missile defense, saying debates now are about "what kind, not if."

Turner did not criticize the strategic weapons sections of the administration's budget plan, saying the White House is seeking "many funding increases that are positive."

He did, however, raise concerns about the administration's missile defense plans, telling reporters the system envisioned by the White House would create "a gap in defending the homeland" from enemy launches.