Lawmakers ask Obama to shield nuke programs from funding cuts

A House Armed Services subcommittee chairman wants President Obama to ask lawmakers to ensure several key nuclear weapon programs are not hit with a funding cut until a 2012 Pentagon spending bill is passed.

Armed Forces Strategic Forces subcommittee Chairman Mike Turner (R-Ohio) and panel member Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), in a letter that will be sent to the White House on Monday, will ask President Obama to repeat an action he took last year: requesting a funding “anomaly” for a list of nuclear weapon programs. 

The move is needed to keep “on track the tight schedule for infrastructure modernization and life extensions of our current warhead types” should Congress fail to pass a Pentagon appropriations bill before Oct. 1, Turner writes in the letter, obtained Friday by The Hill.

Like last year, the passage of annual spending bills by the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year looks unlikely, several senior lawmakers said this week. And like last fall, that means the Pentagon will be funded for at least several months by a continuing resolution.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) told reporters Wednesday that he expects a final 2012 Defense Department spending bill likely will be the vehicle on which a government-wide funding measure is attached. But that might not happen for months, meaning a Pentagon stopgap is inevitable.

“The object of the anomaly is to fund things at the [fiscal year 2012] level for the duration of the continuing resolution,” a House staffer said via email Friday.

Turner and Heinrich want the Obama administration to send Congress an anomaly request covering the same nuclear programs as covered by last year’s version. But the duo wants this year’s anomaly to cover that and more.

“While the administration did not ask for, or receive, an anomaly for the … naval reactor or nonproliferation programs in [fiscal year 2011], we fully support a broader anomaly this year and will work with your administration to see that it is provided by the Congress for as long as the federal government is operating under a [continuing resolution] in [fiscal year 2012],” the House lawmakers wrote.

The lawmakers said the president’s goal of securing loose nuclear material would be at risk if funding is not preserved. 

“The administration’s goal of securing all vulnerable nuclear material within four years, and the vital naval reactor development activities to support the Ohio ballistic missile submarine replacement program all require the stability provided by an anomaly, as do the weapons activities for which [the National Nuclear Security Administration] is responsible,” according to the letter.

The Ohio-class submarine replacement program is one of the Navy’s top acquisition priorities.